Undeniable Liberal at Maru’s blog elegantly voices a possibility I’d been wondering about as housing values plummeted: “Suspicious fires will soon become the next growth industry.”
Wednesday, December 31, 2008 7:04 pm
Tuesday, December 30, 2008 8:31 pm
Hooper: Daddy, I’ve been practicing my roar and it’s really loud now. Wanna hear?
Me: That’s pretty loud!
Me: Lemme ask you a question. Why would you want to use a roar like that?
Hooper (after thinking a second): If somebody was picking on me.
Me: If somebody was picking on you?
Hooper: Yeah. Like today, [Victoria's friend A] and [Victoria's friend B] were calling me a scaredy-cat.
Me: What are you scared of?
Me: So why were they calling you a scaredy-cat?
Hooper: Because they could.
Me: So what did you do?
Hooper: I roared!
Me: And what happened?
Hooper: They ran off into the girls’ bathroom. That’s where they were when you got there.
Me: Well, OK, then.
Hooper: But I still have to practice. You never know when you’ll need a roar.
Monday, December 29, 2008 9:53 pm
Hooper: What if I could take off pieces of my head but it didn’t hurt? That would be cool.
At work today I got an e-mail plugging a Web site that is offering recipes for holiday-themed drinks, just in time for New Year’s Eve. However, I stopped reading when I got to the second ingredient of the first drink recipe:
1.0 each White Egg
Happy New Year. If I drink at all, I’m gonna stick to champagne, and not much of that.
Saturday, December 27, 2008 10:18 pm
Looks like I won’t have to look for anything else for the night table for a little while. Yay! And thank you, Santa!
Our friends Michael Poulos and Julie Lehman and their kids, Nicholas and Sophie, have a new Web site up. It’s here. If you know them, or even if you don’t, go check it out.
As the family (both nuclear and blended) grows more extended, it gets harder and harder to get everybody together in one place at one time for Christmas, even on just one side of the family. So we didn’t do that this year. But we still had a lot of fun.
Before we got together, of course, Hooper and Victoria had to register their demands requests with Santa. Santa had new digs at Friendly Center this year — bigger and airier — and we were fortunate to catch him at a time when there wasn’t much of a wait.
Victoria’s old enough to know better but quite happy to play along.
On Sunday 12/20, my brothers and I gathered at Mom’s condo, along with Frank’s girlfriend Christine and her kids. The kids, seated from left: Avana, Hooper, Taylor. Standing, from left: Whitney, Victoria, Jordan, Matthew.
This is how my brother Hugh, whose son Dylan is grown and gone, deals with the sound of seven kids in one condo.
On Christmas Day, we had Christmas dinner with friends in Chapel Hill. My friend’s uncle brought tissue-paper crowns for all the kids. Here’s Victoria in hers. Note, as she would insist you do, her new top and matching hand socks.
This weekend, V, H and I returned to Mom’s to get together with my stepsisters and their kids. As it happened, my cousin Lynn Margaret, her husband and their two kids were passing through en route from Connecticut to Florida, and so they stopped in for a bit as well.
Here’s Hooper playing Nintendo DS with his stepcousin Benjamin.
Lynn’s older daughter, who is 5, is also named Victoria.
Here are the two Victorias. You can tell they’re Alexanders. They’ve got that whole blue-eyes thing going on.
Victoria W., who is in kindergarten, is scary smart, just like her second cousin was at that age. She was practicing her cursive writing, and I asked her how she learned it. She said, “Well, I go to a Christian school, which means pretty much nobody does any bad things, so the teachers use the extra time to teach us cursive.”
Because Satan’s handiwork is a real timesuck and all.
Here’s Victoria W.’s 13-month-old sister, Isabella, who was just as charming as her big sister, albeit somewhat less talkative. She’s mildly annoyed here only because the phone isn’t beeping when she pushes the buttons. As is true of many toddlers, she don’t truck with no TOY cell phones.
And last but not least, our newest family member: my stepsister Kristi’s 4-month-old daughter, Madelyn. In this unfortunately unfocused picture, she’s opening her present from cousin Benjamin. We dubbed it the Maddy Lion.
