Saturday, December 07, 2002

Other noteworthy things on quasi-famous weblogs...
Virginia Postrel shows off a new look. I wish I were that photogenic.

Cut on the Bias reminds us just how amazing an accomplishment the modern daily newspaper is, but digresses to rag on a journalist who seems to richly deserve it. She also links to a Mark Steyn column on fatwa.
Taxicab Confessions
Just read this. There's nothing useful I can add to it.
Don't Dream It, Be It
Tonight N of us are going clubbing where N is a small number but >= 2. Tomorrow I'm going to play minigolf.

Doesn't sound like a big weekend but it's still some fun things to do. Earlier today I got a haircut, bought some new clothes, and sort of cleaned out the inside of my car. Sort of. There was a 20-minute wait at the hairdresser's and a zoolike atmosphere in the mall. Mildly stressful but in a way I really felt alive.

In the next six hours I'll check e-mail now and then and clean my room for no apparent reason.

POLL: For clubbing tonight do I wear the blue jeans or the red-and-white patterned satin pants?

Incidentally I also got my first Christmas card of the season, featuring the cast of this movie. (Based on previous conversations it was actually a uniquely appropriate card.)

My favorite thing about Rocky Horror is that of all the movies, plays, musicals, or other performances that could be plausibly called campy, it's by far the least subversive. Maybe it was at the time; I wasn't around when it came out. (Okay, I was a newborn baby when it came out.) But doesn't it strike you as the sort of thing that in hindsight it would be ridiculous to condemn even if you know there were people who condemned it? (Sort of like Elvis Presley's hip gyrations.)

I think we're just about approaching a point in American society where Rocky Horror can be unironically thought of as good clean family entertainment. And I really like that idea. Then again, counterculture types being who they are (or really anyone who feels marginalized), I can imagine why people might think that would ruin the whole ritual. Maybe that's why San Franciscans can't even find a midnight showing of it on Halloween of all times.
Speaking of ex-favorite teams picking up total stiffs
This guy is a monster hitter. The Cubs in their infinite wisdom apparently are going to bury him behind this guy.

On my all-time list of players whom I irrationally dislike, Karros wins by a mile. It's mainly because he's not just somewhat overrated but breathtakingly, mind-bogglingly, excruciatingly overrated. I hear of Dodger fans extolling his virtues and my jaw just drops.

If a shortstop were exactly as good a hitter as Karros, you'd rightly praise him a little. But at first base... he's not even league-average there.

The problem with irrational dislikes of course is that for all I know he's a really nice guy. It's not his fault the entire universe thinks he's a way better player than he actually is.

UPDATE: The stiffs just keep on coming. Neifi, meet Marquis; Marquis, meet Neifi. Fortunately, it looks like Mr. Perez won't be gracing the Giants' lineup. Grissom, on the other hand... yikes.
A baseball junkie's evolution: I'm a fair weather fan and proud of it.
Then again it's mildly ironic that the last straw tangentially involved a sentimental attachment to a player.

I've really liked Ivan Rodriguez ever since he was a phenom kid spending a half-season at (Double-A) Tulsa. Back then the local sportscasters didn't know their authentic pronunciations and so they called him EYE-van (like Ivan the Terrible) instead of ee-VAHN.

Yes, I know somewhere along the way Pudge became overrated. I still like him. And yes, I know that the Rangers, given their financial situation and spot in the success cycle, needed not to resign him. Still, I think it speaks volumes about the current leadership of the organization that they didn't even call him (or his agent, who conveniently enough is the one pointing this out) to say goodbye.

(Contrast to five years ago, when at the trade deadline he looked to be gone. At one point his agent and the team were a million or two apart on salary negotiation. He told his agent to go jump in the lake and went to the Rangers himself to split the difference. Actually they both "gave in," with all of the difference going to charity.)

Even apart from sentimental attachment or whether the lack of a good-bye call shows a lack of class, all really have to say is Einar Diaz is a stuff. You can look it up. He won't give the Rangers anything they couldn't have got from one of a half-dozen Triple A guys for the league minimum. Meanwhile there are teams with catching backlogs (including, formerly, the Indians) who don't even know what to do with the surplus.

