April 30, 2013

Robot: All you have to fear...is me

The uncanny Borowitz

Lies strangely like truth.


April 29, 2013

This is useful

What for, I'm not exactly sure.


Dawn breaks over Marblehead

So how can we move toward a society in which educational success is not so strongly linked to family background? Maybe we should take a lesson from the rich and invest much more heavily as a society in our children’s educational opportunities from the day they are born. Investments in early-childhood education pay very high societal dividends. That means investing in developing high-quality child care and preschool that is available to poor and middle-class children. It also means recruiting and training a cadre of skilled preschool teachers and child care providers. These are not new ideas, but we have to stop talking about how expensive and difficult they are to implement and just get on with it.


The first 16 are good

Via EP (Estimable Popova), 100 Books That SHOULD be Written.


April 28, 2013

That will be adequate

Long ago was pretty good, too

Should've been done long ago

Prairie Home Companion went to Lubbock this week.  Apart from its notable cultural significance, Lubbock's a nice place.  There's a big university there, and good people, near as I can tell.

Keillor knocked out a little tribute to George Jones as well.

I was also happy to learn that Garrison is sound on wind chimes.


April 27, 2013

Thanks, Fox, for reminding me how much you suck

Why Americans are Miserable and Broke

Want to know why the gap between the haves and the have-nots keeps growing? Because the haves live within their means. They don’t waste their hard-earned money on all the crap that Americans spend billions, maybe even trillions, on each year.  

American consumers seem to have an almost insatiable appetite for just about any type of useless garbage that anyone decides to make in China for a few bucks and sell here for a few hundred. Which is probably why nobody has any savings and everyone complains they don’t have enough money to live on.


I was a little surprised by this.  I'd have thought, if you wanted to convince Americans of the validity of conservative views, you might point out how their lives could be better in a more conservative policy framework.  They used to be pretty good at that, convincing America that deregulation and NAFTA would "make everyone better off."  But then I remembered Republicans like income inequality.  They want to keep it.  One way to sell it is to convince people it's their own fault they're poor, and if they really want their pain to stop they're going to have to cut back on cat toys.

I'm sorry, that is really evil, man.

April 26, 2013

Respect the Satellite

Normally I'd be like "what a waste of resources" but...whoa, sweet ride.

April 25, 2013

Sleep well!

From our bedtime reading last night:

‘I cannot read the fiery letters,’ said Frodo in a quavering voice.  
‘No,’ said Gandalf, ‘but I can. The letters are Elvish, of an ancient mode, but the language is that of Mordor, which I will not utter here. But this in the Common Tongue is what is said, close enough:  
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,  
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.  
It is only two lines of a verse long known in Elven-lore: 

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky, 
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, 
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them 
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.’

He paused, and then said slowly in a deep voice: ‘This is the Master-ring, the One Ring to rule them all. This is the One Ring that he lost many ages ago, to the great weakening of his power. He greatly desires it – but he must not get it.’ 

'Well, that's all we have time for," I said, "good-night."  As I left the bedroom I glanced over my shoulder and saw four eyes, wide as saucers, staring into the darkness.

Wisdom of the Crowds!

Yeah, back in my day we just called that a lynch mob.


April 23, 2013

One to rule them all


A little conflicted here

[CNN has redacted the name of the author of the e-mail, and upon reflection that seems to be the right thing to do.]

I am not laughing at ___________ for her now-infamous letter to her sorority sisters.  I thought it was a good letter....actually, a very good letter.  Clear.  Direct.  To-the-point.

Miss (may I call you Miss?)...I say, Miss________ has talent.  You say "screechy", I say "hyperbolic".  You say "ranting", I say, well perhaps, but also "verbally gifted".  The letter is not rambling, as this hack claims, it is a well-structured exortation with rhetorical flights that are positively Shakespearian.  That is why Michael Shannon can do so much with it:

This one is great, too.

