Free-Floating Hostility

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


The BBC goes Geraldo

BBC World News reported live from New Orleans today for the express purpose of juxtaposing the decadence of Mardi Gras with the fact that much of the city is still unliveable. The point of the report was clear, that New Orleans has misplaced its priorities because it is devoting resources to cleaning up the tourist spots for a big party rather than to the ninth ward, where actual people drowned in their attics. It's a compelling case. But it sort of misses the point.

New York was promised some $20B by the federal government after the terrorist attacks, most of which it never actually saw. It's easy to promise money in the wake of a tragedy and even easier not to appropriate the cash once everyone is looking somewhere else. New Orleans suffered a mass exodus because after Katrina. And, if the news is to believed, those exiles enjoy Houston and their other new homes too much to return. During Super Bowl week in Detroit, refugees were still in Motown hotel rooms rented by FEMA. People are in no hurry to go back to a city that is socially stratified, deeply corrupt and unpleasantly humid.

I've never been to New Orleans, but I've watched a lot of movies that were set there. And my sense is that while it may be a "chocolate city," the economy was driven by oil and tourism. Oil will still be there. But those tourist dollars came from largely from white people that wanted to experience the "R"-rated Orlando. Apart from the floats, the formal Mardi Gras celebration appears to have very little to do with the people of New Orleans. But you have to spend money where you hope to make money.

It's a crappy reinvestment plan, to be sure. But it's hard to argue with the logic. Given who controls the federal purse strings and their track record in regard to cities in need, it's not all that unreasonable to think that tourism dollars are the only outside ones New Orleans can actually count on.

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Monday, February 27, 2006


Some Women Dream of Jewels

Sometimes I fantasize about the perfect bag. My perfect bag is not a purse or a $600 clutch. I dream about the bag that would ease my mind and my weary commuting body. My bag would be, first of all, waterproof. Second, an ingenious series of straps would distribute weight from my aching shoulders to my freakishly strong thighs, but would buckle at convenient places, i.e. not across my rack. My bag would have two separate airtight pouches, detachable and machine washable--one for my gym clothes and sneakers, one insulated for my lunches. It would have a pouch each for my laptop, my nalgene, my wallet, my keys, my phone, my calculator, my hairbrush and my pens. My bag would be black, and resistant to staining. It would feature expandable zippers, yet compress into the right shape for fitting into overhead bins on trains and under desks. It would be made from a material not deriving from anything cute, and would be assembled by members of a strong union. It would smell like gardenias.

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Sunday, February 26, 2006


Hostylefax: Greater Los Angeles

The women's basketball team I cover was on an eight-game winning streak, so my boss told me to hit the road with them down south for two games this weekend. The team split its trip, ending the run at nine games. Clearly, I was to blame, multiple people said when they ran into me at our mutual gate at LAX. My goal -- to adopt the public persona of a toxic cynical freeloader -- seems to have been wildly successful. Many of the coaches are convinced that I hate women's basketball in general, the local team in particular and probably myself as well. None of those are actually true.

Detroit Joel housed me for two nights in Culver City, though our conflicting work schedules meant that we only had Friday night to spend together. We did that, rolling Santa Monica and eventually watching basketball and eating at a Hooters on Third Street. Hooters was a total surprise. I expected the aura of a strip club, but there seemed be plenty of families and groups of only women eating there. Joel suggested that atmosphere might have more to do with Santa Monica than with the chain. There is, of course, the issue of the servers' outfits, which tend to make me feel as though I'm back in the hot tub at the gym and unsure of where to look. If there's room, the servers actually sit at your table and talk to you. Our server -- who we learned was in school for interior design and had two dogs (a German Shepard and a chihuahua, which, presumably, she was planning to feed to the German Shepard) -- had chased down two people that tried to run out on their check. Having a Hooters waitress run after you sounds both like something out of Baywatch, and something they could make a ton of money charging for. The world-famous wings, it should be noted, were not that good.

I also spent some time in the Irvine Spectrum, which is the most impressive mall I've ever seen. There was also lunch at a place called "The Shack," whose speciality is the Shackburger. That is a cheeseburger topped by a hot dog. I had it with onion rings instead of fries because Anna likes for me to eat vegetables.

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Set your TiVos Now

I have to take a moment to post about The Shield. Have you been wondering why a TV series about dirty cops has attracted names like Glenn Close and David Mamet? FX markets the show mostly to adrenaline-deprived white guys, but don’t let that fool you. It is far and away the best show on television, and regularly exhibits some of the best acting to be found on stage or screen. CCH Pounder may be my favorite actor or getting there. After last week’s episode even the halfwits on the Sports Journalist web board are calling for her to get Emmys and such. Her name isn’t known in every home in the country, but that’s a crying shame. Chances are, you’d recognize her if you saw her.

This season, Oscar nominee Forest Whitaker is around, too, playing an Internal Affairs detective who’s after our “hero,” Detective Mackey (Anna's Team reserve Michael Chiklis). I’ll bet anything that when the part of Detective Kavanaugh was being written, it was a variation on the familiar theme of the fox, the slick, seductive bad guy that you love to hate. The only twist on the cliché would be that Kavanaugh is technically the good guy, cause we know that Mackey has gone dirty, killed people etc. Whitaker makes the part so much more interesting, though, mostly by overplaying it. The slick talk is there and he’s ruthless and smart, but he isn’t remotely cool. The physically awkward Kavanaugh has no game and is completely unlikeable; he epitomizes the guy you slip away from at a cocktail party, more like a carnivorous slug than a fox. It’s uncomfortable just to watch him, and that’s why he’s so convincing as the person who is able to pressure other characters into slipping up for the first time in the show’s five years. He oozes into their personal space and leaves slime all over their corrupt lives. Everyone’s afraid of him, but not because he was more popular in high school or might be capable of beating them up; he just has the goods. My favorite scene is the one in which he explains that no one has ever caught Mackey before because they think that dirty cops are dirty 100% of the time, when really it’s more like 2%. That right there is more complexity than you’ll ever see on Law & Order. It’s a great show.