Florida had not one, not two, but three catchers worthy of playing in the majors. (Go ahead and call Mike Redmond a "backup catcher." Then pick him up for your fantasy team just in case.) Now they're down to only two. They still need to deal either Redmond or Ramon Castro (whose minor league numbers are way better than his major).

Getting back to the subject line, here's my take: It's not about sitting on my hands until a given team wins and then jumping on that bandwagon. Rather, I'll root for the teams that do the best job of putting themselves in a position to win -- either building for the long haul, A's-style, or realizing that your moment is upon you (having the best player in baseball, say) and seizing it, Giants-style.

(My temperament goes strongly to the "win now" approach. Build for success; you never know what will happen. Then again, when you're trying to build for success, don't be stupid about it. Some things help you win more than others; a lot just aren't worth the money, or worse yet don't even help you win.)
Best answer ever
The very end of this column, on the What would Jesus do? question.
Catfight of the Day
("But when all you're trying to do is insult someone, listening to their arguments is superfluous.")

In the red corner, Jill Nelson (MSNBC); in the blue corner, Andrew Sullivan. ("JILL NELSON'S SALON LETTER")

Somewhere in there is an object lesson on how political discourse got so nasty. If you read the column that led to this controversy, or my reaction to it, you can guess where I come down. Still... well, can I argue in good faith that I'm presenting this as a "don't argue the way these two argue?" cautionary tale? Probably not, since the nastiness is actually what makes it compelling (even if it's a little repulsive).

(Also, yes, the longer you've known me on-line -- that part matters, since apparently I'm extremely different in person -- the more likely you are to smirk that I'd be the one making this point about people playing nice with each other.)

Sadly, I don't think there's much overlap between Nelson's and Sullivan's intended audiences. At least, I have a hard time seeing how either of them will convince someone who had previously disagreed. More on this point elsewhere.

Also, Eugene Volokh (who is himself unfailingly polite) has written a lot of compelling advice for lawyers, future lawyers, and other people who need to write persuasively. His point is that politeness is essential, that gratuitous snide comments will turn off people who otherwise might have read or listened to your points. Unfortunately, his site is so content-heavy that I can't quite find the specific posts.

Friday, December 06, 2002

The Cult of Boolean Algebra
WARNING: Comments widget now contains a spoiler.
I woke up this morning marginally smarter than when I went to bed. This makes me really really happy.

There's an old brainteaser. (I'm not sure how old it is; I read it a few months ago on a site linked to by Slashdot.) In it, each of ten sailors has either a white or a black hat on his head. They sit in a single-file line; every sailor can see the hat colors of the sailors in front of him but not his own hat or the hats of anyone behind him. A band of pirates go to them one by one, starting with the one in the back of the line and make each answer "black" or "white" to the question, "What color hat is on your head?" Anyone who answers correctly is spared; anyone who answers incorrectly is killed.

IMPORTANT ASSUMPTION: The sailors get a chance to discuss their strategy in advance but not to discuss anything once the hats are on. Also, "black" and "white" are the only pieces of information that can be communicated. Assume that intonation or other extra-answer signaling is impossible. Most importantly, these sailors are extremely intelligent (photographic memories, ability to calculate things really fast with 100% accuracy, and so on) but they're not psychic or anything.

How can you maximize the sailors' survival rate? I imagine most people know how to guarantee five survivors and leave five to chance. (Maybe some people don't.)

At the time I guaranteed eight sailors' survival and left two to the mercies of 50/50 chance. Felt really smug about even guaranteeing that many saves. But I realized in the shower this morning that you can guarantee nine survivors, with only one (obviously the one in the very back) left to pure chance.

Until later tonight the answer is an exercise for the reader. Bonus question (of whose answer I'm not certain yet): Is it really true that for N sailors in an analogous problem, you can guarantee that N-1 will survive?

UPDATE: Yes, it's really true. Explanation later. Out the door. Late for a meeting.
What's the Worst Celebrity Interview Ever?
Harvard won a Beanpot once. In fact it was less than a decade ago. Ponder that a bit, if you're a hockey fan.

This was my freshman year; as a Bandie I'd gotten to see the first game but since there were more of us than tickets, the least senior of us could only go one week. I was in the first-week group, which saw Harvard take a lead and hang on against Northeastern. (We didn't get to see the BU-BC nightcap. Band members are the only Beanpot spectators whose tickets don't entitle them to see both games.) So I watched the championship on TV with a small group. Actually, we played chess while the TV was on. And kept playing chess. (Speed-chess that is.)

