August 25, 2007

Their heart grew cold...

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(Two more photos from a walk Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.)

"The generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl."

"The reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger colour is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl." So said the Ladies' Home Journal back in 1918, which makes Ben Goldacre wonder what the evolutionary biologists think they are doing when they figure out the genetic basis for the female preference for pink.

Here's the story he's reacting to.
"The explanation might date back to humans’ hunter-gatherer days, when women were the primary gatherers and would have benefited from an ability to home in on ripe, red fruits," Anya Hurlbert, who led the team of researchers, said. "Culture may exploit and compound this natural female preference."...

There is already evidence that human’s ability to see in colour is likely to have evolved because of the usefulness of being able to distinguish red fruits from green backgrounds.

The female role as gatherers while males hunted could have favoured a particular preference for reds and pinks, the scientists said.

Pinks are also involved in showing changes in emotional states, and might be picked up preferentially by women. "Again, females may have honed these adaptations for their roles as care-givers and 'empathisers'," the researchers said.

The great thing about this kind of speculation is that if the results were different, you'd be able to make up reasons why men and women evolved to prefer whatever they ended up preferring. As Goldacre writes, it's like "just so" stories.

For example, assume the study showed that men prefer stripes and women prefer polka dots or men prefer pastels and women prefer dark colors. Your assignment is to explain why evolution would produce that result. You know you can come up with something!

2 doors in DUMBO.

DUMBO door

DUMBO door

"Role-modeling what good families should look like."

That's one thing the presidency is about -- Michelle Obama says:



According to that standard, who are the 5 greatest Presidents and who are the 5 worst Presidents? This will take deeper knowledge of history than I can summon up right now, so help me out. I'm just going to guess that these lists have little relationship to the achievements of the various Presidents. But it is warm and pleasant to have a charming, conventional, devoted family snuggled up in the White House, and we don't like to picture any semen splattered about. That upsets us.

1. Read article about making life lists.

2. Blog about life lists article.

3. Compare life list to other sorts of to-do lists.

4. Decide they have some value, charm, and spiffiness.

5. Decline to make a life list.

Awakened by foghorns.

This is the view from the terrace right now:

Fog blocks view of Manhattan

This, you remember, was yesterday:

Befogged skyline

August 24, 2007

Homophobic anti-Giuliani ad.

Who is behind this?

Fox News article:
Zeroing in on concerns among some groups of gay voters, a YouTube.com video directed by a New York writer, theater director and part-time political activist takes aim at Rudy Giuliani and raises questions over the former mayor's support for gay Americans....

The purpose, says Ryan Davis, the director, is to point out what he calls the disconnect between what Giuliani has stood for in the past and what he is saying on the campaign trail. Davis, a gay Democrat, never has supported or worked for Giuliani (he worked for Howard Dean's presidential campaign in 2004), but he said at least he used to respect Giuliani's positions.

Giuliani was "over-the-top in support of gay rights, and then pulled back," Davis said.
What crap! Davis is a Democrat, interested in destroying Giuliani and showing his contempt for Republicans by revealing a despicable belief that they hate gay people and that their hatred can be stoked by images of actors behaving according to gay stereotypes. Decent Democrats should condemn Davis's video campaign, "Gays for Giuliani." It's blatantly homophobic. And I condemn Fox News as well, for reporting the story the way it did, illustrating it with a stock photograph of Giuliani in drag that lacks any sufficient connection to belong in a professional journalistic report on the video campaign.

Republicans should resist being baited by this sort of trash and should take note that Democrats are afraid of their front-runner -- afraid enough to deal in stereotypes that offend their values. Or are you going to tell me that Davis is an independent operative, doing his own thing? Then condemn him!

AND: Some people are saying they don't see how the ad is homophobic. Please. Picture an ad about Barack Obama with black actors behaving in an equivalent exaggerated racial style and going on about how much they love him for providing them with some benefit. It would obviously be racist.

Lower Cascadia, Hill and Dale, Lotusland, Groovy, and Reagan.

A proposal for dividing California into five states.

"The American people deserve to know that their presidency is not for sale. The Lincoln Bedroom is not for rent."

The sly new form for anti-Hillary campaigning. Don't name her. Just refer to something we'll understand, something that will stimulate us to think of the negative side of the Bill Clinton presidency. Set off that virulent thought process: We can't have the Clintons back in the White House.

This new example is from John Edwards. But he got the idea -- I think -- from Michelle Obama:
One of the things, the important aspects of this race is role modeling what good families should look like. And my view is that if you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House.
That was extra-sly, because it was deniable that it referred to Hillary, which gave her not only the benefit of being able to deny it but the intense and ongoing press (and blog) coverage as everyone had to talk about it all the more.

