Thursday, December 31, 2009

To My Daughter, On The Eve Of The First Year Of The Rest Of Her Life

I'll point you to some advice before this post is through that includes the valuable edict not to disclaim before you speak. But I'm about to: your mom's not a fan of blogged navel-gazing, and only does so for special occasions. This seems like one such occasion, however, so we'll make an exception. I think you should use your voice as often as possible but use it for something worthwhile like public policy or political analysis. Or maybe, to start, commenting on your favorite episode of Sesame Street - that's a fine start.

There's too much advice to give you and I won't fit it all in here, except to say this: wow, next year is going to be HUGE for you. You'll exist, something you didn't do until midway through 2009 or potentially at all during 2009, depending on your philosophical beliefs. It's going to be a hell of a year for us both with the main difference between our shared experience being that you'll get to sleep for much of it and I won't.

I weighed the pros and cons of each sex before I found out your designation. It seems so easy for boys. Unfortunately, it probably still will during your lifetime. But then again, what fun is it to simply measure up to expectations? You have the chance to buck more trends, break more barriers, weasel your way into history more defiantly as a girl. My wishes for you are pretty simple: be healthy and become the first female, physicist, television comedy writing, CMC alumna, Formula 1 racing champion, American President. I think if you get an early jump on things with old episodes of 321 Contact, the Cosby Show, and the West Wing, you can make it.

Having a child is a funny thing. Or so I hear, since I'm still pretty much in denial that the result of this pregnancy business is a person you must bring home from the hospital and for whom you'll immediately need to start a college fund. The closest thing to immortality is reproducing - to ensure that at least one person knows you existed after all those before you, and then you, die. Of course, by the same token, nothing makes you fear death more or feel like your life is ending more than creating new life. I'm not finished yet - at least, I hope not. Not finished being me. Not finished accomplishing things. Not finished changing and exploring and loving and hurting and learning and writing and being. But it won't be about me for much longer. It will be about you. I wonder if it can be about us both - in appropriate amounts. That's a question women have been working on for a long time, small one. We're going to have to keep working on it.

You're already really lucky: you have parents who love each other and who love you. Your dad is super cool - way cooler than your mom. He's smart and fixes things and cares unfailingly about your well-being and my well-being. He introduced your mom to F1 racing and some fabulous television. You're going to like him. I do, however, encourage you to kick him every now and then since he seems envious that I've been the only one you've kicked so far. Try to make him feel like part of the family.

You'll notice as the years pass that I - along with most people - tend to get all introspective at this time of year. When I was younger, I tended more to get drunk. You'll go through the same evolution, I'm sure. Because of you, though, this year I'll focus on the introspective part of the calendar flipping from December 31 to January 1. I also found this blog - it's full of very sound advice for that blogger's daughter and I hope you pay attention to most of it. Just in case, though, here are a few things I really want you to pay attention to and follow:

1.) Learn to write.
2.) Care about how stuff works.
3.) Leggings are not pants.
4.) Be scientific in how you view the world, but also appreciate storytelling.
5.) Try the Nutella.
6.) Vote.

I wish you the best of luck in 2010. There's lots of complicated stuff in the world, but you won't worry about any of it for the first few years. You won't appreciate that until later, but hopefully you'll enjoy it at the time anyway.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Writing Became His Basketball

Of all the reasons I've ever heard for why someone writes, this is quite possibly the single most compelling, gentle, and honest explanation ever.

Shark Bite Luv Fog from Milan Reed on Vimeo.

Go Stag.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

In A Funny Lady State Of Mind

I don't even know what to quote from this. It's a close tie between "I just wanna have babies" and "I'm bad a math." But holy hell, Ms. Amy, you are a force.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Happy Holidays - Enjoy Some Brilliant Lady Comedy

Love these gals:

Also: combi gifts DO suck. Listen to Jesus on that one.

Law Stories I Love

I'm pretty sure the moral of this story is: when a multi-million dollar land deal is on the line, spring for a local hotel room to avoid unforeseen delays.

The resulting litigation has an will continue to eat up a fair bit of the windfall here, but really, c'mon, big bad lawyers and bigwigs - you were late. I don't know too much about property law, judicial auctions, etc, but I'm pretty sure "that thing sold for way too little money" is neither a valid legal nor policy based argument.

Monday, November 16, 2009

On Writing, Personal Essays, And Our Schools Today

This past weekend, we returned to Camp Roberts for the first Training & Elections Conference of the new program year. What program is that again? Thanks for asking - it's the California Youth & Government Program run by the YMCA. It's a model legislature and court program and you can learn more about it here. Also - my delegation needs money, so if you have any extra around and are feeling charitable, we're a 501(c)(3) and can give you a receipt. But anyway....

I've been urging the program to begin integrating a college prep component because I've witnessed just how badly California high school students need solid - hell, any - college guidance counseling. You thought only art and music were gone from our schools? Nope - add to the list a depressing shortage of qualified, dedicated college counselors. Even if schools employ qualified counselors, those counselors frequently spend half their time dealing with behavioral problems and the other half hoping the few likely college applicants will figure it out on their own. I don't blame the counselors, but the effect on our state's high school students is dramatic.

So much potential unrealized. So. much.

I spent two consecutive days in early October representing CMC at local college fairs. The first was held at a local public high school, for public high school students. The second was held at a local private high school, for private high school students. I was curious whether there would be a difference in the types of students attending each or the types of questions students asked.

The short answer: mostly the same level of questions and that level was not particularly high nor did it evidence much prior research by students in either population. The single greatest difference, however, was this: at the public schools event, most students who stopped at my table were seniors. At the private school event, they were juniors.

When a junior wanders up to your table and says she doesn't know whether she wants to attend a big university or a small college, you can forgive her and, in fact, you should expect that she's just drinking in this collegiate world and all the options spread before her.

When a senior wanders up - in October of her senior year and doesn't know which environment she prefers (because she's never considered it), that's all the evidence you need that we are failing our students. You can figure if she hasn't thought about what size school she wants, she's probably not very far along her application process. She probably doesn't know many schools offer application fee waivers. She probably doesn't know that in a down economy, her best bet can be a small, monied, liberal arts college over a state school that is broke as a joke.

She doesn't even know what she doesn't even know.

We've got 2500 or so bright, motivated high school students in Youth & Government. If we can get them 40 minutes of college advice, that might be more than they'll get at school.

Back to the weekend: as a small step into this preparatory field, I was asked to present a session called "Y&G to Go" for seniors in the program. What does that mean? Whatever I decided it meant, as it happens, which is frankly far too much freedom. I settled on a goal of giving kids some tools to better talk about their Y&G experiences. How do you present this program in a way that sets you apart from competing job or college applicants?

It was a bit of a haphazard presentation, I'll admit. Not bad on a few days notice, but not as clear as a few months notice might have made it.

I had the kids fill out a work sheet with a three-circle venn diagram. In one circle, they would enter the traits developed in the program (responsibility, honesty, confidence, etc). In another circle, they would enter the skills they developed (research, video editing, newspaper layout, whatever). The last circle was for concrete examples supporting the first two circles.

Traits they had down pat. Lists and lists of big-thinking, fancy words.

Skills? Their confusion here was troubling. I suppose responsibility is a skill as well a trait (and maybe my diction could've been more clear than "traits" and "skills"). No delegate - not one - suggested "research" as a skill learned or developed through the program (which makes me wonder what in the hell most of them do when writing legislation).

Concrete examples? Stories of their time at conferences? You'd think this would be easy, but 85% of the responses we heard were of the "Youth & Government is a great program because in it you develop responsibility and confidence and this makes me more qualified for being a college student."


Few got to the because.

I can't blame them - I'm the teacher here. At least I was correct in identifying the problem, however.

We divided the kids into groups and had them compete for a selection of hypothetical jobs, telling them to create the pefect, mashed-up candidate using everyone's venn diagrams of skills and examples. Only one group hit it spot on. That group managed to even make a page's role fetching coffee relevant to service as an intern to a congressional candidate. That group was probably already headed to college however.

Of course - it's so, so easy to want to shake a kid and say "why can't you just follow this simple instruction? How hard is it to fill in what comes after 'because?'"

That's the big secret all teachers and counselors withhold though, isn't it? That it never gets easier. After personal statements for college come essays for grad school. Then come cover letters for resumes in which we struggle and often fail to avoid saying "I am uniquely qualified for this position because" - blah blah blah.

Most prompts boil down to "describe something unique about yourself that will help us evaluate your application."

All the venn diagrams and all the practice in the world never make it any easier, do they?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Back With A Randy Post

As my mother frequently points out, I'm not blogging much these days. That's true. And lame of me. But alas, that's how it is right now. Blame it on a lack of time, but more accurately on a lack of motivation. Here's something worth linking, however. A review of two recent biographies of Ayn Rand - or more precisely, a piece using the recent publication of two bios as a chance to ask why we, as a country, have embraced something so asinine as Rand's rantings.

And does any debate better illustrate our asinine collective character than that revolving slowly around health care? Okay, not really our collective character - I hope - but a side of our character that gets a hell of a lot of press. I have friends who tell me with a straight face that caring about the health of anyone outside of the immediate family and maybe some close friends simply isn't his job.