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Saturday, February 25, 2006


Tales from the Davis Ghetto

Last night April came over for dinner and brought Sparta. Getting April's consent to pose for a picture normally ranges in difficulty between getting Julia Roberts to do a nude scene and getting Julia Roberts to give you her kidney. I was thrilled, therefore, to be allowed a few shots of her with the puppy. Sparta was very well behaved and discreet, which is important since technically I could be evicted for having her over. She was clearly anxious about being away from her brother, though, as they've spent about 3 hours apart since they were born. Down the street at Alex's office Quintus waited by the door the whole time till we returned Sparta to him. They both relaxed then, though relaxing reminded Quintus that he needed to pee. Alex's feelings about his job are such that he only half cared.

The evening was marred somewhat by its finale, when we discovered that April's car window had been smashed and her laptop ganked. There were a few other victims in the parking lot outside Alex's office, including a gaggle of sorority girls. They were very cordial, and had even taken pictures of April's car before we arrived, just in case we might want them. While waiting for the police we chatted and I learned that they were from the sorority whose singing I've been known to bitch about. One of the girls ran down her list of missing items. "The weird thing is that they took my Michael Kors purse, but I had a Michael Kors jacket in the back seat and they didn't touch it," she told us, genuinely perplexed. "Well, I guess they're not gay," I offered. In retrospect that was very woolly thinking, as we had no evidence that the thieves were men.

The officer who answered the call was named York. I suppressed the urge to ask him what his rank was. He was clearly overworked, but listened carefully and took a lot of time searching for the missing items in the area in case anything had been discarded. He told us that car alarms can only detect repeated motion, so if a thieve makes just one clean grab nothing will happen. Apparently there have been a lot of these robberies recently around town. It's a pretty safe area, so folks aren't usually too tight with the security, myself included. Even junkies would pass over my computer anyway; given its age and condition it’s unworthy of theft.

The real trouble for April was that her work laptop had confidential information on it, which in her field is a really really big deal. York pointed out that these were not master criminals likely to be interested in investigational cancer drugs, but it's still going to be a big schlep for her. She reasoned that it could have been worse. If she had actually been there someone could have gotten hurt. In my opinion, it would have been the other guy. April's affect is extremely mild, but a few of us have witnessed what, borrowing from Friends, I call going Red April. I am deeply saddened to have missed the company dinner at which she told one of our then-coworkers that the reason the coworker was so obsessed with her weight was that the Thai ideal of beauty was a little girl. I was there, however, when she dressed down the mailman for doing something inappropriate with her samples. This was a 30-ish man over six feet tall, but after that he would only deliver to the other side of the office from her desk, and always peeked through the windows to check for her before he came in. Really the thieves are lucky they escaped with their testicles intact. Or ovaries--dammit!

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Thursday, February 23, 2006


Putting Turin Behind Me

The Olympics aren't over tonight, but they are over for me. I was only in it for the figure skating, even though NBC structured its broadcast in such a way that I had to sit through, for instance, luge. What could be less entertaining than footage of a sport whose essence is to move the body as little as possible? I'm able to enjoy speed skating up to a point. It has occurred to me that our hypothetical children would probably have their best athletic shot as speed skaters, because they're going to get my thighs. On the chest press machine I'm usually good for 60-75 pounds, on the triceps machine about 5o, but I can crush 120 lbs between my knees without grunting. I could probably crush a figure skater like that. But I digress.

It was no secret among those paying attention to me that I was rooting for Irina Slutskaya tonight. I find her personally adorable, she jumps like a fiend, she wears pants, and she's older than me. But the real reason is this that Sasha Cohen has no soul. I don't mean that in the sense of her undoubted and excessive whiteness; I mean that I see the gleam of hell in her eye when she skates. I waver between thinking she's a reanimated corpse and thinking she's a veloceraptor in a zip-up human suit.

I used to root for Michelle Kwan. I therefore felt irritated when Cohen publicly called for Kwan to "give someone else a turn," as though competitive victory were just a highly publicized bong. Some large percentage of the country is interested in jumping Cohen's bones, and though I fail to see her appeal on that level either I am more concerned about prevalent confusion of humpability with talent. I also think she gets extra points just because people are pleasantly surprised when she doesn't go ass over teakettle in the clutch. Anyone who's been to a girls prep school can spot a rexi at a hundred paces and that's the theory I favor for why she falls so damn much.

Sure, it's unreasonable to root against an athlete because she's bitchy (see also Kobe Bryant), but I also don't get why everyone hails Cohen as an artist. The technical bits I can't argue with; either she nails her jumps or she chokes, and it's all up to her. Talk of her artistry, however, strikes me as the product of fevered American chauvinism. If she weren't on skates I would say that she couldn't dance. Remember that one white girl at the high school dances that would mince in, get cute with some ballet moves, and then try to do the tootsie roll? That's Cohen.

So while the question "who the hell is Shizuka Arakawa?" is uppermost in my mind, I am not displeased with tonight's outcome. I am sorry for Slutskaya, (though there is no excuse for pouting over a bronze medal, and especially not for throwing it) (unless you're going to throw it at Sasha Cohen) (Does bronze kill vampires?), but it's important that Cohen didn't get the gold for the wrong reasons. The fact that the best of the best skated at less than their best just indicates how empty the field's going to be without Kwan.

Oh, and those Hughes girls just seem like really good kids. And Jewish!

6 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Form at February 24, 2006 4:52 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • And Cohen isn't?

  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at February 24, 2006 5:46 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I'm thinking it's at least 50-50 that Meissner is Jewish too.

  •   Posted by Blogger Mike at February 24, 2006 9:48 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Cohen is Jewish and from Laguna Niguel, which incidentally, is Ryan's hometown. I was going to say that maybe they went to the same In-and-Out (bastion of religious pluralism that it is), but probably Sasha's next double-double will be her first.

  •   Posted by Anonymous je negresse at February 25, 2006 7:41 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • As the resident expert on all things Hughes, I feel I should clarify Emily's religious background. Her father is Christian, her mother is Jewish. That makes her Jewish to the Jewses, if not to the Hugheses.

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at March 28, 2007 10:05 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I was just looking on this site when I saw these comments and it is rediculous to here these, these sports require a lot more than what you give them. For instance, why dont you try going down a hill at 90 mph and focused to steer the sled down. But I think that is why you have posted these comments, not competing yourself.

