FOUND? This FoxNews story about a woman who thinks she might be a girl kidnapped at age 6 sent chills up and down my spine. Why? Because the story starts by explaining that the girl in question was kidnapped in 1986, when she was 6 years old, and suddenly I thought, "Wait a minute - I was six years old in 1986." This poor woman could be someone just like me, facing the same struggles as me, except with this sudden realization that she has this whole family she's never known. Or it could turn out that she was abused and neglected - there are no details about her yet.
There's actually a novel about this that I read in middle school: The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney. In the book, Janie, a normal high school student with a seemingly normal family recognizes a picture of herself, at age 2 or 3, listed as a kidnapped child on a milk carton. It turns out that Janie was kidnapped by a young woman who was confused and running away from a cult she'd joined. The woman took Janie to her parents, claimed that the child was her daughter, then ran away again and rejoined the cult. Janie was then left to be raised by her "grandparents" who provided a loving home and had no idea she had been kidnapped. An excellent book.
SPORK USAGE: I have discovered probably the only thing that a spork seems to be the ideal tool for. Last weekend, Sasha stopped at KFC for some takeout, and received a spork with his cute little boxed meal. He was about to throw it out, but I asked him to instead add it to my small collection of plastic utensils (two forks and a knife) which I use only for the purpose of removing cat food from cans.
You see, the cats get as much dry food (Iams) as they can eat, plus half a can of Fancy Feast each at dinnertime (this is mostly to keep them from being under our feet while we are cooking dinner). To accomplish this, I use a plastic utensil to scoop the contents of a Fancy Feast can into two plastic bowls (the disposable/reusable Ziploc-brand containers are great for this). But - a fork won't cut the food into two exactly equal portions, and a knife doesn't provide enough scooping power.
The spork, however, is absolutely perfect for this task. It cuts a complete, even line to split the food in half, since there is no room for it to mush through the tines in the fork part. And it provides the spoon's ability to scoop the food out of the can, which is especially useful for the chunky, "sliced" varieties of cat food. A brilliant invention, really. They should market it for this purpose.
COLONIAL DEBTS: Jacob Levy, blogging from Malawi, has some interesting things to say on intervention in Liberia. I haven't been following the issue closely, but the history he brings up is more than I've heard elsewhere.
FRAUD ALERT: Watch out for thin, transparant covers over an ATM keypad - it looks like a protective covering, but it's really a device to record and steal your PIN number. Click the link for other high-tech ATM frauds that have been seen lately. (Link via GeekPress)
HOW MANY CHILDREN? A woman in Utah has brought charges of polygamy against her husband, a member of a Mormon sect. She claims that when he married her, he was 24 years old and already had three wives and 17 children. Even supposing he married his first wife when he was 16, isn't that awfully fast to accumulate 17 children?
KIDS THESE DAYS: Last night, Sasha and I went to a Scottish Country Dance held in the gym of an elementary school. It was great fun, and I met a few interesting people, including a girl who just graduated from Haverford and had danced with the Bryn Mawr Scottish Dance group and thus knew many of my friends. My legs are a little sore today, but not too much.
Anyway, we accidentally parked at the wrong end of the building, so we had to walk a ways through school hallways to get to the gym. This being an elementary school, various projects done by the kids were posted on the walls in the hallways. One class had done projects on Ancient Rome, where they drew cartoons reflecting different aspects of Roman life, particularly as it involved children. One three-panel cartoon began with this tidbit, which had Sasha and me laughing so hard we almost fell over:
(Two people in colorful togas are standing facing each other)
Person A: Wow, raising a baby is tough!
Person B: Yes. Good thing we have minor dieties.
EDITING: It's weird. When I was in college, I wrote most of my papers start to finish in one sitting, and very quickly. They always tell you to write long and then edit down, but I always find myself coming up short. I attribute that to my technical writing background, where short and sweet is the essence of good writing. Still, most of my papers for college were done in one draft, or at most two. I think even my thesis only had four drafts, and I spend an entire year working on it.
These days I go through draft after draft on my policy papers and articles. But then, this is because I need different versions of the same thing. I wrote a seven page summary of spam that became a 15 page paper coauthored with Solveig. Then I summarized the main point in a 600-word article, then expanded it to an 800-word article with a different feel, for op-ed publication. I've just finished turning that last one into a 1000-word article for CEI's monthly all-things newsletter. And I'd actually like to do it over again with a slightly different focus sometime soon.