Pause to consider our religious founding and frequently waived Christian flags. What would Jesus say to Ayn Rand?

Content to note:
I don't find it hard to understand why this happened to Rand: I feel sympathy for her, even as I know she would have spat it back into my face. What I do find incomprehensible is that there are people—large numbers of people—who see her writing not as psychopathy but as philosophy, and urge us to follow her. Why? What in American culture did she drill into? Unfortunately, neither of these equally thorough, readable books can offer much of an answer to this, the only great question about her.

Rand expresses, with a certain pithy crudeness, an instinct that courses through us all sometimes: I'm the only one who matters! I'm not going to care about any of you any more! She then absolutizes it in an amphetamine Benzedrine-charged reductio ad absurdum by insisting it is the only feeling worth entertaining, ever.

This urge exists everywhere, but why is it supercharged on the American right, where Rand is regarded as something more than a bad, bizarre joke? In a country where almost everyone believes—wrongly, on the whole—that they are self-made, perhaps it is easier to have contempt for people who didn't make much of themselves. And Rand taps into something deeper still. The founding myth of America is that the nation was built out of nothing, using only reason and willpower. Rand applies this myth to the individual American: You made yourself. You need nobody and nothing except your reason to rise and dominate. You can be America, in one body, in one mind.

She said the United States should be a "democracy of superiors only," with superiority defined by being rich. Well, we got it. As the health care crisis has shown, today, the rich have the real power: The vote that matters is expressed with a checkbook and a lobbyist. We get to vote only for the candidates they have pre-funded and receive the legislation they have preapproved. It's useful—if daunting—to know that there is a substantial slice of the American public who believe this is not a problem to be put right, but morally admirable.

We all live every day with the victory of this fifth-rate Nietzsche of the mini-malls. Alan Greenspan was one of her strongest cult followers and even invited her to the Oval Office to witness his swearing-in when he joined the Ford administration. You can see how he carried this philosophy into the 1990s: Why should the Supermen of Wall Street be regulated to protected the lice of Main Street?

The figure Ayn Rand most resembles in American life is L. Ron Hubbard, another crazed, pitiable charlatan who used trashy potboilers to whip up a cult. Unfortunately, Rand's cult isn't confined to Tom Cruise and a rash of Hollywood dimwits. No, its ideas and its impulses have, by drilling into the basest human instincts, captured one of America's major political parties.
It's not hard to feel the L. Ron Hubbard analogy coming - I thought of that too: how does a NOVEL inspire a movement? And not a marketing movement - sure, the latest Vampire teen sex/non-sex-a-thon can sell a lot of t-shirts and notebooks - but a movement by which we set public policy, for the love of all things holy.

Subscribing to Rand's writing and views is the slacker's way of dealing with life's problems. It's the easiest of easy ways out.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What Do You Do With The Face Of God Once You See It?

Probably the least useful clarification ever:
A Republican congressman who called President Barack Obama an "enemy of humanity" said Tuesday through a spokeswoman that he should have made clear that he was referring to the president's policies related to abortion.

Trent Franks of Arizona said in a speech to conservatives Saturday in St. Louis that given Obama's decision to fund international family planning organizations that support legal abortion, "we shouldn't be shocked that he does all these other insane things."

"A president that has lost his way that badly, that has no ability to see the image of God in these little fellow human beings, if he can't do that right, then he has no place in any station of government and we need to realize that he is an enemy of humanity," Franks said to the "How to Take Back America" conference.

Bethany Haley, spokeswoman for Franks, said the congressman was referring to "unborn humanity" and should have clarified his statement. She also said that Franks meant to say that Obama's abortion-related policies have no place in government, rather than that Obama has no place in government.
So if Obama's failure to oppose abortion makes him an enemy of unborn humanity by sending money overseas that funds abortion, of what was Bush an enemy when he sent money overseas to fund a war? Did he have the ability to see the face of God in Iraqis, Afghans, and American soldiers, but feel confident he had the right to look past that to a higher purpose?

Also: once again we have a liberal group attacking the statement as "show a stunning lack of respect for our president and the office of the presidency." This misses the point and is a stupid retort. By those standards, I disrespected the president and the office of the presidency fairly consistently for nearly 8 years during Bush's terms in office. I don't think, however, that having no respect for the president - as I did not for Bush - equals a disrespect for the office. Regardless, the problem with the new, ugly Conservatism (I won't insult small c conservatism by failing to capitalize the new version) that SHOULD be recognized by liberals and Dems are these sorts of dichotomies: War is fine. Abortion is not. Abortion is not fine, but neither is fully funding support programs for single or struggling mothers or funding sex ed that includes meaningful information on contraception. Pushing for all Americans' better health is unamerican, socialist, fascist, and communist (simultaneously), but trashing the worlds' good will toward us and leaving two countries in disarray while failing to support our troops with the proper equipment or support upon their return is patriotic.

America: you can do better.

Monday, September 21, 2009

This Is What Happens When We Sexualize Children At A Young Age

Parents get arrested for taking bathtub photos of their kids. We have these photos. Friends have these photos. One family has these photos framed and displayed in their bathroom to this day (and the kids are all grown up).

But when we question whether a doll that breastfeeds is inappropriate for a young girl to play with . . . when we dress our young daughters like miniature versions of ourselves (or worse, ourselves in our Forever 21 days) . . . when we fetishize teen girls and hold the age of 16 as the age to which we should forever aspire . . . when we confuse biological development with emotional maturity . . . .

The result is the conclusion that a naked child is a sexual object. Breastfeeding a baby doll is a sexual act. Scantily dressed preteens are sexually aware and wise. And it screws over women of all ages.

Abstinence pledges seem pointless these days - we've already lost our collective innocence if toddlers playing in a tub or running around the house naked makes us question whether they are being sexually abused or pimped out as instruments of pornography.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


So as not to ruin my speech-high before SYTYCD and Glee, I'm going to ignore most of the talking that will come immediately after the speech. There will be better reasoned, researched, and written analysis tomorrow.

But one thing I did catch from the mostly-pointless GOP follow up: this proposal to allow sale of insurance across state lines. I've mentioned this before, but: DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN. If you live in a state - like Cali - with at least some good consumer protection measures, you won't be protected by them anymore. This is a choice-of-law proposal giving companies a chance to pick the least restrictive, cheapest state to operate from. Work for Blue Shield of CA? Not for long! It'll be a race to the bottom by states needing corporate income and then a race by companies to resettle there and strip benefits from the insured.

It is beyond ironic that the party of states' rights champions this. Or maybe it's just expected since they are by far the most nationalist of our parties today.

Stream of Consciousness Reaction To Obama's Speech. Unedited, As Ever, Not Proofread

Mitch McConnell will always be a creepy smiler.

I need an American President moment.

Could Michelle Obama be more beautiful or dress more beautifully? I’m going to go with no.

Joe Biden confirms the speech is in the envelope. Well done, Joe.

I’m still pissed he’s wearing a flag pin. There’s no need. Drop dumb Bush traditions. They aren’t even traditions.

Not the first; determined to be the last.

Teddy Roose first called for reform. God, we’re slow.

John Dingell Senior, Jr still introduces at beginning of each session. Nice. He’s old.

Biden has a few tics. Control them better.

If I lost my job right now, we’d have to move to England because there’s no way I can afford COBRA payments or purchase meaningful coverage. Come to think of it, both my husband and I have pre-existing conditions right now that would probably disqualify us. I might get away with mine, but only because I live in California. If they pass laws allowing choice-of-law for insurance companies, I’ll be screwed. Unless I’m sterilized.

Why don’t we want to stand up and keep on being the best about things? Or if we’re a Christian country why don’t we want our government to be Christian in its care of people? Of the poor? Of the sick?

Shout out to Canada!

So no single-payer and no pure individual market. Okay. We’re going to try to fix this piece of shit we have right now. To borrow from car insurance land: isn’t it totalled yet?

Charles Rangel sighting!

Ideological Camp. Note to self: there’s a sketch in that.

The time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together. Now is the time to deliver on health care.

Goals: 1) security and stability to those with insurance. 2) insurance for those who don’t. 3) will slow growth of costs for family, businesses, and government.

Details every American needs to know about this plan:
First – if you have insurance through your job, medicare, Medicaid, VA – nothing in the plan requires you to change the coverage or the doctor that you have. Makes insurance you have work better for you. Okay, sounds good. No more bounce for the pre-existing condition. So I won’t have to be sterilized. Thanks!

Sidenote: the color in the audience is heartening, but we need more: by that I mean, more colourful suits. By that I mean, more women.

Required to cover routine care and preventative care? Nutty idea! I’ll just wait for the ER, thanks.

If you don’t have insurance? Second part offers quality, affordable choices? Um, public option? A new insurance exchange? (Wah-wahhhh) Sounds like a bit of a cop out, but I’ll stick with you because SOMETHING is better than nothing. Tax credits. Okay. And we won’t get it for four years. This strikes me as politically and electorally shaky.

Shout out to John McCain.

What about the young and stupid? Or the mean companies who don’t give insurance? We ain’t paying for your ER visits anymore, yo. You’re going to have to cover yourself, people. (And there’s the carrot to get insurance companies to support – more customers – yea?) Employers must chip in if they don’t want to cover outright and there’s an out for holy small businesses.