I hope your Christmas was merry. And if I don’t blog again before then, Happy New Year!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008 11:06 am
Tuesday, December 23, 2008 8:33 pm
Ever wondered where your soul was? We have an answer.
The way Donnell Herrington tells it, there was no warning. One second he was trudging through the heat. The next he was lying prostrate on the pavement, his life spilling out of a hole in his throat, his body racked with pain, his vision blurred and distorted.
It was September 1, 2005, some three days after Hurricane Katrina crashed into New Orleans, and somebody had just blasted Herrington, who is African-American, with a shotgun. “I just hit the ground. I didn’t even know what happened,” recalls Herrington, a burly 32-year-old with a soft drawl.
The sudden eruption of gunfire horrified Herrington’s companions–his cousin Marcel Alexander, then 17, and friend Chris Collins, then 18, who are also black. “I looked at Donnell and he had this big old hole in his neck,” Alexander recalls. “I tried to help him up, and they started shooting again.” Herrington says he was staggering to his feet when a second shotgun blast struck him from behind; the spray of lead pellets also caught Collins and Alexander. The buckshot peppered Alexander’s back, arm and buttocks.
Herrington shouted at the other men to run and turned to face his attackers: three armed white males. Herrington says he hadn’t even seen the men or their weapons before the shooting began. As Alexander and Collins fled, Herrington ran in the opposite direction, his hand pressed to the bleeding wound on his throat. Behind him, he says, the gunmen yelled, “Get him! Get that n—–!”
Over the course of an eighteen-month investigation, I tracked down figures on all sides of the gunfire, speaking with the shooters of Algiers Point, gunshot survivors and those who witnessed the bloodshed. I interviewed police officers, forensic pathologists, firefighters, historians, medical doctors and private citizens, and studied more than 800 autopsies and piles of state death records. What emerged was a disturbing picture of New Orleans in the days after the storm, when the city fractured along racial fault lines as its government collapsed.
Herrington, Collins and Alexander’s experience fits into a broader pattern of violence in which, evidence indicates, at least eleven people were shot. In each case the targets were African-American men, while the shooters, it appears, were all white.
The new information should reframe our understanding of the catastrophe. Immediately after the storm, the media portrayed African-Americans as looters and thugs–Mayor Ray Nagin, for example, told Oprah Winfrey that “hundreds of gang members” were marauding through the Superdome. Now it’s clear that some of the most serious crimes committed during that time were the work of gun-toting white males.
So far, their crimes have gone unpunished.
Someone tell me again how we live in a post-racist society.
Q: Is calling out the intolerant for their intolerance intolerant?
This has been another edition of Simple Answers to Simple Questions.
Monday, December 22, 2008 7:15 pm
Time once again for another edition of Simple Answers to Simple Questions.
Today’s contestant, Mark Goldblatt at The Corner (run by the National Review, and boy howdy, has the level of common sense there dropped off since Buckley died) asks, “Why does an obsessive Nazi-hunter like Simon Wiesenthal get positive press while an obssessive Communist-hunter like Joe McCarthy is vilified?”
Wiesenthal hunted Nazis known to be guilty of crimes. McCarthy smeared a lot of innocent people as part of his quest.
This has been another edition of Simple Answers to Simple Questions.
Friday, December 19, 2008 7:09 pm
You want gift ideas? Here you go: 10 Fun, Cheap-@$$ Gifts for the Whole Family! (Language NSFW, and the photo gallery isn’t for the whole family, either, but still.)
Thursday, December 18, 2008 1:42 pm
As if we didn’t have enough public-health problems, your cat could be turning you into a zombie. Sort of.
(A rare cross-posting from the work blog, on account of it’s a public health issue and all.)
Wednesday, December 17, 2008 7:07 pm
Let’s play Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?; or, you know people are paying attention to the Rod Blagojevich story when …
… your 10-year-old starts asking intelligent questions about what he did and how he did it. Bonus: After having her questions answered, she responds, “That’s really stupid.”
Tuesday, December 16, 2008 7:11 am
Hooper: Daddy, do you know what the most powerfulest thing in the world is? It’s an electromagnetic pulse generator! Because it can destroy everything in the world! Except animals. Because they’re not electric. And humans. And trees, I think.
