dimanche, avril 30, 2006

the tasty, cheesy, cholesterolbombdiggitygoodness otherwise known as grits

Today was a perfect day.

Leo and I spent the morning talking before meeting the crew at Ash and Jason's place in Encinitas. When we got there, the house already smelled awesome as Jason and Dana cooked. Cat, James, and Ash arrived shortly thereafter and we all sat down to breakfast burritos, grits with sausage and wild gulf shrimp, fruit salad, daiquiris, and mimosas.

After we had gorged ourselves, Jason made us margaritas to-go and we headed to Moonlight Beach for frisbee and soccer before hitting the Encinitas street fair. A few hours later, we all sat and recovered from the effects of a day's eating, drinking, and sunshine at Ash and Jason's before playing a neverending trivial pursuit game.

Then Jason and Dana fed us again. I'm still full.

jeudi, avril 27, 2006

you can't tell them much

I consider myself a reasonably good presenter and public speaker.

But after speaking at a middle school this morning, I felt incredibly lame. Naturally, I called my dad to tell him about it. Then I gave him some serious props for having what it took to teach middle school.

His response: "You can tell middle school students, but you can't tell them much."

mercredi, avril 26, 2006

brand U.

As someone who works in marketing at a university, this article hits all the right notes. And close to home.

Brand U.
I RECENTLY did some research for a satirical novel set at a university. The idea was to have a bunch of gags about how colleges prostitute themselves to improve their U.S. News & World Report rankings and keep up a healthy supply of tuition-paying students, while wrapping their craven commercialism in high-minded-sounding academic blather.

I would keep coming up with what I thought were pretty outrageous burlesques of this stuff and then run them by one of my professor friends and he'd say, Oh, yeah, we're doing that.

One of my best bits, or so I thought, was about how the fictional university in my novel had hired a branding consultant to come up with a new name with the hip, possibility-rich freshness needed to appeal to today's students. Two weeks later, a friend called to say it was on the front page of The Times: 'To Woo Students, Colleges Choose Names That Sell.' Exhibit A was Beaver College, which had changed its name to Arcadia University. Applications doubled.

I also had created a character, a former breakfast-cereal executive who returns to his alma mater as vice president for finance (to give something back) and tries to get everyone to call the students customers. It turns out Yale was already doing that.

I knew that Tom Lehrer, the great satirical songwriter of the 60's, had said he had to give up satire when it kept being overtaken by reality. The final straw, he said, was Henry Kissinger winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

My final straw came when a friend at Case Western Reserve University (now referred to as Case, after their consultant concluded that all great universities have single-word names) sent me a packet of information on the university's new showcase undergraduate seminar program. Called SAGES (this supposedly stands for Seminar Approach to General Education and Scholarship), the program offers as an essential component of its core intellectual experience an upscale cafe that serves Peet's Coffee and is "staffed by baristas whose expertise in preparing espresso is matched only by their authoritative knowledge of all things SAGES."

As the program's Web site explains (complete with footnotes, bibliography and quotes from the urban theorist Jane Jacobs): "In the bustling personal-but-impersonal rhythms of campus activity, as in the streets of a big city, proprietors of public establishments occupy a special position... The SAGES cafe staff are patently not interested in providing grades or passing judgment." And, not only that, but "there are no compromises that would undermine the quality of our drinks.... Our chai latte is made not from a bottled concentrate, but from a fresh-brewed base made from scratch every day on site."

As a model of pandering to students in the guise of lofty academic purpose, I thought that was pretty hard to top. Then I started reading the 92-page guide Case has created for teachers of these seminars.

If students fidget, talk or walk out of class, the guide advises seminar leaders not to "manage" such behaviors, but to explore their underlying causes. Instructors must remember that to such characteristically American cultural beliefs as the importance of morality, rationality and personal responsibility, there are equally valid alternatives that must be respected.

Instructors must be wary of spurious objectivity, such as a 0-100 grading scale; much better is a 0-5 scale, or, best of all, a check, check-plus, check-minus scale. And finally, if students do not contribute to discussions at all, seminar leaders should "make space for silence."

It's enough to drive a satirist to something stronger than chai latte.
Via Allison

mardi, avril 25, 2006

paging christopher guest

Kiss-esque freaks singing gospel-ish music? This has mockumentary written all over it.

I know two Finns. Both are mild-mannered, clean-cut guys who happen to enjoy speed metal and classical music. One also loves Curtis Mayfield and understood an arcane Spinal Tap reference on a t-shirt last month, which leads me to ask: Saku — what's your take on this?

Finland Squirms as Its Latest Export Steps Into Spotlight
HELSINKI, Finland — They have eight-foot retractable latex Satan wings, sing hits like 'Chainsaw Buffet' and blow up slabs of smoking meat on stage. So members of the band Lordi expected a reaction when they beat a crooner of love ballads to represent Finland at the Eurovision song contest in Athens, the competition that was the springboard for Abba and Celine Dion.

But the heavy-metal monster band did not imagine a national identity crisis.

First, Finnish religious leaders warned that the Freddy Krueger look-alikes could inspire Satanic worship. Then critics called for President Tarja Halonen to use her constitutional powers to veto the band and nominate a traditional Finnish folk singer instead. Rumors even circulated that Lordi members were agents sent by President Vladimir V. Putin to destabilize Finland before a Russian coup — an explanation for their refusal to take off their freakish masks in public.

The fury also spread in Greece, winner of last year's Eurovision and therefore the host of this year's contest, where an anti-Lordi movement called Hellenes urged the Finnish government 'to say 'no' to this evil group.' One young Finn calling himself Suomi (Finland in Finnish) wrote to a newspaper Web log saying, 'If Lordi wins Eurovision, I am leaving the country.'
The lead singer, Lordi — a former film student who goes by his real name, Tomi Putaansuu, when not wielding a blood-spurting electric chain saw — is philosophical about the uproar.
The affair, Mr. Putaansuu says, has exposed the insecurity of a young country whose peculiar language is spoken by only six million people worldwide and whose sense of identity has been dented by being part of the Swedish kingdom and the Russian empire until gaining independence in 1917. Most Finns, he adds, would rather be known for Santa Claus than heavily made-up monster mutants.
"In Finland, we have no Eiffel Tower, few real famous artists, it is freezing cold and we suffer from low self-esteem," said Mr. Putaansuu, who, as Lordi, has horns protruding from his forehead and sports long black fingernails.
As he stuck out his tongue menacingly, his red demon eyes glaring, Lordi was surrounded by Kita, an alien-man-beast predator who plays flame-spitting drums inside a cage; Awa, a blood-splattered ghost who howls backup vocals; Ox, a zombie bull who plays bass; and Amen, a mummy in a rubber loincloth who plays guitar.
Dragging on a cigarette, Mr. Putaansuu added, "Finns nearly choked on their cereal when they realized we were the face Finland would be showing to the world."
Often derided as a showcase of kitsch, Eurovision is one of the most watched television programs in the world. It pits pop groups from all over Europe and the Middle East against one another, with the winner decided by popular vote by more than 600 million viewers.
It is not the first time the contest, which began in 1956, has spawned discontent. Last year's Ukrainian entry song was rewritten after being deemed too political by government officials in Kiev because it celebrated the Orange Revolution. When Dana International, an Israeli transsexual, won in 1998 with her hit song "Diva," rabbis accused her of flouting the values of the Jewish state.
But not everyone in this Nordic country of five million views the monster squad as un-Finnish. Some Finns say that Lordi is right at home and that the band's use of flaming dragon-encrusted swords and exploding baby dolls expresses the warrior spirit of the Vikings.
Alex Nieminen, a Finnish ad executive, says the band harks back to the Hakkapeliittas, the legendary Finnish cavalry unit that fought as part of the Swedish army in the 17th century. He argues that the slasher film imitators embody Finnish self-assertion after decades of isolation.
"Lordi represents a rebellion by Finns who are saying, 'Hey we are not all the Nokia-wielding people the government would like you to think we are,' " Mr. Nieminen said.
On the eve of the vote, fans in ghoulish monster outfits held Lordi parties from Helsinki to Lapland and sent text messages urging everyone from grandmothers to young metal heads to "Change the face of Finland!" Lordi won the right to go to Athens with its Kiss-inspired anthem "Hard Rock Hallelujah" and its lyrics, "Wings on my back/I got horns on my head/my fangs are sharp/and my eyes are red."
The Finns' fascination for Lordi may reflect their eternal hope after coming in last at Eurovision eight times. Some Finns rank that humiliation with their nation's appeasement of the Soviet Union or losing in hockey to Sweden.
Finns blame their losing streak on the fact that contestants have typically sung in their mother tongue, a famously difficult Uralic language where words with three umlauts are not uncommon.
" 'Finland, zero points' has become a source of deep embarrassment in the nation's psyche," Ilkka Mattila, the country's leading music critic, said. "So Lordi's success must be understood as a vote by people who feel we have nothing to lose."
Finns are so uncomfortable with themselves, says Alexander Stubb, a Finnish member of the European Parliament, that when they meet someone for the first time, they stare at their own feet. Then, after 10 years of friendship, they stare at the other person's feet. But there is little risk that anyone, Finnish or otherwise, will stare at Lordi's furry platform demon boots, he adds, noting that Lordi could embarrass Finland when it takes over the
European Union presidency in July.
Timo Soini, leader of "Ordinary Finns," a traditionalist political party from rural Finland, says Lordi has attracted criticism because Finns are so thin-skinned about how others perceive them. "Finns are suspicious when they see someone new come to play in their sandbox," Mr. Soini said. "And that is particularly the case when that someone looks like a monster."
While other boys in Lapland were playing hockey, Mr. Putaansuu played with his Barbie doll and began experimenting with makeup. In film school he became obsessed with horror films and the heavy metal bands Kiss and Twisted Sister. Like his fellow metal heads, Mr. Putaansuu hoped that transgression would sell big. But he says it took 10 years to get a record deal because Finnish labels were so turned off by the band's appearance.
Under their masks, the band members are quintessential Finns. Awa, the ghost, is a soft-spoken blond who wears glasses and studied classical music. Even Mr. Putaansuu, who wears a black leather jacket when not sporting serpent lapels, says his music is closer to gospel than Satan. After all, one of the band's hit songs is "The Devil Is a Loser."