Improving the system only works if we all do our part.

Laugh line at 5:36! Details need to be ironed out. Thanks, Prez.

Please say “Sarah Palin, shut it,” Please say “Sarah Palin, shut it.”

Here we go. Get her, tiger. Booyah. Too bad she, and the radio and TV show hosts and ignorant “I get my info solely from unsourced YouTube videos” types still won’t believe it. Oh no, did someone just yell “lie” at the President? WTF.

And he loses 10 points on abortion aspects and conscience laws. Again, I’ll let it go. For now. (But it isn’t a meaningful right if you can’t access it.)

BTW: Nancy P is going to ass-kick whoever yelled at the President in HER CHAMBER. Don’t disrespect the House, bitches. She keeps giving the stink-eye in that direction. Watch her.

(Also – I don’t want sick people making me sick. So if someone needs care, get care. Legal or not.)

Oh dang, he said public option should be available IN the insurance exchange. Holla!

The public option must be self-sufficient. This is possible. Look at immigration (INS or ICE, depending on how well you know it). They get NO tax money (except when BUSH gave them some because they were so backlogged).

Left. Right. Media. The three sides of our triangular bounce house.

Obama paraphrase: “Dear Republicans: Could you get the fuck over it and let’s just talk about it, okay? Seriously. You get on my nerves. And at least 50%+1 of America’s nerves too.”

Show me the money: won’t sign a plan that adds one time to our deficits. BTW: remember when we were balanced and stuff? Before the war? That was cool. I hope the math in this proposal doesn’t render it toothless. I’d rather go into debt to live longer and have longer to pay it, than to go into debt helping Americans die overseas.

BEST CALL-OUT OF THE NIGHT. He called out Bush and the war bidness. High-five.

Oh dang, he’s calling ‘em all out now. They’ll moan later. Don’t worry boys, you can find safety and comfort in the arms of Fox News and a high number of illiterate, ignorant supporters in your home district or even the one out of your district who are willing to write you checks.

Ho-hum: tort reform time. They may be standing too soon on this one. Biden knows it, look at that cat grin. Put patient safety first, let doctor’s focus on practicing medicine. Sounds good to me. I can’t help but think of that simple best-practices check list discussed in the last Atlantic that would help prevent a number of infection related deaths that should be lawyer bait. You want to lower legal fees, stop making mistakes and killing or maiming people.

Math man, Math man, Math man. I love it when you talk numbers to me, Obama.

Know this: I will not waste time with people who have made the calculation that it is better politics to kill this plan than to improve it.

Your 15 minutes are up, My name is Andrew Shepherd and I AM the President.
Wait, different speech, but I had a moment.

Oh shit, I’m going to go ahead and cry now with the Kennedy stuff. The great unfinished business of our society. What we face, above all, is a moral issue. The character of our country. Obama has thought about that a lot in recent days. So have I.

Don’t fear the future. Also, the reaper. Or do fear the reaper because that’s why we need health care reform? Wait, what?

Replace acrimony with civility. There’s my bumper sticker, kids.

THAT is our character.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In Lieu Of Flowers, Reform Health Care

I reacted in an unexpectedly emotional way after turning on the television this morning to news of Senator Edward Kennedy's passing. Perhaps it was because I knew that my mother would be grieving his death even more significantly. Beyond his own accomplishments and history of service, he represents the last of a powerful tribe. The deaths of his brothers defined a generation - especially young, Democratic activists like my parents. Especially young, East Coast, Catholic, Democratic activists like my mom.

As a friend noted on FB, the vultures are circling, ready to tear at his legacy, revive tired Chappaquiddick jokes (which are meaningless for my generation), and express their unmitigated disdain for his policies, but more vehemently, for his person.

Many of those vultures will be Republicans. Not all Republicans, however, will attack the Senator. Some will celebrate a man whose dedication cannot be questioned. Like Jack Pitney does, here.

I suppose one could argue, as I will, someday, when figures like Bush or Cheney die, that celebrating their service free of acknowledging their philosophy and tactics would be a grave mistake of the "you must give him credit for being a great orator" variety. Perhaps that analogy would be apt. But I believe Bush and Cheney were wrong as much as I believe Ted Kennedy, personal foibles aside, fought for the public policy I support and upheld ideals I uphold.

Rest in peace, Senator Kennedy. You will be missed.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Today On Comedy: Basic Comedic Truths

"It’s not funny to see someone powerless being mocked. I think most people react against that, actually—unless they are a particularly cruel audience. What’s much more fun is to see someone who does have power, and is in the dominant position, become exposed." (from here)

On Health Care Reform

Being blogless frustrated me no end while such juicy bits of reform discussion were out there to be posted. Here are two things:

First, a James Fallows post about the amazing McCaughey-Stewart Daily Show showdown (with links to the entire interview - you need to watch it if you haven't yet).

Second, I find the comments to this Chron article fascinating. I think they probably give the best cross-section of national reaction to the debate. It doesn't bode well, either.

P.S. Here's one more article on why costs rise and how we got here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Status Update

As you'll note from the below post, Phoblog has just returned after a 30+ day silent period. I'm pretty sure that's the longest in the site's 5 year history. You'll see an August 9, no longer very timely post down there as well. That was the start of the publishing problems. Hopefully, this marks the end. As you can imagine, I've been climbing the walls with all this health care reform stuff and no outlet for the ranting aside from the limited character allowance on Facebook - no substitute really.

So, here we are. In case anyone is still around, thanks for periodically checking back.

Praise Be, FTP Has Returned

So thanks go to either Blogger for fixing the glitch or more likely to Josh Orum of (without whom there'd never have been a blog to being with). Looks like we can publish again.

Or, we'll see what happens when I hit publish, right about now. . . .

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Continued Support Of A Party That Would Welcome This Woman Will Compromise My Ability To Think Highly Of You

That's a warning to my Reep friends - of which there are many and whom I love dearly.

Because Sarah Palin says - with what I presume is a straight face:
"The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care," the former Republican vice presidential candidate wrote.
So you have two choices, Reep friends: leave the party or show Palin the door, because there is absolutely no basis to defend such deceitful statements. Even if that statement were true - which, of course, it is not - it pretends that private companies aren't currently denying care for people left and right and issuing death sentences as they go.

I suppose a capitalist death panel is fine and representative of that Alaska spirit. has been running a series seeking to answer the question of what will destroy America. I offer a continued acceptance of this sort of policy debate as a likely culprit. It's all such lies. It's all such a convenient, adopted ignorance of current health care practices.

Maybe we deserve what we get.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Some SYTYCD Love

SYTYCD did pull in nominations for Outstanding Makeup For A Multi-Camera Series Or Special (Non-Prosthetic) Episode #421/422A - which I'll have to triangulate to sort which ep it is. And, more importantly, in Outstanding Choreography:
So You Think You Can Dance • Bleeding Love • FOX • Dick Clark Productions and 19 Entertainment
Tabitha D'umo, Choreographer
Napoleon D'umo, Choreographer

So You Think You Can Dance • Mercy • FOX • Dick Clark Productions and 19 Entertainment
Mia Michaels, Choreographer

So You Think You Can Dance • Adam and Eve / Silence • FOX • Dick Clark Productions and 19 Entertainment
Tyce Diorio, Choreographer [can't find a good video - but it's Will and Jessica's contemporary from Season 4]

So You Think You Can Dance • A Los Amigos • FOX • Dick Clark Productions and 19 Entertainment
Dmitry Chaplin, Choreographer
I'm surprised that NapTab got the nod for Bleeding Love rather than No Air, but both were superb. I think it's great - and we all know Nigel will think it's great - that a Season 2 finalist now has a choreography nomination under his belt. Pretty cool! Other nominees in this category come from Dancing with the Stars and the Oscars. I hope neither wins and one of the SYTYCD dances does. 'Cause I'm super biased. The Oscars usually walk away with too many Emmy Awards, however. Which is baffling. Especially the Directing award.

It's My March Madness: TV Awards Season!

The Emmy nominees were announced today. The biggest snub? No nom for Cat Deeley of SYTYCD. Booo! She's so good at hosting! The show should get a nom too, but whatever.

Let's move on to the interesting stuff - comedy and writing nominations. Another huge year for 30 Rock - with nods in most comedy categories and a near lock on the writing award with 4 episodes nominated (Mamma Mia, Apollo,Apollo, Reunion, and Kidney Now). A lone Flight of the Concords ep rounds out the category.