I guess this is what being an expert is about. You don't know much, but you know it all the way through.
I kind of miss the ten-page papers on things I hadn't thought about until two weeks ago.
EVER WONDER WHAT LEFTISTS THINK OF THE VOLOKH CONSPIRACY? The comments on this post at Crooked Timber provide a sneak peek. It's none too pleasant for many of the conspirators, but they seem to have respect for Eugene at least.
LEE HARRIS ASKS, "In a world in which it is no longer possible to inherit human beings in the form of slaves, how is it possible to inherit them in the form of whole nations?" His target is not just monarchy and despotism, but the doctrine of national self-determination.
SPAM FILTER UPDATE: Paul Hsieh of GeekPress has installed POPFile and is getting results quite similar to mine. I happened to glance at my stats before leaving work this morning, and the accuracy rate is up to 98.25%! I'm still getting about 70% spam and 4% real mail, with the remaining quarter coming from automatic mailing lists.
Probably one reason Paul is still having trouble with real mail showing up in the spam folder is that he gets so much less real mail than spam. The amount of recognized "spam words" is much larger than the amount of recognized "real mail words". Over time, this will improve.
COOKING IN THE MORNING always makes me feel tremendously prodoctive. This morning I got up at 5:45 and prepared the beginning of this Twice-Baked Potatoes recipe so that tonight we can eat quickly and go to the Scottish Dance party hosted by the Virginia Scottish Games weekend. Yay!
In other food news, I made a chocolate pudding cake last night. This is a fascinating concoction that is mixed up all in one piece but separates in the oven into a bottom custard-like layer and a top fluffy cake-like layer. It came out very nicely, but it's so light that an 8-inch square cake only makes about six servings. The recipe was the first I've made from my new Chocolate Cake cookbook. So far, I highly recommend it!
OUR SYNTHETIC FUTURE: Most of my furniture is made of particle board and plastic, and was purchased cheap from Ikea. I think that's great. For one thing, it means I can afford a whole apartment full of furniture instead of just a bed and a couple of chairs. I can have two bookshelves instead of stacking my books in boxes. I can have a desk for my computer instead of sharing space in one work/food area. All of this is made possible by mass-market products and synthetic materials.
Some people have hand-crafted, custom-designed furniture. Some of this stuff is rather nice. I like going to crafts fairs and looking at the pretty furniture in the woodworking booths. Maybe someday, when I have more money, I'll buy some furniture like that. Or maybe not. The fact is, furniture really doesn't matter that much to me. Not like books, or high-quality kitchen tools, or cheese. Furniture is just not that important for me. Other people have different tastes - they want their living room to be stylish and unique, or to have an antique feel, or to look and feel luxurious. That's great too. It doesn't bother me in the least, as long as they don't make the rest of us conform to their standards and their price range.
Genetically modified and synthetic foods are kind of the same way. I just read Chris Bertram's post on Crooked Timber about his squeamishness towards fully-synthetic food. I must say, I agree in part. I don't like processed cheese, or Jell-O, or heat-and-serve meals from the freezer section. But that doesn't mean I think they shouldn't exist. There will always be a good-sized segment of the population to serve as a market for natural and high-quality foods: expensive restaurants, health nuts, and cooking hobbyists like me. There will still be blueberry farms that let city folk pick their own berries on the weekends. There will still be farmers' markets and whole foods stores.
But someday soon, most people, most of the time, will eat genetically modified and synthetic foods. Heck, Kraft Maccaroni & Cheese from the box is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods (and it must be the kind with the powdered cheese, not the gooey velveeta-like "deluxe" stuff). People will be happier for this, particularly people who don't really care much about food and would rather spend their time and money on other things. Starving people in underdeveloped countries will no longer be starving. College graduates will be able to afford nicer apartments. Young married couples will buy a second car. All thanks to cheap synthetic food. And no harm to those people who want to go on eating high-quality, expensive, natural foods.
These are personal values, not political ones. Chris is correct: This isn't a left/right thing or a modernist/anti-modernist thing, and it shouldn't even be a dynamist/stasist thing. That, of course, is the wonderful thing about the free market (cue inspiring music). You don't have to make one decision for everyone, since each person can get what he or she wants.