Does it refer to Hillary? Let's explain -- over and over again --
what it would mean if it did refer to Hillary? Now, considering that it would mean that if it did refer to Hillary, do you think that she meant to refer to Hillary?

Oh, she meant it. And she meant us to do that, and for us to keep doing that for months. And we know we will.

CORRECTION: I apologize for the horrifying Freudian slip, now expunged!

"Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear."

Wrote Mother Teresa in letters to her confessor.
The letters, many of them preserved against her wishes (she had requested that they be destroyed but was overruled by her church), reveal that for the last nearly half-century of her life she felt no presence of God whatsoever — or, as the book's compiler and editor, the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, writes, "neither in her heart or in the eucharist."

That absence seems to have started at almost precisely the time she began tending the poor and dying in Calcutta, and — except for a five-week break in 1959 — never abated. Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain. In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the "dryness," "darkness," "loneliness" and "torture" she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. "The smile," she writes, is "a mask" or "a cloak that covers everything." Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. "I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God — tender, personal love," she remarks to an adviser. "If you were [there], you would have said, 'What hypocrisy.'" Says the Rev. James Martin, an editor at the Jesuit magazine America and the author of My Life with the Saints, a book that dealt with far briefer reports in 2003 of Teresa's doubts: "I've never read a saint's life where the saint has such an intense spiritual darkness. No one knew she was that tormented." Recalls Kolodiejchuk, Come Be My Light's editor: "I read one letter to the Sisters [of Teresa's Missionaries of Charity], and their mouths just dropped open. It will give a whole new dimension to the way people understand her."
Via Metafilter, where the comments include:
My view: Mother Teresa saw the reality of life more intimately than nearly anyone who has ever lived; she saw no kind and benevolent God because it doesn't exist. Kindness and benevolence comes from us, not an invisible superhero in the sky, and there wasn't much of it to be found toward her chosen charges....

[Another commenter:] In the hospital she ran, patients dying of cancer were offered aspirin instead of morphine and were told to offer up the pain to God. Dying patients were baptized regardless of what their religion was. Mother Teresa got a donation from one of the men involved in the Lloyd's of London mess and would not return it despite knowing that it was stolen money. Instead she told the victims to forgive the people responsible for the theft. She was fanatically opposed to birth control. She turned every donation her hospital got over to the Vatican - meanwhile, her hospital was criminally undersupplied. If Mother Teresa didn't believe in God anymore, what was her excuse for maintaining the Catholic line?...

[Another:] [A]s Hitchens documents, she didn't work selflessly for mankind. She was a sick, twisted suffering fetishist who raised millions of dollars that were split between building more places to die (and that's literal- the "shelters" she built are horrible hellholes) and the Vatican coffers and cavorted with dictators. She was a horrible individual, and her veneration is a symbol of all that's wrong with the Church and all that's wrong with modern humanity.
IN THE COMMENTS: Paddy O:
She didn't see God. But she saw God in others. And those others knew it.
Original Mike:
That she did what she did with all those inner doubts makes her all the more saintly.

"One reason blogging has been light is that I seem to be going through a period where I have no thoughts that aren't deadweight Conventional Wisdom."

Says Mickey Kaus, articulating a standard I agree with and then sneakily stating the opinion anyway.
I think Barack Obama's recent misstatements have revealed a potentially alarming lack of experience!
I'm getting tired of talking about Obama. He was on "The Daily Show," you know. Did you watch? I read this morning that he was on, and I actually took the trouble -- as I was making coffee -- to activate the Explorer 8000 -- here in Brooklyn, I don't have a TiVo, I have an Explorer 8000 -- and play last night's "Daily Show." But it turns out he wasn't on. He was on Wednesday night. I couldn't be bothered. If I don't even hear about it until Friday, how could he have done anything interesting on Wednesday?

Maybe we weren't meant to think about politics in August....

Foggy morning.

Skyline fog

Feel free to talk about anything here. And give me some questions for a vlog. I promise not to let it go out-of-synch like last night's.

August 23, 2007

A nighttime hello from Brooklyn.

3 glamorous women found in Brooklyn.

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High cheese.

High Cheese

Just a sign that amused me on Atlantic Avenue.

Should California switch to giving its electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins each congressional district?

Stephen Bainbridge starts a discussion about the new proposal. This is a very complex problem for Californians to think through. There's the notion that all the states ought to change, but since that's not on the table, face the real issue: Is it good for California, on its own, to change?

Here you have the biggest state, but one party is so clearly going to win that it makes no sense for a presidential candidate to cater to it. Nor should either party pick its nominee based on what Californians will like. Isn't that bad for California? But since the majority is Democratic in California, and the Democratic candidate currently has a lock on all 55 electoral votes, why should that Democratic majority vote for a change that will only cede some of those votes to the Republican candidate? The proposal looks doomed.