Hooper: Yeah, it could knock out all the electricity and you couldn’t ever fix it.
Daddy: That’s very interesting, buddy. Where’d you learn that?
Hooper: On “Transformers”!
Monday, December 15, 2008 8:45 pm
On the one hand, George Monbiot is reputed to be the guy from whose name the word “moonbat” is derived. On the other, his source here is in a position to know when he says oil production is going to start declining too fast, too soon for our current and planned efforts to develop alternative energy sources to be able to keep up:
In the report on peak oil commissioned by the US department of energy, the oil analyst Robert L Hirsch concluded that “without timely mitigation, the economic, social and political costs” of world oil supplies peaking “will be unprecedented”. He went on to explain what “timely mitigation” meant. Even a worldwide emergency response “10 years before world oil peaking”, he wrote, would leave “a liquid-fuels shortfall roughly a decade after the time that oil would have peaked”. To avoid global economic collapse, we need to begin “a mitigation crash programme 20 years before peaking”. If Hirsch is right, and if oil supplies peak before 2028, we’re in deep doodah.
So burn this into your mind: between 2007 and 2008 the IEA radically changed its assessment. Until this year’s report, the agency mocked people who said that oil supplies might peak. In the foreword to a book it published in 2005, its executive director, Claude Mandil, dismissed those who warned of this event as “doomsayers”. “The IEA has long maintained that none of this is a cause for concern,” he wrote. “Hydrocarbon resources around the world are abundant and will easily fuel the world through its transition to a sustainable energy future.” In its 2007 World Energy Outlook, the IEA predicted a rate of decline in output from the world’s existing oilfields of 3.7% a year. This, it said, presented a short-term challenge, with the possibility of a temporary supply crunch in 2015, but with sufficient investment any shortfall could be covered. But the new report, published last month, carried a very different message: a projected rate of decline of 6.7%, which means a much greater gap to fill….
Then I asked him a question for which I didn’t expect a straight answer: could he give me a precise date by which he expects conventional oil supplies to stop growing?
“In terms of non-Opec [countries outside the big oil producers' cartel],” he replied, “we are expecting that in three, four years’ time the production of conventional oil will come to a plateau, and start to decline. In terms of the global picture, assuming that Opec will invest in a timely manner, global conventional oil can still continue, but we still expect that it will come around 2020 to a plateau as well, which is, of course, not good news from a global-oil-supply point of view.”
Around 2020. That casts the issue in quite a different light. Birol’s date, if correct, gives us about 11 years to prepare. If the Hirsch report is right, we have already missed the boat.
I knew it was bad. I didn’t know it was this bad.
Sunday, December 14, 2008 4:00 pm
Having been unable to find the answers on Apple’s site, I now turn to the wisdom of Teh Intertubes to try to solve a problem Ann is having with her iPod Shuffle.
The main problem: Music is dying off the Shuffle. She had the thing close to full, and then all but two songs disappeared from it. This has happened twice now. She and I are both mystified. Is this a Shuffle problem or an iTunes problem?
And a question: Is there any way to set up separate music libraries in iTunes for separate users on a PC (i.e., if you log in as one user, you have a separate iTunes music library from what you’d have if you logged in as a different user, assuming both users have set up music libraries.
And another question: Where on the PC does iTunes store its music library (i.e., in what directory/folder?). I’ve gone looking (including in My Documents\My Music, whence I first imported music into iTunes) but haven’t found it. A search by *.mp3 doesn’t turn it up, either.
Finally, how do you get iTunes to play a truly random sampling from the entire music library? When I try, I get only recently imported tunes, and when I hit “random” twice in the same session, I get the same songs I got when I hit random the first time.
Thanks in advance for any help anyone can offer.
Saturday, December 13, 2008 9:08 pm
How do you tell when someone you’re thinking about hiring will succeed in the job you’re hiring for? In my experience hiring reporters for the paper, past success — as measured not necessarily by awards and prizes but by the caliber of work done (including but not limited to the four or five clips we typically ask for from applicants) and the creativity and leadership shown in past problem-solving — usually is a very good indicator. And even that package of attributes is not totally reliable.
And even in my line of work, a lot is riding on the outcome. Recruiting and hiring for an open reporting job costs a significant percentage of what we pay in salary and benefits in a year. In some other lines of work, it can run 40 to 50 percent of the position’s annual compensation.