  •   Posted by Blogger Mike at March 28, 2007 1:43 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Thanks for checking in, PR department for USA Luge.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006


FFH: All Grown Up

I watched Anna speak on a panel entitled "What is Public Health?," which was really just a chance for frightened undergraduates to ask questions about careers in the health sciences that don't necessarily involve acquiring M.D.'s. There were two doctors there, but they were dull and left early. One broke down Epidemiology into its Greek roots prompting me to smirk at Anna from the back of the room. The other was a little SNAGgy, but otherwise pleasant. Anna was the only one of the four who tried to inject humor into her presentation, including the line in response to a question about gender equity in public health, "It is one of the few fields, other than pornography, where the ratio favors women." It shocked basically everyone. Nervous laughs are still laughs.

There were some fantastically cynical questions from the students. One asked, "What do you guys do for fun?" There were also variations on "Will getting an M.P.H. make me look compassionate on a medical school application/make it easier to get into medical school without taking all the prerequisites?" It was fun to watch Anna take questions and she's a natural with people.

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Monday, February 20, 2006


Good Blinds Make Good Neighbors

If you've never visited us at McNeil Manor, you don't know that the manor is actually two identical buildings connected in three places by rickety wooden porches. Complaints to the owners about said ricketiness are often met with the response, "it's wood, it's supposed to move." We don't really like the owners. The upside to that is that every door and window on one side has a match on the other. Since we moved two doors down in September, the opposite apartment has been vacant, which has given us a certain degree of welcome freedom. That all ended yesterday when two students moved in across the way. We greeted them in the customary fashion, by informing then that when they puffed cigarettes on the balcony in front of their door, the smoke was wafting into our apartment. Later in the day, we returned from a walk and they mashed out their cigarettes and scurried inside. Maybe they were done smoking, but we're ascribing it to intimidation.

There were more new arrivals today, but we're not sure exactly how many of them there are. There were about eight people total, including two small kids, unloading a U-Haul truck into one of the one-bedroom apartments today. We'll reserve judgment. Briefly.

In other news we think the building manager is dating up, having started a social relationship with one of our downstairs neighbors.

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Sunday, February 19, 2006


FFH Exclusive: Ben Agosto is an Impostor

FFH has uncovered the next big Olympic scandal. Forget doping Austrians and corrupt French judges. Ice dancing superstar Ben Agosto is not who he says he is. He is actually Vassilis.

"They're both from Detroit, but I've never actually seen them in the same room," said Mike, who's known Vassilis since they were babies.

You be the judge. Posted by Picasa

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The GOP is like Hamas, but Not in the Way You Think

It's hard to tell what to make of this analysis of the recent Palestinian elections.

On one hand it appears a desperate attempt by Western institutions to cling to the idea that Hamas isn't really the party of Palestinian preference, but merely the party of fanatical discipline. On the other hand the numbers seem to make sense to me (a much different thing than making sense to Anna, who actually understands things like math and statistics, but never mind). Apparently, Fatah's candidates received more votes during the election, it's just that there were too many of them. In Jerusalem, a district with six available seats, Hamas ran four people and Fatah ran 26. Fatah's candidates combined outpolled Hamas' combined 93K-58K. All four Hamas candidates won seats, a result that even I could have predicted.

So really what you see here in Fatah-Hamas election is exactly what you would see in the Democrat-Republican face-off here. One party relies on an ancient record while dithering about and defeating itself and the other one actually plays to win. If anything you think this would help relations between George W. Bush and his new Hamas counterpart, Ismail Haniyeh. Both were elected in large part because of their nation's religious right and both assumed power with less than a clear mandate. I doubt it though.

This probably makes it easier to walk away from Hamas' Palestinian Authority, which appears to be what is happening. Israel announced sanctions against the Palestinian Authority today and urged the U.S. and Europe to follow suit. On Friday, the U.S asked for $50 million of unspent aid back from the outgoing government because it didn't want Hamas to have it. So this is turning into a Fidel situation, where instead of engaging a potentially unfriendly government and trying to influence through trade, the west is going with isolation instead. Does it strike anyone else as a particularly bad idea to attempt bankrupting a government run by a group that has really close ties to Iran? And, given what we saw in Afghanistan is it a smart plan to facilitate failed-state conditions on the border of our biggest ally in the region?

Perhaps what we've learned from our dealings with Saudi Arabia is that Western investment and trade isn't actually enough to encourage liberalization. Certainly when you run on a platform of destroying Israel and win as Hamas did, it's overly optimistic for anyone to expect that being an actual government will have any moderating effect. But if you are the Bush administration and you've been telling everyone that your sole foreign policy aim is to spread freedom and democracy, aren't you beholden to try and work with democratically elected governments? I'm willing to accept that the answer is no in the case of Hamas, that the organization is too entwined with terrorism to ever become a partner of the U.S. But doesn't that require a complete re-thinking of this adventure in Iraq?

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at February 20, 2006 7:50 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • We thought it very cool that this post captured the ads:

    Meet Palestinian Singles
    Find Your Arab Soul Mate Today!

    and

    Calls deliver votes

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Multiple candidates for Fatah indicate that Fatah is many parties, while Hamas is only one. Hamas mimics the Republicans in that it's dominated by religious fundamentalists.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006


Whippet Good

Dog competitions are just the weirdest things ever. In one category, a beagle can actually go up against a mastiff. They are compared on totally different criteria to see which one most closely approximates the platonic ideal of its breed. Is the beagle better at being a beagle than the mastiff is at being a mastiff? Craziness.

We watched bits of the Westminster dog show earlier this week. We watched our favorites, the working dogs, and it was good ogling. A fine Rottweiler took that category. The Bull Terrier won best in show, not that I was paying attention. My interest in the show was revived only when I heard that the Whippet had been lost at JFK.

How exactly, I wondered, do you lose a show dog in an airport? The answer, it seems, is by letting her out of her cage on the tarmac and then pulling a Keystone Kops when she bolts for the marshes at 25 mph (who was using what to clock the whippet???). My feeling is that anyone who raises dogs that look and behave like they're fed on amphetamines deserves what they get.

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Tail in the Tub

My freshman year, representatives from the group Columbia Men Against Violence gave a presentation in the Carman 11 lounge. Unbeknownst to them, their visit came in the aftermath of Ali hiring a stripper for Joel's birthday in that very same lounge. That's neither here nor there. The one thing I remember from their presentation was the admonition, if you're a guy walking down the street at night and there's a woman walking by herself a block ahead, you should cross the street so she doesn't feel insecure. I never could tell whether that was courtesy or paternalism.