But I am a little bit surprised at talk of punishing Ms. ______, or even decertifying her chapter. Here is the "shocked and dismayed" non-apology from the higher-ups:
Delta Gamma Fraternity 
You may have either read or heard about the inappropriate email written by one of our Collegiate members that was laced with profanity and directed toward her fellow sisters. While this is not reflective of this chapter or this Fraternity, many gossip sites have published it, shared it and gotten thousands of comments on it.  
We want to make it clear that this letter in no way reflects the values of Delta Gamma as an International Fraternity or our chapter at the University of Maryland. The processes by which Delta Gamma handles member discipline are confidential, but we have a team of women working with the chapter to take all appropriate action including protecting, educating and supporting the chapter members in the aftermath of this event.  
We appreciate all the notes of support, encouragement and offers to help as we work together to foster high ideals of friendship, to promote educational and cultural interests, create a true sense of social responsibility, develop the best qualities of character and to uphold and enforce our values.

And if that doesn't work, they're lawyering up.

But at this point my sympathies are with Miss _________.  Her life experience is so distant from mine that we could probably invoke Nagel's Bat, but...she wrote something honest and brilliant, and now, now she will be punished, and the values of the organization she loves and cherishes will be upheld and ENFORCED upon her.  Secretly.

[UPDATE:  She has resigned.]

I'm not saying she's a good person (not a ton of evidence for that).  But she committed no crime.  Her real crime, her true crime, was saying what she really thought, and saying it so well that it went viral and embarrassed the grown-ups.

People call her deranged or pathetic, but the real derangement, the real pathos, is in the scores of mouth-breathing fucks who have gathered to mock her.  Yes, she did something mean.  She's in college.  What's your excuse?

Who Am I and How Did I Get Here?

Caught myself today, driving the Car Share Prius to the Whole Foods to buy organic cat food for the kittens.

And a version of the home game?

Women shot by LAPD during Dorner manhunt to get settlement...


April 21, 2013

The math of hate

Bayes' theorem is one of those things most people don't get.  Should be taught in high school.  Anyway, this is is relevant.

April 20, 2013

The stupidity of crowds

In addition to being almost universally wrong, the theories developed via social media complicated the official investigation, according to law enforcement officials. Those officials said Saturday that the decision on Thursday to release photos of the two men in baseball caps was meant in part to limit the damage being done to people who were wrongly being targeted as suspects in the news media and on the Internet.


It's ok, but I think it would work better in Baghdad

The George W. Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University, designed by Robert A.M. Stern, is firm at the expense of nuance.


Better photo here.

That reminds me of something

Space station passes between the moon and Stonehenge.


April 19, 2013

Lunching with the dead

Cracked notes that "once upon a time, some director or screenwriter wanted to show the audience how desensitized to death their experienced coroner was, maybe while getting a few laughs at the same time. So they had their coroner eat something right in the middle of an autopsy, a concept that would freak out normal, squeamish people like you and me."

I believe that once upon a time was in Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and the "coroner" was the infamous Doctor Pretorious, who enjoyed a pic-a-nic in a crypt.  Can anyone think of an earlier example?

*FSL:  No evidence of eating in this Eakins below. Although there is plenty of representative psychology going on. 

Exaggeration - maybe 6th

Seriously, just shut down CNN

April 18, 2013

The Beautiful American

My favorite from the Ellington/Armstrong sessions, "The Beautiful American" is the only new composition, and it's really unique.  The Allmusic commenter gets it exactly right:
[A] marvelously modern exercise composed on the spot by Ellington that leaves one with the curious impression that Armstrong has just finished sitting in with Charles Mingus. 
Not only that, though.  There was a bit of separation in the 50s between jazz players who dug bop and those who didn't.  This collection of pieces by Basie sidemen is called "Cool Too", suggesting how some of the traditional players felt as the new language passed them by.

Ellington had no problem keeping up of course, there was probably no musical environment in which he felt out of place.  But Armstrong...I'll bet Armstrong did have a bit of "Cool Too" anxiety, even though he was a big star.  In 1961, when "The Beautiful American" was recorded, many viewed him more as relic than relevant artist.  On many of the other cuts from these sessions, Armstrong reinforces the stereotype, staying in his comfort zone, singing standards in a schmaltzy style, although the music is always impeccably well-played.