DEAD UDAY AND QUSAY PICTURES: (There is nothing graphic in this post.) The pictures are marked with a warning that they are highly graphic and disturbing, so I thought some of you might want a further rating from someone who's pretty queasy about this kind of thing. I found them not bad. There are three pictures of each man. Only one made me cringe a little, and that was the first picture of Uday. The other five pictures were about what you'd see in an R-rated gangster movie.
You can see the pictures by clicking a link on the sidebar of this article at CNN. FoxNews is being less pleasant, putting the pictures right on their front page.
RIAA SUBPOENAS: FoxNews has a story today on people who are angry and/or scared over the music downloading subpoenas that targeted them. Can't someone arrange a month-long boycott of the music industry or something? I think people are angry enough to go for it.
One proposed means of early diagnosis would use questionnaires to screen high-
school students, with parental permission, for signs of mental or emotional
disturbance, with follow-up testing and treatment for those who need it.
I realize that this suggestion was likely made with the best intentions, but, as someone who was not long ago an angst-filled high school student, I'm cringing. It strikes me as a distressingly dangerous idea. Screening high school students for "mental or emotional disturbance" has the potential to turn into a post-Columbine-style witch-hunt rather easily. High schools have been known to place troubled students in mandatory (involuntary) counselling or to attempt to expel them on the grounds that said students could theoretically pose a threat to their peers (note: this has often been invoked where there is not substantial reason to believe there is a real threat) or simply to avoid the potential for a lawsuit should such a student committ suicide on school grounds. Also, it should be noted that parental permission is not the same thing as permission from the students themselves; while most high-schoolers are not legal adults, they are still human beings. I realize that it is very important to make help available to people who need it -- teenagers included. But, the prospect of encouraging broad screening of high-school students seems unsettling.
WHOA: I'm a big fan of Randy Barnett, but I must say, he very nearly goes off the deep end in his latest GlennReynolds.com post. He characterizes the far left as being pretty much clinically insane, living in false worlds where they create their own "facts" about past events that fit their ideology. Fortunately, he catches himself in time:
If this phenomenon is indeed as pervasive as I now think it is, how do I know that I am not doing exactly the same thing in reverse — thus confirming the claim that reality is indeed socially constructed? I know that is what I will hear from readers.
I'm with him on part of this, but my list of "How can the left possibly think ...?" is significantly shorter than his.
The good news is that most of the left isn't insane like this. Only their leaders and intellectuals. Average liberal Americans, I think, will take one look at their leaders and then vote for Bush in droves.
SO I'M SITTING HERE AT MY COMPUTER, just now, about ten minutes ago, and I hear this large SPLASH coming from the bathroom. I rush over there, and there is water on the toilet seat and the floor around the toilet. Ethelwolf is sitting a short distance away, angrily licking his soaked back feet and tail.
EGG SAUCES: Last night, Sasha and I made Linguine Carbonara out of one of my new cookbooks, Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen. It was quite good. According to the author's commentary on the recipe, this is the more traditional version, the sauce made without cream and the egg yolks cooked only by the heat from the cooked pasta and sauce. That was really interesting for me - You drain the cooked pasta and put it in the skillet with the chicken broth and vegetables. Then, when it's heated through, you take the skillet off the heat, add the egg yolks, and toss it like a salad. The result is this very creamy coating on each strand of pasta. You can barely call it a sauce, really. But it's very good.
Sasha taught me about a different egg sauce for pasta shortly after we started dating. It's one of his staples, but I modify it a bit when I do it myself, adding more egg and cooking it faster at a higher heat. You can only do this when you're making pasta to go with some kind of pan-broiled or pan-fried meat, such as steak or pork chops. After cooking the meat and removing it from the skillet, take the cooked and drained pasta and mix it in the meat juices in the pan (over med-high heat). Take one or two scrambled eggs (if you breaded the meat, you can use the same eggs you used for dipping), and pour them over the pasta and mix everything around. You get this very flavorful dry-sauce thingy. The pasta is flavored by the meat juices and doesn't stick together because it's coated in scrambled egg, but there is no runny sauce to it at all. It's good stuff.