Because nobody bothered to turn the TV off (or maybe someone kept watching on purpose), the only Harvard Beanpot championship I remember is completely marred by this interview we were subjected to. If memory serves, the principals were Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jackson.

Many years later I was supposed to meet a friend for dinner on the North End. The plan was I'd drop by his place first. When I got there he was engrossed in a Barbra Walters special featuring Monica Lewinsky.

Then there's this thing, which actually led to the Beanpot nostalgia that inspired this post.

Long story short, words can't describe how much I loathe celebrity interviews, especially celebrity confessionals. It's the kind of TV that I avoid completely and don't feel like talking about even to mock it.

I'm curious, though: Are the three that I mentioned basically the worst of the bunch? Is there a more insipid one that I've either repressed or never known about?
Poker Nomenclature
Yahoo! gets something important wrong: In the Texas Hold em feature on Yahoo! Games, the AI announces all instances of two pair as (for example) "queens over eights" (rather than "queens and eights"). In person I'm told repeatedly that "over" implies a full house. On Yahoo!, full house would be "queens full of eights." *shrug*
Jaxes and Sixes
It lasted maybe 15 minutes but that was the best run of poker I've ever experienced. All Mike's classmates; I was substituting for somebody or at least ensuring they'd have quorum.

In short order I was down almost two whole stakes. But then the hands came. Oh did they come. Supposedly I won five straight big pots, a couple of them split pots that I took both ways. (The title for this post comes from a random slip of the tongue on one of those hands.)

In pure chip terms I was up more at a poker table than I'd ever been up. (In real-dollar terms that wasn't my best-ever, mainly because it's half the stakes they play down in Palo Alto.)

After nearly bankrupting the Berkeley math department, my hands stopped coming but I didn't play nearly tight enough to hold onto the loot. Finished down almost one stake.

We had the most interesting poker player I've ever seen. It's one thing to bluff a lot but she talked smack when she bluffed (and also when she didn't bluff). She also won a hand by accident: Five-card draw, low-ball (best possible hand A-thru-5), she drew to the 4-thru-8 straight thinking it was a high hand.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Who wants lyrics quiz answers?
I've been gently prodded to post them. Will soon, time-permitting.

Some of you have figured out which CD I bid on by "stalking" me via eBay. The rest of you can just cheat and click here.

How singular does your sound have to be to get real musicians to do a tribute album in your honor? (Did I ever tell you about the AC/DC tribute album I bought at the record store? Covered in Black: Industrial bands doing AC/DC covers. My favorite is Die Krupps' version of "It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock N' Roll)." They have a really dark perversion of the extended bagpipe solo.

Even since I heard about this thing's existence I've been dying to hear it. Therefore I'm bound to be disappointed when it's only generically bad instead of spectacularly so. Or maybe it's like the musical equivalent of this guy before he saw the light.
The real reason I'm not a GM
It's not just that Theo Epstein got into baseball insider circles when I didn't.

Rather, I bet he wouldn't make three trades in a row that amounted to a spontaneous temper tantrum. (Or, if you prefer, a corrective action after seriously misunderstanding where his team stood on the success cycle.)

I understand the concept of sunk cost, but I hate it when the cost is so breathtaking.

Sometimes I hate fake baseball.
Poll for random purposes
1. What sport(s) do you follow most closely? (This explicitly does include ice skating, gymnastics, and so on.)

2. Of sports commonly played by both men and women (but with separate leagues by sex), which [women's X] sports do you follow?
(e.g. basketball; soccer...)

3. Are you male or female?

4. How much trivia games do you play? (Most readers of this blog do quiz-bowl; some strangers/lurkers probably don't.)

This is obviously unscientific but as info goes I think it's more useful than zero.
New pic
The sysadmin at my old job has a new device from T Mobil. It's a pager but also a PDA: You can nudge the screen to reveal a keyboard. It also takes pictures (very low resolution though). The new home page pic is of me at my old desk. The blinding flash of light in the left background is probably from the skylight.
Can we get Nena to write a song about this?
Full military alert caused by love poetry.