Armstrong doesn't sing on "The Beautiful American", he just plays horn.  His solo starting at 1:09 is a masterful, succint, articulate, passionate musical statement.  It would be an ornament to any great performance of the era, and this song would be fine with only that much from him.  But I think I hear a bit of "Cool Too" when, pushed by the intensity of Bigard's clarinet, he re-enters (at 2:30) with murder in his heart and plays the fuck out of the motherfucking trumpet like no other motherfucker has ever been able to play, and just as suddenly, thirteen seconds later, gets the fuck off, peace out.  There's drum, a bass, a piano, a trombone, and a clarinet playing too, but who cares.

You don't hear it?  Turn it up, play it again.  Keep turning it up until you hear it.

If you know someone who plays trumpet, ask them to get out their horn and play that bit for you, just like that.

I could listen to it all day.


There's your problem

New Yorker visualization of income inequality.


Where's "Growth in Robots Kill All Humans" Chart?

These economists largely agree: progressive government policies, driven by the desirability of social cohesion, will be the only thing standing between middle class jobs, a dystopian future and robots.

The desirability of social cohesion better look like this

April 17, 2013


"Pride", via the estimable Ally Maynard.


April 16, 2013

Well, sure

In this hour of shock and sorrow, please stop making shit up

Saw it at Newtown, too:  The first reports are always wrong.  Really large mis-statements are made on national media broadcasts (I'm looking at you Bloomberg).  Then the fantasy stories start on Facebook and Twitter.

Part of being human, but shit it's annoying.


UPDATE:  The Onion delivers a brutal (and well-deserved) beatdown to The New York Post here.

April 14, 2013

Filling in Hobbit Gaps

As we work our way through The Hobbit book - a really distinctive work, charming and less ponderous than the epic to follow - the narrow perspective of the fairy tale structure can be maddening for the adult reader.  Many plot points are left open, most of which relate to Gandalf:

  • The dwarves want treasure, but why is Gandalf involved?
  • Why does he think it so important to have a hobbit on the team?
  • If you're Thorin running a dwarf commando team, why are you agreeing to have a strange hobbit involved?
  • If you're going to pick a hobbit, why a 1st-level rookie like Bilbo for such an important mission? 
  • Where does Gandalf go as the party crosses Myrkwood?
  • Why does Gandalf, despite experience and good local knowledge, steer the party first into a mob of goblins in the Misty Mountains, and then (in absentia) onto an incredibly dangerous forest path, when there are apparently alternative ways (e.g., boats) to get to Long Lake. 
  • Why the hell can't he brief the dwarves or Bilbo on the potential dangers, rather than just yell at them to "stay on the path!"  It just seems "stay on the path or giant spiders will eat you" would have better prepared the party for their journey.
  • It's apparent at the end that this has all happened just in time to break up a major offensive by the baddies.  So, um, Gandalf, what are you not telling us?
In the mid 1950s Tolkien addressed these and many other questions in a retcon piece entitled The Quest of Erebor.  Formerly available only from unscrupulous sweaty fat men in the back rooms of college book stores, it finally appeared in Unfinished Tales in 1980, and is also available in full in The Annotated Hobbit, which I obviously have to now go out and buy.

But why do I get the feeling that it won't answer all of my questions?

Oh, my younger son now refers to Beorn as "Chekhov's Beorn".  And so he is.

April 13, 2013

Winters amok


Bwah hah hah!

Yeah, Krugman again:

I guess this is an interesting point, if true — but you go to monetary policy with the economy you have, not the economy you wish you had. 


All for one and one for all, or not, and not much in between

Here's an interesting article from the Atlantic about Finland's schools.  The crucial point is, um awkward:
Yet one of the most significant things Sahlberg said passed practically unnoticed. "Oh," he mentioned at one point, "and there are no private schools in Finland." 
This notion may seem difficult for an American to digest, but it's true. Only a small number of independent schools exist in Finland, and even they are all publicly financed. None is allowed to charge tuition fees. There are no private universities, either. This means that practically every person in Finland attends public school, whether for pre-K or a Ph.D.
The late Albert Hirschman explains the logic behind this in Exit, Voice, and Loyalty, which has become the handbook for most of my life activities.  The algorithm is, roughly:
  • Is this bullshit?
    • If no, well ok.
    • If yes, then can I effect positive change to make it not be bullshit?
      • If yes, then work to effect positive change.  (Voice)
      • If not, then we're done here, give up and go away.  (Exit)
This maps to various political concepts beyond education, of course.