Speaking of writing, however, what's up with the late night writers? How very . . . male they all are. I'll highlight the names of writers below who, from name only, seem to be or could be female:
Late Night With Conan O'Brien • NBC • Broadway Video, NBC Studios, Conaco
Mike Sweeney, Head Writer
Chris Albers, Writer (but not likely)
Jose Arroyo, Writer
Dan Cronin, Writer
Kevin Dorff, Writer
Andres du Bouchet, Writer
Michael Gordon, Writer
Berkley Johson, Writer
Brian Kiley, Wrter
Todd Levin, Writer
Brian McCann, Writer
Guy Nicolucci, Writer
Conan O'Brien, Writer
Matt O'Brien, Writer
Brian Stack, Writer
Andrew Weinberg, Writer

Late Show With David Letterman • CBS • Worldwide Pants Incorporated
Eric Stangel, Head Writer
Justin Stangel, Head Writer
Michael Barrie, Writer
Jim Mulholland, Writer
Steve Young, Writer
Tom Ruprecht, Writer
Lee Ellenberg, Writer
Matt Roberts, Writer
Jeremy Weiner, Writer
Joe Grossman, Writer
Bill Scheft, Writer
Bob Borden, Writer
Frank Sebastiano, Writer
David Letterman, Writer

Saturday Night Live • NBC • SNL Studios in association with NBC Studios and Broadway Video
Seth Meyers, Head Writer
Doug Abeles, Writer
James Anderson, Writer
Alex Baze, Writer
Jessica Conrad, Writer
James Downey, Writer
Steve Higgins, Writer
Colin Jost, Writer
Erik Kenward, Writer
Rob Klein, Writer
John Lutz, Writer
Lorne Michaels, Writer
John Mulaney, Writer
Paula Pell, Writer
Simon Rich, Writer
Marika Sawyer, Writer
Akiva Schaffer, Writer
John Solomon, Writer
Emily Spivey, Writer
Kent Sublette, Writer
Jorma Taccone, Writer
Bryan Tucker, Writer

The Colbert Report • Comedy Central • Hello Doggie, Inc. with Busboy Productions and Spartina Productions
Stephen Colbert, Writer
Allison Silverman, Writer
Richard Dahm, Writer
Michael Brumm, Writer
Rob Dubbin, Writer
Opus Moreschi, Writer
Peter Gwinn, Writer
Jay Katsir, Writer
Frank Lesser, Writer
Tom Purcell, Writer
Glenn Eichler, Writer
Peter Grosz, Writer
Barry Julien, Writer
Meredith Scardino, Writer

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart • Comedy Central • Central Productions, LLC
Steve Bodow, Head Writer
Jon Stewart, Writer
David Javerbaum, Writer
Josh Lieb, Writer
Rory Albanese, Writer
Kevin Bleyer, Writer
Jason Ross, Writer
Tim Carvell, Writer
John Oliver, Writer
Sam Means, Writer
Rob Kutner, Writer
J.R. Havlan, Writer
Rich Blomquist, Writer
Wyatt Cenac, Writer
Elliott Kalan, Writer
Rachel Axler, Writer
Wow. WriterFail for most aside from SNL. Some credit to the Comedy Central programs. To my memory - Letterman is the greatest offender as I know this is at least the third year with no credited female writers. Conan? I expect better. WTF, guys?

More on other categories later.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Here Are Some Super Stupid Ways For Palin To Rationalize Her Super Stupid Decision

This lady's advice frequently strikes me as demonstrative of everything wrong with the current generation of blog-thought driven media and culture. A new high point: how Palin's resignation inspires Penelope Trunk. Especially stupid: the notion that ideas rather than experience or knowledge is what matters. It's a PR, big thinkin' world, y'all, and we're just living in it!

People are hired based on their qualifications and skills, both of which are demonstrated on their resumes, which give concrete examples of how they employ said skills. It's not enough to just have ideas. What the hell have you done with these ideas? Anything? Do they work? Can they work? Ever tried to make them work? And Trunk says that putting in hours gathering knowledge isn't important anymore? Oh come on, lady. In a pinch, sure, you can get away with knowing where to FIND the information you need, but we live in a short media-cycle world. Even in Trunk's fantasy land, you're better off knowing something than having to waste time looking it up.

And I expect my upper level leaders to, like, know stuff, take pride in knowing stuff, not be afraid to learn new stuff, etc.

Palin made a immature decision on par with a junior high kid who, mad at the school or a teacher, writes up a petition and gets classmates to sign it. Yeah, that's something I did in junior high. Because I was in junior high. I now know that's a pointless waste of time. So is walking off in a huff and making a point with a stomp of your foot. Grow up, Sarah Palin. Wake up, Penelope Trunk.

(Did I mix plurals and singulars above? I hate that. But it's that kind of day.)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

What Do We Want From Our Photographs?

Even before Photoshop, picnik, or a myriad other image altering programs came into being, people have messed with photographic images. Sometimes the alterations intend to deceive, sometimes they intend to portray another meaning, transform the underlying image, become art.

A new NYT controversy has emerged over a photo essay of construction projects abandoned because of economic hardship. It seems, despite the introduction to the series specifically saying no photos were altered, they were . . . altered. A lot of mirroring, some cloning, much of it to little overall effect, but some to create images more sweeping, it seems, than what may have otherwise been there to be captured.

Is the real sin here not in the manipulation but in the introduction? Don't tell us the haunting, vast photos are the result of long exposures if they are the result of long exposures and some clean up work.

Where's the line between cleaning up and fabricating an image?

Back in the darkroom ages, I recall using various sticks and circles to correct for dust and threads in images - trying to get the right shadows under the enlarger to burn or mask the technical problems I hadn't corrected in the camera.

Is a portrait photographer lying if she removes a blemish from a subject's face? What if the subject has acne? What if the blemish was a once-in-three-months aberration? What if the photographer carves her a more pleasing nose? Touches up her roots? Removes her under-eye baggage?

From the moment he gave me my first SLR, my father taught me that great photography happens in the camera, not the darkroom - or, nowadays - on the desktop.

Should we draw a line between color correction and exposure fixes and using cloning, etc, to correct compositiion? What about leveling horizon lines? Is that a lie or is it a truth? A slightly larger print and a matted frame could fix the horizon as well as picnik's tool, so is there a harm?

Of course, photography itself is a bit of a cheat. Photos (and video) don't deliver to the viewer the entire story. They can't. The best convey emotion and a truth particular to the viewer or the photographer (depending on your interpretation, I suppose). But I'm manipulating the view from the moment I frame the shot and click the shutter button.

Are you a photographer, though, if the images presented come solely from the processing, the manipulation, after you capture the initial image? Maybe you're an artist instead?

I think the problem arises because, culturally, we generally ascribe more truth-telling powers, more objectivity, to the photographer. Our interpretation of what we see will be influenced by whether we think we're looking at art or at a photograph - even though that distinction is probably a fiction.

Do I Feel About Texas's Justice System The Way Other States Feel About Cali's Finance System?

And doesn't that still put Cali on a higher moral ground than Texas? Like, for instance, in this case. Here, an 18 year old with the mental capacity of a second grader, and no history of anything bad, was caught by a neighbor fondling her 6 year old stepson. Yes, without question, that's a heinous thing to happen to a child. The DA called it a "violent" sexual offense - but there's no other evidence in the article as to what made it violent or how violent it was. Dude had a crap lawyer who never even called a witness on the kid's disabilities. And the judge stacked the sentences he received for the 5 criminal counts. Three 30-year sentences and two 5-year ones. That's 100 years.

For a kid with an IQ of 47.

Is The Scientific Method Obsolete?

Yes, because there is so much damn data now:
Petabytes [worth of data] allow us to say: "Correlation is enough." We can stop looking for models. We can analyze the data without hypotheses about what it might show. We can throw the numbers into the biggest computing clusters the world has ever seen and let statistical algorithms find patterns where science cannot.
Or no, because correlation is NOT enough and we shouldn't be satisfied with that sort of relationship? Isn't that the human folly we must overcome in the pursuit of scientific discovery: the need to fit everything to a pattern, to force one where none exists? Doesn't chaos theory explain the problem with pattern-based science? A break in the pattern at the smallest levels mean there can't be a pattern on a higher order.

I wonder if this piece is satire when I read the following:
The best practical example of this is the shotgun gene sequencing by J. Craig Venter. Enabled by high-speed sequencers and supercomputers that statistically analyze the data they produce, Venter went from sequencing individual organisms to sequencing entire ecosystems. In 2003, he started sequencing much of the ocean, retracing the voyage of Captain Cook. And in 2005 he started sequencing the air. In the process, he discovered thousands of previously unknown species of bacteria and other life-forms.

If the words "discover a new species" call to mind Darwin and drawings of finches, you may be stuck in the old way of doing science. Venter can tell you almost nothing about the species he found. He doesn't know what they look like, how they live, or much of anything else about their morphology. He doesn't even have their entire genome. All he has is a statistical blip — a unique sequence that, being unlike any other sequence in the database, must represent a new species.
Is this a modest proposal on the abandonment of scientific method in favor of just writing stuff down? Does writing stuff down teach us anything?

Update: This comment is the closest to a rational support I can sort-of understand -
To me this "Google" approach is a very exciting extension to the cycle of knowledge.

Today's research is largely hypothesis-driven, which totally relies on pre-existing knowledge. The problem here: In this way nothing new can be discovered, because the answer is always already formulated in the question.

Then there is the non-hypothesis driven approach. Most great discoveries were actually INITIATED in this way. Darwin had no hypothesis in mind when he started his investigations. Mendel had no hypothesis to test. Nuesslein-Volhard had no hypothesis to test. Newton also had no hypothesis- how could he??

Non-hypothesis driven science starts with an idea or theory, and, after doing the right experiments/data analysis, allows one to then formulate a hypothesis which can then be tested and support the theory. The problem with the non-hypothesis driven approach is that one still only can find things out about what one can formulate and think of (after Wittgensteins: "The limits of my words are the limits of my world").