"Even if we lose the contest, we have already won," Mr. Putaansuu said. "Many Finns would rather have sent someone boring and acceptable than to be represented by freaks like us."

six degrees of one red paperclip guy

  1. I've been following Kyle MacDonald's blog (the one red paperclip guy) for some time now.
  2. Last week, Leo sent me a story with an update on paperclipguy.
  3. Then I saw that paperclipguy would be in Phoenix at Alice Cooper's Town (really a restaurant, but that's not the point), where my buddy Omer lives.
  4. I told Omer about it.
  5. Omer went and had a beer with paperclipguy.
  6. Jason just sent me a link to the same story Leo sent me last week.

lundi, avril 24, 2006

April 20, 2006 gas prices

I can't say that I'm terribly sympathetic to these folks. Last week, it cost me $51.57 to fill my Camry's gas tank with the cheapest grade fuel at a relatively inexpensive service station in my neighborhood. It still cost me $3.099 a gallon.

Rising Gas Prices Equal Rising Crime: Drive-Offs, Siphoning Reported Around Omaha
OMAHA, Neb. -- Rising gas prices have spawned a new round of crime in Omaha and elsewhere, as desperate drivers leave the pump without paying or siphon gas from unattended vehicles.

Last Thursday, the Kwik Trip on 42nd and L streets in Omaha was the scene of one of five drive-offs reported to police that day. Station owners said even one drive-off is a major problem because it hurts their bottom line. Sinclair employee Clarence Anderson said drive-offs cost him personally.
'That comes out of my pocket. Not the gas company or the pumping station. It just comes out of my pocket and it's not going to happen anymore because I won't authorize it,' Anderson said.

Many station have gone to a pre-pay policy as a result, and one local chain offers customers a membership card that allows them to pump before they pay.
Eagle's Nest Worship Center, at 5775 Sorenson Parkway, reported that gas was stolen from vehicles parked on the church's lot three different times. Administrative pastor Peter Henson said he never expected gas to be stolen in that fashion, and after the second time the church's vehicles were hit, he took some precautions.
'We bought some locking gas caps,' Henson said.

But the thieves broke the caps off, prompting a fresh solution.

"What we decided to do in the short run is to park them together so close that no human being could get in between them and have access to the gas cap," Henson said. "The Bible tells us that it rains on the just and the unjust, so there's no reason to expect that we would have the same kind of problems."

AAA said on Monday that the average price for a gallon of self-serve regular in Omaha was $2.80.

pulling thirty one

As usual, Diana's sangria was a hit. So were Cass' chocolate kahlua cake and Chrissy's pumpkin cheesecake.

All were featured prominently at Saturday night's birthday festivities, which included Leo, Cass and Josh, Allison, Diana and Ophira, Melanie, Zach, Ash and Cat, Jason and Dana, Yvonne and Eric, Tess, Trevor, Turk and Susan, Marion and JB, Laura and Aaron, Tony, Geoff and Mike, Dan and Kevin, Justin and Chrissy, Tuba and Sinan, Tim, Reggie, Matt and Amber, and Rogelia.

A monumental amount of recycling and cleaning went down Sunday, mostly by Leo, who waged war on the ants that decided to crash the post-party while I was off for more group project craziness. The best moment at group was when Tuba informed us that thirty one is a number with special meaning to Turks — the expression "pulling thirty one" is a euphemism for onanism.

vendredi, avril 21, 2006

give the biddies some love

This puts a whole new spin on the thought of aging gracefully. I have to admit that their age and their numbers give them a certain bigosity.

Anti-war grannies appear in court: "18 members of granny brigade appear in court
Updated: 3:26 p.m. ET April 20, 2006
NEW YORK - Eighteen anti-war activists who call themselves the "Granny Peace Brigade" appeared in court Thursday for trial on charges of disorderly conduct stemming from a protest outside a military recruiting station.

The defendants, some supporting themselves with canes ancanes and walkers, are being tried as a group before Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Neil Ross. If convicted, each could face up to 15 days in prison.

“This case is simple and straightforward,” Assistant District Attorney Amy Miller said in her opening statement. “It’s not about the war; it’s about disorderly conduct.”

She said the defendants sat in front of the Times Square recruiting station on Oct. 17, obstructed pedestrian traffic and refused to disperse as ordered. Miller said this prevented others from going in or out of the center.

Defense attorney Norman Siegel said the women went to the recruiting station to try to enlist but the door was locked, so they sat and started chanting, “We insist! We want to enlist!”

Siegel said the defendants had a right to protest the war in Iraq and to sit in front of the recruiting center.

“They did not break any laws,” he said. “They were respectful, orderly, justified and patriotic.”

Earlier Thursday, the women rejected a plea deal that would have dismissed the charges in six months if the women had no further violations of law. The women vowed to keep up the protests.

The small courtroom was packed with about 75 supporters. The women — several in their 80s and 90s and most of them grandmothers, with three boasting to be great grandmothers — wore buttons that read: “Granny Peace Brigade” and “Love the Troops, Hate the War.” Some wore T-shirts emblazoned with the words: “We will not be silent.”

: Via Leo

my old sixth grade trivia nemesis and fellow G.A.T.E. short bus rider

It's a small effing world, after all.

I just had my technology-makes-the-world-teeny-tiny-and-connects-the-seemingly-unconnectable moment, courtesy of my blog. So of course I'm going to blog about it. : D

In 2004, I wrote about Danny Padilla (one of my elementary school classmates) and characterized him as my sixth-grade trivia arch-nemesis. He just found the posting and commented.

It's funny what we remember (the names of our classmates) and what we forget (the faces and the facts) from our childhood. Until his note, I had totally forgotten that I was the kid the reporters interviewed for the TV coverage about the body that was found behind our school. And I had no idea that he was the one who found it.

Anyway. Danny, if you read this posting, give me a way to get in touch. I'd like to have that re-match. Or, better yet, a drink with you.

jeudi, avril 20, 2006

that’s no moon—that’s a space station

I'm a big fan of the Daily Oliver. And of my own adorable (and geriatric) canine, Casey.

Suffice it to say that Casey's depth perception isn't what it used to be. This image reminds me of what it looks like when Leo throws Casey a tennis ball.

Daily Oliver: 1 February 2006

mercredi, avril 19, 2006

this is a tiny town

I can always count on Rick, my former boss (and the coolest authority figure ever), to give me the lowdown (no pun intended) on all things little people.