I swam at the gym today, a process always followed by a soak in the hot tub. I prefer Anna to be my only soaking partner. Most of the guys at the gym tend to make funny faces while they soak. And I can never tell if women feel leered at them. Today I was joined in the tub by two women, who paid me no mind as they got in. And yet I felt as though I was obligated to get up, as though my presence would make them uncomfortable even though I was there first. This probably makes me the world's biggest SNAG, Sensitive New-Age Guy. So first I sat in unnatural positions staring at the roof pretending not to notice them. And then I just left, even though I wasn't done soaking. Anna says I should read Mr. Palomar. The problem is that I live in my own head, which is so full of little neuroses like that, it's a wonder I can walk in a straight line.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Anna at February 18, 2006 11:10 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • The funniest thing about that hot tub is that there's a security camera trained on it at all times to prevent/record acts of familiarity.

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Friday, February 17, 2006


A Snapshot of History

This was one of Sarah's pieces of art that she threw in for free with the blog art I commissioned last March. I never posted it at the time, but it's a great one. It's titled "Scrabble Block." It was very zeitgeisty then because she, Jeff and I were playing Scrabble all day long at work (days later the web scrabble site had been annulled). Posted by Picasa

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The Ambassador of Kwan

Disney signed Michelle Kwan to be a spokeswoman today, which is good for Kwan. Her final Olympics obviously didn't go as planned, and it's good see that she has landed on her feet (zing!) with her marketability intact. Happy endings are generally preferable to sad ones, after all.

There is a unique misery in watching the past-his-or-her prime athlete insist on trying to squeeze one more year out of his or her faltering skills. American sportswriters (including this one) were never completely comfortable with the decision to put her on the team at all. For better or for worse, injuries are part of sports and Kwan's petitioning her way onto the team struck many as unfair. Many writers also bemoaned the missing Olympic gold, a hole on Kwan's resume that was described with various synonyms of gaping.

On this point I refuse to join in. I refuse to fetishize the championship. Clearly the point of competition is to win, but steady excellence is worth something too. Kwan will instead join the company of great athletes like Dan Marino and Patrick Ewing, that never won their sport's biggest prize. It doesn't sound like all that bad a crowd to be in. And to say all those people failed throughout their careers is reductive commentary at its worst. Anyone who says that a single result is indicative of any larger truth is a braindead moron who deserves to be ignored.

There are lots of ways to ways to measure success in professional sports. If life were fair, steady brilliance would always be rewarded. But it isn't. Teams that are supposed to win lose. Players that are supposed to dominate get hurt. That Kwan failed to win at her two Olympics was more a matter of being beaten than of losing. Sometimes the best skater isn't the best on the day of that specific competition.

But you can't be intellectually honest and say with a straight face that Trent Dilfer is a better quarterback (although he maybe a better teammate) than Peyton Manning. Derek Jeter would be just as great a player if he were a (sigh) Detroit Tiger, but he wouldn't be a repeat champion. Moreover, the single-minded pursuit of titles is undignified. Karl Malone's final season in Los Angeles was a case in point. He was powerless to stop the Kobe-Shaq feud and wound up on the injured list for the only time in his career, as though his body rejected the Lakers jersey.

I'm fairly ambivalent about Kwan. I like jumping and she wasn't much of a jumper. Also, she was too wooden, which is what cost her in the Olympics. But she won nine U.S. titles and five world championships, which flashes-in-the-pan Tara Lipinski and Sarah Hughes (the previous two gold medalists) never approached. The value you place on it says more about your values than it does about Kwan's career.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006


Trying to Think Like an Asshole

So here's a dilemma: Three professors out here authored a study that went back and quantified the amount of bias displayed by figure skating judges over the years. They found that judges noticeably favor skaters from their own countries. And during the Cold War, the East and West tended to sandbag each other's skaters, although the U.S. and Soviet judges tended to mark the others skaters on the level. When I went to put this in the article, I was left with two competing clauses

1. judges from the Eastern bloc often gave lower scores to skaters from NATO countries, and vice versa.

2. judges from NATO countries often gave lower scores to skaters from the Eastern bloc, and vice versa.

They are, of course, the exact same clause. Except that in the world of media watchdogs this is clearly an issue. Clause 2 shows the NATO powers as the hatchet men and letting the other one off with a vice versa. Clause 1 is American triumphalism, as if to say, look at who the cheaters were, those Godless Communists. I actually spent five minutes going over this and trying to pick out which one was the least charged. I ended up going with Clause 1, but I fear I did so for all the wrong reasons. Sometimes I hate the Internet.

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The World of Nerdcraft

Rich's comment on last night's discussion of fortitude reminded me of WarCraft. What's WarCraft? Now, to be honest, I'm not at all sure. All I really know is that it occupies enough of some of my friends' time that I'm amazed they still have girlfriends. And if you were wondering, none of my friends that are into warcraft are lesbians. I believe that when Scott renounced WarCraft, Jeff bought it for Ryan with the open purpose of addicting him to keep Jeff company.

Well, that's not exactly all I know. I know that warcraft is a game. I recently sat down with Rich and Jeff to discuss what the big whoop was over this thing, and they did their best to explain it to me. It is, they say, a role-playing game. You make up a unique character for yourself and it's yours for life. Or beyond, actually. Your character may die time and again in the act of battling other people's avatars, but his points remain to resurrect him. The above image is an example of one such character--she is a "Human Mage," and she is one of the classier images on display at the World of Warcraft Website (I was going to use the Dwarven Racial Shield wallpaper but it would have been insensitive). This is a site, by the way, which list two separate links in its sidebar for "In-Game Events" and "Real-Life Events."

But I'm getting ahead of myself: You start by paying money. In exchange for your real money, like Euros and American Dollars, you receive three months of playing time in which to make a lot of fake money. The gold coins you pick up in Craft Land or whatever it's called are highly coveted, as are the points you get for kicking ass; apparently if you do well you can sell your character to other nerds for more real money. Rich says there are third-world factories where the fruits of cheap video-game-playing labor are sold on the open market. But only a sicko or a mercenary would really sell his character, because after all that intimate role play, it would be like selling yourself.

What, I wanted to know, is the fake money good for? "Can you turn it into something useful?" I asked, "Like spa gift certificates? Or just lame things like, I dunno, dexterity?"