Then there is a third approach, which (not surprisingly) is not at all considered part of the cycle of knowledge: it is the accident. The list of accidental discoveries is long, famous examples being Radioactivity, Penicillin, and (closer to my own research in developmental biology) the Spemann organizer. The researchers had something completely different in mind, when either the outcome of the experiment surprised them or something went wrong.

In these cases there was obviously no theory at hand. The researchers were just sufficiently awake to formulate one and start the cycle of knowledge.

And this is where the “Google” approach (or whatever Anderson calls it) kicks in. The only thing this Google approach does is to force the luck by sifting though these gargantums of data and providing previously unthought-of correlations and- based on those- come up with theories. This is perfectly valid and will surely lead to many many new discoveries which will allow us to formulate new Theories.

Very excitingly to me, this is approach allows to integrate “luck” into the cycle of knowledge and provides a rationale means of entering it without any preconception. It surely does not put the “old-fashioned” theory and hypothesis aside.
I still find it, however, potentially very dangerous to abandon method to data madness.

And back to my original point with this post on confounding variables. I think that Anderson's original piece, like intelligent design, sounds so cozy and easy that it's a real danger to scientific progress. It's the second biggest danger. The first is America's lack of emphasis on math and science education.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Food For Feminist Thought

From an article on Maria Shriver:
[Shriver] said that after years of mulling whether to seek political office, such a move isn't suited to her goal of encouraging activism and volunteerism among women across the nation.
What do we think of that statement, team.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Speechless At This Guy's Debt, Educational History, Prospects

So a guy took out 32 loans to put himself through community college, college, and law school, took tries to pass the NY bar, but never made a payment - not a single one - in 26 years. Accordingly, the New York State Bar refuses to admit him.

And hey look, he was a Hastings student. But he left in his third year to begin an LLM in London? What? So did he graduate. What the hell is wrong with this guy. He has some tough breaks but over $400k in debt and he didn't make a payment for 26 years? I don't think they should deny him a license, but they should hang a photo of him in college dorms across the country with a caption reading "don't let this happen to you."

A series of fees and disputes and, one assumes, interest, took his debt from over $200k to over $400k. Even at $200k, however, I just have to ask: "is it worth it?" They say it's good debt - but, is any debt really good?

This brings me to a discussion I had the other day with a former Y&G delegate. She's smart - very smart - motivated, was raised well, and has the kind of confidence to take her wherever she wants to go in life - once she figures out where that is. Though she's only a sophomore (soon to be, anyway) we talked about what she'd like to do after college. She guesses that half of her family will be thrilled she finished college and be happy with whatever she does. The other half will be similarly thrilled and happy, but expect her to attend graduate school - doesn't need to be law, but needs to be something.

My advice to her: don't rush to graduate school unless you're sure you want to go. The reason? The debt. Debt - whether from student loans or a housing purchase - is a freedom-killer. Or it's a fair trade, depending on your point of view and your relative satisfaction in life. My undergraduate student loans - fair trade. Loved the experience, learned a lot, use it everyday. I think readers know how I feel about my legal degree, however - and I got off cheap on that one.

I probably wouldn't have framed the question in terms of debt v. freedom, had she not made the following comment: "Some of those jobs pay so much better if you have a graduate degree."


What I didn't consider when I went to law school and then failed to leave it when I realized it wasn't my bag is that: yes, the jobs pay more. Your overhead, however, increases at about the same rate. So I could make less money if I had fewer bills to pay. I could probably have more wealth and freedom generally without the loan debt there (same goes for housing debt, but that's another post).

As ever, my point is not that students truly enamored of law or graduate studies opt not to pursue them out of debt-fear. I would just like to see students be more circumspect and take a bit more time - even if it's just a year between college and whatever-else - to think about what they want to do and why they want to do it.

The debt doesn't leave. And grad school will always be there.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Palin's Full Of It, Plus, A Theory

Slate offers a close reading of Sarah Palin's Facebook message to the nation. Jezebel offers a line-by-line analysis of the resignation speech (which is so much worse than I expected it to be. Seriously, wow).

Anyway - here's the theory. It's a Freaky Friday!

Sarah Palin and Mark Sanford have switched places. It's the only explanation for why he keeps talking and she resigned. Seems an incomplete switch, but at least a good percentage, right?

Friday, July 03, 2009

McCain, I Fear You Have Awakened A Sleeping Giant

Or someone who thinks she is a giant, anyway. I mean, really. Really? Really.

There's a particular kind of person out there who gets a high or believes such behavior gives them power and mystery to refrain from saying anything. There's winking and "oh, I know what's coming, and it's good." You know what? That's B.S. It's lame and narcissistic.

But the better question is: what's coming? Who dumps this news on July 3 (a Friday) during the still MJ dominated news cycles?

Oh, also narcissisitc: thinking you can serve better or whatever outside of the Governor's office. Never fear! She doesn't need a stupid office to keep working for you. By doing. Stuff. Or whatever. But she had to go! She's not one to be lame:
"Many just accept that lame duck status, and they hit that road. They draw a paycheck. They kind of milk it. And I'm not going to put Alaskans through that," she said.
WHAAAAAA? Also, should Alaska shorten its terms? If she's leaving soon, isn't she a lame duck now. There must be something skeletal in a closet, right? Because this first potential reason is just awful and incredibly insulting to Alaskans. Does she think she can win by calling some states - like her HOME STATE - irrelevant? I doubt she'll use this as a talking point.
"Alaska is an isolated stage from which to operate if you want to figure in American national politics. I don't know what she has in mind. Some TV show or some national radio show. There are opportunities for her, I'm sure."

But political analyst Larry Sabato, in Charlottesville, Va., said Palin's announcement left many confused.

"It's absolutely bizarre, and I think it eliminates her from serious consideration for the presidency in 2012," he said.

Palin said her family weighed heavily in her decision.

"I polled the most important people in my life, my kids, where the count was unanimous," she said. "Well, in response to asking, 'Hey, you want me to make a positive difference and fight for all our children's future from outside the governor's office?' It was four yeses and one 'Hell, yeah!" And the 'Hell, yeah' sealed it."
But see, she's just got too much to do to have a full time job:
Fred Malek, a Republican strategist who has advised Palin over the past year, said Palin was "really unhappy with the way her life was going."

"She felt that the pressures of the job combined with her family obligations and the demands and desires to help other Republican candidates led her to decide not to run again. Once that decision was made, she realized, why not do it now and let the lieutenant governor take over and get a head start on his election," Malek said.
Back to narcissism: the other Republicans need her too much and it would be selfish for her to limit her winning influence to Alaska. She'd have to stay home to work on Alaska stuff. Awful!

I can imagine the Fox News soundbites on this and I think if I listen to them, my head may explode.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

So Much To Say

State government is crumbling around us. They are going to in-act themselves into either a part-time initiative that will pass because the ten voters who show up will be a combination of ignorant and wrong or - the best case scenario - a Constitutional convention because maybe we'll still have a government at the end.

Soooo much to say.

Maybe a quick mention: Don't elect Meg Whitman. Government finance and administration is not the same as business finance and administration. California if you go down this road again, then you get what you deserve. Now is a time for expertise - focused, specialized expertise. Attention to detail, procedure, process, respect for institutions.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Twitter Tracker

This is my third consecutive post about Twitter. And I say I don't like Twitter. Am I protesting too much? Eh, not really protesting at all.

But guess who's on top now? Iran still? No! Michael Jackson! Ha, Iranians, nice try, but we were always in love with the process story and not your substance. Good luck with your quest for democracy and legitimate elections. We wish you the best, really. But we need to grieve for a talented yet kind of distasteful performer we haven't heard on the radio in years (but haven't heard anything-but in the last 24 hours). No, no, you don't understand, I really, really grew up with him. So many memories.

(I've just offended people deeply, I'm sure. I'm sorry. I don't want to. But I don't want to keep seeing people weeping and lighting candles for Michael Jackson when I started the week by watching a video of a woman bleed to death out of her nose and mouth because she got out of her car in the wrong country at the wrong time. At least if we borrow her pain, it's for a more noble cause. Sometimes.)

Anyway - we'll discuss this article tomorrow. Or sometime soon anyway.

Bet you didn't wish to hear "the revolution will be blogged" again, did you? But now you should because apparently the alternative gives you just 140 characters of information. Not enough, y'all. Not enough.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More On The Actual Twitter-Power

As I was thinking - though we may never see it reported as such here, it's most likely that Twitter isn't the agent of change but the broadcaster of wishes for change to the West.

And I still think it would behoove us, as a country, to pay more attention to the message than the medium and the people rather than the process.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tweeting Revolutionaries

It's probably fair to say that, as of now, more Americans are aware of Twitter's role in recent Iranian election protests than they are the underlying complaint of many Iranians (btw: that's distrust in the results of their recent election that confirmed the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when many believed his opponent Mousavi would win).

Surfing between radio stations on my ride home, I counted no fewer than five stories about Twitter and other social networking sites and their role in the protests a half a world away.

But what does it all mean? And - can Twitter possibly mean the same thing to and for Americans that we claim it means to and for the Iranians?