CNN HAS CEASED BEING A NEWS SITE AND IS NOW A CONVENTIONAL WISDOM SITE, if we can judge by this article, shockingly titled Learn Second Languages Early. There is not a single piece of new information in this article, which is stuffed with such stunning revelations as:
High school students with several years of foreign language training can barely speak the language.
Babies do not begin speaking in full sentences immediately.
It's harder to learn a new language after age 13.
Studying abroad is a good way to learn a language.
THE LATEST IN CAR SAFETY: Electronic stability control. Apparently it's caught on like wildfire in Europe, but is almost unheard of in America.
"In Europe, you have a much more sophisticated consumer that's much more in tune with safety technology, so they are driving it from a consumer demand standpoint," said Bill Kozyra, president of U.S. operations for Continental Teves Inc., which markets electronic stability control.
Yeah, that's why they all drive motorcycles, and we drive SUV's.
YUM: Sasha and I tonight made the incredibly fancy-looking but quick and easy Pan-Seared Tuna with Ginger Shitake Cream Sauce. I highly recommend it. (N.B. We left out the cilantro, since I don't like it, and substituted a combination of ground ginger, pepper, and lemon juice for the fresh ginger, as suggested here). It was incredibly good, particularly in the way the sauce blended with the fish. The sauce by itself tasted a little too soy-ish, but with the fish it was absolutely perfect.
STRANGE THINGS HAPPEN IN YOUR HEAD when you're lying awake at 3 in the morning. For instance, I wrote a filk about the perils of some Latin verb conjugations. It's dedicated to my sister, Dahlia, who once became extremely frustrated when she could not find ibo, ibare in the dictionary. It goes to the tune of This Is the Song that Doesn't End.
Eo, the verb without a stem,
No, it cannot be found, my friend.
Some people tried to look it up, not knowing what it was,
And they'll continue searching lists forever, just because,
Eo, the verb without a stem,
No, it cannot be found ...
OLD PEOPLE BEHIND THE WHEEL: FoxNews has a roundup of state laws on elderly drivers. 21 states have some type of law about this, ranging from more frequent license renewals to required medical reports to anonymous tip lines for reporting unsafe elderly drivers.
In other states, elderly drivers get special benefits. I'm not sure why, though. Perhaps North Carolina feels that if you're over 60, you either can already parallel park or you will never learn.
NOTE TO COMPANIES: GIVE THE CUSTOMER SERVICE PEOPLE AT LEAST SOME IDEA OF HOW YOUR PRODUCT WORKS. This transcript of a phone conversation between a Popular Science reporter and Dockers Customer Service is priceless. Excerpt:
PS: [C]an you explain what makes this nanotechnology rather than just a coating? What is nanotechnology?
D: One moment please. Did you get the pleated or flat-front?
PS: It says nanotechnology repels stains.
D: OK, one moment please. Can you give me a style number off that?
PS: I still don't understand. Are there microscopic machines repelling the stain? How does it work?
D: Umm . . . I guess it's the type of fabric that makes it the nano.
OFFICE OF GLOBAL INTERNET FREEDOM: The United States might set up a department to technologically stop Internet blocking from repressive regimes. The question is, will this information be accessible from American public libraries?
FRIENDSTER UPDATE: (See previous post) A few hours and four friends later, I am now connected to an incredible 13,000 people in my personal Friendster network. A quick search tells me that 12 of these people are women between 18 and 25 who live within 5 miles of my zip code. Technology is fantastic.
DOES A BAN ON PLAY VIOLENCE LEAD TO REAL VIOLENCE? A child psychologist has published a book that says we should let boys be boys. Letting nursery school boys play with toy guns and swords leads them to create stronger friendships and be more creative in other types of games. Well! Who would have thought that children's natural instincts lead them in the right direction?! (link via GeekPress)
MAKING FRIENDS THROUGH ONLINE SOCIAL NETWORKING: I just learned about a site called Friendster from today's top article on Wired News. Here's the concept:
You create a profile with your name, interests, location, etc. Then you send e-mails to whatever friends you think would be interested in such a thing (Note: Not all your friends are interested in such a thing. Think first, and use your best judgement.) inviting them to sign up. To protect privacy, you can only view the profiles of your friends, your friends' friends, your friends' friends' friends, and so forth - but not people you are unconnected to. With a well-established network, you can find friends, dates, activity partners, people to have lunch with in a new city, etc., and all of them have been "vouched for" in some form.