The mediating concept, Loyalty, is not an emotional choice, but a rational judgment based on the likelihood of change and the appeal of the alternatives.  At the micro level, this little decision process has been quite beneficial in my life, saving me time, money, and much needless aggravation.

But if all of us pursue this strategy with respect to the school system, Hirschman explains, the school system is probably going to suck.  The first to leave will be the ones most concerned with quality, who would otherwise be volunteering at PTA and agitating for improvements.  Impeding Exit forces them (in Finland, at least) to choose Voice.

The problem with American education is that this country is built on Exit.  Most Americans are descended from people who chose to leave their home country and come here.  Don't like your stock portfolio?  Sell and get some new names.  Don't like your employees?  Fire them.  How do we know this is a great country?  Because so many people left somewhere else to come here.  So forcing everyone into the public school system would probably be un-American.

On the other hand, so is having a class system of elites separately educated at a few specially designated institutions, a relatively new development.  Just for fun, here is a list of the institutions at which modern U.S. presidents (from Hoover on) received their highest degrees.  Since Reagan I detect a certain...monotony.
  • Stanford University
  • Columbia Law
  • University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law
  • U.S. Military Academy
  • Harvard College
  • Southwest Texas State Teachers College
  • Duke University
  • Yale Law
  • United States Naval Academy
  • Eureka College
  • Yale
  • Yale Law
  • Harvard Business School
  • Harvard Law
On the other hand, LBJ's insecurity about his education was a tangible negative for the country, and one could argue that Harry Truman was not as well-equipped as he might have been to deal with the large issues facing him.  So perhaps having prospective presidents get a formal education at a purpose-built institution isn't such a bad thing...France does it, the British Empire did it.

But isn't the whole point of America to let great performers rise up no matter their circumstances?  Isn't that our founding myth?  Can we afford to betray it so obviously?  But then, maybe we have already done so...

Annnnd, since Finland has a population that is about the same as the Detroit metro area, it's not clear how the hell we'd scale their solution anyway.

Nevermind, forget I said anything.

April 12, 2013

I can't live by your rules, Man.

Gizmo the cat.

In Which my Hat's off to Thyri Klottsdottir

Took an internet tour tonight through one ancestral trail, dad's mother Leola Burt, which went back far- surprisingly far, as you'll see.  I thought the names themselves were a historical trip.  Here are the fun ones:

Early America:

Able Burt.
Richard Burt (of the Barbados Bonded Burts 1628).
Charity Hall.
Joan Pentihorn. 
and one key guy, John Jenney (who went to the Plymouth Colony, but in the ship Little James, where his wife lost a son on board)

This is where it gets fun, about the 14th century....

Maud Bokill
John Fastolf and Millicent Tiptoff (m. around 1409)
John Tybotot (b 1315) and his wife Margery De Badlesmere
Guncelin Badlesmere and his wife Peyferer
   daughter of Fulk Peyfeyer
Alice De Jarpenville
Geoffrey Atte Wode (b. 1220!)
Peter Fitzhenry and Isabella De Chesney
   his dad Henry Fitzailwin
   son of Ailwin Lefstansson, son of Leofstan Ongarsson, son of Ordgar Leofstansson, son of Leofstan Ailwinsson, who I think died in 1066 in suspicious invasion-like circumstances, son of (this is all still England, btw) Wigot and his wife Erhminhild.

Margaret De Clare and 1st Baron Bartholomew De Badlesmere (!)  If I'm laying claim to any castles, it's through that chick, as Great Gramps Badlesmere was drawn and quartered and his head hung at Cambridge.

Orabella De Leuchars (1135 - 1203) Born in Leuchars, Fifes, Scotland on 1135 to Nes De Leuchars and Ness De Leuchars.

