TELEMARKETING TRENDS: Today I have received two telemarketing calls from people with Indian accents so thick I could hardly understand what they were saying. One gave his name as "Fred", the other claimed to be "Alvin". Sounds like some of this outsourcing is going even lower-cost than usual, if they can't spring for a company that gives pronunciation lessons and uses up-to-date names.
VERY NICE: Here's a home-made pro-Bush ad. I wonder whether this is legal under current campaign finance laws. (Link via InstaPundit, whose notice could make the ad worth millions more than it would otherwise be.)
You are being judged according to criteria that you would never use to judge another person and which will never again be applied to you once you leave higher ed.
For example, colleges are taking a hard look at your SAT scores. But if at any moment in your later life you so much as mention your SAT scores in conversation, you will be considered a total jerk. If at age 40 you are still proud of your scores, you may want to contemplate a major life makeover.
CHILDHOOD HOLDOVERS or THINGS MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME: I noticed recently that there are a few things I was taught to do as a child for safety reasons particular to children that I still do even though I'm an adult. For instance, when I'm going to take a shower, I let the water run at tub-level until it's the proper temperature before shifting it to the shower head. I'm now tall enough to check the temperature from the shower-fall directly, and bending down to check it at the tub is a pain, but I do it nonetheless.
And I peel apples away from me instead of towards me. Even when using a vegetable peeler. Sasha made fun of me for that one, a few weeks ago.
Does anyone else do this? Or am I just stuck in a really deep rut?
UPDATE ON ULTRASOUND POST BELOW: Reader Mario Felici sends in this link to a list of studies on the harmful effects of ultrasound. It looks like there may in fact be a few, but I still think the FDA is pushing it here.
FDA BEING OBNOXIOUS: Ultrasound has been around for over 40 years, and used to see fetuses without ill effect the entire time. So, why is the FDA now trying to ban some ultrasound procedures for pregnant women? Because they're run by private companies (headed by doctors) for the purpose of having a picture of your baby, not for medical diagnosis. The FDA's nonsensical concerns:
Doctors with the Society of Medical Diagnostic Sonography, the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology stress that ultrasound is a medical procedure, not a photo opportunity. What if an untrained, unregulated scanner finds a malformation? What if uninsured women depend on ultrasound centers rather than doctors?
Even worse, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine warns that although there are no confirmed biological effects from prenatal ultrasounds, possible problems could be identified in the future, especially because these unregulated scans are longer, use more energy and can be more frequent.
The business owners answer the first question clearly: In the case that they find a malformed or dead baby, they stop the procedure, turn off the machine, and advise the mother to see a doctor immediately. This sounds like an improvement over no-ultrasound, where an expectant mother might not see a doctor until much later. The uninsured question is similar. It's better than nothing, because if there's a serious problem, the mother will be alerted. Women are informed at the outset that these scans are not for diagnostic purposes.
As for the worry that longer, higher energy scans could be damaging - they have no evidence for this claim. They're just making it up. There is no excuse for banning something that hasn't been "proven" safe. Under such a system, no scientific progress could ever be made. There is no way to prove something is risk-free until it has been widely used. That is just the nature of the world.
ON THE SUBWAY YESTERDAY, there were some anti-Bush protestors returning from a rally. (Some of them had signs that said peace, but most were just anti-Bush.) I got off at the same stop as them, and one of the guys abandoned his sign on a bench in the station. I picked it up, figuring that there must be some fun use for an orange sign with black lettering, reading "HAIL TO THE THIEF". Any suggestions? E-mail me.
UPDATE: Will Quale writes in with the following suggestions:
If you're fond of Legolas (and don't believe the slash writers), you could cut rearrange the letters HAIL TO THE THIEF to form
I HIT A HOT HET ELF
If you want to protest that both candidates suck and you're ambivalent about the whole thing,
HEH, A TIE TO FILTH
If you donate blood regularly, advertise for the Red Cross with
I TITHE OF HEALTH
If your Starbucks is run by a price-gouging evil dwarf, protest with
PLEDGING ALLEGIANCE: Jacob Levy has some important and disturbing thoughts about the Pledge of Allegiance, which I agree with but could not have stated as eloquently as him.
The substance of the Pledge is actually quite strange all around, making no mention of Constitution or laws, and elevating the concepts of flag and nation all out of proportion to their real importance in the American republic. It's a relic of both a nasty moment in American assimilationist and ethnic-nationalist ideology (the same moment that gave rise to the Blaine Amendments that are blocking school choice and that conservatives rightly perceive to be anti-Catholic anachronisms) and of a time when the Civil War remained in living memory. It was never a neutral statement of the patriotic values everyone ostensibly shared; it was a deeply partisan account of what those values were.
WHAT HAVE I BEEN UP TO THE PAST FEW DAYS? My Internet connection was being fussy yesterday (which is very unusual for our Verizon DSL connection in Cambridge but was regular for my Verizon DSL connection in Arlington - go figure), and I decided that I've been spending too much time on the computer anyway. It was too cold to go spend much time outside, so I picked up the cross-stitch kit I ordered many months ago and haven't touched since, like, late November or something. Today and yesterday combined, I've spent about five hours working on it.