So imagine the kind of money riding on the choice of a quarterback for an NFL team. And then imagine the nonfinancial but infinitely more important issues riding on the choice of a teacher.
Malcolm “Freakonomics” Gladwell didn’t just imagine it, he went looking for the recruiting answer in both lines of work. And in those lines of work, he found, predicting success is a whole lot more of a crap shoot than in my line of work:
[Pro scout Dan] Shonka began to talk about Tim Couch, the quarterback taken first in that legendary [quarterback] draft of 1999. Couch set every record imaginable in his years at the University of Kentucky. “They used to put five garbage cans on the field,” Shonka recalled, shaking his head, “and Couch would stand there and throw and just drop the ball into every one.” But Couch was a flop in the pros. It wasn’t that professional quarterbacks didn’t need to be accurate. It was that the kind of accuracy required to do the job well could be measured only in a real N.F.L. game.
Because the game of pro football is so much faster than the college game, particularly on defense, it’s much harder for quarterbacks, even the best in the college game, to succeed in the pros. Part of that difference, he observes, has to do with the offensive strategies college teams typically employ as opposed to the pro teams. But those strategy differences are driven by the speed of pro defenders — even the big, heavy ones. And you don’t have to be a football expert, or even to watch a lot of games, to see the difference.
In teaching, where the stakes are immeasurably higher even if the money involved doesn’t suggest so, there’s good news for parents, teachers and students: We’re learning a lot more about what is likely to make a successful teacher than pro scouts are about what makes a college QB likely to succeed in the NFL, as this examination of a recording of a teacher in action shows:
Then there was the superstar—a young high-school math teacher, in jeans and a green polo shirt. “So let’s see,” he began, standing up at the blackboard. “Special right triangles. We’re going to do practice with this, just throwing out ideas.” He drew two triangles. “Label the length of the side, if you can. If you can’t, we’ll all do it.” He was talking and moving quickly, which [Bob] Pianta [the dean of the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education] said might be interpreted as a bad thing, because this was trigonometry. It wasn’t easy material. But his energy seemed to infect the class. And all the time he offered the promise of help. If you can’t, we’ll all do it. In a corner of the room was a student named Ben, who’d evidently missed a few classes. “See what you can remember, Ben,” the teacher said. Ben was lost. The teacher quickly went to his side: “I’m going to give you a way to get to it.” He made a quick suggestion: “How about that?” Ben went back to work. The teacher slipped over to the student next to Ben, and glanced at her work. “That’s all right!” He went to a third student, then a fourth. Two and a half minutes into the lesson—the length of time it took that [previously examined] subpar teacher to turn on the computer—he had already laid out the problem, checked in with nearly every student in the class, and was back at the blackboard, to take the lesson a step further.
“In a group like this, the standard m.o. would be: he’s at the board, broadcasting to the kids, and has no idea who knows what he’s doing and who doesn’t know,” Pianta said. “But he’s giving individualized feedback. He’s off the charts on feedback.” Pianta and his team watched in awe.
Writ large, the inability to predict success accurately during the hiring process is probably a significant drag on the economy. But if you’re a parent, you probably care a lot less about that than about how well one or a handful of teachers can help your kids learn (and learn how to learn). And if we’re not expert, at least we’re getting better.
Friday, December 12, 2008 10:30 pm
The Washington Post reports that WUSA-TV’s news operation will become the first in that market to compress the traditionally separate roles of reporter and camera operator/producer into one job, a person who will “shoot and edit the news singlehandedly” for both broadcast and online.
This isn’t the first place the approach has been tried, the article notes, and its track record is, well, mixed:
[Competing WJLA-TV's Bill Lord] says stations in Nashville and San Francisco have used multimedia journalists on an experimental basis in recent years but have backed away because of “falling quality” and declining ratings.
That’s not to say it can’t work, given the right combination of talent, training and equipment. A new generation of journalists is coming up that will have known no other way of working. I’m not being condescending when I say a little child, figuratively speaking, shall lead them.
