Let me say publicly that DonBoy’s answer exudes a combination of intuitive genius and confidence that make me think DonBoy is going to do big things in his life. -- Steven D. Levitt (Freakonomics blog)
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
What the--?


Note that blogger Lileks' Gallery of Regrettable Food is co-recommended there.
Parallel world

Imagine this: the US has somehow gotten itself a native-variety thuggish dictatorship. After years of misery, a liberating force prepares to save us from the hell that is Fascist USA.

One problem: we're about to be saved by The People's Republic of China, who will invade us, blow up as much stuff as needed or desired to force the regime to capitulate, and then hang around until they're done setting up a nice PRC-style government for us.

Now, I suppose if the situation were bad enough that might sound like something you'd reluctantly favor...but we'd have to be really badly off.
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
The anti-Bush compaign ad I want to see

In August 2001, NBC had an "exclusive" with Katie Couric interviewing W during his Crawford vacation. I especially remember him saying something like "Oh, yes, I have a whole stack of reading to get through" -- as he holds what looks like about a dozen sheets of paper. You run that, superimpose "August 2nd", then superimpose "August 6th--Bush briefed that Al Quada plans to hijack planes".

It would be great.
An unlikely political theory

So I was thinking....maybe one of the reasons Bush is in trouble on the uranium is that he totally pissed off the CIA, and they're making a point, that point being don't totally piss off the CIA!. Because, you know, they know a lot of things about a lot of things. And maybe, as Paul Krugman has it today, the outing of Valerie Plame is a pointed attack on the CIA by the white House.

And then I remembered: doesn't our current President Bush have an older relative who at one point was in charge of the CIA? Kind of an internationalist, believed to have some private disagreements [link behind clickthrough ad] with the current President over foreign policy?

OK, I guess it's pretty unlikely that George H.W. Bush has turned against his son and is plotting W.'s downfall. Still, as the Freudians say, "isn't it interesting" that this whole thing is a struggle between George W. Bush's administration and the Agency that his father once ran?
Sunday, July 20, 2003
34 years ago

Moonwalk day!
Welcome attention

Meryl Yourish had a piece on British Antisemitism last week. Having just discovered her blog the other day, I sent a reply which she ran:
OK, this is going to be sentimentalism, I admit, but: between the time of your 1930s and 1940s references can be found the Kindertransport, in which British families took in German and Austrian Jewish children including my father, then 7, and my aunt, 12. Saved their lives, all that stuff. So some of the people get some props.

On the other hand, it is true that in general England's civil rights revolution was years later than ours. My family lived in London from 1970-73, and you could really tell that the Brits had a different outlook from Americans, in that we at least had as an ideal "America for all", and the implicit stance in England was that it was, at the core, a country of, well, English people. (This difference is also what some Americans don't get about Israel, and the context in which it lives: just about every country except the USA is ultimately based on being the country of a specific people, as opposed to an open-immigration free-for-all.) Would you believe that there was a TV show called "The Black and White Minstrel Show", which was aired, intermittently, until at late as 1978?

I might also add that you shouldn't count the IRA's co-operation with Palestinians as "British" -- neither the IRA nor the Brits would accept that equivalence.

Saturday, July 19, 2003
Unwelcome attention

So far, despite being the #1 result on Google for "DonBoy", I have no comments and for all I know no readers. Which is not suprising since I haven't told anyone I know about this blog, although I've left it as my web site in a couple of comments on other blogs.

What I have gotten, though, is my email address hijacked as a reply-to for spammers working for a "free digital cable" box company in Florida. So I guess I should investigate those address-hiders I see around.

Thanks, spamming assholes!