But wait. Even if most voters who vote Democratic care mainly about the party's dominance at the national level, all you need is for some of the voters who vote Democratic to care more about the candidates' paying attention to California. Add those votes to those of the Republican minority, and you could get to a majority for change.

The strongest reason for having a winner-take-all approach in any given state is that it makes winning that state highly valuable and induces the candidates to fight hard over those few voters in the middle who have the power to throw the whole pile of electoral votes one way or the other. But if the balance in the state isn't close enough, the candidates won't fight over it, even if the number of votes is high. That's California.

And here we see why you're never going to get all the states to change together. The winner-take-all approach makes sense for some of the states. Awarding the electoral votes proportionally would make some states very unimportant and would undercut the huge power currently enjoyed by a few big states like Ohio and Florida.

ADDED: No sooner do I post this than I see "Giuliani says he can carry California."
“I'm the only Republican candidate that can carry on a campaign in every single state, and we can be competitive in every single state"...

“If one of the others is nominated, there'll be no campaign in California. California will be conceded to the Democrats as it has been since Ronald Reagan.” (Former President George H.W. Bush did in fact carry California in 1988.)
Well, perhaps I like California in its winner-take-all position. It may moderate the Republican Party. And the Democratic lock on the state has not always been there. Maybe things really aren't that dysfunctional -- at least from the perspective of someone who likes Giuliani. Which might mean that more Democrats now ought to shift over to wanting the change.

Jeremy reads six chapters of "Discover Your Inner Economist"...

... hits the curb and kicks the book to the curb.
Apparently also, if you have a Ph.D. in economics, you can give whatever life advice and theories about human nature that you have and pass it off as manifesting economic expertise. Much of the book is about [Tyler] Cowen's vague ideas about the human need for "control." The last anecdote that made me decide I couldn't justify spending any more time with the book began...

"Maybe I should set aside $10 every week, which I get back at the end of the week if I don’t eat anything bad for me."

A Freakonomics diet idea. I like that idea, even at the low $10 level. It's not really enough to be paid for the amount of trouble, and since you're paying yourself, it's nothing. But little things like that can jostle you into behaving differently.

There's a big obesity forum at the link, with several authors. The $10 idea is from Havard econprof David Cutler.

Rasputin and Putin.

Roger von Oech is in St. Petersburg posing his Rasputin action figure at Rasputin's murder site:



And Vladimir Putin picked scenic Siberia as the place to pose his magnificent torso and move the world to awe and envy:

August 22, 2007

Right now, from my Brooklyn terrace.

The view of Manhattan

"We have viewed $1,000 an hour as a possible vomit point for clients."

Seriously, how much can a lawyer charge an hour?

Here are the guys -- they're all guys -- who aren't cowering in the 900s anymore. They've cast off that fear of the fourth digit and demanded what they know they deserve.

IN THE COMMENTS: Ruth Anne writes:
Big deal. You charge $1000/hour for eating egg salad sandwiches.

$200 for 1 sandwich which took approximately 12 minutes = $1000 for a whole hour of egg salad sandwich eating.
That was funny... until I read the words "a whole hour of egg salad sandwich eating." Then, it was terrifying.

70 percent of viewers give up if they click on web video and a commercial starts.

According to research done by YouTube. Somebody tell CNN. YouTube has developed an alternative: "semitransparent 'overlay' ads at the bottom of selected video clips" (which either disappear after 10 seconds or launch if you click on them).

Things that seem profound and symbolic but actually aren't.

On Montague Street, a nun asked how to get to the Garden of Eden.

Outage.

Blogger had a little outage this morning. But it didn't last long and it'd been a long time since we'd had any problems, so don't try to pry me away from my beloved Blogger.

E-Harmony claims to produce 90 45 marriages a day.

So how good are your chances? Consider that it has 17 million users. About 0.2% a year. But some of those people aren't really trying, and most of them are not as easy to get along with as you.

CORRECTED: I read it as 90 marriages a day, but it says 90 members. Really, the success rate is pathetic!

Who's reading books?

We're told one in four adults didn't read a single book last year as if this is a shockingly low number, but I'm impressed that three in four did read a book. And why fuss over books? A lot of the books read are trash. (The linked article says the top picks were religion and and popular fiction.) And plenty of serious reading doesn't come in book form. Let's take a look at some of these "avid" -- that's always the word, "avid," unless it's "voracious" -- book readers:
"I go into another world when I read," said Charlotte Fuller, 64, a retired nurse from Seminole, Fla., who said she read 70 books in the last year. "I read so many sometimes I get the stories mixed up."...