I think it's a very promising concept. I want things instantly, though, and it's frustrating me that I have to wait for friends to answer invitations and authorize me before I have any network at all to explore. So if you read my blog and you're a friendster user (or you're just signing up right now), you should add me to your network!
THE END OF THE DC GUN BAN? It could be in the near future. It would certainly make me feel safer going to work every day, and in the occasional evenings I spend in the city. (Did I write here about the time Sasha and I visited the Lincon Memorial at 2 AM?) Plus, I argued for the repeal of the DC handgun ban in my prize-winning Koch Fellow policy analysis last summer. (Link via InstaPundit)
I know someone who thinks old people shouldn't have rights at all. Seriously, though, they have way too much power in the political process. Maybe this new interest group for adults under 35 can shift the balance a little.
UPDATE: An alert reader writes in with a correction. "[The site I linked to above] does not say older drivers have more accidents than teenagers as you reported on your blog - just more MULTIPLE-VEHICLE accidents. Your sentence is misleading and possibly false. I demand a retraction or a clarification." So noted. My mistake. Thanks, Mom.
ARE THE BROWSER WARS STARTING AGAIN? It looks possible. I actually downloaded Mozilla at work a few days ago on the recommendation of a coworker, and I'm quite pleased with it. Tabbed browsing is nifty, and the pop-up blocker is much better than the freeware standalone program I'd previously been using. I'll probably download it for home use sometime soon.
But will Mozilla be able to compete with Internet Explorer just by being a better browser? My inclination is that IE is 'good enough' for most people, and since it's already there on the desktop and people are familiar with it, Mozilla will have trouble breaking into the market. Unless it can market itself into some kind of fashion trend.
TRANSLATION IS INTERPRETATION: Someone has translated the U.S. Constitution into a modern-English version for kids. Parts of this, I think, are very straightforward and useful (I would have had to look up 'Bill of Attainder', for instance). But other parts are sure to be contentious - for instance, the first amendment portions mentioned in the article.
CAT-BLOGGING: It's been about a month now since I adopted Ethelwolf, and he and Maggie have finally become friends. They play together all the time, except for when Maggie gets fed up with the whole excessive-kitten-energy thing and starts ignoring him.
Ethelwolf is very bold and unsubtle. For example, he thinks that whatever food Maggie gets must be better than the food he's getting (even when it's exactly the same), and will try to shove her out of the way to get at it. For another example, he thinks that a person's neck and face make excellent beds for him.
IF YOU HAVE ACCESS TO TODAY'S PRINT EDITION OF THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, you should check out the op-ed titled Separate, Together. It's about the psychology of conjoined twins. Historically, the author explains, most conjoined twins have seen their shared bodies as an aspect of their individuality. Many have chosen to accept their own certain deaths rather than be separated. She then goes on to ask why the Iranian women chose to undergo separation, and also compares conjoined twins to people with other conditions, like dwarfs and transgendered persons. Really interesting.
As King began his argument for the new congressional boundaries Monday afternoon, about 30 Democrats in the gallery donned white socks as hand puppets to mock King. Every time he spoke, the little white mouths flapped.
J.K. ROWLING, LIBERTARIAN? My mother and I had an interesting e-mail exchange this morning about the suggestion that the Harry Potter books contain libertarian themes, first discussed on Jane Galt and The Modulator. Here's the gist of my reading of the book's themes.
There are definitely some good libertarian themes in the books. But there are also some blatant non-libertarian ones. For instance, all the good, important, and/or prestigious jobs are with the government. Is Mrs. Weasly upset because Fred and George are devoting their career to childish pranks, or is she upset because they've gone into private business instead of government service? Note that all the older members of the Weasley family work for the government. [UPDATE: I was wrong on this one. Bill works for Gringott's Bank. Charlie "works with dragons in Romania", which may or may not be a government position. Mr. Weasley and Percy do work for the government. Source - The Harry Potter Lexicon]
The issue of the house elves is a very interesting one to watch. The question of wanting or not wanting to be freed, the question of whether they really are "born to serve", can be treated in a lot of different ways. It's not at all clear which way Rowling is going to go on this one.