Friday, July 18, 2003
What he said

Add me to the list of people who complain that Andrew Sullivan's letters page has a) no signatures and b) no permalinks, forcing me to simply cut and paste:

I see you have made up your mind that the yellowcake thing is "a bunch of bull." I have a different opinion. I think it has to be investigated. President Bush may have only used 16 words, but one of them was enough: nuclear. You know better than most the power of words, and that one comes loaded with 50+ years of Cold War rhetoric and fear; with duck-and-cover, dirty bomb, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is so much more than a word-- it is the cultural code for annihilation. And as a national security matter, it IS the pretext for pre-emptive war.

I supported the war without it. I'm one of the moderate-left who thought the war justified on humanitarian reasons alone; that Saddam Hussein was a WMD to his own people and would be to anyone else he could conquer. I also thought that we had no other choice--Osama had such success rallying support in the Arab world against the US because we were in the land of Mecca and Medina. But we were there because of Saddam. We couldn't let the terrorists win. We had to go through Iraq for our own and the regions' security.

So I thought the war was justifiable for a host of reasons, but I had my doubts about the idea that Saddam was an imminent threat. I was hoping the Bush Administration would treat us like adults and use the humanitarian argument, the strategic argument, the defiance-of-the-UN argument, to tell us why we needed to rid Iraq of Saddam. Until the word nuclear entered the discussion. Then we couldn't wait, we had to go now. And I argued that with friends and family and neighbors. Now I have to admit that I had it wrong because the President may have told me and everyone else a lie? Because he trotted out the big gun, 'nuclear' and now claims that Tenet made him do it? I go out there and support a president I didn't vote for and then he says he didn't mean to use the words that came out of his mouth? I am pissed off at that.

So I think he has to do two things: first, tell us if our intelligence got it wrong. And two, tell us that he's responsible for the things that come out of his mouth and apologize if he gave it to us wrong. Then let the chips fall where they may. But being one of those adults I alluded to earlier, I'd respect him more for it. This disassembling and blaming others for what he said and all of that only diminishes him and the Presidency

You have now, in fact, "read the whole thing".
A disappointing lack of response

Not only did I get no answer from The Corner (well, no kidding) or Eve Tushnet, but Eve chose today to add a right-wing Yalie site to her blogroll.

So she's not my imaginary friend any more.
Thursday, July 17, 2003
Strike that, reverse it

I was working on sending the equivalent of the previous post to Eve Tushnet, when I got hit with a flash that the correspondent's posting makes no sense whatever. So I sent the following to both Eve and the Corner:

I don't find the correspondent's point to be good; in fact, I don't even find it to be coherent -- the sentences don't all go together. First he says that he would be *more* in favor of civil unions if they *also* include the right of nieces and aunts to marry. Then he says that same-sex couples shouldn't have special rights that opposite-sex couples don't have. So is he saying that it's *better* if nieces can marry their aunts, or *worse*? Since nieces can't marry their uncles, after all. Did he perhaps mean to say that he'd be more in favor of civil unions if they also allowed nieces and uncles to marry? In that case, it's just another round of "but then how can you rule again incest/polygamy/bestiality?" -- but I wouldn't want to say that without being sure what he really meant. Does he even mean to bring relatives marrying into it, or is that a red herring? And now that I think about it, I believe nieces *can* marry their uncles, if the uncle is the widower of the woman's parent's sister.

Anyway, gender-neutral marriage, as commonly proposed, is just that -- gender-neutral. No "special rights" are involved; if nieces and uncles can't marry, nieces and aunts won't be able to either.

The mortifying thing is, how the hell did I miss it? And what does it say that I was able to confidently argue against two sort-of-opposite trains of argument because I was against the conclusion?

Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Her sisters and her cousins and her aunts

A triple-via coming up, so brace yourselves:

Eve Tushnet links approvingly to The Corner's posting of a correspondent's point on gay marriage:

Civil unions would be a good deal easier for some of us to swallow if the status were available to any unmarried pair of human beings who choose it for any reason, such as a middle-aged single woman and her elderly dependent aunt. If gays want the practical benefits of such a union, fine, but I don't see why homosexuality should give them priority over other people with no sexual link who also want the benefits of a unique non-marital partnership. In other words, I'm willing to consider not discriminating against homosexuals, but I'll be damned if I'll discriminate in favor of them.