Pollyann Baird, 84, a retired school librarian in Loveland, Colo., says J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter fantasy series is her favorite. But she has forced herself to not read the latest and final installment, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," because she has yet to file her income taxes this year due to an illness and worries that once she started the book, "I know I'd have to finish it."
Excuse me if I'm not impressed by the superiority of these avid book reader characters.
More women than men read every major category of books except for history and biography. Industry experts said that confirms their observation that men tend to prefer nonfiction.
Let me guess: Philosophy isn't a "major category." Nor is science. Or technology.
"Fiction just doesn't interest me," said Bob Ryan, 41, who works for a construction company in Guntersville, Ala. "If I'm going to get a story, I'll get a movie."
Going to the movies tends to be a social activity, and most movies are fiction. The notion that everyone ought to read novels is quite ridiculous. All these stories. You might get them mixed up.
Those likeliest to read religious books included older and married women, lower earners, minorities, lesser educated people, Southerners, rural residents, Republicans and conservatives.
A scurrilous group!

ADDED: Norm riffs:
[S]nce the 'typical person', according to the report, claims to have read four books, it would be interesting to know which books they didn't read.
Tracey Q. Pettigrew of Plains, Georgia, did not read The Magus by John Fowles
As I say, what is one to do? I do what I can, is all. And what I can do here is offer advice to the guy who says, 'I just get sleepy when I read.' This is my advice. First, don't read in bed before going to sleep if that is what happens to you; go to bed an hour earlier, wake up an hour earlier, and read for an hour before getting up. Second, if you sit down to read during the day, and feel sleepy, take a swift nap - 15 to 20 minutes - and read when you wake up. And third, don't bother with ... The Magus. Tracey is right.

Words in strange places.

Don't you love words in strange places?



(This is eyeshadow.)

(Don't you love 3-letter words that end in x?)

Escolar, the snake mackerel with gempylotoxins.

Yum! Last night, I ate a type of fish I'd never heard of before, and if I'd had internet access in the restaurant and looked it up, I would never have ordered it:
What gives these fish their desirable taste is actually a component similar to those used to produce Olestra, the fake fat found in some snack foods: a fatty substance called wax esters, in this case, gempylotoxins. Humans cannot digest these wax esters because they lack the enzymes necessary to break the large molecules into smaller, absorbable components.

Harold McGee, the author of ''On Food and Cooking'' (Scribner, 1984), described the process elegantly in a paper he delivered at the 1997 Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery: ''The wax esters therefore pass intact, their lubricating properties undiminished, from the small intestine into the colon, where a sufficient quantity will defeat our normal control over the ultimate disposition of food residues.''
So it's the Olestra of fish? Well, I was perfectly fine and the fish was delicious.

A cold day in August.

It was cold here in New York City yesterday, with a high temperature of 59° -- the lowest high ever for August, tying with a day back in 1911.



And the restaurant had a dog:

August 21, 2007

Welcome to paradise.

Pigeons

Why so grim?

Beer paradise

Grrrr....

Crazed rabbit

No fair.

No (f)air

Obama's rock and roll gaffe.

Obama's not showing much respect for Iowa history:
Barack Obama has spoken in many venues -- high school gymnasiums, college basketball courts, union halls -- but none has been as unusual as the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, where he talked to a group of Iowa Democrats last week.

The Surf Ballroom is the scene of the last concert played by rock 'n' roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson just hours before they were killed in a plane crash on Feb. 3, 1959.

And it is a place frozen in time with wooden booths, a linoleum floor and murals of palm trees and beaches.

Obama didn't mention the '50s rockers in his speech, but earlier this summer former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee came here and made a video commemorating Holly, Valens and The Big Bopper. It can be seen on YouTube....

The walls are filled with photos of Holly and include many of his gold albums.

The piano once used by Ellington has been preserved. The Pepsi machine used by Waylon Jennings (who played in Holly's band and gave up his seat on the plane to the Big Bopper) remains in the kitchen. The phone Holly used to call his wife, Maria Elena, in New York is still there, and so are the sinks in the green room Holly used before making his appearance on stage.

"That'll be the day" anything changes in this cultural mecca still cherished by Iowans and others who revere Buddy Holly.
And what do they think of a candidate who gives a speech here and doesn't mention him?

By contrast:

Lowest ever approval rating for Congress.

18%, matching the historic low of 1992, when there was a big scandal involving check cashing. Why so low, in the absence of a scandal? I think people have gotten more judgmental, and the politicians themselves have been teaching us to be super-critical. The very members of Congress who got into office by stoking dissatisfaction now face observation by the people who see no reason to be patient and sympathetic. It doesn't necessarily mean we're all walking around feeling exceedingly pissed off at the government. It could just be that if anyone ever asks if we approve, we're going to say no. Why should we approve? And what's with all the approval-seeking anyway?

Are you a closet...

