6/29/09

With instant replay, it would have been Brazil 4, USA 2

JOHANNESBURG--During halftime at tonight's Confed Cup, with the U.S. miraculously up two-nothing over Brazil, I went to go gloat to a British friend over a beer at one of the stadium's Budweiser stands. "I'm feeling triumphalist again!" I told him, raising my American flag over my head.

"It's halftime," he warned. "Don't have a 'Mission Accomplished' moment." | via |

6/23/09

Adventures in miscategorization

Ben Smith blogs:
Nixon saw interracial pregnancy as grounds for abortion

A remarkable bit of history from Charlie Savage, who is listening to newly released Nixon tapes:
Nixon worried that greater access to abortions would foster “permissiveness” and said that “it breaks the family.” But he also saw a need for abortion in some cases, such as interracial pregnancies.

“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white,” he told an aide, before adding: “Or a rape.”

Barack Obama was 11 at the time.

Interesting in its own right, for sure. However, what's with the tag?

6/22/09

I probably would not have been so persistent

... but this guy--who happens to be a colleague of mine at work--used the new "find my iPhone" functionality (discussed in a previous post) to track his phone down, somewhat aggressively.
We parked along Medill and hopped out. It was a Puerto Rican neighborhood. On the south side of the street, an outdoor birthday fiesta was convening, and some of the participants eyed us three honkeys questioningly. Now at this point I had no fricking clue how we would find the phone; did I think I'd find it under a bush? I certainly didn't plan to go door-to-door, nor did I expect the cops to regard a blue circle around the entire block as sufficient cause for a search warrant. I sent a third message to the phone that I'd been formulating in my head: "We have tracked the phone to Medill St. and are locating it. Please call 512-796-xxxx to help us and claim a reward." Short version: WE KNOW WHERE YOU ARE.

And now his little story has been posted on Daring Fireball, which, at our workplace, will make him quite the bees knees.

6/21/09

Sunday funnies

Indie Rock Pete says:

6/19/09

Privacy is as privacy does

Two items of note on the privacy front.
A new frontier for the invasion of personal privacy, drumroll, please: the City of Bozeman, Montana wants access to job seeker's Facebook accounts. This local government employer asks those soliciting positions with the city to supply a list of social networking sites they frequent, as well as log–in details and passwords as part of a comprehensive background check. | the guardian, via chat from my sister |

Way to go, Montana.

Second, version 3 of the iPhone software--along with a Mobile Me account--let's me locate my phone if I've lost it. Or my wife's phone. Even if she hasn't lost it.

In other words, I can now track my wife's movements throughout the day:

Not that I'm going to do that. That would be rude. As I've stated before, I think it will be a whole generation before our social norms are sufficiently adjusted to this new technology.

6/18/09

Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads.


I think such explanations are especially popular in times of rampant uncertainty, which is where we are now. After all, if we understand the movement of the financial markets then we have a modicum of control - we know when to buy and sell - and people love control. In one classic 1975 study led by Ellen Langer, male undergrads at Yale were asked to predict the results of coin tosses, a cliched example of a random event. Nevertheless, a significant number of the men believed that their performance improved through practice - they got better at calling heads or tails - and that distraction would detract from their performance. How did they justify this wishful thinking? As Langer notes, the men engaged in some sly cognitive filtering and consistently "overremembered past successes".

Is Wall Street any different? The market, after all, is a classic example of a "random walk," since the past movement of any particular stock cannot be used to predict its future movement. Given this inherent stochasticity, it's silly to attempt to explain the daily movement of the market: such an endeavor is like analyzing a series of flipped coins, or trying to explain the payout patterns of a slot machine. We can construct theories - and some of these theories might even sound intelligent - but they're ultimately futile attempts to stave off the flux.

What's even more disturbing is that such errant explanations might actually cost us money, since they lead, inevitably, to over-confidence. (Those Yale undergrads vastly overestimated their ability to predict coin flips.) We become so convinced that the logical-sounding explanations are true that we forget we're dealing with a random, inherently unpredictable system. The end result is too much trading.

The Frontal Cortex

6/14/09

Feeding the troll

What we learned in the last thread is that a straight white man from Texas can't abide anyone thinking that Letterman's jokes about Palin were out of bounds.

Now, I know Midkiff is a bottom feeder and isn't very bright besides, so forgive me for dramatizing this next point. Sometimes ridicule is wrong and undeserved even when the object of ridicule is a proper subject of criticism for other reasons. Putting aside Palin, it was wrong for me to refer to Midkiff as a not very bright bottom feeder in the first sentence of this paragraph. Perhaps those things are true, perhaps they aren't. In any case, truth was not the point. The discursive function of those insults was to delegitimize Midkiff by expressing contempt for the very idea that he might be considered an equal. If I'm lucky, those words will also interfere with Midkiff's capacity to engage in reasoned discussion by making him so mad that he can't help but respond with a string of obscenities.

But let's move on if we can. What project was Midkiff engaged in when he responded to the Palin/Letterman post? According to his self-presentation, Midkiff was concerned not to let Palin get away with crying crocodile tears about sexism. But since the point of the post was to call Palin out for crying crocodile tears, you have to think that there's more going on here. My guess is that had I not called out the (obvious to me) sexism of Letterman's jokes then there's very little chance that Midkiff would have commented.

So we have here a situation where Midkiff -- a person, it should be noted, who has so little interest in engaging me that he has all but given up commenting on the blog -- cannot help but chime in when it is suggested that prominent female politicians ought not be ridiculed on the basis of their appearance. Why does he care so much? I mean, there are some pretty clear reasons to avoid that sort of stuff. What's the benefit of insulating it from criticism? None that I can see. And yet it mattered so much to Midkiff that he began a conversation with me.