After all, he was the one who told me about "The Terror of Tiny Town" (an all-midget Western that's also a musical). For the record, Rick's a very, very tall guy of Dutch extraction.

Rival bands clash over little-person KISS tribute
A Las Vegas incident highlights the MiniKiss- Tiny Kiss tussle over who owns the concept.

They might be pint-sized performers onstage, but offstage they're in a giant-sized dispute.

Joey Fatale, the 4-foot, 4-inch New Yorker who heads the all-dwarf KISS tribute band MiniKiss, is denying published reports that he tried to sneak past security last month at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas to confront a rival band leader, 4-foot 'Little' Tim Loomis of Tiny Kiss, for allegedly ripping off his idea for such a group.

Loomis, a former drummer for MiniKiss, was performing with Tiny Kiss, which includes three little people and a 350-pound woman, on St. Patrick's Day at Beacher's Madhouse, a Las Vegas variety show, when the incident occurred.

Show host Jeff Beacher told The Times on Monday that Fatale 'tried to sneak in saying he was Tiny Kiss' and had to be escorted from the premises. According to the New York Post, Fatale's lawyers sent a legal cease-and-desist letter to the show trying to shut down the act.

Loomis told the Post: '[Fatale] came out here [to Las Vegas] and tried to cause trouble, so I had him 86'd from the Hard Rock. The impression I got was that he was looking for a fight. He'd been threatening me over the phone.'

But Fatale disputed the accusation, telling The Times: 'This whole thing about me going to the Hard Rock with my gang —that didn't happen. What happened was, I went there because somebody told me [Tiny Kiss was] doing the show that night .... Nobody escorted me out of there. I went there by myself to approach them as a gentleman."Fatale says he has "nothing to say" about Loomis, except, "He's a nice guy." And, he added, "This is all a big publicity act for the guy at Beacher's."

china, anyone?

I'm hoping to go to China with Diana and Ophira in October. But the single supplement is killing me. If you're interested in traveling with 3 super-cool women (and in sharing a room with me), drop me a line, ASAP.

mardi, avril 18, 2006

these are the things i think about when i should be studying

Who would win a battle of wits between Sophia Petrillo and Julia Sugarbaker?

dirty tricks

Republican political operatives not playing by the rules? Imagine that.
A Small-Time Crime With Hints of Big-Time Connections Lights Up the Net
The Internet is a great breeding ground for political conspiracies, and there is a new one lighting up computer monitors across the country. Bloggers are fascinated by what they see as eerie parallels between Watergate and a phone-jamming scandal in New Hampshire. It has low-level Republican operatives involved in dirty campaign tricks. It has checks from donors with murky backgrounds. It has telephone calls to the White House. What is unclear is whether it is the work of a few rogue actors, or something larger.

In 2002, there was a hard-fought Senate race between Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, the Democrat, and John Sununu, the Republican. On Election Day, Democratic workers arrived at five get-out-the-vote offices to find their phone lines jammed. It turned out that the jamming was being done by an Idaho telemarketing firm that was being paid by a Virginia consulting group. The fee for the jamming, reportedly $15,600, was paid by New Hampshire Republicans. The executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party and the president of the Virginia consulting group pleaded guilty for their part in the scheme. James Tobin, who was the New England political director for the Republican National Committee, went to trial and was convicted of telephone harassment last December.

Now, Jack Abramoff and his Indian tribe clients have joined the cast of characters, and some records of phone calls to the White House have turned up, though the significance of both of these revelations is hotly disputed. The evidence that the phone-jamming scandal goes higher than Mr. Tobin remains scant. But the watchdogs are right about this: the news media, prosecutors and the general public should demand more information about what happened.

The parallels drawn with Watergate are a good place to start:

1. The return of the "second-rate burglary." The New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal is being dismissed as small-time, state-level misconduct, but it occurred at a critical moment in a tough election.

In November 2002, Republicans were intent on winning a Senate majority so they would control the White House and both houses of Congress. They saw the Sununu-Shaheen race as pivotal. On Election Day morning, the phone lines were jammed at the Democratic offices and at a get-out-the-vote operation run by a firefighters' union. The police were called, and the lines were eventually freed up. The election wasn't as close as expected. Mr. Sununu won, and Republicans retook the Senate.

2. The return of the high-priced lawyer. Aficionados of the Watergate connection like to point out that one of the first clues that the Watergate burglars were not ordinary small-time crooks was the presence of a slick lawyer in an expensive suit at their first court appearance. In the New Hampshire case, Mr. Tobin was represented by Williams & Connolly, a pre-eminent white-collar criminal law firm. The legal bills, which published estimates have put at more than $2.5 million, were paid by the Republican National Committee. Democrats are asking why the committee footed the bill, if Mr. Tobin was a rogue actor who implicated the national party in a loathsome and embarrassing crime.

3. The return of "follow the money." (As if it ever left.) New Hampshire Democrats pored over the filings of the New Hampshire Republican Party and found three contributions for $5,000 each, all shortly before the election. One was from Americans for a Republican Majority, Tom DeLay's political action committee. The other two were from the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, tribes that were clients of Jack Abramoff. Those checks add up almost exactly to the cost of the phone jamming.

Republicans say that a lot of money flows into a campaign and that there is nothing to tie these checks to the phone jamming. But New Hampshire Democrats argue that it is highly unusual for Indian tribes to contribute to a state party in a state that does not have federally recognized Indian tribes or Indian gambling.

4. Does anybody get to ask: "What did they know, and when did they know it?" Democrats would, of course, like to connect the jamming to the White House, and this month they found a possible link. The Senate Majority Project, a pro-Democratic campaign group, examined the phone records that came out in Mr. Tobin's case and found that he made dozens of calls to the White House's office of political affairs right when he was executing the phone-jamming scheme. Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman who was the White House political director at the time, insists that close contact of this kind between political operatives is the norm on Election Day, and that none of the calls mentioned the jamming.

New Hampshire Democrats have filed a civil lawsuit seeking to learn more about what occurred. They want the judge to give them access to e-mail messages that could shed light on the phone calls to the White House, and to let them question officials of the Republican National Committee and the White House. In March, a federal grand jury indicted a fourth person in the jamming scheme, the former co-owner of the Idaho telemarketing firm. The Senate Majority Project has been putting key documents on its Web site (www.senatemajority.com) and is continuing to investigate.

The phone jamming could turn out to be the work of a few bad actors. It could, on the other hand, take the Abramoff scandals to a new level of skullduggery. At least, 34 years after Watergate, we know the right questions to ask.

itching to go walkabout

It could be the stress of school and work right now, or the fact that I just got my tax refund. Either way, my travel jones is kicking in in a big way at the moment and I'm weighing the possibility of not one, but two big trips in the next 12 months. Time to get a roommate, already.

Who Needs Clubs When Everyone Is at the Cafe?
You feel the buzz as you approach La Mar — in a smart industrial-gray cement building in a neighborhood of auto body shops. Chauffeurs line up around the block and stand outside their cars after dropping off the sunglassed socialites who stream down the entrance walkway. Bamboo lines the path like paparazzi, and everyone turns to see who's arriving. The upbeat music of the Colombian pop group Aterciopelados blasts from speakers overhead. It's a party, but what could be going on now, at 1:30 on a Tuesday afternoon?

Inside, attractive Peruvian 20-somethings drink pisco sours at the bar, ogled by slick-looking men dressed in black and wearing black Gucci sunglasses. Businessmen in suits eat plates of raw fish while the crowds lining up at the hostess's stand scan the surroundings for empty tables.
The open dining room feels more like an outdoor terrace: sheltered with leafy palms, roofed with bamboo and partly open to the sidewalk. Everyone appears to know everyone, and you'd think you had dropped in on the most exuberant party at the beach, although it's unlikely you would find such impeccable service, or ceviche served in martini glasses, at a beach joint.

In a country where the restaurant scene is in full gastronomic swing, La Mar, in the prosperous district of Miraflores, is the most exciting new spot, embodying a cuisine that is bringing together disparate ethnic influences both on the dinner plate and in a new national pride. The owner is Gastón Acurio, a celebrity chef who also runs the more formal Astrid y Gastón with his wife, Astrid. Perhaps it is because he is the son of a former prime minister and senator, Gastón Acurio Velarde, that Mr. Acurio holds an avid interest in the power of culinary success to bring not only international recognition but also, by extension, a feeling of national identity that can move
Peru forward.