Simon De St Liz and Matilida Huntington, (b. 1074) His folks Waltheof and Judith, and Waltheof's dad Siward Biornsson (990 - 1055) Born in Earl, Northumberland, 

Eva Braose

The magnificent Millicent La Zouche, and many La Zouches.

Ramfray De Rumilly (1035 - Unknown)

Richard Fitzeustace and Albreda De Lisoures.

Agnes De Gant, daughter of Yarfrid (of France)

Fulk De Lisoures (1072 - 1153)

Paganus Le Chamberlayne

Eva Da Grey

Hugh De Vernon (990 - 1054) Vernon, France.

his pa Osmond De Centville born in 960 to
His dad "Norman"

Then there's Osbern, son of Herfast De Crepon and Cyrid De Crepo; grandson of
Herbastus De Crepon and Gunhild Olafsdatter, and greatgrandson, in 910,  of another

Herfast De Crepon, and Thyri Klacksdottir.

His dad, Gorm Del Gammel (885 - 931) and mom also named

Thyri Klacksdottir.

Knud Sigurdsson and Mrs Harde Knud Sigurdsson.

Knud being the son of  wait for it, the most epic name here:

Sigurd Snake Eye Ragnarsson (777 - 850) 
alleged king of Lethra, whose dad, Ragnar Lodbrok Sigurdsson and mom Aslaug Sigurdsdatter, seem to have started in Denmark and died in Northumbria, England, to become, presumably, the leads in the History Channel's Vikings. 

His dad Ranversson Sigurd (710 - 812)  married Alfhild Gandolfsdatter, daughter of Lord 
Gandolf of Alfheim, AKA, Gandolf Asgeirsson or Gandalf Alfgiersson , king of Alvheim And Vingulmark.

That's right, I'm related to Gandalf. 

This line ends with Ivar Vidfanne, a Russian viking,  (Unknown - 647) Born to Halfdan of Denmark.

I expect record keeping may have slipped up on occasion since 647, so I count on nothing here, still less, families of convenience. But hats off, one and all. How unlikely it is I'm here to appreciate it all that historical business time.


When you have time on your hands:


Remembering the Darker Side

The only reason you are reading this now is that, for the first time in 24 years, I went back into the archives to find that letter. And there it was. Which is when I discovered that I have been casually slandering Ebert for decades.


April 11, 2013

Who was Barney Kess....oh...!

Admitting I have a problem is the first step

April 10, 2013

Inauspiciously Titled

Parking Space in Seattle. April 2013.

April 09, 2013

If you're not already, you must

Follow here.

"Binge view" previous episodes here.

New favorite name for a collection

We all like the terms "a murder of crows" or  "a pride of lions"

Perhaps we favor "a convocation of eagles" or "a memory of elephants."

These are all fine and good, but I recently heard a term use to describe the "Club for Growth" and it's now my new favorite.

"A kindling of fucksticks"

April 08, 2013

"Hey Dad, what's the best song in the world?"

This one:

Gaga interruptus

In a new lawsuit filed by the Republican fundraising and advocacy group, American Action Network, details have emerged revealing that Lady Gaga was reportedly offered $1 million to perform at the GOP convention in August, but turned down the offer.


April 07, 2013

A Potential Retort to A Hasty Political Characterization

I am certainly not a Marxist to the satisfaction of any actual Marxist.

April 06, 2013

The death knell

Apparently, the last thing a stately old mansion or castle is, before it becomes a ruin, is a girl's school.


April 05, 2013

Beijing, '47


April 04, 2013

I was a little disappointed in the ending

Farewell, Mr. Ebert.  Over to you, Laird.


Tom Scocca's remembrance of Michael Kelly is one, an amazing combination of indignant observation, honest commentary, and moral censure.  And the subject gets the last word.

April 01, 2013

This explains why I can't keep a beat

I don't like fish...!


Memo to Daily Beast: Inferior people should not be employed.

You'll get used to it

But more alarming is the way the tar sands industry is undermining Canadian democracy. By suggesting that anyone who questions the industry is unpatriotic, tar sands interest groups have made the industry the third rail of Canadian politics.