What seems to get lost in this story is the story itself. The meta-story - the story of how we get the story is all over the place. Twitter allows Iranians to circumvent government blocked media, getting information out to the world's mainstream media. Mainstream media, left without any other channels, embraces tweets and the like - taking advantage of millions of modern day stringers, all of them freelance and few of them verified.

That's not to say the Iranian tweets are incredible - taken together, they likely paint a mostly accurate picture of the tumult facing the people. But recall for a moment that a few weeks ago, tweets help spread swine flu panic like, well, the flu.

Is it a question of context? Do Iranian tweets mean more because the situation is more important? Do we judge television's potential and power based on its first broadcasts or its best? Or maybe just its current content? I've long said that when discussion the power of blogs, one should simply replace the world blog with the word pencil because a blog is just another writing instrument: the power isn't in the medium, it's in the message conveyed.

Again, however, to compare blogs and tweets: blogs rise to prominence via the mainstream media. More people are drawn to them because of mainstream media, not in spite of it. There's a high percentage of the country that - despite watching the 24-hour cable networks, don't understand Twitter, won't log on to find out what it is, and probably lack internet access anyway. That population will continue to rely on the mainstream media to provide it with information on what is going in Iran (or with swine flu or Ashton Kucher's marital status or how far along in line Miley Cyrus is at Starbucks).

Blog is to pencil as Twitter is to . . . telephone? Maybe that is the best comparison. We're back to party lines and everything old is new again. The largest, operator-free phone line is at the disposal of any movement with the presence of mind to access it. Yesterday, Kucher, today, Iranian's hungry for electoral integrity. I'd give Twitter less credit and Iranian's more. Information wants to be free and will find a way out (uh, except in the DPRK, but there's always an exception).

Had Iran held this election a year ago, it would've been Facebooked; two years, MySpaced; six months from now, it will be broadcast via something only your still-inventing it former roommate and beta-testing-it neighborgeeky teen know about. The revolution will be something-ed from now on, that much is guaranteed.

In the meantime, however, I'd like to know more about what is going on in Iran than how we're coming to know about it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Amusing Content, Amusing Presentation

I've always loved Joel Stein, even as the poor guy gets booted from one major publication to another. In fact, I once actually exchanged emails with him, and considered it a highlight of my technological life.

I like his take here on Cali's stupid love affair with voting. We do it all the time. We vote to screw things up. Or we vote and screw things up - your call.

The amusing presentation comes when you note the idiotic extra links Time Magazine throws in after random paragraphs proving that computer generated linkage yields uniformly funny results.

I take exception to giving some dude in LA credit for establishing a "Vote No on Everything" campaign. I've been doing that - and saying that - for years. LA Doctor: you don't have the corner on reasonable government views!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Was That Really Necessary?

So, what's worse? The thing in the box that plays on the commonly misunderstood technical meaning of "pandemic" or THE THING IN THE BOX THAT SAYS WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!

I would say neither story is cause for concern at this point. It may be cause to appropriate more money to NASA, however. (btw: I thought 5 billion years was about the point the sun was supposed to supernova and swallow us before shrinking to a cold white dwarf anyway. So, shrug.)

Monday, June 08, 2009

OMG I Want To See This Show

I love theater, I do theater (kinda), but I don't know that much about theater - especially when it comes to plays. Watching the Tony Awards last night, however, I found out that I need to see this play immediately while the Brits I love are still in it (Jessica Hynes! Swoon!)

A day spent watching all three related plays will set me back $255. (Swoon! In a bad way). Oh, not including air fare. Grrr.

'Why Health Advice on 'Oprah' Could Make You Sick'

Oh Oprah, why do you hate the science and why do you give Jenny McCarthy a platform?

Think of the good - the sweeping, sea-change good - you could do if your championed increased girl-interest in the hard sciences? By hard sciences I mean: more Chem, Phys, and Bio majors at college - and not ones that add to it a side of Tarot card reading or Feng Shui for the Soul, etc etc. What if you told girls to major in math? What if you told them to aim for first place in the science fair? What if you urged them to follow the scientific method and not just the call of their hearts?

Think of what we could do . . . . Then there might be real attention paid to women's health. And not just the kind of attention you emphasize: the kind that stregnthens the stereotypes that girls want cutesy and touchy feely and have to get all mystical on a problem.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Journalists Sentenced To 12 Years Of 'Reform Through Labor'

I hope one expert is right when he says:
By sentencing them to prison, North Korea has "paved the way for a political pardon and a diplomatic solution," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at Seoul's University of North Korean Studies.

He noted that a pardon can only be issued after a conviction and that the regime's courts were not about to find the reporters innocent, which would imply they were wrongly arrested.
Thoughts and prayers with their families . . . .

Friday, June 05, 2009

This Is Going To Seriously Mess With Some Mantras

Namely: turbulence has never brought down a plane. Nor lightening. That is all. Moving on . . . .

This Week On Real Housewives Of The Chicanes

You don't get much Formula One news over here. There's this brief note today about possible breakaway series for next year. And a somewhat amusing threat to suspend Force India for already lodging it's 2010 entry. Because things could get worse for that team? Poor Force India. (Note: the bitchy teams seem to be the ones that should be good because of their engines and sponsors but seem to have been sucking wind for most of the season. I suppose if I were Ferrari I wouldn't be taking the season gracefully either. I imagine I'd say something like, "I'm flippin' Ferrari, don't you see my red car? Get the hell out of my way," except in Italian, delivered with a smoldering look and immediately followed with the emotive swigging of a fine lambrusco and the smashing of glasses.)

p.s. If you look, there's more. In the NYT of course. Because NYT readers are rich elitists who prefer schmancy euro racing to vulgar American Nascar crap. (j/k) And there's a more in-depth analysis of the current poo-storm here. Also, is paracarro an insult? I shouldn't have quit taking Italian class. Renault is kinda coming off like an a-hole here:
“Our drivers are, or have been, world champions, and then you have a driver who was almost retired, and another who is a ‘paracarro,’ fighting for the championship,” Flavio Briatore told the Gazzetta dello Sport, referring to one of the winning team’s drivers, the veteran Rubens Barrichello, as “almost retired” and using the Italian word for curbstone to describe the other, the championship leader, Jenson Button. “I don’t know how we can say we have credibility.”
I suppose if I didn't have a diffuser and all the teams with diffusers were winning . . . . Also, some argue that F1's squabbles are great for the sport:
Jane Nottage, editor of Paddock, a motor-sport business and lifestyle magazine, said the scandals induced fans to follow the sport between races:
“The intrigue and the fights and the battles on and off the track is something that people like,” she said. “Whereas with Nascar they’ve only created race-by-race interest — the race finishes and there’s no real incentive to follow it. You want to know who’s going to win, but here there’s more bite and intrigue and gossip to it.”
So F1 is . . . going all The Hills on us?

And also, F1 thinks your Nascar is lame:
“There are more scandals in Formula One because the media makes more scandals,” Bourdais said, noting that no other racing series is covered as intensively by the media. “But if you look at what happens in the United States, for example, with Nascar or other series, with yellow caution flags that come out when a guy has more than five seconds lead or is about to lap everyone, no, I don’t think there is more injustice here.”

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Reasons To Feel Old This Week: The DVR Recap

1.) A week or so old episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

- Brian Williams: is a freakin' brilliant man. He is funny as hell. He and Jon Stewart are two sides of the same coin. Williams is serious at work, but buoyed by humor in life. Stewart is humorous at work but driven by the seriousness of the times. I adore them both.

- Tori Amos: Appears to have botoxed her face. My youth has official died. Of botulism.

2.) So You Think You Can Dance: I still love you, yet you are kind of being a bitch. Cut it out.

3.) The NBC News Special: More Brian Williams with the Obamas and even the dog. Stewart has a good take on this. I'm only 30 minutes into the program. But 30 minutes in the White House complete with a quick reference to The West Wing was pretty much all it took to make me feel . . . so . . . no longer an intern walking through the halls of the Cannon HOB thinking, holy shit, I'm walking through the halls of the Cannon HOB and meeting Rich for lunch (turkey pastrami) and cooing over our ID badges and saying "holy shit we're having lunch and we have ID badges" and my god where have the past ten years gone and have I lived up to my potential or am I already a retired greyhound on the couch - go with it - and f*ck why are we navel-gazing we really need to stop saying we and stay off Facebook and can I be an intern again I want a do-ver.

4.) Did I mention that Tori Amos is 45 years old and her forehead no longer moves? Oh, these little earthquakes.

5.) The commercial for Away We Go: Maggie Gyllenhaal's character, re: a stroller, says, "I love my babies, why would I want to push them away from me?" Jacqui: this is you.

6.) We couldn't have Evan and Ryan? I bet we could have. Or how about Natalie, Nigel (you arse).

7.) You emo kids who are becoming something else, you twee kids, you kids wanting flannel after seeing Miss Deeley rock some retrogrunge this evening - you don't know boo about emo. 90s kids? Realtime Kurt Cobain? Tori Amos. We know from moody introspective alt.folk piano rock. You know nothing. But now we're botoxed. Someday, you'll be too.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

No comment

I won't comment substantively. Not really google search-able if I don't comment on this article. Which I won't. So, no comments. But it's a weird expression of faith in the ability of another country when it comes to this particular issue, right? Or even just generally? No presidential aspirations make this sort of statement kosher?