The move is hardly a surprise. Newspaper operations, including the one I work for, also have experimented with this. Currently, our main man is John Newsom; before him, it was Amy Dominello, now working in a similar capacity in Washington. And given the hard economic times facing media organizations, anything that would allow consolidation of jobs will certainly be getting a hard look and almost as certainly be given a try.
And local camera jock/producer/ace interviewer Stu “Lenslinger” Pittman has been talking about this trend for a while. (Based on both my own experience covering a story alongside him and the report of an acquaintance at Alamance Community College who recently found himself on the bright side of Lenslinger’s lens, I’d say Stu will thrive just fine in the New World Order.)
What did surprise me is that the union at the station signed on to a new agreement that will pay the newly designated multimedia folks between 30 and 50 percent less than reporters there traditionally have been making. (It wasn’t clear from the article what effect the agreement will have on the salaries of camerafolk who also make the switch. On-air talent typically makes more, all other things being equal, so I’m guessing it means less of a cut for them and might even mean a raise, although I’d be surprised at that.) The finances of the station must be in the toilet if holding them over the heads of the union, if that’s in fact what the station did, was enough to convince members to agree not only to the job consolidation but also the major pay cut. Given housing costs in that market, $90,000 ain’t as much money as it sounds like.
But then, a lot of dollar figures ain’t as much now as they used to sound like. And if it prevents layoffs, I’m sure reporters will be all too happy to start mastering Final Cut Pro and camera operators will be all too happy to learn more (most already know quite a few) aspects of reporting.
And you don’t often hear me rooting for TV news, but I hope both jobs and quality can be maintained.
On Wednesday, which was — and you can’t make this stuff up — Human Rights Day, President Bush awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian award, to Chuck Colson. Who?, you ask. Well, those of us of a certain age don’t have to ask. Take it away, Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings, you mad researcher, you (and this excerpt is long for a reason):
“As special counsel to the president, he was Richard Nixon’s hard man, the “evil genius” of an evil administration. According to Watergate historian Stanley Kutler, Colson sought to hire Teamsters thugs to beat up anti-war demonstrators, and he plotted to raid or firebomb the Brookings Institution. He eventually pleaded guilty to scheming to defame Daniel Ellsberg and interfering with his trial. In 1974, Colson served seven months in federal prison.”
From Time in 1974:
“Colson took on the tough jobs for the President. He leaked damaging or misleading information to the press about people who criticized the President, had young men hired to pose as homosexuals supporting McGovern at the Democratic National Convention, and engineered mail campaigns in favor of Nixon’s policies. He allegedly ordered his close friend E. Howard Hunt to fabricate a State Department telegram implicating President Kennedy in the assassination of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. At one point, according to Senate Watergate testimony, he urged that Washington’s Brookings Institution be fire-bombed as a diversionary tactic in a raid to seize some politically damaging documents. “Chuck could never play anything straight,” says one of his former underlings. “Everything had to be contrived, a setup. Chuck always had to stuff the ballot box.”"
He also wrote the Enemies’ List, said that he would walk over his own grandmother if it would help get Nixon re-elected, and hired the “plumbers” who carried out the Watergate break-in.
The one episode that will always sum up Chuck Colson for me is his plan to firebomb the Brookings Institution. Imagine: a Special Counsel to the President of the United States actually proposing to firebomb a centrist political think-tank.
Now, in no particular order, let’s look at some of the likely objections to my objection:
- But Colson has led an exemplary life since his crimes of decades ago, converting to Christianity and running a ministry for prisoners. Hey, props for the ministry, although it has never been as effective as Colson has claimed it has been. But Colson was a political tool before his conversion, and he remains a political tool today. One example of which I have first-hand knowledge: In 1996, at the big Promise Keepers rally at Charlotte Motor Speedway, he got up to speak and endorsed the GOP candidate for governor from the stage. Now, as the leader of a charitable nonprofit himself, he had to know that doing that could endanger PK’s tax-exempt status, a charity’s financial lifeline. But he did it anyway, putting political boosterism above the concerns of his hosts. (PK, to its credit if only because of a sense of self-preservation, backed away from Colson’s endorsement so fast it all but tripped over its own feet.) He campaigns for creationism, for crying out loud.