"It's fortitude," Jeff answered coldly, "Not dexterity." Posted by Picasa

3 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger spg at February 16, 2006 10:25 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Sometimes, usually on the weekends, I get in moods where I really don't want to talk to anyone at all. I want to read my book for hours and hours, cozy in bed. A quick "how's it going" every half hour or so is all I need for companionship.

    And this is why I support WoW. WoW has seen me through at least 5 books!

  •   Posted by Blogger Jeff'y at February 16, 2006 10:36 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I started gearing up for writing an indignant comment after seeing the title of this post in my RSS reader, but the post wasn't anywhere near as inflammatory as I expected it to be. Bananaorc has most of her facts down, and I would look like much more of a dork that the post makes me out to be if I corrected the details she gets wrong.

    WoW, being a video game, has about as much purpose as any other video game out there. It's slightly more rewarding (read: addictive) because your character persists in between play sessions; instead of spending an hour Smashing with Scotter, only to turn off the Game Cube and not have it amount to anything, I can team up with Scotter over the Internet and play for an hour and have something to show for it (well, not really, but at least within the framework of the game).

    I know five people at work who play regularly, and it's my main interaction with Scotter. (Ryan played an different version of Warcraft, Warcraft III, which wasn't a MMORPG; Rich has stopped playing and spends his time with Madden on the XBox instead.) A meme hopping around the 'net recently is that WoW is the new golf, i.e. the new way for business-y folks to primarily socialize and talk a little business on the side. When I play WoW, I let my crossbow do the talking.

  •   Posted by Blogger Rich at February 17, 2006 6:05 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Correction. I would say that law school has taken the place of WoW more than Madden. I have a five day weekend. That means I have 120 hours to work on my paper! Sadly, it is not as rewarding as WoW.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006


What's in FFH's Repertoire Now?

Fortitude: Mike detests sports cliché #865, "mental toughness." I concur, as I believe the phrase to be redundant, unless when you call someone tough you mean that they resist puncturing. Mike is crusading to replace "mental toughness" with "fortitude," and I commend his efforts.

Grinder (see also Chapper): He who grinds ones nerves to a mushy pulp. Most often used in reference to a certain Enterprise intern.

Beretta
: Hard core, as in, "Man, Locke is totally fuckin' beretta." Mike believes its etymology may derive from somewhere in the Tarantino corpus. I object to this term, as I don't believe in glorifying guns. Also, cause my Dad had an impractical and widely hated car by that name in the late eighties. [Aside: In searching for an image of Terry O'Quinn's character on Lost I was happy to see John Locke the philosopher still rules the search engines. I was also surprised to learn he looked so much like Adrien Brody.]

Never Dive: This phrase refers to a story told by a poncey friend of my mother's. As a young woman, this friend was advised one day at poolside by a grand dame, "Darling, never dive. It shatters emeralds." We use the phrase to indicate either that someone is behaving like a ponce or that someone has come up with a stupid reason not to do something.

Queen Wrong of the Bastard Fucking Wrong People: We misguidedly watched the 2001 snoozefest Crush, and decided we had to salvage something from the experience. So we started using this phrase, as excellently delivered by Imelda Staunton (who rules) shortly before throwing something heavy at Anna Chancellor.

It's all Tacos to me: We've been using this since we visited Joel in Germany in 2001, but I like it. Joel told us the German equivalent of "it's all the same to me," was "it's all würst (sausage) to me." We adapted it.

That's Short Track: Used much the same as "That's the way the cookie crumbles." Pirated, I think, from a Sports Illustrated article on the unpredictability of the sport in 2002 in which basically every losing athlete was quoted as repeating the phrase. It has been revived for the 2006 Olympics in our home. And just as I was typing, who should use the phrase but Bob Costas. Biter.

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Classing up the Computer Lab

Just to prove I'm no more mature about Public Health than Mike is: this is the funniest thing that happened to me today. A Maternal and Child Health student named Loren was sharing a computer with me in the lab for our Categorical Analysis class. We were potchkying around in a program called Stata and getting a little bit giggly, which is what preconditioned me to laugh to tears when Loren raised her hand to ask a question about a skewed distribution. I may be more prone to hysterical laughter than most, but it was really, really funny when she referred to it, twice, as a screwed distribution. We never really pulled ourselves together after that, especially when one of our data sets included a binary variable for coronary heart disease named chd69. Screwed data indeed.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Public Health School of Rock

Maybe your spouse is also in school. Congratulations.

But does your spouse also bring home color signs that read "Cooked FECES cannot hurt you but raw or undercooked FECES can kill you!!"? The sign also includes skulls and crossbones. This is, in fact, someone named Pong's first axiom. This is also a good indication that I am not mature enough to attend public health school.

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The Ultimate Skating Champions

Since today is not Opposite Day, Michael is posting about public health and I am posting about sports. But it's sort of occupational health because, sheesh--can figure skating actually be more hazardous than football?

Back during the 2002 Olympics, Michael explained to me the difference between ice dancing and pairs figure skating. "Pairs is the one where the woman almost dies four times on the ice," he explained. Watching the pairs skating in Turin last night, I realized he was quite right. As the heavily favored Russian pair Totmiyanina and Marinin laced up their shoulder pads (it's almost like they've never seen The Cutting Edge!) NBC generously ran the footage from Pittsburgh 20004. "Wow, they're gonna show it," Mike beckoned me over, "It's brutal." He was right, they showed her falling from his arms at a great height, and her skull hitting the ice. Then her sliding, unconscious, across it.

The Russians skated well last night, and got the gold, but the lead story is Zhang and Zhang of China. The Zhangs were about to attempt a throw-quad somethingorother, when she went down hard, practically spread-eagled from seven feet in the air. She had to stop; in fact, he had to hold her up at the abdomen just to get over to the edge of the ice. My heart was going out to her when...they started the program again. On the one hand, I had to admire her chutzpah. But there's something wrong with that picture when she's jumping triple lutzes and such on an unexamined injury so bad she couldn't stand up just moments before. Most of you know the Zhangs were rewarded for their stamina and got the silver medal. A great story. But only because she didn't fall again, didn't tear her ACL while we all watched, didn't wind up concussed or worse.

