Tuesday, June 28, 2005


It's like descending into a funhouse of grossocity:
Over the course of the next year, the [New York] Department of Education will introduce into all of its elementary and middle schools “Operation Respect: Don’t Laugh at Me,” an intensive curriculum in character development. The program, which is the brainchild and heart’s desire of Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul & Mary, aims to combat bullying by emphasizing the moral lessons of folk music.
Peter Yarrow? You mean Peter Yarrow of that 60's powerhouse musical group Peter, Paul & Mary and convicted child molester, later pardoned by Jimmy Carter?

I was afraid of that. And I become even more fearful:
The [outreach video] included accounts of book-slamming, sandwich-spitting, and shin-kicking, as well as footage of a rendition of “Don’t Laugh at Me” that Yarrow had performed at the United Nations. “A ridicule-free world,” a soothing voice intoned. “It’s possible, but only with everyone’s help.”


Next up was “The Big Betrayal Conflict Script,” a skit about two friends, Terry and Sasha, who get into a fight at a basketball game. The exercise emphasized using “I messages,” as opposed to those that begin with “you” and, therefore, can put their targets on the defensive. (DLAM also recommends having students simulate the sound of a rainstorm and discuss a story called “The Maligned Wolf.”)

“Just make sure they’re sticking to the formula,” Hurdle-Price advised. “I often get students who say, ‘I feel that you are stupid.’ ”
How shocking.

(Via political theory daily review)

Thursday, June 23, 2005


We finally get around to updating our Blogswarming Scoreboard, the only one of our posts that has ever made the Wikinews:

The Mainstream Media. All of those dirty bastards. Also the Bush Administration. And Tony Blair.
Where are the articles on the Downing Street memo? Huh? Huh? And why hasn't Bush been impeached?
MSM: Not really
Bush: No
Blair: No
Lots of articles, a few say the MSM was asleep at the wheel, others that the memo is not news. More blogs.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill)
Said Americans' treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay was like "Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or some mad regime that had no concern for human beings."Eventually. (1) Day after remarks, Durbin had no plans to apologize--said "administration should apologize to the American people"; (2) two days later came to regret causing "anyone to misunderstand my true feelings"; (3) after a week, tearfully apologized to those who "may believe that my remarks crossed the line"; (4) apologized to vets
None, really. Left now complains Durbin should apologize for the apology. Right uses Durbin as illustration of anti-military sentiment on the left.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


You may have noticed that the blogosphere has these chain letter-type viruses, sometimes politely referred to as "memes." Well, I've been infected (thanks a bunch Chad). Here's my obedient response:

Total number of books owned, ever: Everyone says they have too many to count and I'd like to be the one who says something snotty like only eleven but the truth is I have too many to count. A hallway lined with bookshelves, all full. A wall of the study lined with bookshelves, all full. Books stacked up on several small tables and the floor. I'm out of room, and I don't want to get rid of them or move to a bigger place so I've become an avid library user. Our local library system has a great web interface that allows you to place holds on books, then e-mails you when they become available. It's like Netflix for books and I'm hooked.

Last book I bought: My Little Pony: Pony Party. What can I say. I got kids. Girl kids.

Last book I read: Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis (see this post for my thoughts on the book). I'm about a third of the way through Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia, by Tom Bissell. It is a sort of travel diary about the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan. It strikes me as a great beach book, albeit one that makes one grateful one is not on an Aral Sea beach (if such things exist).