... napper? Why must we feel ashamed? In fact, why shouldn't our employers provide us with nap rooms? Some actually do. Or maybe you can set up your own office to make it nappable. Back in my home office, in Wisconsin, I have a perfect sofa for napping. And it is not goofing off. A 20 minute nap is part of a formula for a very productive day. Why are people so Puritanical about naps? They want to see people looking busy. They can be barely conscious and get nothing done, but to surrender consciousness altogether... we're so afraid of that.

"Podcasting is dead."

Says Steve H. Oh, great, so then, I can drop that nagging feeling that I owe the world the next podcast?
As a veteran of the podcasting era, I cannot believe how much more effective Youtube is. Podcasting, including Internet radio, is a complete joke. I was wrong to think it was going to take off.

I stuck a silly 38-second Marvin video up on Youtube, and today it has had 596 views, with my "SteveHGraham.com" logo displaying the whole time. I created my last Blogtalkradio podcast ten days ago, and so far it has attracted 132 measly listeners. By the time the Marv thing has been up ten days, at least 5,000 people will have seen it....

Podcasting is dead. Even interactive podcasting with callers. Case closed. End of discussion. For that matter, compared to video, blogging is dead.
True? Steve thinks podcasts draw their audiences from the podcaster's blog, but YouTube brings in new viewers, people who don't know you at all and can bring new traffic to the blog. Steve's really obsessed with traffic, there. And his videos display a pet, which is a special YouTube dynamic. It may all depend on what you're doing. I do YouTube videos just as a way of getting video for the blog, so they aren't independent of blogging, and I don't try to pull in new readers via YouTube. But maybe I should? Yet what could I do to work the YouTube dynamic that would compare to a damned talking parrot? And what's with people and animals? The fascination is bizarre.

"I thought Lenin looked small."

Roger Von Oench is in Moscow, posing with Lenin and the Czar. Dummies. Then on to the tomb.
[I]t takes about two minutes to walk around the body. I thought Lenin looked small....

Once outside the tomb, we walked slowly past the graves of former Soviet leaders, including Stalin, who was the greatest mass murderer in history (estimated 40-60 million victims). For me, it was a weird experience. On the other hand, the Ukrainians we were with were deeply moved by it all. As were most of the other visitors.

"The theatrical linking of a cause with an effect that has no basis in physical reality, but that — in our hearts — ought to."

Teller defines magic. Hey, Teller's talking!

"Obama, with his African relatives and Indonesian childhood, would start his presidency riding an enormous wave of international goodwill."

Writes Anne Applebaum in a column about whether it matters if a presidential candidate -- notably Barack Obama -- doesn't know very much about foreign affairs:
His differences from our current president -- he's young, black, with a more complicated background -- would win him a lot of points in a lot of places, whether or not he knows the name of the Pakistani president (and whether or not he would bomb that country, as he recently seemed to imply he would).
Insulting but probably true.

"New left-wing radio network that plans to appeal to women listeners and counter the dominance of conservative talk radio."

Dominance uncountered. GreenStone, the Gloria Steinem-Jane Fonda radio network folds after less than one year.

Weirdo, Boring, Dumb.

We figured out the political version of rock, paper, scissors. It all started yesterday, when one commenter, John Stodder wrote:
I think the memories of the last two campaigns are being jumbled. It was John Edwards who got smoked by Cheney, not Lieberman. And it was Gore who got smoked in the 2000 debates, not Lieberman. That's right, everybody: Skippy the Bush Kangaroo smoked Al Gore, three times, decisively. Don't give me this "mainstream media decided the outcome post-debate" nonsense. Gore looked like a total weirdo in all three debates, especially the one where he tried to look manly by standing close enough to Bush that he could have licked his ear. In the rock-paper-scissors of life, Dumb beats Weirdo every time.

Original Mike said:
Love it, but we need the 3rd state.

Smart beats Dumb, Dumb beats Weirdo, Weirdo beats Smart?

Needs work.
An hour later, he produced what Stodder then declared to be the answer: boring. So:
Weirdo beats Boring
Boring beats Dumb
Dumb beats Weirdo
The closest competition came from dishonest. But did we get it right? And does it extend beyond politics to -- as Stodder declared -- Hollywood and blogging? I like the idea of the rock-paper-scissors of life, but I'm distressed at the prominence of "boring" and "dumb"! They seem too much alike... and why all the negative?

Still, this trio works pretty well -- at least as well as rock, paper, scissors. I mean, did you ever really buy the whole paper covers rock bit? Ooh, covers. How dangerous for the rock!

ADDED: And you know what rock says:

"I interviewed people for a book. This is a free society, and that should be allowed.”