- But seriously, what about the ministry? I’ll let ObWi commenter Russell take this one: “Well done on his part. But there are thousands upon thousands of people who have spent their entire adult lives, often at some cost to themselves, working for human rights in one way or another. Colson was the best guy they could find to celebrate Human Rights Day?” Put another way, to the extent that Colson has turned his personal conduct around, kudos, but political pull, not personal conduct, is what’s driving the award or else a whole lot more (and more deserving) ex-cons would be winning one. Quoth ObWi commenter Nell, “It went on his ‘permanent record.’ My mother knew this. George Carlin knew it. There’s so many Americans walking around with a ‘permanent record,’ thanks to the Republican Party war on crime [actually, I think the parties share blame for that so-called war -- Lex], that I figure Colson can live with the rap, the thug. What? Now we have redemption in this country? Tell it to the permanently [screwed] millions.
- You’re just mad because he supported invading Iraq. Close, but airball. A lot of people supported invading Iraq; some should have known better while some had no way of knowing. I’m mad because Colson claimed it was God’s will that we invade Iraq. That’s not Christianity; that’s a sick perversion of it.
- “But what about William Ayers?” And I hear you. But nobody is offering Ayers the nation’s second-highest civilian award, nor is anyone ever likely to. (On the other hand, out of a sense of mischief if nothing else, Obama could do it, claiming that with Colson the bar has been greatly lowered. [Yes, that's a joke; if Obama actually tried this, I'd be bashing him, too.])
- You’re saying nothing he could do would overcome his past. Two responses: First, it ain’t just his past that’s reprehensible, it’s his present. (See items above.) Second, if he were to, say, save someone’s life at great personal peril, I’d be perfectly OK with his receiving whatever national award it is that you get for that. But that award is for a one-time act. The award he got is more of a lifetime-achievement kind of thing, and his lifetime doesn’t merit that, especially on Human Rights Day, for crying out loud.
I neither know nor care what President Bush was thinking in awarding this medal. I choose to judge the action on its own merits, which it utterly lacks: this decision debases the currency of what should be a high honor.
From the comments at Nancy Nall’s, and this is comedy gold:
It’s time to play Name That Goon! Rod Blagojevich vs. Tony Soprano.
Hands on buzzers: One’s a trash-talking thug trying to stay one step ahead of the law. The other was played by James Gandolfini. Can you identify the speaker of the ten quotes below? …
Take the quiz. (Warning: as far as bleeping the NSFW language goes, the quiz hews much closer to “The Sopranos” than it does the newspaper reports on Blago.) First prize: you live. Second prize: you get a final meeting with Tony’s deranged nephew.
Thursday, December 11, 2008 9:57 pm
The housing bubble that led to the current economic collapse has a lot of complex, interlocking causes, from unqualified buyers to unscrupulous lenders to undiligent mortgage repurchasers to ignorant investment bankers to inattentive (or worse) regulators.
This article in the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times focuses on one guy who traded in houses in the Tampa Bay area and whose deals, multiplied across the country, illustrate how a significant part of the crisis came to be. Fun fact: One buyer, who worked for a car wash, reported his income as $40,000. A month.
Also depressing, but not surprising: the level of ignorance in the comments.
A judge in California has unconstitutionally blocked the Ventura County Star from publishing information the newspaper obtained legally from a search warrant in a murder investigation. Says publication would hurt the defendant’s right to a fair trial.
I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve worked with lawyers enough times on First Amendment issues in the past 25 years to know that there is no basis whatever for this judge’s ruling. None. There is literally zero chance this ruling will be upheld on appeal. This ruling is so bad that it ought to be prima facie grounds for the immediate and permanent end of the judge’s career.
Anyone with a lick of sense knows that “A Christmas Story” is the second-greatest Christmas movie ever made (trailing only “Die Hard,” of course). Now, thanks to the New York Daily News, we have a photo gallery catching up with the cast 25 years later. (Except Darren McGavin, whom I really still miss.)
Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has been put on the waiting list for a heart transplant.
That’d be his physical heart. The real heart of this man, who parlayed NFL championship money into a thriving business and then, against all odds, willed himself into the position of owner of an expansion franchise, remains healthy beyond doubt.
My prayers — and, I’m sure, those of Panther Nation — go out to him and his family.