On a more serious note, how disturbing is this? Arabic one of the world's most commonly spoken languages. In the parts of the world that mean the most to U.S. security these days, it's the language. Does the U.S. military collectively know that little of it that the first few lines of a common love song would be that inscrutable?

Granted, it's a completely different alphabet. And I'm not even sure where my In-flight Arabic CD is (somewhere in a stack, no doubt). I tried learning the language passively. For a few months I could count to ten in Arabic.
I stand corrected
As Chad points out in a comment way way below this post, the 2000 Thanksgiving meal was actually Shelly's preparation. So three years in a row I've had her to thank for Thanksgiving weekend meals.

Now that I think of it, I distinctly remember her beseeching him to come help her peel potatoes, while he was on the couch basically glued to the Lions game.
Some more journalism geekery
Here's some good old-fashioned horseshit.

UPDATE: Where I was content to brush it off with an epithet, Kaus and Sullivan both tear it apart.

This as about as much fun as you can have with a leaked memo short of Pud being involved.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

No good can come of this
Speaking of the consumer culture (a few days ago we were), I'm signed up for eBay now and it's all Sean Forman's fault.

So far I've bid on a handful of page sponsorships and one piece of music. A small prize (actually just a moral victory) to the first person who guesses what CD I bid on. Hint: It's the kind of album that a place like eBay was made for, but it's so universally [adjective] that I would strongly argue that this is the uniquely correct first thing to bid on.

Also, I was shocked that a version of it exists on CD.
This may be the most asinine thing I've read this year
Chatterbox, that is. (Via Andrew Sullivan ("MAKING LIGHT OF TORTURE"), who's just as revolted by the moral equivalence as I am.)

I honestly think that if a friend of mine had written this, he would no longer be my friend. I don't say that lightly.

Here, in one paragraph I'll make both of my "niche" weblogs superfluous: (Well, actually not the one; nothing in either my life or my imagination even comes close to true kinkiness.) What consenting adults do is fair game, sometimes even deeply amusing. Or deeply disturbing; even so, it's there, and sometimes really interesting to think about. What the world's worst tyrants do is not fair game at all; it's especially not consensual. There's an entire world of evil out there, and of people whose lives are ruined not even by desperate poverty so much as their complete lack of freedom of conscience.

In Iraq, people are not free. In China, people are not free. In Cuba, people are not free. In Iran... actually, the way the student movements are going, they might be free before long. (Hope and pray.)

As incensed as I get by people who want too much government intrusion, there's a whole different level of magntitude reserved for people who trivialize, excuse, or even joke about the world's most evil ideologies and most evil despots. Sometimes I wish everyone who's gone island-hopping to kiss Castro's ass could have spent a year living in a society like that, forced to parrot the party line, ratted on by their neighbors, and so on.

People here often take freedom of conscience for granted. Don't. What else can I say?
My favorite ESPN Page 2 writer covers a sport I don't even care much about
Charley Rosen, that is. I like his prose: very matter-of-fact, very anecdotal. There's some trivia in there but what he writes about is interesting. He doesn't dress it up because he doesn't have to.
Posted without comment
From the Boston Globe:
He invoked religion for sexual acts
Mmm... Conformity...
More dirt on the New York Times, squashing all internal dissent and so on.

Years ago I had some petty beefs with the local campus paper (among other things, people on campus actually paid good money to describe to it, despite content that didn't seem to be worth nearly the subscription price; I think since then they've either gone free or slashed prices) and turned into an on-line crank about it.

After that experience I'm really reluctant to go hog-wild on Times bashing but that sure hasn't stopped other, more respectable people from going on the attack.

Suffice to say I sure as hell wouldn't pay to subscribe to that thing.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Why you should learn HTML
I just "fixed" an on-line forum thread. Someone put a hyperlink in a comment but forgot to put the close-quote on the HREF property. For over an hour, nobody else could post to the thread since somehow the unclosed hyperlink was interfering with the form submit button.

Anyway, don't forget the close-quote on your HREF attributes. And do "fix" things when you see them broken; if nothing else it makes you feel really cocky.
In my town, the strippers are Union
See for yourself...
The Secret Life of Henry Kissinger
Here. Or, for a blast from the past, here.

"more bombed than Cambodia in '73"
The degradation of the New York Times
Interesting story here. My opinions elsewhere, if I get around to it. (I might not.)