"Food is becoming a powerful symbol of what we are, and the most important thing about our food is the mixture," Mr. Acurio said. "We are proud of that mixture now." The word that describes their mixture of Andean, Spanish, Italian and Asian — in both food and culture — is criollo.


"A puppy is but a dog, plus high spirits, and minus common sense."
- Agnes Repplier

Pant. Pant. Pant. by comment dit-on

lundi, avril 17, 2006

"thank god for dead soldiers"

"If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all."
-Noam Chomsky
"It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either."
-Mark Twain

Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas (the Refried Christians who hold "God hates fags" signs at the funerals of gay people) believe that God is killing soldiers to punish America for condoning homosexuality. The group also says God sent Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 to punish America for embracing "the gay agenda." (Sidebar: Ask your gay friends who can't get legally married how embraced they feel by this country sometime.)

Since last summer, up to 20 of these fundie nutjobs have been showing up at soldier's funerals to chant, wave their their signs, and kick around tattered American flags. The protests, viewed by many as cruel and unpatriotic, have set off a wave of grassroots outrage and 14 states are now considering laws seeking to restrict demonstrations at funerals and burials.

As repugnant (and ridiculous) as their message is, I'm more than a little concerned at the thought of government restricting Rev. Phelps and his crazy Tennessee Taliban's freedom of speech.

what denomination are you?

Biannual christians: C and E.

promoting democracy one pint at a time

Drinking Liberally:
An informal, inclusive progressive drinking club. Raise your spirits while you raise your glass, and share ideas while you share a pitcher. Drinking Liberally gives like-minded, left-leaning individuals a place to talk politics. You don't need to be a policy expert and this isn't a book club - just come and learn from peers, trade jokes, vent frustration and hang out in an environment where it's not taboo to talk politics.

Bars are democratic spaces - you talk to strangers, you share booths, you feel the bond of common ground. Bring democratic discourse to your local democratic space - build democracy one drink at a time.
Allison, Leo: We need to join the San Diego group. Stat. It meets every other Tuesday (next meeting April 18), 7:30 pm onward at Nunu's Cocktail Lounge, 3537 5th Ave (Between Brookes and Ivy Ln).

dimanche, avril 16, 2006


“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”
-Lao Tzu, 600-531 BCE, Chinese taoist philosopher and founder of Taoism


My weekend was bookended with statistics studying on Friday and Sunday nights. But the time in between was much more fun.

Saturday was especially wonderful, as Leo and I caught up on some Netflix, including Cronenberg's "A History of Violence." I also introduced him to "Six Feet Under" — the best-written tv series ever. It's completely addicting.

Finally, we made short ribs provençale and mashed potatoes with garlic and caramelized leeks for dinner.

mashed potatoes with garlic and caramelized leeks

3 tablespoons butter
4 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise, rinsed, chopped (about 5 cups)
1/2 cup (or more) cream
3 tablespoons pureed fresh garlic (about 12 garlic cloves)
3 3/4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces

Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and stir to coat. Cover and cook until leeks are golden brown, stirring every 5 minutes, about 20 minutes total. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.)

Combine 1/2 cup cream and garlic in medium saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium-low heat. Reduce heat to very low, cover, and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Set aside.

Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain well. Return potatoes to same pot; mash until almost smooth. Add garlic cream mixture; mash until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand uncovered at room temperature. Rewarm over medium-low heat, stirring and thinning with milk by 1/4 cupfuls if dry.) Top with leeks.

Makes 8 servings.

short ribs provençale

This dish is best when made with meaty short ribs that are three to four inches long. Serve with a simple green salad and glasses of good Zinfandel.

2 tablespoons (or more) olive oil
6 pounds meaty beef short ribs
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
12 whole garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon dried herbes de Provence*
2 cups red Zinfandel
2 1/2 cups beef broth
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup (about) water

24 baby carrots, peeled
1/2 cup Niçois olives,** pitted
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 325°F. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle ribs with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add ribs to pot and brown well, turning often, about 8 minutes per batch. Using tongs, transfer ribs to large bowl.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons drippings from pot or add oil as necessary to measure 2 tablespoons. Add onion, chopped carrot, and celery and cook over medium-low heat until vegetables are soft, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, flour, and herbes de Provence; stir 1 minute. Add wine and 2 cups broth; bring to boil over high heat, scraping up browned bits. Add tomatoes with juices and bay leaf. Return ribs and any accumulated juices to pot. If necessary, add enough water to pot to barely cover ribs. Bring to boil.

Cover pot tightly and transfer to oven. Bake until ribs are very tender, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours 15 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly, then refrigerate uncovered until cold. Cover and keep refrigerated. Bring to simmer before continuing.)

Add remaining 1/2 cup broth, peeled baby carrots, and Niçois olives to pot; press carrots gently to submerge. Cover, return to oven and continue cooking at 350°F until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Transfer short ribs and carrots to platter. Tent with foil to keep warm. If necessary, boil sauce to thicken slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over short ribs. Sprinkle with parsley.

* A dried herb mixture available at specialty foods stores and in the spice section of some markets. A mix of dried thyme, basil, savory, and fennel seeds can be substituted.
** Small brine-cured black olives; available at Italian markets, specialty foods stores, and some supermarkets.

Makes 6 servings.

vendredi, avril 14, 2006

be both

be both, by comment dit-on.

a proven means to that end

One of my friends sent this note to me after his cell phone was stolen last weekend.
Dear Person Whose Number I May Have Lost,

My cell phone was liberated from my possession last weekend.

While I have a new one, my phone list disappeared with the old one. This means two things:
1) If you received any perverted crank calls from my CID after 2pm Sunday, it wasn't me. I will, however, resume placing them myself effective 6pm today.
2) If you want me to have your number, you'll need to get it to me. You can call me (same number xxx-xxxx), email it to me, or pay Chloe Sevigny to slip it to me at a club. My birthday is in September.

"But wait," you say, "you never called me when you did have my number. Why bother giving it to you again?"

I like to feel important and wanted, and having numbers to skip over while I'm looking for someone I actually want to talk to is a proven means to that end.

Also, since I was able to set Monty Python's "Sit on My Face" as my new ringtone, I'll want more incoming calls. Thus I'll be calling out more, anyway. I might quickly hang up so I can get a callback, but it still counts imho.

see you soon,

keep votre clothes on

It's raining, and I just glanced at my French phrase a day calendar. I'm a few days behind, and the expression is apropos for today.

En avril, ne te découvre pas d'un fil; en mai fais ce qu'il te plaît.
April showers bring May flowers
Literally: In April, do not remove a stitch; but in May do as you wish.

As usual, I prefer the French idiom. And on the advice of my calendar, I'll keep my clothes on.

either it's all okay, or none of it is

These guys rock.
'South Park' aims at censors, hits Bush, Jesus
Show gets back at Comedy Central for restrictions
Friday, April 14, 2006
NEW YORK (AP) -- Banned by Comedy Central from showing an image of the Islamic prophet Mohammed, the creators of "South Park" skewered their own network for hypocrisy in the cartoon's most recent episode.

The comedy -- in an episode aired during Holy Week for Christians -- instead featured an image of Jesus Christ defecating on President Bush and the American flag.

In an elaborately constructed two-part episode of their Peabody Award-winning cartoon, "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker intended to comment on the controversy created by a Danish newspaper's publishing of caricatures of Mohammed. Muslims consider any physical representation of their prophet to be blasphemous.

When the cartoons were reprinted in newspapers worldwide in January and February, it sparked a wave of protests primarily in Islamic countries.

Parker and Stone were angered when told by Comedy Central several weeks ago that they could not run an image of Mohammed, according to a person close to the show who didn't want to be identified because of the issue's sensitivity.

The network's decision was made over concerns for public safety, the person said.

Comedy Central said in a statement issued Thursday: "In light of recent world events, we feel we made the right decision." Its executives would not comment further.

As is often the case with Parker and Stone, they built "South Park" around the incident. In Wednesday's episode, the character Kyle is shown trying to persuade a Fox network executive to air an uncensored "Family Guy" even though it had an image of Mohammed.

"Either it's all OK, or none of it is," Kyle said. "Do the right thing."