Five Books that mean a lot to me, From heaviest to lightest:
  • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Thomas S. Kuhn. This is not a book virtually anyone will be able to read without the incentive of potentially embarrassing class discussion and a grade hanging over one's head. I had the benefit of those incentives and I'm glad I was forced to read the book. It was perhaps the first that influenced me to think about stuff that happened outside of class using the framework I had learned from class.
  • The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do, by Judith Rich Harris. This book also influenced the way I thought about non-book phenomenon, but it's far more accessible than the Structure book. The author is fully aware that her ideas are (or were, when written) highly controversial so she lays out her case painstakingly. I bought it wholesale, and this book is an important reason my kids go/are going to parochial school. (King has other reasons).
  • The Corrections: A Novel, by Jonathan Franzen. Yes, of course I enjoyed it, but the reason it means a lot to me is that I read it when my youngest child was about one and a half, and it was the first book that I was able to read all the way through without losing the plot line and having to start over. A tribute to the exciting story (just force yourself to slog through the first section with the pompous and annoying protagonist, it's worth it), and the decreasing sleep interruption. Whatever, this book marks my return to grownup reading after a years long diet of Pat the Bunny and mediocre magazine articles.
  • E.F. Benson's Lucia series (here's the first one). I have read this series, set in England between the two world wars, over and over. I began my honeymoon in the town that is its setting. Why? Somehow I find it immensely comforting to read about this small society of English gentry, having conniptions about pretty much nothing at all.
  • And, at last and of course, Eloise, by Kay Thompson.
5 more people to pass this on to:
Influenced by Sisyphus at Nihilist in Golf Pants, I also tag:
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Dick Durbin
Jacques Chirac
Paris Hilton
Jimmy Carter

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Genetics are not on our side:
The researchers are not optimistic about the future of bipartisan cooperation or national unity. Because men and women tend to seek mates with a similar ideology, they say, the two gene pools are becoming, if anything, more concentrated, not less.

Monday, June 20, 2005


It's the language, stupid:
Potato farmers held a noisy protest outside Parliament today to get the term "couch potato" removed from the Oxford English dictionary, claiming it harms the vegetable's image.
Double plus ungood.

Sunday, June 19, 2005


Our left coast has been getting quite a shaking this last week. I have relatives out there, so this real time map of earthquake activity has been of unusual interest to me lately.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


The morning routine at St. Benedict the Moor in Washington D.C., which has begun participating in a new federal voucher program to help low-income students attending failing public schools, as reported in Monday's Washington Post:
Finally, all the students shouted the Positive Pledge: "I am somebody. I'm capable and lovable. I am teachable; therefore I can learn. I can do anything when I try. I will respect myself and others. I will be the best I can be each day. I will not waste time because it's valuable. I'm so precious and bright. I am somebody."
(Via Brainwash)

Westover, defend yourself!

Sunday, June 12, 2005


The "eskimos" do not have hundreds of words for "snow." This is sad, as the purported listing is most amusing and creative ("ashtla" is said to mean "expected snow that's wagered on (depth, size of flakes)"). But I have learned that "barf" means 'snow' in Tajik, for real, so enjoyment has been restored to the world.

(From Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia, by Tom Bissell)

Friday, June 10, 2005


Despite the fact that over half of Canadians think China is bad news for human rights and a threat to world peace, 68% of them are willing to increase trade with them—"because it will help reduce dependence on trading with the United States" according to a recent poll, as interpreted by the Globe & Mail. (Via Western Standard). The article's headline dubs the possibility of reduced trade with the U.S. a "silver lining."

Perhaps those Canucks are impressed by the far eastern "restroom revolution" we were snickering at yesterday. Shows us. Immortal words: "A nation can be judged by its toilets." We feel suitably chastened.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


Every right wing blogger gets a few satisfying posts (or more) decrying the anti-Americanism or anti-Westernism of Americans/Westerners. Generous spirits that we are we are releasing this juicy morsel into the righty blogosphere for all, especially bloggers suffering blogiety, to enjoy:
In the West toilets are a national disgrace, in the Far East there has been a restroom revolution and public toilets are seen as an essential and integral component of good urban design and a cultured, civilised society. A nation can be judged by its toilets.
(Via University Diaries)

Author of tidbit: Dr. Clara Greed, member of the Faculty of the Built Environment at the University of the West of England, Bristol. Oh yes, and she's a featured speaker at the World Toilet Organization's 2004 Summit. So she knows her W.C.'s., if not much else.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


If you haven't checked out the debate over same-sex marriage currently afoot on Craig Westover's blog, you ought to. It began with this post by Westover last Friday analyzing Katherine Kersten's recent Strib column on the issue, and it has carried on in the comments to that post ever since.

Westover is making a conservative case for same-sex marriage. If I can take the liberty to summarize, the lineaments of the argument are as follows:
(1). Gay people exist, they enter into relationships, and they have children. Whether one attaches positive, negative, or neutral moral significance to these facts, they are indeed facts, and they are undeniable.