I've come to believe it's acutally the conterfactual free skate where the woman dies that provides the excitement of pairs figure skating. It ain't the costumes.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Anonymous Katy at February 15, 2006 7:01 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • You know, I was wondering about that injury myself. Some sketchy "trainer" or "doctor" on the sidelines (does skating have sidelines?) said she was OK to skate, so she did? Kinda reminded me of Bill Frist diagnosing Terri Schiavo on TV--how can they tell that quickly whether someone's OK, and based on such a superficial examination? But as you said, nobody died, so... And the Russians always win anyway, so who cares about the Chinese skaters, right?

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Monday, February 13, 2006


Monument my Ass

A few months ago while I was waiting for the train in Berkeley, which is in fact my new vocation, I got to witness a reburial ceremony. A (white) representative of the city began shooing us away from the place where the square pattern of sidewalk was replaced with a square of plywood, shouting that she and the man and woman who accompanied her were going to perform a ceremony. She asked us to be respectful and not watch, but we pretty much all gawked. It was over quickly; the man knelt and held something up toward the sky. Then they buried it and covered it over with plywood again.

The city official stuck around to explain to us what had happened. The train station abuts the parking lot for Spenger's Fish Grotto--one of a number of Ohlone burial grounds in the Bay Area that have with increasing notoriety been developed into shopping malls and the like. This was not how the city official represented the situation to us; she said that in the renovation of the "station" an artifact had been turned up and they were legally required to rebury it. She told us the spot with the plywood would be made into a monument when the construction was completed. Imagine my surprise, then, when I returned from Winter Break to find the plywood had been replaced with this:




That would have been more dramatic with a better picture, I realize, but I was in a rush this morning. Anyway, the point is, I looked this up. The Ohlone were a collection of tribes who lived along the Bay for at least 1,000 years (and I've read as high as 4,000). I haven't managed to find out their ultimate fate after their displacement by the Conquistadors. Migration? Genocide? Maybe it's a mystery analagous to the disappearence of the Anasazi, but probably not given the overlap with European colonization.

The burial sights are man-made hills where the dead were buried, and the sites marked with earth, shells and other objects. The archaeological term shellmound has come into common use to describe it, but apparently that can also mean like, a kitchen dump. The shellmound by the train station was, I read in one disreputable source, once 100 feet wide and 30 feet high. A large shellmound was uncovered c. 1999 during the construction of a shopping mall in Emeryville, the next town over. Here's a Chronicle feature on a documentary made by a Berkeley J-school student about the construction of the mall. The salient sentence: "Some 300 bodies were reburied in an unmarked grave on the mall site. About 100 were taken from what later became the parking lot behind a Victoria's Secret store." There is a display on the history of the Ohlone there, but no mention of the dead.

I may be a scientist, but I find this creepy. Oh, and repugnant.

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Guns Don't Kill People, Dick Cheney (Nearly) Kills People

In light of Dick Cheney shooting his friend in the face, Schmool explained quail hunting to me today. He hunted quail once and actually almost got shot by someone he described as, "a can short of a six-pack."

Schmool says everything really depends on the type of dog you're using to hunt. If you use a pointer, the dog finds the bird and points (with its whole body). This alerts both the hunter and the quail to what's going on. The bird then tries to escape in an irregular pattern. If you're hunting with partners and everyone is trying to follow the flight of the bird, it increases the chances that you'll shoot at each other. If you're using a lab to hunt, the dog will try to chase the bird. And as long as you keep the dog in front of you, it will direct the bird away and generally into the line of fire. When you are hunting, of course, this is a good thing. Of course it's best for the bird to be in the line of fire instead of your buddy because you don't want to shoot him in the face like Dick Cheney did to his friend.

When you hunt quail you use 28-gauge shotguns so you can kill the bird, but not destroy it. If you shot it with a regular bullet, the bird would explode and you couldn't carry it by the neck like a tough guy. Shotguns fire pelletts not bullets, which gradually separate in mid-air. The 28-gauge is less powerful than the 12-gauge. If a person stood 60-feet away and someone fired a 28-gauge shotgun at you, it wouldn't kill you. It would just burn. So that's why when Dick Cheney shot his friend in the face, it didn't kill him. Sorry if this is elementary or if you've already read this today, but you're talking to someone who managed to spend 11 years in Detroit Public Schools and learn nothing about guns or cars.

It was a little ridiculous to watch the White House Press Corps complain at the daily briefing today that they weren't immediately told of the incident. They had to read about it the Corpus Christi Caller-Times just like everyone else. Apparently, nothing pisses off the national press like the local press. That's good to know. This sounds like a calculation on the part of Cheney's people. The media loves media stories. So in the reporters will be distracted by their own slights and forget that Dick Cheney shot his friend in the face.

As you can see, I'm having a little trouble getting over this story.

5 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Jeff'y at February 13, 2006 10:14 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Yeah, if I owned a big oil field (which, you know, I might), I'd definitely frisk Cheney for lighters or matches before I let him visit it.

    Why do we always hurt wham we love?

  •   Posted by Anonymous vassilis at February 14, 2006 7:10 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • ...coming from the local reporter! It seems that the way the news was released, (from the family whose property it occured on) wasn't correct for such a serious story.
    This is American politics at its best. Lying about Weapons of Mass Destruction, who cares? A hunting accident where somone almost dies, Cheney is screwed!

  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at February 14, 2006 7:11 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • The story here is that Cheney hoped to cover the whole thing up. When people disappear for 24 hours after an incident, it's usually to cover up alcohol. They also lied about how serious the injuries were, and how far the victim was from the shooter. The problem is, the victim might die. Which would take down all the jokes.

  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at February 15, 2006 6:14 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • The Dodger received a testimonial from a victim of a 28 guage shotgun hit at about 30 yards. The victim says no way would pellets penetrate as described.

    Also, only one member of the press got the brand of the shotgun used. That's important in determining the veracity of the story, although it would be better [according to sources] to know the choke on the shot gun and the weight of the load. Guess who?

    Shooter Slips on a Silencer

    ... coming between Dick Cheney and his helpless prey? ... ; from Dick Cheney's designer Perazzi Brescia shotgun ... , with the Cheney camp trying to protect the
    February 15, 2006 - By MAUREEN DOWD (NYT)

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at September 04, 2007 3:45 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I did not complete reading the article due its apparent intent to excuse cheney wrongful shooting of an innocent man. I have hunted with my dad for years and we have rules and the rules do not include walking nonchalantly during hunting a field!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Sunday, February 12, 2006


Dick Cheney Has Two Speeds: Walk and Maim

The latest AP NewsAlert:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and injured a man during a hunting trip in Texas.