The executive decides to strike a blow for free speech and agrees to show it. But at the point where Mohammed is to be seen, the screen is filled with the message: "Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network."

It is followed shortly by the images of Christ, Bush and the flag.

A frequent "South Park" critic, William Donohue of the anti-defamation group Catholic League, called on Parker and Stone to resign out of principle for being censored.

"The ultimate hypocrite is not Comedy Central -- that's their decision not to show the image of Mohammed or not -- it's Parker and Stone," he said. "Like little whores, they'll sit there and grab the bucks. They'll sit there and they'll whine and they'll take their shot at Jesus. That's their stock in trade."

Parker and Stone did not immediately respond to a request through a spokesman for comment.

It's the second run-in over religion in a few months for the satirists. Comedy Central pulled a March rerun of a "South Park" episode that mocked Scientologists. Isaac Hayes, a Scientologist who voiced the Chef character on the show, resigned in protest over the episode.

"South Park" again got the last word last month with an episode where Chef was seemingly killed and mourned as a jolly guy whose brains were scrambled by the "Super Adventure Club," which turns its members into pedophiles.

Only last week, "South Park" won broadcasting's prestigious Peabody. Awards director Horace Newcomb said at the time that by its offensiveness, the show "reminds us of the need for being tolerant."

waiter torture

I've always believed how you treat the waiter says a lot about you.

CEOs say how you treat a waiter can predict a lot about character
CEO Steve Odland remembers like it was yesterday working in an upscale French restaurant in Denver.

The purple sorbet in cut glass he was serving tumbled onto the expensive white gown of an obviously rich and important woman. "I watched in slow motion ruining her dress for the evening," Odland says. "I thought I would be shot on sight."

Thirty years have passed, but Odland can't get the stain out of his mind, nor the woman's kind reaction. She was startled, regained composure and, in a reassuring voice, told the teenage Odland, "It's OK. It wasn't your fault." When she left the restaurant, she also left the future Fortune 500 CEO with a life lesson: You can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she treats the waiter.

Odland isn't the only CEO to have made this discovery. Rather, it seems to be one of those rare laws of the land that every CEO learns on the way up. It's hard to get a dozen CEOs to agree about anything, but all interviewed agree with the Waiter Rule.

They acknowledge that CEOs live in a Lake Wobegon world where every dinner or lunch partner is above average in their deference. How others treat the CEO says nothing, they say. But how others treat the waiter is like a magical window into the soul.

And beware of anyone who pulls out the power card to say something like, "I could buy this place and fire you," or "I know the owner and I could have you fired." Those who say such things have revealed more about their character than about their wealth and power.

Whoever came up with the waiter observation "is bang spot on," says BMW North America President Tom Purves, a native of Scotland, a citizen of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, who lives in New York City with his Norwegian wife, Hilde, and works for a German company. That makes him qualified to speak on different cultures, and he says the waiter theory is true everywhere.

The CEO who came up with it, or at least first wrote it down, is Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson. He wrote a booklet of 33 short leadership observations called Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management. Raytheon has given away 250,000 of the books.

Among those 33 rules is only one that Swanson says never fails: "A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, or to others, is not a nice person."

Swanson says he first noticed this in the 1970s when he was eating with a man who became "absolutely obnoxious" to a waiter because the restaurant did not stock a particular wine.

"Watch out for people who have a situational value system, who can turn the charm on and off depending on the status of the person they are interacting with," Swanson writes. "Be especially wary of those who are rude to people perceived to be in subordinate roles."

The Waiter Rule also applies to the way people treat hotel maids, mailroom clerks, bellmen and security guards. Au Bon Pain co-founder Ron Shaich, now CEO of Panera Bread, says he was interviewing a candidate for general counsel in St. Louis. She was "sweet" to Shaich but turned "amazingly rude" to someone cleaning the tables, Shaich says. She didn't get the job.

Shaich says any time candidates are being considered for executive positions at Panera Bread, he asks his assistant, Laura Parisi, how they treated her, because some applicants are "pushy, self-absorbed and rude" to her before she transfers the call to him.

Just about every CEO has a waiter story to tell. Dave Gould, CEO of Witness Systems, experienced the rule firsthand when a waitress dumped a full glass of red wine on the expensive suit of another CEO during a contract negotiation. The victim CEO put her at ease with a joke about not having had time to shower that morning. A few days later, when there was an apparent impasse during negotiations, Gould trusted that CEO to have the character to work out any differences.

CEOs who blow up at waiters have an ego out of control, Gould says. "They're saying, 'I'm better. I'm smarter.' Those people tend not to be collaborative."

"To some people, speaking in a condescending manner makes them feel important, which to me is a total turnoff," says Seymour Holtzman, chairman of Casual Male Retail Group, which operates big-and-tall men's clothing stores including Casual Male XL.

How people were raised
Such behavior is an accurate predictor of character because it isn't easily learned or unlearned but rather speaks to how people were raised, says Siki Giunta, CEO of U.S. technology company Managed Objects, a native of Rome who once worked as a London bartender.

More recently, she had a boss who would not speak directly to the waiter but would tell his assistant what he wanted to eat, and the assistant would tell the waiter in a comical three-way display of pomposity. What did Giunta learn about his character? "That he was demanding and could not function well without a lot of hand-holding from his support system," she said.

It's somewhat telling, Giunta says, that the more elegant the restaurant, the more distant and invisible the wait staff is. As if the more important the customer, the less the wait staff matters. People view waiters as their temporary personal employees. Therefore, how executives treat waiters probably demonstrates how they treat their actual employees, says Sara Lee CEO Brenda Barnes, a former waitress and postal clerk, who says she is a demanding boss but never shouts at or demeans an employee.

"Sitting in the chair of CEO makes me no better of a person than the forklift operator in our plant," she says. "If you treat the waiter, or a subordinate, like garbage, guess what? Are they going to give it their all? I don't think so."

CEOs aren't the only ones who have discovered the Waiter Rule. A November survey of 2,500 by It's Just Lunch, a dating service for professionals, found that being rude to waiters ranks No. 1 as the worst in dining etiquette, at 52%, way ahead of blowing your nose at the table, at 35%.

Waiters say that early in a relationship, women will pull them aside to see how much their dates tipped, to get a read on their frugality and other tendencies. They are increasingly discussing boorish behavior by important customers at www.waiterrant.net and other blogs. They don't seem to mind the demanding customer, such as those who want meals prepared differently because of high blood pressure. But they have contempt for the arrogant customer.

Rule works with celebrities, too
The Waiter Rule also applies to celebrities, says Jimmy Rosemond, CEO of agency Czar Entertainment, who has brokered deals for Mike Tyson, Mario Winans and Guerilla Black. Rosemond declines to name names, but he remembers one dinner episode in Houston a few years back with a rude divisional president of a major music company.

When dinner was over, Rosemond felt compelled to apologize to the waiter on the way out. "I said, 'Please forgive my friend for acting like that.' It's embarrassing. They go into rages for simple mistakes like forgetting an order."

Rosemond says that particular music executive also treated his assistants and interns poorly - and was eventually fired.

Odland says he saw all types of people 30 years ago as a busboy. "People treated me wonderfully and others treated me like dirt. There were a lot of ugly people. I didn't have the money or the CEO title at the time, but I had the same intelligence and raw ability as I have today.

"Why would people treat me differently? Your value system and ethics need to be constant at all times regardless of who you are dealing with."

Holtzman grew up in the coal-mining town of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and in the 1950s saw opportunity as a waiter 90 miles away in the Catskill Mountains, where customers did not tip until the end of the week. When they tipped poorly, he would say: "Sir, will you and your wife be tipping separately?"

"I saw a lot of character, or the lack thereof," says Holtzman, who says he can still carry three dishes in his right hand and two in his left.

"But for some twist of fate in life, they're the waiter and you're the one being waited on," Barnes says.

jeudi, avril 13, 2006

universal health care in mass?

Mass. Governor OKs Landmark Health Bill - Yahoo! News
BOSTON - By next summer, Massachusetts may cross a threshold that has eluded presidents, governors and other political leaders for generations by becoming the first state to require universal health care coverage.

Massachusetts took a major step toward that accomplishment Wednesday when Gov. Mitt Romney signed legislation designed to guarantee coverage for virtually all residents by July 2007, including an estimated 550,000 people who are now uninsured.