Immi Law And Equal Marriage: Family Based Processes Suck For All!

Same-sex couples fight for immigration rights, notes a profile at

The article is both accurate and inaccurate. It also fills me with a sense of hopelessness on behalf of same-sex couples separated by citizenship. I don't see that changing anytime soon at all. Talk about a giant Federalism cluster. Even if the feds allowed some sort of modified K1 for same-sex couples, well, to which states? Those with full marriage rights? Those with domestic partnership statutes? But stuff doesn't necessarily cross state lines anyway? And all this works now because? Right, it doesn't. Anyway.

(I'm sure a certain percentage of my support for full marriage rights stems from my husband's and my brief and thankfully fixable struggles to be together. It wasn't brief at the time, but whatever. Our culture celebrates the hell out of the "love conquers all" notion, but public policy doesn't always back that up. It's a heartbreaking inequity. Anyway . . . .)

The one bit I'll take exception to, however, is the UCSF employee whose employer sponsored him for a green card. Dude says he sees inequality when a female coworker can marry a foreign man and sponsor him and that they represent "one more person who has jumped ahead of me in a line I should be in."

Uh, no no no no no, deary. The EMPLOYMENT series of visas can pay their way to better priority in line. You can fast track that shit. Family based visas - like the K series? You wait your turn. Not as long as less-related sibling, parent, etc, series either. Someone who has sponsorship and is legally present with their loved one? You don't get too much empathy from me. I know how it is for the K couples and the wait can be horrendous and of unknown length.

So, total empathy for couples with no legal relief in sight. Not so much empathy if you have your green card and you're still hating on the K-sters.

This Guy Is Twee-ing His Definition Of Twee

Which I don't even think is historically accurate, is it? He's adopting the urban dictionary, alt.definition of twee, compared to what I'd always understood it to be. Twee is lots of flowers and lace and precious things and cutesy and busy and, again, floral. I've not heard twee used on the kind of thing described here: the calculated indie cues that say "this movie is DEEP, so get ready." For a time, the mere presence of Zach Braff could indicate such, bless him. But lord knows I hate the hipper-than-thou image that so many people spend hours of their day to create. American Apparel shoppers, I'm lookin' at you.

My mom's used the term twee - so that kills the usage here. Only other person I've heard use it lately - a Brit friend. Because they are just better with language. Precise. Nearly German, but using a typically-English restrained and minimal vocabulary.

If this new notion of twee takes over, it will itself be the twee-ing of twee and therefore something I'll have to hate.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

It's Not Always About You, America(n)

So Michael Savage thinks HE'S responsible for the resignation of British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith? I'll check with my hubby abroad to see if that's how the headlines over there read, but my guess (fervent hope?) is hell-to-the-no. It was more likely that taxpayer funded porn rental thing (still stupid, but whatever).

A related aside: a hold-over from the Bush years is the notion that "everyone else hates us!" because we're bad Americans who invade other countries and twice elected (or once) an idiot. Even during Bush's presidency, however, I was never taken to task for my country of origin by Europeans. Initial questions to my husband, however, were frequently along the lines of "so, do you guys, like, totally hate Americans?" The rest of the world doesn't sit around thinking about YOU all the time, America. Sure, in a certain context or conversation, a non-American may express frustration or disagreement with, or even dislike of America. But mostly, what they notice is our undying need to make everything about us. How much do you hate us? No really, c'mon, you do, right? No, they don't. They just don't concern themselves over us. And really, why should they? They've got their own government and culture to worry about . . . .

Is It Because When You're Rich Enough, Government Doesn't Really Matter?

I know, I know: I usually rail against people who are anti-rich for the sake of being anti-rich. But this Chron piece highlights the failure of many high-profile, big money types to engage fully in basic democratic processes, uh, like voting:

But a Business Week investigation of 100 top executives in 2000 found that "precious few" of the business elite cast ballots in often-critical state and local elections dating back as far as the 1980s. As CEO of Halliburton Co. in the late 1990s, Dick Cheney - who was elected vice president in 2000 - skipped 14 of 16 state and local elections. Oracle's Larry Ellison was registered but didn't vote during the period reviewed, the magazine said.

Meg Whitman, the 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate who was CEO of eBay at the time of the magazine's study, was cited in the report as representative of an exclusive executive group with "worse than spotty" voting records. The magazine could not find a voter registration for Whitman, who didn't register even after being notified by the magazine, the report said.

The Chronicle reported last year that Whitman, an Atherton resident, registered in San Mateo County in 2002 as a decline-to-state voter and registered as a Republican in 2007. The billionaire businesswoman did not vote in more than half the federal, state and local elections after she registered to vote in the county, records show.

Al Checchi, the unsuccessful California Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 1998 and former Northwest Airlines executive, was also hurt by admitting to failing to cast ballots in four of the six California elections before his run, missing critical primary and general election ballots.

Whitman and Checchi said they regretted not voting, adding that they were busy or traveling on business. Such excuses don't play well with voters, O'Connor said.
The article is primarily about Carly Fiorina, which is odd because Whitman has set her sights on higher office, but whatever.

I've missed at most two elections since I turned 18 - I recall one municipal election for sure and I think there may be another in there. I am ashamed at both lapses. And for many years while I was in college or law school, I was voting absentee. I managed to find the time and I don't have a flock of staff around to keep me informed of deadlines, etc.

So the question is this: should we penalize those who many have come to be engaged in democracy and our state/country later in life or their careers, or welcome anyone with an interest? And does the answer to that question depend on the person? I know I opened this post with a cheeky anti-rich slam (and in many ways, I do believe that if you can amass the right level of wealth, you can live fairly insulated from public policy), but if you run a large corporation, you're going to interact frequently with all levels of government - so you should know you have an interest in the goings on. And your company is going to make contributions.

Like I say in my Prop 8 related posts: all the money or persuasion in the world only counts if people turn up to vote. So shouldn't you follow up on your donations by casting your ballot?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Good Idea, But Partly False Reasoning

Take the fight to Central Valley? Liken it to the freedom riders fighting for civil rights in the South? Yes, that could be a good idea and it could be a useful analogy. What takes it from inspirational to frustrating, however, is this:
Gay activists believe their campaign against Proposition 8 focused too much on liberal urban enclaves along the coast, failing even to reach out to the state's rural regions. The measure passed with nearly 69 percent of the vote in Fresno County, compared to 52 percent statewide.
I'm not sure if the "Gay activists" referenced had anything to do with the campaign, but either way, they're missing the failure. It's a good thing blogging doesn't require talking, because I'd be blue in the face from repeating this so often. This campaign failed because turnout was miserable. The No on 8 campaign failed to get out the vote. If you don't turn out your vote, then any support and all the persuasion in the world is wasted effort and wasted money.

We will repeat this error if we don't remember it, talk about it, insist on it, assess it, and work against it.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Blawg Post: Sotomayor Is A . . . Wait For It . . . WOMAN. Deal.

So here's what she actually said:
"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." The remark was in the context her saying that "our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging."
But here is how it's being summarized:
Latinas make better decisions than white dudes.
Here's the problem - the paraphrase is such a globalized version of her actual statement it no longer contains any of the original meaning or nuance. And yeah, there's nuance.

By the way, maybe it's my age, or my marital status, or the "you're SO having kids soon!" statements from people who have no business commenting on my reproductive choices but I'm having a bit of a feminist thing right now. Thank God.

Part of the fun of the paraphrased "girls jurisprudential rule, boys drool" statement is that white dudes have no end of fun in saying "well if we changed that how fast would WE be called out for it! UNFAIR!"

This is the same crap that leads to magazine covers sobbing over what is happening to our little boys because girls are making strides in education. Oh dear! Centuries of dominance slips by a centimeter and HOLY SHIT, START THE RESEARCH, HOW DO WE SAVE OUR FRAGILE MEN.

Clearly, the first step to saving them is to make sure we emphasize language that normalizes the male (and in this country, WASP male) experience and solidifies others as, well, other. Lady lawyer! Lady doctor! Woman judges! Regular judges, of course, are dudes. And they all think alike.

Someone commented to me recently that eventually I'd need to choose if I'm going to be a woman lawyer or a lawyer.

You see the problem here, right?

As I am very attached to my lady business, I have a feeling I'll always be both. And being a woman - biologically and sociologically and culturally - is going to affect the way I ... live, think, etc. Seriously, does this need to be explained? I don't have to decide shit. I'm a woman. I'm a lawyer. And no, the two cannot be split.

They're judges. Judges judge. And we're common law, not civil law, so some stuff is gonna be squishy, kids. She's damn right to hope that women or particular kinds of women are going to look at things differently - and probably better - than men.

Everyone forgetting the MPC rape laws they studied in school. Had to present evidence that you fought back? Couldn't be raped by your husband? Those chestnuts from legislative history have slipped your mind?

I'm surprised they aren't just raising the "she'll have to ask the Pope about stuff" argument since we're going all retro.

Such bullshit. All of it.

18 million cracks but it ain't broken yet.

And another thing:

So this should frost them even more:
She also said, for example: "Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see."

"My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas in which I am unfamiliar," she said. "I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage."

At the time Sotomayor gave the speech, she was in the same job she is now, a federal appeals court judge. She said then she was reminded daily that her decisions affect people and that she owes them "complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives."