Obligatory small-world note: The author, Seth Mnookin, was a couple years ahead of me in college. Some days it seemed as though half the Crimson was written by him. You could call someone like that a "rising star"; nice to see him ensconced in the real world media.
Exactly one of you will appreciate this
There is, indeed, a yam dish on the bottom shelf of our refrigerator. As yet unspoiled but also mostly uneaten. I just had some; it's pretty good.
I hate political-volunteer telemarketers...
More on that elsewhere.
Baseball Cards and Nobel Laureate Economists
This is fascinating. One of my biggest regrets is that for an allegedly smart person, I'm terrible at simple negotiating. Maybe this is the time to learn.

UPDATE: Read the comments here; #8 and #11 are good for a cheap laugh. #12 has the fatal flaw of getting the guy's name wrong. I'll take the blame for #13 because the misspelled name was just getting to me.
Thought for the day
I'm still younger than Theo Epstein. Barely, but I am.
This Critical Mass weblog turns out to have a bunch of neat stuff...
Remember the Fightin' Whites? (I'd remembered it as "Fightin' Whities" but maybe I'd heard wrong the first time.)

Some stuff at Vandy that raises all sorts of questions about building donations, breach of contract, and Confederate heritage.

The Atlantic has a tongue-in-cheek article by a guy who wants a tax on fat. Or maybe he's serious. The thing is, the paper I wrote for at Harvard had an article nine years ago by a law student (Frank Iacono; Google had nothing definitive on what he's up to these days) with the same thesis. That one was definitely a satire.

Speaking of Harvard newspapers, one hell of a scoop here about an ugly incident in my alma mater's history.
I [passive verb] the Dean and all I got was this lousy t-shirt
Breaking sexual harassment news at Berkeley's law school. (If you follow only one link from this post, follow that one.) The short version: The Dean resigned. Two years ago he did something really stupid. There was no intercourse; but there might also have been no consent for what did happen.

Massive analysis of it here (read "Belated accusations at Boalt" in her archvies, then "He said, she said" and "Suing is as suing does" on her front page). Since the accuser is still anonymous, the big focus is (for good or bad) on the lawyer. O'Connor:

Note her wording: "I have seen corporations really review and revamp personnel policies in response to allegations made formally or informally." The accusation is the lever for policy change. Forget truth, forget due process. Threat is all.

This is a big reason why I became fed up with lawyers while still in law school. Maybe that was a mistake. From the lawyer's own words, referring to an employment discrimination case involving an Alaskan cannery that set up shop in California after she'd sued it:

"I showed them the legal bills they had already incurred in the North, and told them you can have the same thing in the South. I said 'You can make me rich, but it won't do you any good.'"

They indeed have made her rich: She's in Amsterdam "for the holidays," albeit with plenty of Internet access to spam newsrooms with her press releases.

Then again, in a twisted sense it's noble to be everything that's loathesome about lawyers (and to be a lightning rod for it), so that people throw warranted criticism at you rather than unwarranted criticism at your (still anonymous!) client.

That she's still anonymous is also an odd vindication of the Dean himself. Surely he could have called her out if he wanted to. (Unless... wouldn't it be twisted if he'd had similar encounters with a whole bunch of students and couldn't tell the incidents apart? Ohhhh, you mean that girl. BUT... if that were the case, wouldn't you expect other women to come forward with similar accusations? In general that's a good sign that someone really is a sexual predator as opposed to someone who did something stupid once and now gets railroaded for it.)

So what does the lawyer stand to gain out of this? (I imagine the accuser gets some closure, perhaps the sense that other women won't have a similar experience.) In no particular order:
1. Massive public exposure
2. Probably the sense of having done a Good Thing (even though, as you can guess, I think her role is really dubious)
3. Deterrence: If we assume the accuser's narrative is true (the Dean disputes it but hasn't given his side of the story to the media yet) then what happened shouldn't have happened. Other people in powerful positions will see it and think, Okay, I'll avoid that behavior, lest I too have to resign in disgrace.

On the other hand... in light of what's happened the past decade or so, the more surprised (relieved, but surprised) I am that the Dean did resign. At least he has a sense of honor. Whether he would have resigned from the U.S. presidency under similar circumstances is an open question.