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Saturday, February 11, 2006


Surprise Author

I'm told that only Associated Press staffers get bylines on AP stories, but just so you know, sometimes your game recap is actually written by Mike.

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My Favorite Thing about the Olympics

Every Olympic year some enterprising journalist writes about how the athlete's village is basically a rollicking 24-hour sex party. Here are two such instances (1,2). This is probably my favorite thing about the whole Olympics. Supposedly in 2000, the Cuban team burned through its allotment of rubbers and had to go back for more. In 2002, people in Utah bristled at this fact and some LDS-folk even objected to the condom dispensing in the Olympic Village.

There has been no firm number printed of how many condoms have been distributed to the Winter Olympians, but I bet its fewer than in the summers because there's less nudity.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Anonymous Easy Lola at February 12, 2006 4:46 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I am often annoyed by the winter olmpics which competes with all the precussors to March Madness. For instance last night as Michelle and I were trying to enjoy our beers at the pub watching Gonzaga trounce Stanford, a member of the Detroit Rugby team made the bartender change the channel so that he could watch figure skating. I realized later that he was trying to use this as a way to begin conversations with girls, which I told him he would have had a better chance with me if he left the basketball on, and I urged him to move down the bar to talk to 3 blond girls all wearing gold lamae purses who were glued to the tv.
    So i suppose the moral of all this is that the olympics don't just get the athletes horny but it also works on spectators.

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A Post by any Other Name

Most of you know of my ongoing fascination with names--chosen names really, though I suppose I'm mildly interested in surnames, place names etc. I do think more homes ought to have names, but let's focus. As a child I kept a list of all the names I'd heard, which came to over 800 by the time I was around eight years old--no small accomplishment for a child in the days before the internet. And then I would try out combinations. My mother was for years perplexed by the endless lists lying around the house reading, say, 1. Leontine Jacinta Jones 2. Moselle Angelica Murphy, etc. etc. Then my mother put aside her perplexment since she actually enjoys poking fun at me more than finding out why I'm so weird.

Anyway, Form introduced me to the Baby Name Voyager, a cute little site that is useful to the small subset of the non-pregnant population that occasionally wonders how many names start with the letters "pa" and how popular they were in the 1880's. It turns out there's also a baby name blog, upon which I read an interesting little post about traditional Chinese names and why they don't tend to turn up in the record books in America despite a substantial Chinese-American population. Enjoy, if you choose to.

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Friday, February 10, 2006


It's a Gay Shepherd Movie, not a Gay Cowboy Movie

Brokeback Mountain is a perfectly good movie, although I'm in no position to comment on whether its eight Oscar nominations speaks to its quality or is really just a sign that everything else was total shit this year. Going in, I was leaning toward the latter option, if only because two of the top-billed stars were Anne Hathaway and Heath Ledger, not two people I associate with quality. I should also know better than to conflate Oscar nominations with good filmmaking. If our heroes had been attacked by CGI-crafted mutant sheep or something, the film would be a shoe-in for 11 or 12 nominations.

Ledger is actually the best part of the movie. Everyone else is good too and the script is well considered. The pacing is a little ponderous for my tastes, but there were a lot of nice pictures of mountains, bears, wolves and sheep, so it could have been worse. I walked out wondering what exactly about that movie was supposed to appeal to the "Heartland," as some thought it would. I don't believe the Heartland is all that different from the major urban centers (Heart-less land???), so I never really believed that a story about love would mean more in one place that the other. Admittedly, I've been reading too much Mickey Kaus, so my thinking may be a little tainted by his. Kaus believes that left-wing commentators are blowing the movie up into a culture-changing event, in which the red states learn how to stop worrying and love the hot man-on-man action. I refuse to read anything into the film's gross. Anyone who looks at any population and sees monolithic thinking is intellectually dishonest. There are a few people in Hobbs, N.M. who would be predisposed to like this movie and they'll go see it. And there are people who won't be and they won't. I found nothing universal about Brokeback Mountain, just a well-acted movie about conflicted characters. That's hard enough to do.

2 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Alice at February 12, 2006 10:52 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I'm not sure why Mickey Kaus is so obsessed with debunking the "Brokeback" red state success. Shouldn't he spend his time debunking the red state-blue state phenomenon so David Brooks can stop feeling so pleased with himself?

    While you were in Hobbs, did you ever get over to Clovis, NM (one of Kaus's targets for investigation)? I was stranded there for six hours once in the middle of an ice storm.

  •   Posted by Blogger Mike at February 13, 2006 11:56 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Never went to Clovis.

    Saw a lot of Roswell and Carlsbad though. Good times.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006


Our Contrition Knows No Bounds

We've been away for a week, which is bad enough. But we've also been very rude. I'll explain.

The past seven days have been pretty much a whirlwind, with us jetting to the East Coast for a 48-hour layover, then riding back to meet up with Aunt Ellen in California then spending nearly all of yesterday in South Bay, all while preparing for a big weekend of women's basketball (if such a thing can reasonably exist outside of Connecticut or the Southeastern Conference). First off, please accept our apologies. Here's the last week, in a rundown.

New York
I hate the term "family obligations" because it sounds as though you wouldn't want to be participating in the family stuff if you had a choice. That is certainly not the case. We landed Friday on the redeye (tickets furnished by Trixie) and immediately went to sleep. We woke up for our few free hours and used that time to see Jeff'y, Rich, and (briefly) Adele and Dulcinea.

Saturday was Ricardo's birthday. We celebrated by attending the Tristram Shandy movie, which everyone loved. Later we attended a cocktail party thrown in honor of the release of Ricardo's book. Following the party, we ate dinner with Anna's parents, her emergency backup parents and a visiting professor at Barnard who is borderline batshit insane and thinks very little of fatherhood. We flew during the Super Bowl (Seattle was burgled though not really robbed) and arrived back late California time. It was a great trip and too short. We want to see everyone as soon as possible. Again, I'm really sorry.