Here's one thing I know for sure. The bra burning feminists who Midkiff disparages would have predicted precisely the behavior from him which he has so kindly exhibited.

6/12/09

Must. not. blog. about. Palin.

Letterman jokes that Bristol was knocked up by A-Rod -- poor taste, not acceptable in our politics and worth criticizing him for -- and makes it even worse by telling the joke in a way that opens it up to the interpretation that he was talking about the 14 year old Willow -- incredibly stupid, but he did apologize -- and rather than accepting the apology at face value, Palin decides to imply that Letterman is a child molester.

Letterman jokes that she dresses like a slutty flight attendant -- poor taste, not acceptable in our politics and worth criticizing him for -- and she claims that her first thought was for the poor flight attendants who he had slandered.

Really? I mean, if Palin would just handle this like a human being I'd be on her side.

Adding: Accepting the apology at face value would mean accepting that Letterman meant to be joking about Bristol. It wouldn't mean saying that Letterman did nothing wrong.

6/11/09

Futurama gets renewed for 26 episodes

Weird, but true, and hopefully awesome.

6/10/09

Hmmm....

Since I just got back from the west coast late last night, do I get to call tonight's insomnia 'jet lag'?

Since I'm awake anyway: One thing that I didn't mention in this post, but which I think you'll agree qualifies as relevant, is that I'm pretty strongly prejudiced against greatest hits records as a general rule. My thinking, if you can call it that, is that buying a greatest hits record is tantamount to acknowledging that you are incapable of liking music that you haven't heard before. All and still there are lots of records out there, more than I could possibly have time to listen to, and a body needs find a way to cut through the crap and get to the good shit. So that's the context in which I asked whether there weren't, after all, some bands/artists who were better represented in compilationary form.

6/7/09

Link roundup: porn and piracy

Where in the past I would have done quick insta-posts on these items, lately I've taken to throwing them in my Evernote notebook, in the hopes that they will be resources for more substantial Bellman posts down the road. Now, I am thinking that's unlikely, so here they are all in a rush.

1. Evernote! I highly recommend this service. It is free, it has a Mac client, a Windows client, an iPhone client, and a web interface, so I have my notebook everywhere I happen to be. importing and organizing information is very easy. And if you need something to push you over the edge into trying it, notes with images are scanned and put through text-recognition routines so that you can search against their contents. Pretty slick! It highlights the portion of the text that it thinks features the word I searched for:


2. I think some of my friends might be criminals.
An Iowa man was convicted of possessing child pornography last week because some of the books in his vast collection of Japanese manga (comics) appeared to depict minors engaged in sexual acts
...
39-year-old Christopher Handley, an office worker, was brought up on charges of possessing child pornography in 2006 when customs officials seized a package for him. It contained several manga, some of which were "lolicon" that showed what officials said were children being sexually abused. There were also images of bestiality. Handley has a huge collection of manga, and only a few are lolicon. He also had absolutely no child pornography of any description in his house or on his computer.

Nevertheless, Handley entered a guilty plea. According to Threat Level, it was simply because his attorney had exhausted all other options:
"It's probably the only law I'm aware of, if a client shows me a book or magazine or movie, and asks me if this image is illegal, I can't tell them," says Eric Chase, Handley's attorney.

Ruh-roh. If this extends to literary descriptions, I better return my copy of Lolita to the public library!

3. Piracy is a moral imperative. Eskil Skeensburg is an interesting fellow. He's developing a game called "Love" by himself that might possibly revolutionize the way games are developed, and is quite likely to be a fun game. But I also like reading his blog, which is mostly about developing the game, but meanders around to topics like,
It is a duty not a right to break an unjust law.
...
The only way to find pirates is to monitor all peoples communication.

The only way to stop piracy is to deprive people of all communication.

Either someone can own a message and stop others form saying it, or we have freedom of speech.

These are the stakes. Don't think it is about someone getting payed. The financial well being of me and all the artists I love is insignificant, compared to the basic rights of a human being. Supporting artists is one thing, stopping people form exercising their rights like freedom of speech or taking away peoples right to privacy is another.

I used to think that supporting artists was the right thing to do. Now I'm asking, do I longer want to financially support organizations who use my money to lobby governments and courts to take away my basic rights and freedoms? [Have they] made it morally wrong for me to pay, in their quest to force me to pay?

Yes.

6/3/09

Imaginary black on white crime

Later, I'm going to update this post with a link (or possibly an embedded video) of a segment from The Daily Show. In the meantime, here's a blog post that I'd like to believe inspired the bit.

Update: By now you've probably seen this if you wanna, but here it is.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Imaginary Black on White Crime
thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorEconomic Crisis

6/1/09

All this time

After years of knowing nothing at all about the lyrics of "Don't Stand So Close to Me" other than that those lyrics included the lines 'don't stand so close to me', 'sometimes it's not so easy / to be the teacher's pet' and 'just like the old man / in that book by Nabkov' I've finally figured out what the song is about and let me tell you, I'm scandalized.

In other music news, earlier this evening I was listening to a Clash record[1] so bad that it made me wonder whether I wouldn't have been better off buying the greatest hits collection instead. Which, in the natural course of things, made me wonder which bands/artists out there are better represented on their greatest hits compilations than on any of their albums.

I think there are two main kinds of cases. First are bands/artists whose oevre is so broad that you really need a compilation to get a handle on the sound. A good example, I think, is k.d. lang, whose sound has changed over the years and who, incidentally, released a fantastic greatest hits compilation in 2006. Next are bands/artists who just don't have all that many good songs when compared to how many albums they've put out. I don't know about The Clash, but The Kinks (to take an example) definitely fall into this group.

What say you all?

----------
1 -- Combat Rock.
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