It's a lot of fun, in that "I'm doing something I know nothing about, therefore I learn something new about once every five minutes" kind of way. I'm past the early stages (sort and label the colored threads first; that's 6-ply thread, you want 2-ply; you can't start a row of full cross directly above the row you just finished, because it will undo the previous stitch). Lessons these days include how to guess where to go when your counting doesn't match the printed image, how to work around a mistake you made a long time ago and can't undo, and how pretty everything looks when you finally finish all the colors in one area. Yay!
In the future, I hope to learn how not to get my thread tangled in itself, and to discover some algorithm for the most efficient way to sew in a color that is widely scattered over the fabric instead of concentrated in one area.
When I get good enough to make something that I actually want to frame and keep, I'm going to do this pattern.
HOW MUCH DID YOUR NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBOR GIVE TO WHICH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE THIS YEAR? Find out here. This is creeping me out. Also available: maps of cities and counties with their percentage of donations to Democrats and Republicans. (Link via Command Post)
NOOOOOOOOOOOO: I was having a really good NetHack game (between Medusa and the Castle, 175 hit points, -18 armor class, gray dragon scale mail, amulet of reflection, Mjollner, Excalibur, and Demonbane) and then something happened that has never happened to me before - it crashed. Not my computer, the game. Apparently the DevTeam didn't think of everything - if you roll a boulder over a land mine, all hell breaks loose.
They did, however, think to include a cute crash message: "The dungeon falls around you."
PERSPECTIVE: My first thought was "$15.12 to send a letter from Massachusetts to California in three days? That's outrageous!" Then I realized that less than a hundred years ago, such a thing would not have been possible at all.
GIMLI: Everyone be quiet! I hear there are big ugly Elves around here, and - oops.
ELVES are surrounding them with arrows drawn. HALDIR sashays out from among them.
HALDIR: How do you do? I see you've met my faithful handymen.
ARAGORN: Haldir of Lorien, oh great swishy one, we need you to take us to your leader. I insist. I insist in Elvish.
HALDIR: How forceful you are, Aragorn. Such a perfect specimen of manhood. You must be awfully proud of him, Legolas.
LEGOLAS: Well, yes, I am.
FRODO: Agh! If I throw rice and toilet paper, will you people knock it off and take us into Lothlorien?
REST OF CAST: (sulking) Fine. But there BETTER be a Rocky-Horror-style viewing of 'Lord of the Rings' someday.
FRODO: (*sigh*) Don't worry. I doubt there's any way to avoid it.
"This is not like the Gambino crime family, a Mafia family, where if you just arrest the leaders it goes out of business," said Peter Bergen, a CNN terrorism expert and author of "Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden."
"This is more like a mass movement, and you can arrest as many people as you want. But it's very hard to arrest the movement of ideas."
We know that. It's why we're doing things like, let's see, rebuilding Iraq instead of taking Saddam and running. Why we're fighting a war to turn around the culture of the Islamic world - and it's not going all that badly, either. Couldn't CNN be bothered to mention that the U.S. actually has a strategy against this? Geez.
Supreme Court justices are not like the Oracles in Minority Report who must be segregated from the population in general, or from people with opinions in particular, and guarded by eunuchs. They get invited to speak by groups for a variety of motives. Sometimes the groups want to hear from justices who they admire and with whom they agree. Other groups who want to hear from a justice who challenges their views. Still others just want to hear a Supreme Court justice, though in my experience they tend to be rather boring. By the same token justices get invited to dinner parties. Justices play poker or golf with their friends. Justices go to the movies. They read the paper or magazines. Justice are people.
OVERHEARD: The sale of Sasha's condo is closing today. As he was leaving to go sign whatever he has to sign, we had this conversation.
Sasha: Goodbye. When I return, I'll be poorer in real estate but richer in cash.
Hanah: (over-sappily) And in love.
Hanah: Because my love for you grows every day.
Sasha: Not because your love for me is proportional to how much cash I have.
CHEESE AND CHICKEN: The long-titled Chicken Breast Stuffed with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese was good, but not great. Part of this was due to the fact that I couldn't get it to cook all the way through in the pan, so we ended up microwaving it.
There was some leftover filling, so I combined it with some cream cheese and baked it to make a spread with crackers for lunch today. This turned out a little too sweet - I forgot that there was sugar mixed in with the onions, which in the chicken got cancelled out by meat and vinegar. It wasn't bad, though.
THE IRAQI CONSTITUTION: Steven Den Beste has written an inspired essay on emergent properties of consitutional documents. He believes that the new Iraqi Constitution will succeed because of an innovation in executive power structure. I'm using lots of big words, but it's not really that hard to understand.
The Presidency Council includes three positions. One is formally called the President and the other two are considered Deputy Presidents, but the titles appear to be meaningless in practice.
All actions by the Presidency Council must be unanimous. If there is a power granted to the Presidency which it must act to wield, all three must agree.
Article 36 describes the way that the three positions of the Presidency Council are filled. A single list of three candidates must be proposed to the Assembly, and it must be approved by a two thirds majority.