Revenge against a scientist who wrote something some people did not want to hear about the desire for sex reassignment surgery.
The hostilities began in the spring of 2003, when [J. Michael Bailey, a psychologist at Northwestern University] published a book, “The Man Who Would Be Queen,” [in which he] argued that some people born male who want to cross genders are driven primarily by an erotic fascination with themselves as women. This idea runs counter to the belief, held by many men who decide to live as women, that they are the victims of a biological mistake — in essence, women trapped in men’s bodies.

August 20, 2007

Mauled into marriage.

What does it take a man to realize that he should be married? It takes a bear attack.

I saw a rat today.

It was standing on the sidewalk in Brooklyn Heights in broad daylight as if it were a cat or a squirrel. It didn't run away as I approached, so I stopped and looked and contemplated getting out the camera, while a woman approached from the opposite direction. She didn't notice the rat until she was 5 feet away from it, at which point she murmured "oh, ooh, oh my" -- humorously -- and deviated from her straight-line path in a neat little arc. Having proven its point, the rat disappeared into the ivy ground cover, and I proceeded along my way. Was I upset? Only that I didn't get the photograph. I know there are rats. What does it matter if they make themselves visible to me? Am I to object to the sheer boldness? It's not as if we locked eyes and he gave me a wanna-make-something-of-it look. He was simply comfortable in his ecological niche, and I understood the situation.

The Bushmeat problem.

It's about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. If O Centro Espírita Beneficente União do Vegetal could import its hallucinogenic plant -- and the Supreme Court said it could, despite the prohibition in the Controlled Substances Act -- why should some anti-smuggling law keep this woman from having her monkey meat?

Walking directions.

Is there a website where you can get walking directions -- instead of driving directions? Let's say I have somewhere I want to walk in Brooklyn. Google Maps might tell me to get on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, as if I were a car. I want a site that caters to the pedestrian, preferably with options to maximize safety, shopping, and so forth.

ADDED: People are recommending HopStop. I can see that it purports to give walking instructions, but is this really the best pedestrian route, or is it the same as the car route?

Thanks to Facebook customer service.

They did a nice job of responding to my complaint about someone who was impersonating me -- noted here -- and deleted the account.

Does exercise -- physical exercise -- improve your brain?

The NYT asks, and a chorus of people who exercise all say... what do you think? Here's the first response:
Yes. Definately

The second:
The exercise can help to think more clearly. Because when you are doing the excise, your brain becomes simple not too many things to consider, so you think about one thing, it’s more clear to get the results.
And the third one... well, let's be merciful and stop...

ADDED: Here's the background article in the NYT Magazine (about research about the regeneration of neurons). And here's something Pogo writes in the comments:
Of course exercise improves your brain. That's why all the jocks in high school were also the dweebs with pocket protectors.

And Stephen Hawking is a fool.
Quite aside from the number of neurons you have at any given time is what you do with your brain. You can't read and play a sport (though you can walk and listen to an audiobook). If you can't do much other than read, on the other hand, you will probably read a lot. But what do you really want for yourself? The article seems to be mainly about staving off the mental deterioration associated with old age. Exercise might help, but so might reading or doing puzzles or thinking deeply about complicated things.

ADDED: Dan from Madison tells his story of exercise, the brain, and Muay Thai.

Doyle?

Stanley Fish reasons his way toward a short list of possible VP choices for Hillary Clinton (TimesSelect link):
So what she needs is a governor or former governor who can tip the balance in a fairly large state that could go either way, ideally someone from Ohio or Florida. If we go strictly by this criterion, Clinton’s man is Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio; but he’s been in office for less than a year and his constituents probably wouldn’t be happy if he were to forsake them for a national stage. There’s no one in Florida, so it’s time to start looking elsewhere for someone who could help and won’t hurt. Mark Warner, the former governor of Virginia, was the political rage for a month or two and is regarded as a moderate; he could be repackaged by the right marketing campaign. He might even bring Virginia with him.

Gov. Mike Easley of North Carolina is a Democrat who has run ahead of his party in two elections. However, he is not well known outside the region and it is a question as to whether he could deliver his own state. It is doubtful that John Edwards could either. It is also unlikely that he will be asked, and even less likely that he would accept, although he would be smart to do so. (How else is he going to get another chance?)

Looking to the Midwest, Wisconsin has a democratic governor, Jim Doyle, a veteran (some might say shopworn) politician who was formerly an attorney general and has two adopted African American sons. He also has been caught accepting Green Bay Packer tickets, a minor infraction for which he was fined $300, but enough, perhaps to taint him. Evan Bayh is a popular senator from Indiana who was also a popular governor. He has tested the presidential waters before; and would know what he was in for.

And then there’s Bill Richardson, two-term governor of New Mexico, former congressman. former Ambassador to the United Nations, former Secretary of Energy, three quarters Mexican, but with a reassuringly Anglo-Saxon name. Sounds ideal, even though his state has only five electoral votes and he is an unpolished speaker....