Name Withheld

Although the writer must think this is a strong point, it strikes me as a bit of a trick, and otherwise trivial. With few exceptions, marriage currently is "available to any unmarried [male/female] pair who choose it for any reason". The example of two people who are related by blood is one of two exceptions that come to mind (the other being those who are too young), and if we take that out of the example, it falls apart. Pretend we're talking about a single woman and an elderly dependent "uncle" who's not a blood relative, and our imaginary couple is already able to marry right now. If same-sex marriages become legal, it would just bring the situation back to parity, without any "discriminat[ing] in favor of [gays]."

I don't think the writer is truly concerned about the unfairness of nieces being unable to marry their aunts or uncles; this is just "but then how can you rule out incest/polygamy/beastiality?" again.

If I publicize the blog to the famliy, I'll look like jerk if I plug only one Umansky: link

UPDATE: OK, we'll round this out with a link to Gloria's store in LA, and be done with the Umansky linkathon.

Oh look, an interview with Slate's Today's Papers, who also has the good fortune to be my cousin.
Lowering the drinking age a whole lot

Someone who agrees with one of my crackpot theories. He is, however, Australian, so his approval may not count for much over here.

(Via Reynolds via Kleiman. I believe the double-via establishes me as a polite blogger.)

UPDATE: Matt Y. is back, and he's on this too.
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
Don't call us, we'll call y--ahh, just go fuck yourselves

I appreciate the value of being contrarian, but this Salon apologia for telemarketers [behind a click-through ad] takes the cake. Maybe they're trying to set a record for incoming email.

UPDATE: The letters are in: they say they got 200. I expected more.
Wie sagt man auf Deutsch "Gryffyndor"?

If you were trying to create a news story that hit on as many geeky interests as possible, you'd have trouble coming up with something as good as this:

Thousands of [German Harry Potter] fans are translating the 766-page British edition themselves — section by section — and swapping finished bits via e-mail.

Let's see: we've got Harry Potter (more contentious as a real geek interest than you might think, by the way); we've got distributed computing, or its analog; we've got language translation.

The key thing I take away from this is that depending on how you look at it, translation is either trivial for someone sufficiently fluent in both languages, or near-impossible. (I say this as someone insufficiently fluent in more than one language.) With 3000 volunteers, and 766 pages, the first pass sounds like it could be done in one hour. Then you have the obvious hard parts, like the Sorting-Hat song. Then you have all the stuff where you have to understand the English, and why certain words were chosen, well enough to even understand the problem. From the story -- what do you do with "peck of owls"? Well, if you don't know that "peck", in English, is both a noun indicating quantity, and what birds do, you won't know you have a problem -- one that might have no solution in German, so don't get hung up. But you'd better know that Delores Umbrage's name should be translated into something appropriate, or you've really missed something.

My favorite book on translation issues is Le Ton Beau De Marot by one-of-my-Top-Five-authors Douglas Hofstadter. Among the things you learn in this book is that a Japanese poet has opined that if he were translating haiku into another language, the famous 5-7-5 business would be the first thing he'd let slip. At the other end of the scale, Hofstader remarks that the French translation of "the door" into "la porte", which is probably in the first chapter of your junior high French book, is iffy, because when he hears "la porte", he thinks of those specifically-French doors with the curved handle.

The book also has, at its end, a section that's both terribly sad in its own right and highly ironic, given what's come before it in the book: Hofstadter's wife collapsed while they were on a family trip to Europe, and died within only a couple of days from a brain tumor. This story appears at the end of a several-hundred-page book structured around dozens of translations of the French poem that gives the book its title; that poem is about waiting by the deathbed of a beloved woman. Those translations had been written by Hofstadter and many of his friends and students over the past decades. Some things you just can't make up.

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