And that is where the magic happens, boys and girls. That threshold was deliberately set higher than level of the demographic Shiite majority. If one assumes that representation in the Assembly will more or less mirror demographic numbers, then this means that Shiite members of the assembly cannot fill the positions in the Presidency Council over unanimous Kurdish and Sunni objections.
What will happen is this: the President (the guy who gets to wear that title) will be Shiite. The other two members will be a Sunni and a Kurd. The constitution does not explicitly specify that it must be like that, but that's how it will be.
In a hundred years, if this system lasts that long, one hopes that a lot of interfaction rivalry will have died down. By that point, it won't be important any longer that the Council be divided that way. And since this is not a semantic requirement in the constitution, it won't have to be. But for the foreseeable future the Presidency Council will always be made up of a Shiite President, a Kurdish deputy and a Sunni deputy.
Read the whole thing. He has some comments on the proposed EU constitution as well.
UPDATE: Here's a handy chart comparing bloggers' scores on the libertarian purity test. You can add your own score, too. (Though Sasha and I are in the same category, I scored two points higher than him.)
UPDATED UPDATE: I remembered wrong. Actually, I scored four points higher than Sasha. He seems worried that I'd dump him for, say, coblogger David Bernstein, but how can anyone compare with this sexy guy?
SMALL THINGS: Cheese totals have been updated, but no exciting meals to report. Tonight we're making the chicken-goat-cheese-sun-dried-tomato thing, so I'll let you know how that goes. I'll also have some new cat pictures uploaded soon. But today, I'm going out to Brandeis to provide my sister with the necessities of life: a pair of white sneakers, a computer mouse, and a piece of apple spice cake.
MORE CHEESE: In the literal sense. At the grocery store yesterday, I bought more cream cheese (we have bagels, I have to have cream cheese) and more goat cheese (for the chicken breasts described below). No cheese was used in the main course of dinner last night (Sasha cooked this excellent zucchini stuffed with ground beef and rice, with a sour-cream/tomato sauce), but a friend and I ate about half the goat cheese as an appetizer. I also used three ounces of cream cheese in an excellent Apple Spice Cake (yet another hit from Cooking Light magazine).
No cheese will be used in dinner tonight, since we are going out. But maybe lunch.
A CHEESE TRAGEDY: Planning meals for next week, I decided to make chicken breasts stuffed with sundried tomatoes and goat cheese. I opened the fridge to check on ingredients, and discovered that a huge colony of mold had destroyed the goat cheese! So not only is the cheese wasted, I have to buy more cheese to make the recipe.
CHEESE UPDATE: Last night, I made a really good noodle casserole, based on a recipe from Cooking Light but adapted in several ways (added chicken, used red wine instead of sherry, portabella mushrooms instead of cremini, egg noodles instead of "gigli or radiatore", neither of which I've ever heard of). Anyway, I was very happy with the results. It used 4 ounces of Asagio cheese. I've never cooked with Asagio before, and learned that it's much harder to grate than Parmesan or Romano.
I also used a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese at lunch yesterday, but I think it was less than an ounce.
It's Saturday now, and I have failed at my goal of finishing four cheeses before the weekend. But since I've gotten several positive letters about the cheese feature, I'm going to keep it going a while longer.
THE ROE EFFECT: James Taranto of Best of the Web goes on and on about the supposed "Roe Effect" - that politically liberal women are more likely to have abortions than conservatives, so the legality of abortion means that the next generation will be, on average, more conservative than their parents (since upbringing imparts a lot of political beliefs). I've always considered this to be an amusing but crackpot theory. Now, however, he's got some hard numbers to back him up.
I know nothing about statistics, so I can't say whether they're being twisted or not. The only thing I managed to notice is that his numbers only cover teen abortion rates - women ages 15-19. What about older women having abortions?
THE WAY LIFE IS: Why is it that whenever you really need a friend's shoulder to lean on, they all disappear at once? Not out of malice or anything - they're just in a class or teaching one, in a meeting, or off to an appointment, or have other plans this evening. All of them at the same time.
YET ANOTHER CHEESE-BASED UPDATE: For lunch I made a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, which doesn't count as real cheese. But, I shredded the white cheddar and mixed it in, so that's now finished!
Well, to be accurate, half of it is still in the fridge mixed with the leftover macaroni. But so is half the feta cheese from last night (in eggplant). I figure, once it's cooked into something, it's "leftovers", not "cheese".
CHEESE: We have 9 types of cheese in the fridge. Even though I am an avid cheese-lover, this strikes me as excessive. I'm going to try to finish four of these by the weekend, charting my progress on this blog.
As of this morning, we had:
White cheddar - about 3 ounces
Orange cheddar - about 2 ounces
Swiss - two slices, each 1 ounce
Parmesan - about 9 ounces
Asagio - about 8 ounces, unopened
Goat cheese - about 2 ounces
Cream cheese - about 2 ounces
Quark - 8 ounce package, unopened
Feta - 8 ounce package, unopened
At breakfast, I ate about an ounce of cream cheese, and one slice of Swiss cheese. At lunch, I had about an ounce of the white cheddar. Further progress will be noted, with tallies on the sidebar.