The law has set a standard for other states and thrust Massachusetts to the forefront of the national debate about how to dramatically expand health care coverage without creating a single government-controlled system.

a proud sponsor of jesus christ

If these people (Christian Throwback Jersey) weren't serious, this would be hilarious.

Do you think they'll take a custom order for a babydoll with Revelations 17:5-6 on it?

A few other thoughts (it is, after all Maundy Thursday):
  • Am I the only one who finds their name ironic?
  • And how Christian of them to offer a discount to church groups. Which leads me to ask — what other sort of group would actually buy this stuff?

Via Leo


Cheers to Kendall for being accepted by her top choice for grad school — in Amsterdam, no less.

Road, er, plane trip, anyone?

i love lech

How cool is this? The union organizer who led the Solidarity movement (that later toppled communism) in Poland is coming to town.

Lech Walesa, former president of Poland and 1983 Nobel Peace Prize winner, will speak at San Diego State University at 10 a.m. Friday, April 28 in Montezuma Hall in Aztec Center. He will speak on "The Future of Democracy in the Era of Globalization." The lecture is free and open to the public.

Assuming that I make it to this lecture, Lech will join Madeleine Albright, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Maya Angelou as people whose lectures I've attended. The best part — I've seen each person during work hours.


Owen's hand


"My religion is to live —and die—without regret."
-Milarepa,~1052-1135, one of Tibet's most famous yogis and poets, a student of Marpa Lotsawa, and a major figure in the history of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.

mardi, avril 11, 2006


The message is perfectly simple by comment dit-on

i call shenanigans

Last week, Leo and I took a harbor cruise with Duncan Sheik on it. (Yes, that Duncan Sheik.) While everyone else listened to Mr. Sheik, we had a nice 90-minute political discussion not unlike this one.

Lunch Discussions #145: The Crazification Factor
John: ... I mean, what will it take? That last speech literally made no sense. It was crazy drunken bar talk! Islamic radicals are like COMMUNISM?! (gets speech on laptop) If we don't fight terrorists in Iraq they'll build a fundamentalist terrorist state stretching from Spain to Indonesia? What the fuck? Even assuming Spain, which last time I checked is 95% Roman Catholic, goes down, you gotta assume France, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, all eight hundred million Hindus in India, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore would be somewhat of an obstacle.

Tyrone: To be fair, you're going west-to-east. Maybe he meant a fundamentalist terrorist state stretching from Spain to Indonesia going east-to-west. Going that way, there's only the U.S. The President could be warning us that if we don't prevail in Iraq, the United States will become a fundamentalist Islamic terrorist state.

John: ... a little oblique, isn't it?

Tyrone: The man is nothing if not subtle.

John: (calling up map on laptop) You know, I guess if you start in Spain, swing hard south through northern Africa, you got Algeria, Libya there, Egypt, cross the Red Sea and you're in the Middle East ...

Tyrone: From there, if you spot him the Indian Ocean and India, you're in Indonesia.

John: I am not spotting him eight hundred million Hindus. I call shenanigans ...
Via Kung Fu Monkey

overheard in new york

I wrote down lots of the things I overheard on my trip to New York a few months back and now I get my fix on overheard in new york. Here's what I mean:

Girl #1: I don't know how I feel about him. He's kind of an elitist.
Girl #2: Well, some people would say I'm an elitist.
Girl #1: Yeah, but with you it's funny.
--Pratt ladies' room, Manhattan
Overheard by: Jackie C.

Girl #1: I'm funny.
Girl #2: No you're not.
Girl #1: Yes I am. Everyone says I'm hilarious.
Girl #2: Of course they do. That's because you aren't pretty.
--Virgin, Union Square
Overheard by: djlindee

Girl: Hey, you know I heard this guy did drugs one time, and he had some kind of permanent reaction, and now he thinks he's a glass of orange juice!
Guy: Oh yeah, I heard about that. He goes around telling people not to tip him!
Girl: Yeah, yeah. Hey, imagine if he saw someone drinking orange juice.
Guy: Now that would be funny.
--Fontana Sushi, Bay Ridge
Overheard by: Fiona F.

Yuppie girl: Are you sure? I thought it was pronounced "you-mor".
Yuppie guy: No. It's "humor". Huh, huh, huh. With an "h".
Yuppie girl: Really? I've heard people say that. I've heard people say "you-mor". Who says it that way?
Yuppie guy: Assholes.
--Bay Ridge
Overheard by: Tim Noonan

lundi, avril 10, 2006

father knows best?

Screw the meek. They're not going to inherit the Earth. The assholes will, because they are breeding faster than the rest of us.

The Return of Patriarchy
Across the globe, people are choosing to have fewer children or none at all. Governments are desperate to halt the trend, but their influence seems to stop at the bedroom door. Are some societies destined to become extinct? Hardly. It’s more likely that conservatives will inherit the Earth. Like it or not, a growing proportion of the next generation will be born into families who believe that father knows best.

Throughout the broad sweep of human history, there are many examples of people, or classes of people, who chose to avoid the costs of parenthood. Indeed, falling fertility is a recurring tendency of human civilization. Why then did humans not become extinct long ago? The short answer is patriarchy.

Patriarchy does not simply mean that men rule. Indeed, it is a particular value system that not only requires men to marry but to marry a woman of proper station. It competes with many other male visions of the good life, and for that reason alone is prone to come in cycles. Yet before it degenerates, it is a cultural regime that serves to keep birthrates high among the affluent, while also maximizing parents’ investments in their children. No advanced civilization has yet learned how to endure without it.

Through a process of cultural evolution, societies that adopted this particular social system—which involves far more than simple male domination—maximized their population and therefore their power, whereas those that didn’t were either overrun or absorbed. This cycle in human history may be obnoxious to the enlightened, but it is set to make a comeback ...

The dude still abides

It's not even an ethos.

This corporate aggression will not stand, man.

I may just have to hit a Lebowskifest at some point. The sociology geek in me is way too curious to stay away. Oh, and the Dudemobile is missing. Perhaps they towed it.

dimanche, avril 09, 2006

reason: one man, many wives, big problem

There's so much to say on this topic that I'd better not get started.
Reason: One Man, Many Wives, Big Problems: The social consequences of polygamy are bigger than you think
As if they didn't already have enough on their minds, Americans are going to have to debate polygamy. And not a moment too soon.

For generations, taboo kept polygamy out of sight and out of mind in America. But the taboo is crumbling. An HBO television series called "Big Love," which benignly portrays a one-husband, three-wife family in Utah, set off the latest round of polygamy talk. Even so, a federal lawsuit (now on appeal), the American Civil Liberties Union's stand for polygamy rights, and the rising voices of pro-polygamy groups such as TruthBearer.org (an evangelical Christian group) and Principle Voices (which Newsweek describes as "a Utah-based group run by wives from polygamous marriages") were already making the subject hard to duck.

So far, libertarians and lifestyle liberals approach polygamy as an individual-choice issue, while cultural conservatives use it as a bloody shirt to wave in the gay-marriage debate. The broad public opposes polygamy but is unsure why. What hardly anyone is doing is thinking about polygamy as social policy.
If the coming debate changes that, it will have done everyone a favor. For reasons that have everything to do with its own social dynamics and nothing to do with gay marriage, polygamy is a profoundly hazardous policy.

To understand why, begin with two crucial words. The first is "marriage." Group love (sometimes called polyamory) is already legal, and some people freely practice it. Polygamy asserts not a right to love several others but a right to marry them all. Because a marriage license is a state grant, polygamy is a matter of public policy, not just of personal preference.

The second crucial word is "polygyny." Unlike gay marriage, polygamy has been a common form of marriage since at least biblical times, and probably long before. In his 1994 book The Moral Animal: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology, Robert Wright notes that a "huge majority" of the human societies for which anthropologists have data have been polygamous. Virtually all of those have been polygynous: that is, one husband, multiple wives. Polyandry (one wife, many husbands) is vanishingly rare. The real-world practice of polygamy seems to flow from men's desire to marry all the women they can have children with.

Moreover, in America today the main constituents for polygamous marriage are Mormons* and, as Newsweek reports, "a growing number of evangelical Christian and Muslim polygamists." These religious groups practice polygyny, not polyandry. Thus, in light of current American politics as well as copious anthropological experience, any responsible planner must assume that if polygamy were legalized, polygynous marriages would outnumber polyandrous ones — probably vastly.