The wizards also cheerfully accept all kinds of government restrictions on their personal freedom, particularly in regards to what they can say and do around Muggles. There's no freedom of speech where Muggles are involved, which is a clear case of censorship and prior-restraint. There's also limited freedom of action around Muggles, since you're not supposed to let them see magic. Now, these restraints might be self-imposed for the good of all. If Muggles knew about wizards, they might get scared and try to outlaw magic or enslave the wizards or kill them. And then the wizards would have to fight back, and they would almost certainly win, and then they would have to govern or otherwise control the Muggles. The wizards might be said to be keeping themselves out of the position of oligarchs by their noble sacrifice of freedoms.
But then again, maybe Muggles and wizards could come to a cooperative understanding, and live together peacefully and democratically. It doesn't seem like too much of a stretch, though it might have been in the Middle Ages. Really, the mixing could dramatically improve the lives of both Muggles and wizards. I'd love to have some of those neat magic things, and wizards could benefit from things like e-mail, not to mention a larger market for their goods and services.
BATTLE OF THE OXYMORONS: Will this presidential election give voters a choice between "big-government tax-cutter" and "decentralized paternalist"? Arnold Kling explains the contradictions inherent in Howard Dean's platform and also manages to point out problems with Bush. Go read it.
WHAT KIND OF PET? I called a vet today to see about getting Ethelwolf neutered (don't tell him!), and they said it would cost $175. Someone had told me that there are various low-cost spay/neuter clinics in the area, so I did a google search. You have to fill out a request form, and then a volunteer will call you. But check out the drop-down list next to "What kind of pet(s) do you want to neuter or spay?" The options are: Dog, Cat, Ferret, Rabbit, Giraffe, and Other.
KRISPY KREME: Paul at GeekPress links this article about the Krispy Kreme phenomenon. They are still hard to find in most places. According to Citysearch, the nearest Krispy Kreme franchise to my office is 8.8 miles away! Not to worry, though - street vendors sell the donuts on the corner by the metro stop at least once a week.
MAGGIE: Let's play cat and mouse!
ETHELWOLF: Okay! How do you play?
M: I'll be the cat, and you be the mouse. I try to pounce you.
(Maggie pounces Ethelwolf)
E: That was fun! Now I get to be the cat and you're the mouse!
M: No, I can't be the mouse.
E: Why not?
M: Because I'm tabby-colored and there are no tabby-colored mice.
E: Well, you can pretend to be a mouse color. You should be gray. You can pretend to be gray. And I'll pretend to be calico.
M: It doesn't work that way. You have to be the mouse because you're white.
E: But I want to be the cat! Cat, cat, cat!
M: No. Be the mouse.
E: I don't want to be a mouse any more.
M: Then I'm not playing. (Goes off to sulk in the corner.)
(Ethelwolf pounces Maggie)
M: You can't do that! You're the mouse!
USEFULNESS: Lileks has this thought-provoking bit at the end of his column today:
Being the sole breadwinner does not make me feel useful. Remembering to marinade the chicken before I leave the house makes me feel useful. Firing off the national column makes me feel somewhat useful, but cleaning the drawers of the fridge so the BBQ sauce bottles don’t stick when you pick them up - that makes me feel much more useful.
And he's not even female! I feel exactly the same way. Not that I ever seem to have much time to clean the house... But I like doing it anyway.
UPDATE: My mother expresses an opposing view:
I get NO satisfaction from cleaning. In fact, while doing it, I feel resentful and that it is an insult to my intelligence. Cleaning toilets makes my physically ill. That's why we have Bob [my parents' twice-a-month cleaning person]. Putting things away is OK and I don't mind the dishwasher or laundry related chores - but they by no means give me a feeling of satisfaction. I do like earning money and being out in the "real world".
Not to psychoanalyze my mother or anything, but her view on this meshes rather nicely with her feminist mindset. Traditional women's work is seen as demeaning and unimportant, something to be "hired out" by those who can afford it while men and women both work outside the home.
As a child, this is one of the first policy/sociological problems that occurred to me: If housework and janitorial work is for uneducated people, and more people are getting more education as the years go on, who will do the menial labor in the future? When everyone goes to college, who will clean the houses and make the dinners? I originally solved this dilemma by deciding that menial labor wasn't for uneducated people, but for stupid people. There will always be stupid people.
