Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Quote of the day

Long experience has taught me this about the status of mankind with regard to matters requiring thought: the less people know and understand about them, the more positively they attempt to argue concerning them, while on the other hand to know and understand a multitude of things renders men cautious in passing judgment upon anything new.
- Galileo
(in a letter to Don Virginio Cesarin)
(via kottke)

Today's schadenfreude

Ok, not really, just a sort of cynical humor: a billboard on wheels urges let's not Rush to failure . . . Nice one.

(via Talking Points Memo)

Monday, March 30, 2009

*Somebody's* got to do it

scales of justicePerhaps the Spanish will save us the trouble of trying to (muster the political will to) punish the Bushies for their disregard for the rule of law by taking justice abroad. TPM calls this the Pinochet Treatment, which feels about right. Sad that we're no more able/willing to hold our political leaders accountable than Chile is.

Baby names

What To Name the Baby can be a question that haunts parents. Even what criteria to use (sound? links to relations? etc.) is pretty tough. Then you have to do the negative tests -- doesn't remind you of any past or current nemeses, doesn't set the kid up for terrible playground taunts, doesn't make a terrible acronym, blah blah... Anyway, just loved this test that Medley and NowThis applied (among others) to names they considered for their son:
that it be something that would work for him whether he ends up a Supreme Court Justice, a plumber, a football player, or a gay opera singer.
Perfect. Dunno what a similar list would be for a girl -- Supreme Court Justice, elementary school teacher, soccer star, and punk rocker? heh.

Friday, March 27, 2009

"Nobody could have foreseen..."

Except those that did. (See that deregulating the financial industry in 1999 might well "wreak havoc" on the nation's financial system.)

(via boing boing)

Information versus assumption

I feel like I should have more to add, but really I just want to send you to what Rafe has to say against offering advice. Most of the time, people who offer unsolicited advice merely reveal their disinterest in knowing more about my own motivations, criteria, thought process; they have the Right Answer in advance. I don't know why I would be interested in guidance given so blindly.

I think my mother sometimes finds it frustrating that I won't just tell her what to do in the case of various decisions large and small, but I honestly don't presume to know how she would weight or value the pros and cons, especially given that her world view can differ from mine in unexpected ways -- thus I prefer to offer her an assessment of the situation, some information on the likely results of different choices, perhaps my estimation of what stresses or pleases her most, and then leave the decision to her. Will I someday find it impossible to do likewise for my daughter, given many years of making choices about and for her? I hope not -- she's already a distinct personality and likely to have her own way of approaching the world from early days. But perhaps it's a trap of parenthood that we always see our judgment as Better, our wisdom as Deeper. Something to guard against, I think.

Speck profile: highchair5_crop

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Poem of the day

I am not I

I am not I.tree with moon
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .I am this one
Walking beside me whom I do not see,
Whom at times I manage to visit,
And whom at other times I forget;
The one who remains silent when I talk,
The one who forgives, sweet, when I hate,
The one who takes a walk where I am not,
The one who will remain standing when I die.
- Juan Ramon Jimenez
(via whiskey river)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hard not to agree

Lighthearted, but somehow also captures the feeling out there that we somehow have the Wrong Guys in charge of fixing our careening economy: Hey, Paul Krugman, the song. On the more serious side, Paul Volker seems to be keeping a low profile, but I think he's at least one guy "in the room," as Ampersand wishes, that has a good head.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday morning baby-blogging

Way overdue for new photos -- have just uploaded a heap. Of course, the big news is the arrival in the last 10 days of the ability to walk with support. Both Grandmas apparently worked on this using a cute baby-scale stroller, but now it's something she wants to do regularly. Yesterday the weather was nice and she made it down our dead-end street (slowly, with a toddler's interest in every garage door and unexpected pebble) pushing our version of the walker...

A longer video (including more angles and a fall and recovery) can be found here. Will post some other recent photos later in the week.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A "range of opinions"

Echidne has a good brief post on the media as a gatekeeper to acceptible views on public issues, through the selection of which "opposing views" (and representatives of each) are presented. It's hard not to notice the frequent pairings of right-wing crazies with barely-left-of-center moderates and think that perhaps the state of public views is being shaped by more than the facts... More liberals! More feminists! Let the public outgrow its fears!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Department of hypocrisy

This photo series is pretty damning: it itemizes the earmarks put into the omnibus spending bill by congressfolk who later decried the very phenomenon of earmarks (and voted against said bill). Nice pairing of quotes with images of the projects supported by those hypocritical earmarkers...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Quote of the day (And I'm Already Fluent edition)

carved rockHuman language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, when all the time we are longing to move the stars to pity.
- Flaubert, from "Madame Bovary"
(via Paul Spinrad, blogging at boing boing)

Tuesday link-dump

I seem to be piling up things that I mean to blog, but then not getting back to them. So, no great unifying post, just an assortment of things worth noting:
  • I greatly enjoyed the Jon Stewart-Jim Cramer dust-up and interview, but it certainly seems like many of the criticisms there could be applied to the entire media in recent years. Just letting liers say their piece unchallenged is a huge disservice to our public discourse and undermines our chances of making any good national decisions.
    (via rc3.org)

  • In the category of Alarming Economic Developments is that of renters stranded by their landlords' foreclosures -- talk about downstream effects you don't see coming! eesh.