So there’s the list – Warner, Bayh, Easley, Richardson, maybe Doyle. No one who sets the pulses racing, but no one, at least on the evidence so far, who would be a total mistake. The mistake would be if Senator Clinton decided to get creative and adventurous, but on the record there seems to be little danger of that.
Doyle?

IN THE COMMENTS: The subject of Bush and Gore debating comes up, and someone says "dumb beats weirdo." Somebody else perceives that as a rock-paper-scissors game and the search is on for what beats dumb but loses to weirdo.

LATER: John Stodder writes:
As the originator of this new rock-paper-scissors meme, I declare Original Mike's suggestion of "Boring" to be correct. So now we know how the world works:

Weirdo beats Boring
Boring beats Dumb
Dumb beats Weirdo


I think that accounts for pretty much every presidential election in U.S. history. You could look it up.

Also, this explains Hollywood, and perhaps the blogosphere.

Blogger vs. journalism professor.

There's this LA Times opinion column by journalism professor Michael Skube saying the usual thing about blogs vs. journalism and citing a few bloggers: "Andrew Sullivan, Matthew Yglesias, Joshua Micah Marshall." Josh Marshall didn't like some implication about him and wrote to Skube.
Not long after I wrote I got a reply: "I didn't put your name into the piece and haven't spent any time on your site. So to that extent I'm happy to give you benefit of the doubt ..."

... So I followed up noting my surprise....

To which I got this response: "I said I did not refer to you in the original. Your name was inserted late by an editor who perhaps thought I needed to cite more examples ... "....

Perhaps I'm naive. But it surprises me a great deal that a professor of journalism freely admits that he allows to appear under his own name claims about a publication he concedes he's never read.

Actually, if you look at what he says, it seems Skube's editor at the Times oped page didn't think he had enough specific examples in his article decrying our culture of free-wheeling assertion bereft of factual backing. Or perhaps any examples. So the editor came up with a few blogs to mention and Skube signed off. And Skube was happy to sign off on the addition even though he didn't know anything about them.
So Skube's opinion was based on... what? All those other mainstream media articles fretting about bloggers?

August 19, 2007

"I am concerned about pedophiles coming to Arkansas to find parents who are willing to sign a very young child's consent."

What a complete screw-up by Arkansas!

Pilgrimmage to 3rd Street.

This morning at about 8 a.m., I set out on a long walk where my goal was to see the place I lived in Park Slope for 2 years before I moved to Madison in 1984. I'd lived in 4 other places in New York City before that: East 91st Street, East 85 Street, Jane Street, and Washington Square Village. Every single one of those places was a 2 year lease, so that was 10 years in New York, with the last 2 years in Brooklyn, on 3rd Street.

I wanted to start out walking south on Smith Street, because readers keep writing in the comments that I will probably like Smith Street. And they were right. I did like Smith Street. (Smith Street was named after Samuel Smith, who had a big farm centered at what is now the intersection of Smith and Livingston and who was mayor of Brooklyn for a short time in 1850. Source: "Brooklyn By Name.")

I found a nice café, where I sat by a window, ate some eggs -- not cold eggs, scrambled eggs, with salmon -- and picked up some WiFi:

A café on Smith Street

Café LULUc. Where they serve delicious french fries with their eggs.

There were lots of other interesting looking places, like Stinky Brooklyn (a cheese store):

Tied-up dog

Now, Smith intersects with 3rd Street, so that looked simple enough, and I knew there was the issue of getting over the Gowanus Canal. You can't just walk down any street going east around there. You need a bridge over the canal. But 3rd Street, I knew, had a bridge, and I was just hoping the area wouldn't be too dicey. The fact is, it did scare me a little. There was that abandoned handbag near the "hazmat trained only personnel" sign:

Abandoned bag near the Gowanus canal

And then the canal itself:

The Gowanus Canal

It's creepy. The canal was once a creek, Gowanus Creek, named after what "Brooklyn by Name" calls the "Canarsee sachem Gowane," that is the leader of the Carnarsee Indians named Gowane. There were Indians here once, and that oily horror was a creek. The creek was widened into a canal, and industrial development followed.

I walked quickly, across numbered avenues, beginning with 3rd Avenue, toward my goal just east of 7th Avenue. There were only a couple blocks that made me nervous. That block between 4th and 5th Avenues brought back a strange memory. We were driving home one night and the instant we entered that block the police put up a barricade behind us. In front, there were police cars everywhere and cops -- did I see guns? -- squatting for protection behind opened car doors. What were we supposed to do? We kept driving. There's always another block to get to.

Crossing 7th Avenue felt like walking into the past. The trees were so heavily overgrown. Maples, making the street a dark tunnel. A dark tunnel into the past -- more unsettling than the Gowanus Canal.