But of course there's a better answer: The people who like doing it will do it. Now, there probably aren't many people who dream of becoming a janitor. But there are people (like me, for instance) who enjoy domesticity and really wouldn't mind devoting many years to housekeeping and child-raising. Male or female, it doesn't matter. And it doesn't mean they should not be educated - they need to have other options available to them in case a job becomes necessary or desirable at some point. I think we're coming to the end of the transitional era in which women felt enormous pressure to be successful in "the real world". We're beginning a more balanced era, in which women and men will both be empowered to choose the balance of business and domesticity that they prefer. Stay-at-home parents are on the rise, I read recently. That's good - they're vitally important.
FARSCAPE: I got an e-mail from one Don Porges in regards to my Ben Browder / fake accents post below. He thought Browder's accent was deliberately bad in order to emphasize that the character was in a dangerous situation, pretending to be someone he's not, and could be exposed at any moment. I disagree - I think it's just a bad accent. But Don went on to say,
And then I started thinking about translator microbes, and who has them and who doesn't, and if Crichton can speak any desired language why would his accent be wrong?
This is something that really bothers me about Farscape. It's really quite an enjoyable sci-fi show, and in the first episodes they take pains to explain how all the aliens can understand each other despite speaking different languages - they are injected with "translator microbes" that colonize at the base of their brains and translate everything that is heard.
I don't have much of a problem with suspense of disbelief in sci-fi shows. It wouldn't really have bothered me if all the aliens could just magically understand each other with no explanation. But since they went to all that trouble to explain it, they should at least be consistent with their own explanation. In the third or fourth episode, the characters visit a planet that has never before made alien contact - and the residents are perfectly able to understand them. In several episodes, characters say phrases in their native languages and other characters ask, "What does that mean?" And then there's the thing with the Sabatians and the fake accent.
Any one of these could be explained away, but, I think, not all three at once. It could be that the translator microbes work on what you say, not what you hear, so the first contact aliens heard the main characters "speaking" in their own language. But this is in direct conflict with the first episode, when the human character arrives and cannot understand anything until he is injected with the microbes. And it's possible that the microbes respond to some kind of "don't translate this" command, but that would probably be used a lot to keep things secret, and would come up in the plotlines. And with the Sabatians, I guess you might say that the fake accent is to tell the viewer that the Sabatians might realize he's not actually speaking their language, but it's being translated for them. Of course, everyone's mouth always moves in English.
WORST FAKE ACCENTS OF ALL TIME: Sean Connery wins the award, followed by Dick van Dyke. I'd like to nominate Ben Browder of Farscape as well, even though it's a TV show and not a movie. Most of the time he speaks in his normal American voice. But when he's posing as a Sabatian, he speaks with this painfully bad fake Australian accent.
RANKED VOTING -- and there are MUPPETS
An e-mail from a friend recently piqued my interest in the subject of ranked voting in the form of IRV (instant runoff voting) or Choice Voting. Under this type of system, a voter ranks the candidates from first-choice to last-choice rather than simply placing one vote for one candidate. And, if a voter's first-choice candidate is eliminated, then their vote (or some portion of their vote, depending upon the system) is given to their next-choice candidate. Among the potential benefits would be allowing voters to support candidates outside major political parties without ostensibly "wasting" their votes. I don't know a great deal about this concept, but it certainly strikes me as an interesting one. The Center for Voting and Democracy has a detailed description of what IRV is and specifically how it works here, as well as some information on Choice Voting. And, as a Muppets fan, I have to love that they have a Muppets example; I might even forgive them for the fact that Miss Piggy loses.
Hi everyone. I am indeed the aforementioned new blogger. *Waves* A recent discussion with a friend reminded me of a long-standing question I've had regarding the usage of the words "nerd" and "geek." The distinction I tend to draw in my own speech is one which identifies "nerd" as typically referring specifically to computer nerd subculture and "geek" as having a broader meaning (e.g. sci-fi geeks, band geeks, etc.) Yet, I've noticed a wide range of different and sometimes entirely opposite distinctions drawn by other people. So, I think I'll take advantage of suddenly having a readership to survey it and ask: Do you draw a distinction between the way in which you use "geek" and the way in which you use "nerd"? If so, what is it, and do you have any particular ideas about how you came to draw the distinction that you do? (You can e-mail me at actriz10 at juno dot com). As a self-identified "nerd groupie" (though perhaps a "geek groupie" as well) this seems like important information. Thanks!