  • There are ways that the ubiquity of Google creeps me, but I have to say that this phone system seems like it solves a lot of pesky and widespread communications problems. Are there really enough phone numbers for all these layers, if it takes off?
    (via Medley)

  • Amazing: an article debunking many of the claimed benefits of breastfeeding. Its benefits are trumpeted so widely and insistantly that this feels like heresy, but the piece is just unpacking the science to show that there's not much statistical robustness there, and revealing the heavy social forces arranged to control maternal choices. When you know the lengths of mental and logistical hardship that moms go through to give their babies this supposed elixir, such info makes it feel like a cruel, repressive prank has been played on a whole generation! (Maybe it's just one thing that women can concretely battle when so much of motherhood feels completely out of control? Lemonade at best.)
    (via a local breastfeeding group)
    Edit: It's worth noting the response here. In particular, the original author's dismissal of scientific results is based on outdated analysis...

  • Grim: images of Detroit's Beautiful, Horrible Decline. Such grandeur in ruin is rare in large cities -- what's novel here is that things aren't getting torn down and replaced. Still, quite a sad collection, a sense of a lost civilization.
    (via rc3.org)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

More than a pinch

Despite my own balance sheets, I don't really care what happens to Wallstreet. But I have to admit getting a little freaked by all the stories of overwhelmed social services and people starting to form tent cities of the homeless. Lots of these folks were middleclass just a second ago, and it feels way too much like the outskirts of the Depression. Can the stimulus possibly come soon enough to stave off a really dire situation for a substantial portion of our population?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


This year the whirl of life feels a little too much, and the possibilities of Lent are lost to me in the wind. Was grateful for this little poem that captures a good sense of balance . . .

Without warning

femsignA diarist at DailyKos does a great job of summarizing why women don't recognize potential abusers: in a nutshell, it's because much of their early behavior is indistinguishable from The Perfect Guy, and the controlling, undermining, and isolation slip in very gradually. Excellent points, and a service to anybody whose relationship is starting to make them wonder.


Here's an interesting note linking transit and housing. To anybody living in a large city that is well served by public transit, it's pretty clear that good nearby housing increases transit use, and availability of nearby transit increases the desirability of housing. Unfortunately, planners and developers seem to forget this, concluding that "park 'n' ride" is the only answer for transit expansion. Think again. Strangely, this is yet another arena in which economic arguments may force things in the right direction where logic and activism could make no headway . . .

(via Atrios)

Monday, March 09, 2009

Up with science!

Yay, Obama Administration! This is a standard I can surely applaud: "aimed at insulating scientific decisions across the federal government from political influence." More like this!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Friday sentimentality


I am your landscape;
you climb me and
play in my foothills
inseparable from
the other terrain
of your childhood
bent grass blades
I am also your weather;
you lean into my winds
wailing against
the irresistable gale
or learning how
your will can bend me

How long will it last,
this intimate grounding?
How soon will you
push off into wider lands
respond to other calls
perhaps even cease to hear
far away behind you
my echoing hollows?

-- acm

Edit: poem title changed 3/9/09

Fed headache

Man, when the explanation of what the Fed is up to is as complicated as the explanation of how banks got us all into this mess, you gotta feel like it's a bad day. Either we're giving these guys money so that they can start lending again, or we're buying up their bad debt to get them back to being viable entities. But playing shell games is not the right way to improve the banking industry or improve the confidence that the American people put in it!!!!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Belatedly deterred

What is the proper response to economic arguments against the death penalty? A sad commentary on what gets valued, for sure...

Branding the stimulus

stimulus logoI find myself surprisingly pleased with this new logo just announced for stimulus-bill-related projects. I guess it's partly that people will be made aware of the penetration and effectiveness of these undertakings, but partly a response to the logo itself, which is at once high-tech corporate and low-tech patriotic. I like the focus on "green" projects and also nuts-and-bolts stuff, and the way that the little flag element seems to emphasize that we're all working together. Perhaps it's a more modern version of this, although I'm not sure that the WPA has really been known as much for its graphics as for the ubiquity of its products.

(via Talking Points Memo)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The human factor

A fascinating short talk by local professor Barry Schwartz talks about why neither regulations nor incentives will ever be enough to guarantee good outcomes, whether you're talking about economic behavior, judicial decisions, or just regular folks caring about their jobs. Both can be important in avoiding the worst possibilities, but it takes reasonable application of knowledge and judgement -- what he calls "wisdom" -- to produce what we might consider "right" (or moral) outcomes.

Schwartz argues that in the long run, well-intentioned rules can actually lead to worse outcomes by undermining the development of practical wisdom, replacing it with the kind of rote behaviors that have frustrated anybody interacting with a local bureaucracy; similarly, incentives can stand in for our own judgement of what outcomes are really "right." He offers some prescriptions for "remoralization" of the workplace and public space in general; not least is to celebrate those who are demonstrating the moral values we believe in, even in tiny ways. Go, be inspired!

(apologies that I can't retrace my steps to how I found this!)

Becoming a comic stereotype

It finally happened: Spouse and I just had an email exchange about the quality of Speck's poop. I guess I must relinquish all claims to normal civilian adulthood.

Quote of the day

stack of stonesDo not feel overwhelmed by the length of this journey. All you ever need do is focus on one thing, what you are doing. Stay on the path and put one foot in front of the other - that is all. There is joy in the struggle.
- Philip Toshio Sudo
Zen Guitar
(via whiskey river)

Winning the framing game

The Democrats actually seem to have some useful angles on pegging the residual Republican reactionaries for the extremists they are. Anyway, I like the sound of this:
The last time Rush Limbaugh said he wanted the President to fail, virtually every single Republican in Congress followed his lead and voted against the President's plan to create or save 3.5 million jobs.
Maybe the Dems have some game afterall!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Hard to take it in

Obama's budget plan treats the public like adults -- telling it like it is. Imagine! including the actual cost of the war, the need to invest in the long-term, etc. I hardly remember how to function with real information!

(via Talking Points Memo)