Which building did we live in? It was one of the first few brownstones on the north side of the street, but which one? They look nearly alike. I looked at the gates, which have different designs, and thought that when I saw the right one the memory of it would light up my brain. We lived on the ground floor -- or I should say the below-ground floor, because the window sills were at ground level. That meant we looked out at that wrought iron gate constantly. Shouldn't I recognize the one that I gazed at for 2 years?

Brownstone Brownstone Brownstone Brownstone Brownstone Brownstone

No. No memory flashes. I kept walking up the street, toward Prospect Park. (Named after Mount Prospect, which is now the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Eastern Parkway, but was a strategic outlook -- a prospect -- for our soldiers in the Revolutionary War.) A quarter century ago I walked these two blocks toward the park a hundred times, with two young boys and a husband. See that bench by the 3rd Street entrance to the park?

Park bench

A big family drama took place there. Where does ours rank on the list of thousands of human dramas that have taken place there?

I decided to walk down 2nd Street, back to 7th Avenue and then walk north on 7th Avenue, which was my long walk to the subway to go to work (at a Wall Street law firm). I wanted to see how it had changed in all these years. Had it become as posh as I've gotten the feeling it has when, living in Madison, Wisconsin, I read in the New York Times about life in Park Slope? (Answer: No!)

As I walked toward 7th Avenue, I saw this:

Two Boots

I know that little building! It wasn't blue 25 years ago. And it wasn't called Two Boots. Nor did it have an alligator out front for my kids to beg to ride. But I knew that stumpy building. It had a big noisy ventilation fan on the roof that undercut the pleasure of hanging out in our backyard (like this).

So let's count the paces from here to 7th Avenue, walk back to 3rd Street and count out the same number (35), and then, here it is:

Brownstone

This is it. Past arrived at. But it's closed up, shut off to me now. I can only weakly replay the mental pictures of the things that went on in those years, when we were all so young.

Dress or cupcakes?

It's your choice.

Cupcakes

Cupcakes

But the cupcakes are trying so hard to convince you.

Cupcakes

Islamic bumper stickers.

A display outside a store on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn:

Islamic bumper stickers

(Enlarge.)

A debate on a Sunday morning... isn't that just wrong?

Who is supposed to watch at this ungodly -- or godly, if you were at church -- hour? I don't even think we're supposed to watch. Someone else is supposed to watch and pick out the good parts -- or the bad parts -- and we'll get the things sifted out when they replay on YouTube. Or we'll count on Stephen Green to -- ugh! -- drunk-blog it. Drunk-blogging sounds cool for a night debate, but for morning... it's upsetting. I know there's a tradition of Bloody Marys and Mimosas for Sunday brunch, but no one actually gets drunk over brunch, do that?

(On the subject of drinking in the morning, did I ever tell you about the time I had to take someone to the emergency room on Christmas morning? They brought this man in, and I could overhear the nurse asking him if he'd had anything to drink, and he answered "No," long pause, "six pack of beer" -- as if "six pack of beer" were a very modest qualification of the "no.")

But, so, what happened at the debate?
9:11am George just nailed Hillary, with videotape, for taking nukes "off the table" her own self last year. Hillary deflected, talking about "the Bush-Cheney administration." Did she really just use the evil "Bush-Cheney" codephrase? Does she think she's running in the last election? She certainly sounds like it, when she needs to rally the nutroots.

9:13am "Hope and optimism, where did it go?" asked the Breck Girl. Uh, dude -- have you heard your paranoid self on the campaign trail the last two years? I'd say Edwards chucked hope and optimism overboard on the November night in '04 that he discovered his smile wasn't enough to win him higher office....

9:17am George just used a Karl Rove interview to ask Obama, basically, "Is Hillary electable?" That is the real question, isn't it? Obama's answer: "Boy, the last six years sure sucked, huh?"

9:19am Obama is now rambling about how much the tone in Washington also sucks. And he's going to change that by being Obama, I think....
More at the link. Green is clever, but nonetheless it seems that not much happened. If I'm wrong, point out some video clips.

Jamaica.

Say a prayer for Jamaica.

Blogging from an iPhone somewhere in Brooklyn.

My typing skills on this thing are not so good, so I'm not up for the usual cutting and pasting and linking, so let's declare this post a coffeehouse -- hey, this cafe has WiFi -- and you can talk amongst yourselves or serve up some questions for a vlog I intend to do later.

UPDATE: After walking many miles -- including a pilgrimmage to the place I lived a quarter of a century ago -- I've finally found another cafe with WiFi. I'll recount my emotional adventure, with photographs, later.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Sorry for no vlog today. I came home from my walk with 101 photographs and got a bit distracted.