The South Bay
Ellen landed Tuesday, an hour early. The leisurely pace at which I wrote my story meant she had to wait at the airport. The reason for the trip was that a friend of hers was appearing in a play in Mountain View, better known to you as Google Town. The play was the third thing that Ellen wanted to pack into her day. The first stop Wednesday was to fetch Anna in Berkeley. The second was Stanford's Hospital, where we visited a cousin who is distant to me but grew up with Ellen. The driving portion of the trip was a nightmare, as our directions had us overshoot the hospital by about 20 miles and then come back though the drudgery of California traffic. As time grew short Ellen chafed at my driving, insinuating that I am too timid. But I think she drives like an cabbie, so there.

The cousin lives in Central Valley of California. He had been estranged from the family for about a decade, but re-emerged in December for Peggy's 80th birthday. Ellen told us stories about how they were kindred spirits (though not necessarily partners in crime) growing up. He has leukemia and is deeply immune-suppressed. Things may be looking good. One of his brothers is a perfect bone marrow match, and if the cousin can fight his way into remission, they'll do a transplant. It's strange for me to meet an estranged cousin, given that I grew up with the illusion that our family had none of the strife that others (read Anna's) had. The cousin found Jesus in the Air Force, which in our fiercely secular family probably helped further some rifts. His faith is clearly a source of strength, but I think it's difficult for anyone to really engage him when he talks about it. I did hear a great story about how Queenie's family's summer house suffered a fire and when the firemen arrived Peggy joined them on the ladder with her garden hose.

After leaving and getting lost again, we were desperately late for dinner. We finally arrived in Mountain View, but missed Ellen's friends. Instead we hit up a Chinese restaurant 40 minutes before showtime, putting on the most appalling display on White Person eating they had probably ever seen. Since Ellen considered the play a "women's story," she sat with Anna and banished me to the far reaches of Orchestra Left. I don't actually believe that stories have genders, and I thought the play was quite good, especially the second act. Furthering the theme of getting lost, we tried to meet up with Ellen's friends again at a Starbucks, and ended up getting shitty directions from people on the street, patrolling Castro Street for about 30 minutes until we actually hooked up with them. Then it was back in the car. We arrived home slightly before 1 a.m. this morning, and are back to our usual routine. Ellen leaves late tonight.

We plan to now resume regular blogging.

Again, we are deeply contrite about not being able to see many people this trip East. Next time.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Anonymous Queenie at February 14, 2006 5:17 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • The story of Peggy on the ladder with the garden hose putting out the fire is very true. However, in my memory neither the ladder nor the garden hose were long enough to get close so Peggy kept trying waving the hose back and forth hoping the water would go higher. Luckily most of the house survived and when it was rebuilt, we got a longer hose and a bigger ladder.

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Thursday, February 02, 2006


What's next, Bulemia?

Anna has never seen my chin, which is actually
a tradition in my family because Queenie has never seen Fritz's upper lip. Mystery keeps a marriage fresh, you know.

So I got goatee trim on Tuesday morning, mostly to keep Ron Artest guessing, but also because using nail scissors over a long period of time tends to make the goatee look a little gnarled. Anyway, I think the guy took a little too much hair off because since I had it done, Anna has been chuckling to herself about how tiny my chin is. If you were looking at me from above, my nose would look like a cliff with nothing underneath. Profile, I think, is not my best look.

In taking the photo, I had a hard time keeping my head up straight, which Anna claimed was from being top heavy. The truth is I'm just a diva, and wouldn't stay still until she had secured some blow. Posted by Picasa

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Bird Flu Finally Hits Home

Yesterday was my birthday. But it was also National Signing Day in college football and the day Anna had to the take a late (both scheduled and actually departing) train out of Berkeley. And work trumps everything in our family. So once I filed my story, I treated myself to a birthday dinner of Indian takeaway. When Anna's not around I order the chicken pakora -- a fancy name for fried bits of chicken -- instead of the usual veggie samosas as an appetizer. But when I arrived to pick up my dinner, I found the usually $2.75 meal had been hiked to $5.75. Normally I don't quibble over prices, but that was outrageous.

"Price of chicken breast has gone up," said the guy behind the counter.

My mind (for obvious reasons) jumped to bird flu. First war puts a crimp in the oil supply, the Katrina puts a crimp in the Girls Gone Wild supply and now this. Pretty soon we'll be living on the island from Lost.

"Bird flu?" I asked.

He gave me a strange look.

"No. We've just switched to all chicken breast so it will taste better."

I'm pretty sure this is a lie. I have some history with this guy's family. His older brother runs a cell phone store in town. When Trixie visited in October, her cell phone died, so we took it to this guy's place to look at it. The guy then negleted to tell anyone that he was closing up shop 45 minutes early with Trixie's cell phone inside and no way to get it out until Monday, after Trixie's return flight. Anna and Trixie took turns over the next 36 hours leaving abusive and vaguely threatening messages on the guy's voice mail. This was easy for them to do because they weren't going to have to pick it up that Monday. And when I went in, the guy behind the counter actually tried to sell me something, rather than give me something to keep from getting really angry. He should have just told me that his market research has shown that people really like fried shit (okay, not literally shit), and that he's trying to boost his profits. That I would have at least understood.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Flu Addendum

It appears I was unclear in the post below, and that I somehow came off as ignorant of the potential for military personnel to spread germs, unlike the rest of the human race. The reason I called Michael's concerns premature is that Avian flu is currently not transmissable from person to person. A person in close (very close) contact with an infected bird can contract Avian flu, but cannot pass it on to another person. So, right now, American troops in Iraq are not at great risk. In the hypothetical case of the Avian flu virus mutating into a form that could be passed from one person to the next, then military personnel would be at very high risk. Military conditions are ideal for trasnmitting contagious disease.

Brooklyn Dodger points out that the 1918 epidemic is speculated to have originated with soldiers. Some say it started in Europe, some say in the US; a number of scenarios fit the evidence. What is certain is that living conditions during the war contributed to the ease with which the virus was transmitted--not only overcrowding in military barracks and on ships but also in cities where civillians were crowded together participating in war work. These conditions also ensured that the usual selective pressure against viruses with high mortality did not obtain--that is, an infected person didn't have to stay alive very long to efficiently pass the virus to someone else so the virulent strain survived longer than would otherwise be expected.

If you pay attention to my post I think you will see that I was not scoffing at the idea of soldiers spreading Influenza (by the way I can get anyone interested an article on an outbreak of another strain of flu among Israeli soldiers that was successfully contained with mass vaccination within a period of about two weeks). I was merely pointing out that that scenario remains hypothetical, especially if this outbreak is successfully contained.

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