Here is something else to consider: As far as I've been able to determine, no polygamous society has ever been a true liberal democracy, in anything like the modern sense. As societies move away from hierarchy and toward equal opportunity, they leave polygamy behind. They monogamize as they modernize. That may be a coincidence, but it seems more likely to be a logical outgrowth of the arithmetic of polygamy.

Other things being equal (and, to a good first approximation, they are), when one man marries two women, some other man marries no woman. When one man marries three women, two other men don't marry. When one man marries four women, three other men don't marry. Monogamy gives everyone a shot at marriage. Polygyny, by contrast, is a zero-sum game that skews the marriage market so that some men marry at the expense of others.

For the individuals affected, losing the opportunity to marry is a grave, even devastating, deprivation. (Just ask a gay American.) But the effects are still worse at the social level. Sexual imbalance in the marriage market has no good social consequences and many grim ones.

Two political scientists, Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. den Boer, ponder those consequences in their 2004 book Bare Branches: Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population. Summarizing their findings in a Washington Post article, they write: "Scarcity of women leads to a situation in which men with advantages — money, skills, education — will marry, but men without such advantages — poor, unskilled, illiterate — will not. A permanent subclass of bare branches [unmarriageable men] from the lowest socioeconomic classes is created. In China and India, for example, by the year 2020 bare branches will make up 12 to 15 percent of the young adult male population."

The problem in China and India is sex-selective abortion (and sometimes infanticide), not polygamy; where the marriage market is concerned, however, the two are functional equivalents. In their book, Hudson and den Boer note that "bare branches are more likely than other males to turn to vice and violence." To get ahead, they "may turn to appropriation of resources, using force if necessary." Such men are ripe for recruitment by gangs, and in groups they "exhibit even more exaggerated risky and violent behavior." The result is "a significant increase in societal, and possibly intersocietal, violence."

Crime rates, according to the authors, tend to be higher in polygynous societies. Worse, "high-sex-ratio societies are governable only by authoritarian regimes capable of suppressing violence at home and exporting it abroad through colonization or war." In medieval Portugal, "the regime would send bare branches on foreign adventures of conquest and colonization." (An equivalent today may be jihad.) In 19th-century China, where as many as 25 percent of men were unable to marry, "these young men became natural recruits for bandit gangs and local militia," which nearly toppled the government. In what is now Taiwan, unattached males fomented regular revolts and became "entrepreneurs of violence."

Hudson and den Boer suggest that societies become inherently unstable when sex ratios reach something like 120 males to 100 females: in other words, when one-sixth of men are surplus goods on the marriage market. The United States as a whole would reach that ratio if, for example, 5 percent of men took two wives, 3 percent took three wives, and 2 percent took four wives — numbers that are quite imaginable, if polygamy were legal for a while. In particular communities — inner cities, for example — polygamy could take a toll much more quickly. Even a handful of "Solomons" (high-status men taking multiple wives) could create brigades of new recruits for street gangs and drug lords, the last thing those communities need.

Such problems are not merely theoretical. In northern Arizona, a polygamous Mormon sect has managed its surplus males by dumping them on the street --
literally. The sect, reports The Arizona Republic, "has orphaned more than 400 teenagers ... in order to leave young women for marriage to the older men." The paper goes on to say that the boys "are dropped off in neighboring towns, facing hunger, homelessness, and homesickness, and most cripplingly, a belief in a future of suffering and darkness."

True, in modern America some polygynous marriages would probably be offset by group marriages or chain marriages involving multiple husbands, but there is no way to know how large such an offset might be. And remember: Every unbalanced polygynous marriage, other things being equal, leaves some man bereft of the opportunity to marry, which is no small cost to that man.

The social dynamics of zero-sum marriage are ugly. In a polygamous world, boys could no longer grow up taking marriage for granted. Many would instead see marriage as a trophy in a sometimes brutal competition for wives. Losers would understandably burn with resentment, and most young men, even those who eventually won, would fear losing. Although much has been said about polygamy's inegalitarian implications for women who share a husband, the greater victims of inequality would be men who never become husbands.

By this point it should be obvious that polygamy is, structurally and socially, the opposite of same-sex marriage, not its equivalent. Same-sex marriage stabilizes individuals, couples, communities, and society by extending marriage to many who now lack it. Polygamy destabilizes individuals, couples, communities, and society by withdrawing marriage from many who now have it.

As the public focuses on a subject it has not confronted for generations, the hazards of polygamy are likely to sink in. In time, debating polygamy will remind us why our ancestors were right to abolish it. The question is whether the debate will reach its stride soon enough to prevent polygamy from winning a lazy acquiescence that it in no way deserves.

vendredi, avril 07, 2006

outsourcing torture

I'm more than a little sick to my stomach right now. Amnesty International just released details on the United States policy of extraordinary rendition, stating that three Yemeni citizens were held in Eastern Europe.

The report alleges that the CIA has used private aircraft operators and front companies -- sometimes using European airspace -- to detain terror suspects at secret locations or transfer them to countries that condone torture.

with this ethical ring i thee wed

I knew about conflict diamonds (diamonds mined in a war zone and sold, usually clandestinely, in order to finance an insurgent or invading army's war efforts). Several groups, including the United Nations and Amnesty International have decried the sale of conflict diamonds, arguing that their trade finances armies in fighting against legitimate governments, perpetrating human rights abuses, and prolonging devastating wars.

But "dirty gold" is a new concept for me.
Gold mining can also be enormously damaging to local communities, polluting water and land, displacing people and jobs, and leaving mountains of toxic waste for future generations to endure. Because most of the known gold deposits in the world are in microscopic form huge industrial open-pit mines, usually using cyanide to retrieve the metal from base rock, are required to make mining economically viable. And because the grades of ore are so weak, the process is hugely destructive and wasteful, with at least 30 tons of waste rock often needed to produce a single gold ring.
I make deliberate choices about what I buy and believe my wallet is the most powerful tool I have for impacting the world. After considering the social and environmental costs of industrial gold mining, I'm going to ask more questions the next time I buy jewelry. And it looks like that will be easier to do, with the "No Dirty Gold" campaign now in place.

With This Ethical Ring I Thee Wed
In the last few years, as the outsize environmental impact of gold mining has been exposed, jewelers — as the retail face of the industry — have been trying to inoculate themselves against a consumer backlash. It is not here yet, but many people say it is sure to come.

In February eight jewelry companies — some small like Leber, others giant like Zales, the nation's second largest gold retailer after Wal-Mart — signed on to a national campaign called "No Dirty Gold." The campaign was created two years ago by a coalition of advocacy groups to highlight the issues surrounding gold and gold mining.

The pledge is minimal in its requirements, essentially a promise to work toward a resolution of gold's tangled issues, rather than a solution. But many environmentalists and industry officials say that the momentum and commitment are what matters.

"It's like the lock has been picked, opening a door that could lead to responsibly sourced gold," said Stephen D'Esposito, the president and executive director of Earthworks, a mining watchdog group in Washington that helped create the campaign. The eight companies together represent $6.3 billion in retail jewelry sales, or 14 percent of sales in the United States, according to Oxfam International, a confederation of groups that work on poverty and economic justice, and a leader of the campaign.

Along with Zale and Leber, the other signers are: the Signet Group (the parent firm of Sterling and Kay Jewelers), Helzberg Diamonds, Fortunoff, Cartier, Piaget and Van Cleef & Arpels. As recently as last year only Tiffany & Company had signed the "No Dirty Gold" pledge.

Most jewelers, including Mr. Leber, say that making jewelry of recycled gold is only a tiny piece of the answer. The deeper question, they say, lies around the phrase "responsible mining," and whether it is possible. About 80 percent of all the gold mined today is fabricated into jewelry.

"What does indeed constitute a responsible mining operation?" asked Michael J. Kowalski, the chairman and chief executive of Tiffany. "Who's there at the moment, and how do we get to where we need to be? The critical next step is reaching a substantive agreement on those questions."

Tiffany buys most of its gold from a Utah mine called Bingham Canyon that does not use cyanide, which can pollute water and lead to the release of other pollutants like mercury. Last year Tiffany began processing its gold itself at a plant in Rhode Island as part of a strategy to control the supply chain. Tiffany aims ultimately to provide customers with a "chain of custody assurance" stating where the gold in a ring or necklace has been, from mine to display case.