"I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage," she added, "but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate."
To which I say: DUH! Of course. Obviously. Yes. And, great!

I can't help recalling my last tour of jury duty. Throughout voir dire these people would swear they could leave it at the door, but, no, it was pretty clear they couldn't, so they got bounced. So why not be honest about it all. Know that we are informed by the totality of our lives and that's precisely WHY we need different people to come together to sit on the highest bench around.

Ugh. I hate all of this so very, very much.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Your Documentary Film Recommendation Of The Day

Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room is a compelling bit of documentary film making that gets bonus points for a) including well-chosen pop music and b) vindicating Gray Davis in many ways. I'm not sure how non-Californians view the film, but it struck more than a few chords with me. Two thumbs up.

THIS Is Why I Have Always Wanted A Llama

YouTube is magic. And I never paused to consider why or how a Llama lived in New York City or visited the dentist there. I was just glad the Llama cared for its oral health.

Housing Stuff I Don't Get

So, the market is still crap, duh, but the new trend in articles about the situation is to compare the it's-getting-better! predictions with the oh-wait-no-it's-not indicators that more bad is still to come. On thing consistently confuses me, however - check this out, listed under the header "Walk-away underwater homeowners:"

The number of people who owe more than their home is worth continues to rise. Almost 22 percent of all mortgage holders were underwater by March, according to real estate site That's spurring a phenomenon of "walk-away" homeowners - people who choose foreclosure because they don't want to pay off an upside-down asset.

Matt Bording and Mangala Abeysinghe are an example. They have poured love and energy into their three-bedroom Richmond home; the garden alone is a work of art. Bording has a steady job as an ICU nurse, Abeysinghe, a nurse in her native Sri Lanka, should readily find work once she passes the U.S. licensing exam. They made a down payment and can afford their monthly payments.

On paper, they sound like ideal borrowers. But as their home value plummeted, leaving them underwater by more than $200,000, they decided to walk away. They stopped paying their mortgage in October, and are still living in the home, although the lender sold it at a foreclosure auction last week.

Bording described the decision as "a bit of brinkmanship and bravado, along with fear of being financially trapped. I'm wondering about the possibility of many more prime borrowers doing the same thing, causing some kind of ripple in the economy."
So, RIGHT NOW, the home is $200k underwater. In 5 years, will it still be? (Many would say yes, but.) Let's say in 5 years it's only underwater $10k, but in the meantime, you keep making payments and you still have a tax deduction and, oh yeah, you still have a place to live.

The two words more commonly missing from all of this discussion are "right now." Don't get me wrong, what my house is worth right now makes me sad because it is already less than what I paid for it (I welcome myself to the club in that regard). And I neither think nor hope that the market will rebound to the stupid levels of previous years. A good number of walk-away owners, however, seem to be just plain crazy.

Then again, our public policy recognizes efficient breaches, no? We never stop screwing ourselves.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ante Up, Stags And Athenas

Claremont McKenna College needs your pennies, gang. So fork it over!

Seriously: CMC loves you. You love CMC, right? And maybe you've heard about this whole bad economy thing? It's probably hit our alumni especially hard, come to think of it. But when everyone is down, isn't giving that much more important? Last year, $58,000 was raised from donations of just $50 or less. That's no small feat. Of course, the school will happily welcome you to the Jack Stark Society ($150) or James Madison Society ($100) or those pricier societies if you have more than $50 to spare.

Maybe you received a CMC Young Alumni Update email within the last few minutes, too. If you didn't, then you already contributed, so good job you! You can give more though, if you need to clear cash before the end of the fiscal year.

The photo of the Class of 2009 (dear God in heaven) celebrating Thesis-Turn-In day brought back some fond memories. That celebration clearly seems to be at Flamson Court. Our was out at the apartments. I finished a bottle of warm Asti like I finished my two-semester thesis, yo! I still have the bottle. Yeah, I do. And I have an ICA banner. That's right. I'm THAT alumna.

Give back, please. Even if you're paying for loans still (I am). Even if, despite being employed, you still feel short most months (I do). Even if you have quibbles with stuff (yes, sometimes even I do, too).

As-yet unborn Stags and Athenas need you.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

One Way In Which England May Be Cooler Than The U.S.

England has one time zone. America has 4 - more if you bust out of the lower 48. This presents some challenges to business. It presents more pressing challenges to television viewers - especially west coast viewers of live shows. Because we just GOTTA do everything for the east coast. God forbid they be required to stay up late (for anything aside from Monday Night Football).

If you love TV and you love your computer, then you're super screwed during tape-delayed life events.

In England, they can do the performance and results of a competition on . . . wait for it . . . the SAME NIGHT. Because they have one time zone (and four channels). It's a brilliant system.

Downside - easily invaded by a number of other countries.
Upside - easy to enjoy collective TV viewing experience.

False Comparisons

AP television writer gets it wrong regarding the AI question on every fan's mind: where do Gokey's votes go:

Allen and Gokey seem more aligned than Lambert, in both style and substance. Allen, 23, of Conway, Ark., and Gokey, 29, of Milwaukee, shunned Lambert's elaborate staging and wardrobe when they performed, and both have traditional public images.

Allen is a married college student and has worked as a church worship leader. Gokey, a widower, is a church music director.

Lambert, 27, of Los Angeles, has largely kept his life under wraps, saying "I know who I am" when asked to dish. His talent, however, is there for all to see.

When it comes to singing style, Gokey is the untalented version of Lambert - but they are both belters. Kris Allen is Jason Mraz/Jack Johnson.

More to the point: the writer is drawing conclusions from Allen and Gokey's employment with churches and setting it as opposite to Lambert who won't talk about his life. Um, no. We know an equal amount about the professional background of all three. Did anyone ask Lambert if he goes to church? Can he not because, wink wink nudge, he "keeps" his "life under wraps" which means he's gay which means he is neither a traditionalist nor a church-goer?

Sorry. No.

If I were a betting woman, I'd bet Gokey votes go nowhere at all because Gokey voters are jealous of Lambert's talent and mad at Kris Allen for stealing Gokey's spot.

(Don't you LOVE that this is the most in-depth analytical piece on the day after an Election Day? Right?)

Should We Ask Him If He Evens Wants To Get Married First?

This Chron article makes about a million logic leaps as it builds the case for an advancing public view on equal marriage rights on Adam Lambert's back.

The kid is a kid. Okay, he's 27, which is a grown-up (or was before we, as a culture, decided to stay Forever 21). But it still seems odd to use him as the centerpiece of the discussion when we're just now hearing gossip reports that he's introduced his BF to his AI pals.

The great national Lambert Shrug over his sexuality is telling, however. Give me a "who cares!" America!

No one cares.

My mom doesn't care. Some internet crackpots care, but tweener gals don't (probably because the guy's Twighlight aura is spot-on for the time: he's pretty, can sing, is dark in a cuddly sort of way, and may as well be Edward Cullen with a microphone).

He's just a dude on a reality show. The most beautiful aspect of progress - if we are progressing on the issue - is that there's no story there. He can do or date whom he pleases and still get on with his badass, hollering career. Let him be a poster boy for himself for awhile, rather than anything larger.*

(*Though, I'll say this: I didn't love the kid in the competition. Never voted for him. 'Cause I don't dig his persona/voice THAT much. But I had this brief fantasy that last night he would give a shout out to "Mom, Dad, my boyfriend Drake! I love you guys!" and then just see what happens. No matter what, the outcome would have been great for him. Option 1: he says it, America continues to shrug, he wins, and cuts a record. Option 2: he says it, America continues to shrug, but decides it wants more Jason Mraz and less Cullen, so he cuts a record he wants rather than one hamstrung with Kara's crap song. Option 3: he says it, American media loses its shit, he wins, more shrugging, record, fame, horray. Option 4: he says it, America loses its shit, he loses, he goes Prajean and even MORE people know his name, he cuts a record, earns massive money, probably helps a movement, and gets a reality show. So you know, he's cool whatever happens, so maybe, if we're going to thrust him into the role of spokesperson for an entire demographic, he stepped up and took one for the team and say "yeah, and?")

Electoral Amen

As quoted in The Roundup:

"Nearly a century after the Progressive-era birth of the state's ballot-measure system, it is clear that voters' fickle commands, one proposition at a time, are a top contributor to paralysis in Sacramento. And that, in turn, has helped cripple the capacity of the governor and Legislature to provide effective leadership to a state of more than 38 million people."
That's what I've been saying. Whatever noble and brilliant intentions helped birth this most abused of progressive reforms . . . they dead now, yo. What's left? An afront to representative democracy and a republican government. The railroads are gone. Enemy: they name is voter.

Wait, no. It's not voters. Well it is. But moreover, it's people who sign petitions to get crap on the ballot that hasn't even been proofread, let alone vetted.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Diet Peach Tea Snapple

Has a new label, but is still made from the best stuff on earth - or so it claims.

I can't drink the stuff without thinking back to a summer conference atop Ohio's only hill. Sandra and I would walk down to the lone market in the evening and buy a 50 cent hot dog and a diet peach tea Snapple. We sat on the curb outside as the sun began to set, the fireflies emerge, and the heat reduce from poach to simmer.

Best stuff on earth.