Granted, there's an obvious reason why the particular acts in one case were plausibly non-consensual while in another case they weren't. (It's probably impossible to give good head if you're passed out.) At least, that is, if you set aside the issues of professional power that used to set sexual harassment activists into a tizzy.

So Berkeley might get mandatory sensitivity training:
Stevens said Berkeley is obligated to "train and educate the whole community about this social phenomenon of sexual abuse and heighten people's interest in the subject in a positive way to prevent it, to create an environment that is likely to prevent it and likely to aid a victim in a positive way if it still does occur. That has not happened and that's what we want to have happen."

The thing is, from my college experience, I'd be shocked if there wasn't already some sort of education process about sex and alcohol. (Doesn't everyone already sit through these seminars as freshmen?) And since I highly doubt that people will ever fully separate the two (don't most sexual encounters among people at colleges involve alcohol?), it's unclear what the actual behavior consequences will be.

Yes, duh, no means no and so on. There's a lot here that anyone with any common sense (and you'd think that people at a law school have common sense) shouldn't have to be told by their nannies. For one thing, be very very careful if you're a university official who hits on students. (Note: Berkeley's policies did NOT prevent consensual admin-student relationships. Even at campuses that do prevent those, people can and do choose to break the rules sometimes. I imagine they're smart grown-ups who go into it with open eyes.)

Also, petting someone who's passed out is a very bad idea. Then again, in the borderline cases does this mean that touching is out and being touched* is in? (Again, compare what the Dean did to what the President did -- or rather, what was done to him.) Not to be flippant but I could see a case, after enough behavioral reinforcement, the young adult women of 50 years from now wonder why, when they make out with the men of 50 years from now, they have to do all the work and never get fringe benefits back.

*- If you're ever in close quarters with an extremely drunk person who asks, "Does it turn you on more to touch or to be touched?" -- the appropriate answer should be obvious, even if it's 100% untrue of you personally. Imagine the same person waking up the next morning and trying to remember what happened the previous night. Options:

A. Oh, I had my hands on so-and-so. Damn, that's embarrassing. Well, try to put it out of my mind.
B. Oh, so-and-so had his hands on me. Eww! Hey, wait a minute... was I passed out?

You can see why B is a problem.
The best comments from overnight
Were both from a gent to whom I owe some proofreading. Craig, mea culpa, I seem to have slept for 12 hours and then spent almost another hour on the post right below this one.

Monday, December 02, 2002

Newfangled Names
I don't like 'em much. Then again my cultural views are usually irrational and irrelevant.

This weekend I interacted with three different kids. All were nice kids, with nice parents. Their names were Austin, Chelsea, and Logan.

It's probably just a generational thing. On that note, as a child of the '80s I'm deeply amused every time another Jason or Jeremy makes it onto a major league baseball team. (Or, heck, another Matt. Face it, nearly every Matt you know is about my age, probably a year or two younger.)
How do you survive the holiday rush?
(I should leave this blog alone overnight: from past experience, the best way to get tons of great comments the next morning is if the topmost post is a brief, open-ended question.)

Reading about Allyson's Thanksgiving reminded me that for all the wacky stuff I've done that day, I've never actually had to attempt a circuit of two or more Thanksgiving invites. (Much less the all-out Moveable Feast from one of the best sit-com episodes in recent memory.)

How do people pull it off? At even one Thanksgiving meal, the food is usually really good and the conversation nice and relaxed but it makes me feel so lethargic. I can't imagine having to get up and leave and drive across town (or further). Ditto for Christmas. No wonder there's holiday stress.

No, I don't know what else I'd suggest doing. If you're geographically close to multiple relatives, I guess it makes sense to spread the wealth if you've got the stamina. Still... at least with two sets of grandparents it's still all friendly. What I'd really hate to be is a kid with two sets of parents/step-parents fighting over me.
Holiday Blogging Tips
Get yours right here; the second one is my favorite.
Oops...
If you're NY Times registered (and even if you're not, bselig/bselig might work, courtesy of someone on this forum):

Compare this article to this correction (second item).

See also Andrew Sullivan's comments (where I saw it first) and Mickey Kaus's.
Norman Borlaug, redux
So we go from fat people to starving people...