These changes are partly coming about, people in and out of the jewelry industry say, because gold mining's environmental and social impacts have become impossible to ignore, especially in developing countries where political protests, corruption and displacement of indigenous peoples have often accompanied mining.

Because most of the known gold deposits in the world are in microscopic form — the shiny nuggets of old are as dated as the miner and his mule — huge industrial open-pit mines, usually using cyanide to retrieve the metal from base rock, are required to make mining economically viable. And because the grades of ore are so weak, the process is hugely destructive and wasteful, with at least 30 tons of waste rock often needed to produce a single gold ring.

A months-long investigation by The New York Times, which led to a four-part series last year called "The Cost of Gold," also raised questions about how and whether communities in developing countries consent to the mines in their midst, and whether the long-term environmental impacts in places like Nevada and Indonesia are being correctly assessed.

Then there's the Wal-Mart effect.

Wal-Mart's strategy for everything it sells, including gold, is to eliminate the middleman, buy direct from suppliers and pass the savings on to customers. Jewelers are following suit as they try to cut costs and compete. Industry experts and executives say the trend has nothing to do with ethics, but that more control of supply makes the ethics debate over dirty gold somewhat easier, because companies are already thinking more deeply about where things come from.

"The overall theme is know your vendors," said David H. Sternblitz, a vice president and the treasurer at Zale Corporation. "Make sure you know who you're dealing with."

Mining and jewelry companies are also realizing that internal codes of conduct or environmental rules are meaningless without independent verification and inspection. Insurance companies and socially conscious investment funds are also beginning to demand standards of conduct that can be assessed by outsiders.

"They want be able to credibly say, 'I am not with stupid,' " said Michael Rae, the president of the Council for Responsible Jewellery Practices, a group formed last year by retailers and mining companies. "To avoid being judged by the lowest common denominator of the industry, they need a means by which they can differentiate their practices."

Companies like greenKarat.com, a Web-based business in Texas, and Seraglia couture in London are also proselytizing the virtues of so-called ethical jewelry.

But even if responsible, ethical mining is possible, verifying it will be difficult even with the best of intentions, industry experts say. Diamonds, furs and timber all look simple by comparison, because they all come in a discrete form that can be tracked by a paper trail. A specific tree produces a specific two-by-four; a diamond comes from one mine that can be found on a map.

Gold is not like that. It must be purified and smelted, amalgamated and combined into forms that jewelry makers can then use. That means many more steps on the journey from mine to display case, and no easy trail to follow.

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giving them the flipper

I'm not gonna lie — I'm rooting for the sea lion.
Crafty sea lion outsmarts engineers
CASCADE LOCKS, Oregon (AP) -- A particularly crafty sea lion is befuddling the Army Corps of Engineers, who have come to believe the 1,000-pound mammal is either from hell -- or from Harvard.

The sea lion and his ilk have been camping out at the base of the Bonneville Dam and munching chinook salmon trying to migrate up the Columbia River to spawn.

Last year they ate about 3.5 percent of the migrating run at a time when salmon numbers were down and demand was up. This year's run begins in earnest in April.

One particular sea lion -- named C404 because of a brand applied by a state and federal program -- is in a class by himself. He has figured out how to get into fish ladders that help fish past the dam -- where endangered salmon and other fish become his easy prey.

The engineers have used everything legal to get rid of him. They have installed gates and tried huge firecrackers, rockets, rubber bullets, and noises sea lions don't like.

But C404 has given them the flipper.

The California sea lion and his kind aren't endangered, but a 1972 federal law protects them. Incorrigibles, however, can be singled out for "lethal removal" through a long, complicated process, said Robert Stansell, a fish biologist with the Corps at Bonneville, about 40 miles east of Portland.

In the 1990s, for instance, a group of sea lions that nearly wiped out a winter steelhead run at the Ballard Locks in Seattle was marked for death, he said. But after a Humane Society lawsuit and President Clinton urged clemency, the worst were packed off to Sea World in Orlando, Florida.

Stansell said C404 has been showing up at Bonneville each year since at least 2003 and has learned to rub it in. Last year he appeared in a window where fish counters keep track of salmon migrating upstream. The data help predict the size of future runs.

"He even rolled over a little so we could get a look at his brand," Stansell said.

The chinook salmon run peaks in about September, but the sea lions head back to southern California breeding grounds around late May when the water temperature in the river rises.

But Stansell said the animals are showing up earlier and in greater numbers, and they are staying later. Now they have begun crawling onto the rocks to rest.

"They're becoming comfortable here," he said.

To shoo the sea lions from the dam, the engineers intend to keep trying the same tactics they've used with little success so far.

They'll also use firecrackers and the like on any newcomers, in hopes of dissuading them from joining the picnickers at Bonneville.

In the meantime, C404 is gaining notoriety for his savvy and liveliness.

"If he were in a litter of puppies," Stansell said, "he's the one you would pick."

jeudi, avril 06, 2006

abrazos y besos

Congratulations to my friends Noah and Claudia who got married this week in Argentina at the Estancia La Juanita. I can't wait to see pictures from the wedding and the asado.

middle earth's best ad campaign ever

I don't have cable, so I hadn't seen these ads until HilStah sent them my way.

But I have to say that I admire the deep, dark place that this sarcasm comes from — the ads on TBS for an encore presentation of the LOTR Trilogy are absolutely brilliant.

There’s the one capitalizing on the rumors about exactly what kind of “relationship" really exists between Frodo and Sam.

Then there’s the one showcasing the hunks with the dreamy eyes and great hair ...

And the one that brings back that song from the 80’s that you never in a million years thought you’d associate with Gandalf the Grey.

And who could forget the one about that “thing" who doesn’t really have any friends?

numa numa update

Admit it.

You remember the guy who made himself instantly famous around the world for jumping around like a wild and crazy guy to an obscure Romanian pop song in a video he uploaded to the web back in 2004.

You probably even sang along.

(I did.)

Anyhow, global notoriety has not brought Gary Brolsma eternal happiness. But it has led to this global tribute.
Via HilStah

mercredi, avril 05, 2006

mardi, avril 04, 2006


Most Americans are blissfully ignorant of Latin American history. We are even more ignorant of our government's role in shaping much of Latin America's awful past. The more I've learned, the more outraged I've become.

I learned that the CIA captured Che Guevarra (who was subsequently murdered by the Bolivian Army) when writing a paper on (of all things) terrorism in Northern Ireland as an undergrad. That triggered my enrollment in Michael Monteón's "Subverting Sovereignty: U.S. Aggression in Latin America" class. It was there that I first heard about ITT and Dole and the roughshod manner in which U.S.-owned corporations dictated foreign policy. That summer, I also got my knickers in a serious twist when I studied the U.S. Army's School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in 2001) and the thousands of killers it has trained.

So when I saw this article on Uruguay's recent notice to the U.S. government that it would no longer take part in the SOA, I was interested ...
La Escuela de las Américas, conocida como la "Universidad de los Asesinos" y cuya clausura definitiva reclama un grupo de organizaciones humanitarias norteamericanas en gira por el continente, brindó 1.068 cursos a 1.020 uruguayos desde su fundación en 1946.

Entre sus egresados se encuentran varios de los oficiales militares uruguayos denunciados por violaciones a los derechos humanos en los años de la dictadura (1973-1985), a quienes se responsabiliza por torturas, secuestros, asesinatos y desapariciones dentro y fuera del territorio nacional.
And in agreement with this characterization of the SOA's reason for existence as essentially being about training soldiers to defend the economic interests of the U.S. ...
El padre Roy Bourgeois, un sacerdote norteamericano de la católica orden Maryknoll, que lidera la organización "SOA Watch", no duda al definir la función que ha cumplido la Escuela de las Américas: "Su rol ha sido, entrenar militares para defender los intereses económicos de Estados Unidos", dice.
Leo summarized it nicely:
The Good: What having a responsible left wing government can do for a country.

The Bad: Apparently, Uruguay was not allowed to take courses anyway, because it will not ratify an agreement to exempt U.S. military from responsibility before the ICC.

The Ugly: It's nice to see that after 20 years of democracy, Uruguay was still keeping open the option to train torturers on the CIA's dime.