(2). The institution of marriage, by fostering long-term, stable family relationships, benefits children, and thereby benefits society.

(3). Given (1) and (2), wouldn't allowing same-sex couples to marry increase the social benefits of the institution of marriage?

(4). If your answer to (3) is negative--that is, if you oppose same-sex marriage--then do you also support using government power to remove children from same-sex parents? If you do not, can you explain why removing children from same-sex parents as a matter of social policy does not follow logically from prohibiting same-sex marriage as a matter of social policy? If you do support such use of government power, can you explain why this is a conservative position?

(5). If you are unsure of your answer to (3), or if you think that framing the issue in this manner obscures other relevant considerations, why not take advantage of the federal nature of the American political system by supporting a gradual adoption of same-sex marriage in some jurisdictions as a kind of experiment?
I think Westover's case is a good one, though plenty of his commenters disagree. The most refreshing thing, however, is how civil, rational, and fair-minded the discussion is. Almost without exception, the participants are staying away from personal insults and pointless cant and sticking to the issues. Better by far than most blog comment strings--not to mention certain local columnists.


On Bush:

What was your gut feeling the first time you came face to face with President Bush?

He was very funny and quick. Just quick-witted.


We get on very well. I couldn’t come from a more different place. We disagree on so many things. But he was moved by my account of what was happening in Africa. He was engaged.

I think, when I’m sitting two feet from someone, I could tell if this was just politics. This was personal. I think, for all the swagger, this Texan thing, he has a religious instinct that keeps him humble.

You mean that right-wing fundamentalist neocon scary stuff?

Actually, he’s a Methodist. It has to be said that most of the people in the cabinet are not religious extremists.

On Jesse Helms:
You recently met Senator Jesse Helms, who as chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee in the Eighties did whatever he could to suppress the Sandinistas.

People said to me: this is the devil himself you’re going to meet, and his politics are just right of Attila the Hun. But I found him to be a beautiful man with convictions that I wouldn’t all agree with but had to accept that he believed in them passionately.

This is happening to me a lot. I am discovering how much respect I have for people who stay true to their convictions, no matter how unpopular. As you get older, your idea of good guys and bad guys changes.
Stumped? U2's Bono. (Via No Rock and Roll Fun)

You're gonna get black balled from MTV for this, I'm warning you...

Monday, June 06, 2005


Lots of bloggers have been saying enough already! to the Deep Throat coming out party but Megan McCardle of Asymmetrical Information says it best:
To journalists ten or twenty years older than me, this is the long-awaited end to a grand mystery. To people my age or younger, it just doesn't matter that much. Baby boomers, many of whom seem to have trouble accepting the fact that time has passed, often seem incredulous that the major formulating events of their lives simply aren't that interesting to everyone else. Vietnam and Watergate have become the language of public debate, even though both ended over thirty years ago.

Saturday, June 04, 2005


The Minnesota Twins' recent injury woes have ranged from the bizarre (Justin Morneau's off-season odyssey through the mysterious lands of appendicitis, chicken pox, pleurisy, and pneumonia) to the ridiculous (Terry Mullholland's valiant but unsuccessful battle with his pillow). But Joe Mauer's latest ailment . . . well, adjectives fail me:
Once problem Mauer is having is that his athletic cup is aggravating his pulled left groin muscle, especially when he swings. Padding will be added to the area to cut down on the discomfort.
Uh, hang in there, Joe.

Thursday, June 02, 2005


The four year old, being a younger sister, has been exposed to far more kid culture than the eight year old was at her age and as a result already speaks with the derisive intonation of a teenager. I've gotten kind of used to it.

But watching her down a shot glass (filled with water) at our new basement bar this evening makes me shudder anew.

And of course she had multiple refills.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


An entire industry of Deep Throat-themed books is felled in one swoop. Oops:
Timothy Noah, writing for Slate, got it right. But the real Deep Throat didn't even make the list compiled by William Gaines' journalism class at the University of Illinois.

The moral: nine year old boys can be quite talkative. Carl Bernstein should have been more careful.