I can't emphasize enough how underappreciated this guy is (Borlaug, not the columnist, though obviously I agree completely with the columnist).
XIF
(the title of this post is a semi-obscure chat reference)

American Airlines advertises "more legroom" but what I need isn't legroom so much as butt-room. Being in the middle seat on a four-hour flight is a minor inconvenience.

Excerpt from a comment that I disagree with almost 100%:
We work too hard, and becase we work too hard, we have to buy more (i.e. you work late and therefore always order take out or buy prepackaged food. or you have so much going on in your life and you are so stressed out, you need a palm pilot to navagate your day...)
--from the comment widget to the November 29 entry here

Set aside whatever you think about U.S. consumer culture (or consumer whoredom as it were), since anything I wrote about it would be long enough and argumentative enough to bore most of you and piss off a lot of the rest. Just on the obesity point alone I think the comment is demonstrably false.

Arguing anecdotally (which is always a bad idea): Friday, I sat around all day watching football and eating leftover turkey. Sunday, I sat around all day watching football and eating leftover turkey. In the grand scheme of things this weekend was probably a net loss for my physical fitness. A lot of people in this country probably had similarly unhealthy weekends. None of this was caused by working too hard, except inasmuch as the prosperity that let us enjoy all this in the first place resulted from some people (depending on how the audience is, really our parents rather than us) working too hard.

In the dark ages nobles and royalty used to get strange diseases. Mostly this was from too much interbreeding but dietary issues had a lot to do with it: When you ruled a fief, you got all the luxuries of the time. You could eat like a king (especially if you were a king) and sit around on the throne (literally, not figuratively) all day, eating all this fattening food that the poor people couldn't get access to.

Today, we're almost all astonishingly rich. (Compared to any other country in the world or any other time in history.) I mean, just mind-bogglingly well off. Neither you nor (probably) anyone else you know is at risk for starving; instead, we face an incredible array of dietary choices, not to mention leisure time that we could spend exercising if we so desired.

My point (at least what I originally meant it to be; took forever to get here though) is that since we all have so many choices, some of us make much better choices than others. When I look down at my physique I can think back to so many trips to Store 24 or 7/Eleven over the past ten years, versus so few (any?) trips to a neighborhood gym, or a hiking trail, or an athletic complex, take your pick.

So don't blame consumers for obsesity; don't blame America. It's really simple: Blame fat people. And on that note I should probably go for a run.
"I love this man!"
Thank goodness someone else had the same reaction I had to that one commercial they kept showing all weekend.

Don't get me wrong though: I'm not going to rail against consumer culture or blame it (and by extension America) for the world's problems. Still, some things are just silly.

For more on the topic (consumption in general, not inane diamond ads), read the November 29 entry here and maybe also the comments. I might have something longer and more coherent to say about it all but at the moment I'm too lazy.
Hank Scorpio's consolation gift
("Awwww, the Denver Broncos?!?" -- from You Only Move Twice, Homer Simpson's disappointed reaction on not being given ownership of a better football team.)

Yes, this was a great game (certainly better than the one that the Kansas City market was stuck with until the late games came on). Still, I'm kind of tired of Denver being on the losing end of great games.

Apparently the period of satisfaction from winning two straight Super Bowls is about three-and-a-half years. It's been that long since I felt anything approaching discontent about this franchise. Now, though... I suppose the key thing is to pretend that the 2002 season up to this point is a fait accompli and play the hand that one has been dealt, rather than mope over blown opportunities.

Both of the last two home games are must-win. (And you really can't take the Chiefs for granted. Then again you can probably take Arizona for granted.) Beyond that, they need to win at least one of the games at Oakland or at NY Jets. Two would be even better but one is a must. 10-6 would probably yield a playoff berth, though on the road. 11-5 would be most excellent. 9-7 wouldn't be enough this year.

By the way, my timing is impeccable: I fly home for Christmas on Saturday the 21st. The Broncos visit the Coliseum on Sunday the 22nd. (Two years ago my trip home coincided with the final game at the old Mile High Stadium. The 49ers were the road team but got absolutely spanked. On my way to the airport I got to hear portions of it on The NFL's Whiniest Radio Feed. Based on my admittedly small sample of 49er radio feed, apparently every team they face plays dirty and every officiating crew has it in for them. This is probably true of a lot of radio teams but San Francisco's seem to have made it an art form.)