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, June 27, 2007
Hulk SMASH Puny Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics

You've heard of the "Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics", right? Matt Yglesias named it here:
As you may know, the Green Lantern Corps is a sort of interstellar peacekeeping force set up by the Guardians of Oa to maintain the peace and defend justice. It recruits members from all sorts of different species and equips them with the most powerful weapon in the universe, the power ring.

[...] The important point is that, when fully charged what the ring can do is limited only by the stipulation that it create green stuff and by the user's combination of will and imagination. Consequently, the main criterion for becoming a Green Lantern is that you need to be a person capable of "overcoming fear" which allows you to unleash the ring's full capacities. [...]

Suffice it to say that I think all this makes an okay premise for a comic book. But a lot of people seem to think that American military might is like one of these power rings. They seem to think that, roughly speaking, we can accomplish absolutely anything in the world through the application of sufficient military force. The only thing limiting us is a lack of willpower.
In my recent political science reading -- which, as it happens, concerns the circumstances under which all of the heroes of the Marvel universe might be forced to wage a World War Hulk -- I decided that Matt got the color right, but the character wrong. The key is in the Hulk's semi-catchphrase:

"The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets!"

I think this captures the psychological stance better than the GL business. I never understood what "exercising will power" is really supposed to mean, anyway; the best I can visualize is a very intense frown. It's like "thinking hard", but with your character. Tenuous stuff. Now, getting mad? We all understand that. So we're being told that if we just get mad enough, our resulting strength will enable us to achieve any goals, no matter how non-responsive to anger they might be.

Furthermore, doesn't this track with the bile from the right? It's not that liberals are being accused of not having enough "will"; the cry goes up, "Why aren't you properly angry, like we are? WHAT KIND OF A MISERABLE WRETCH DOES NOT SHARE OUR ANGER, AND OUR LOVE OF OUR OWN ANGER? BLOGS SMASH!" It ties directly into all the other rageaholic right-wing stuff.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Stick Figure Physical Therapy

I have an "issue" with my right knee that is now being address by physical therapy. I had my first appointment earlier today. The PT described several exercises, wrapped my knee in a vibrating wrap of some sort, and left the room, saying she'd "write down the exercises" for me to do later. When I was done with the vibrating thing and got back to the front desk, here are the "written instructions" she had left for me:

The last one, in particular, looks like I perhaps need a very close friend to help me do it properly. Also, it looks like that science experiment with the toy bird that dips its head in the water.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Who's Going to be More Pissed Off?

The Boston Globe on new doings in the Baskin-Robbins chain:
At a newly opened store in New Canaan, Baskin shop owner Anna Valente-Krolikowski added a few of her own touches, including extra tables and chairs, and a 37-inch flat-screen television that plays Disney movies all day. Outside benches are on the way.

On a recent afternoon, 5-year-old Henry Selvala sat quietly with his eyes glued to a "Shrek" movie, sipping his strawberry smoothie. His mother, Kristin, said she used to visit the old Baskin-Robbins store about once a week.

Disney. You know, I was going to put a link here, but all their pages either have Flash or they automatically play some loud video without asking, so just pretend I did. It was just to compare it to....


Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Gender Differences

From a Reuters piece on how men get overwhelmed by grocery stores:

Many men have difficulty finding items, forego buying rather than risk purchasing a substitute for an item on the grocery list and hesitate to ask for help if they can't find an item, [Mandy] Putnam[, vice president at consulting firm TNS Retail Forward] said in her report.

"They never ask for help, except maybe from the butcher, but they always say they never had problems finding anything when the cashier at the register asks," she said.

Yeah, we don't ask for directions. But do women really bother to respond to "Did you find everything OK?" At that point, I've waited in line, I'm ready to go, and there are people in line behind me. Am I supposed to either get out of line to get some item that I couldn't find, or hold everyone else up while some clerk goes to get me a jar of Baco-Bits?

Monday, June 11, 2007
Media Criticism

O.J. Simpson thinks there's too much silly celebrity news coverage.
Simpson, who spoke on his cell phone while looking for the real killer returning from an early morning round of golf, said he still gets up to five calls a week from reporters seeking comment -- but declines virtually all of them.


For a change of pace, I was listening to mostly-conservative talk radio WRKO for a few minutes the other day, and heard something kind of odd. (Let me point out up front that I didn't hear the whole discussion, but I heard the last 10 minutes or so.) The host was Mariellen Burns, who has a Saturday 1-4PM slot. The topic was a law that went into effect this week in Connecticut that bans protests at funerals. The trigger for this bill is the recent outbreak of funeral disruptions or attempted disruptions by the "God Hates Fags" Westboro Baptist Church, which has branched out from its core competency -- screaming at the funerals of dead gay men -- into screaming at the funerals of dead servicemen, on the theory that they died because God's angry at America for not being anti-gay enough. (Obligatory obvious point: shouting "God Hates Fags" at the funerals of actual fags didn't cause any laws to get passed.)

Now, Burns, unlike the right-wing talkers usually heard on RKO (they carry Limbaugh and Savage during the week) , didn't talk like a right-winger, in either her tone or her choice of words, which is why I kept listening to try to figure her out. But the odd thing -- and again, I missed the beginning -- is that she kept referring to "this group" that was protesting the funerals of Americans who had died in Iraq. She didn't mention the "God Hates Fags" context at all. Now, if a radio host knew the history of the group, you'd think she might mention it. If she didn't know the history of the group, she might conclude that it's an extremist anti-war group, and then say so. She didn't say so. But if she knew the history of the group, and didn't mind leaving the audience with the belief that this was an anti-war group, but didn't want to get called out for a lie, she might do what she did -- leave it up to the listeners to get the wrong idea.

Since I missed the beginning, I thought I'd see if WKRO has audio archives of its shows. It turns out that it does, but only of their two weekday stars (Howie Carr and Tom Finneran) and of Red Sox games. These archives are supposedly text-searchable, using software technology from a company called Podzinger, and not surprisingly, it doesn't work as well as you'd like. Here are some hits from searching for "Baptist" in the WRKO archives, along with the words that got mangled into it in the transcripts:
... this go quiet talk about it took part is. Very opinion it Baptist -- that last week on the broadcast the red dot broadcast we talked about without. Startled I ... ["this particular issue"]

... I think you need to have more consistent grown -- Baptist I think so often. What you see a guy struggling usual -- out and it'll kind of stay would you. I think ... ["at-bats"]

.. to do take up work or -- afterschool game out not a Baptist who paid so it's here and a outsmart the weather. You better be right and you'd better still have ... ["afterschool" game, which it got right the first time in the sentence]

... Indianapolis people who were leaders today -- aren't reverend Walt our religion Baptist Bible on our egos in every Friday night with a group of about ten people ... [correct!]

... the country. Banning partial birth abortion a chemist out where the southern Baptist assembly of god groups well there -- years ago not too many years -- -- they ... [yes!]

... not about liberal or conservative. It's about holding people accountable they do Baptist . ... ["bad things". Ooh, that's gotta smart.]
So: an inconclusive investigation. Maybe I should see if the Language Log people will take an interest.
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Life, Art, Etc.

I'm accidentally watching the "All-American Game", some kind of high school baseball All-Star game. It's taking place at Isotope Park, in Albuquerque, NM. That's the home of the Albuquerque Isotopes, who play in the Pacific Coast League.

Take it away, Wikipedia:
The name was chosen by fans in a name-the-team contest, and is taken from an episode of The Simpsons (episode number CABF09: "Hungry Hungry Homer") in which Homer Simpson discovers that the local baseball team, the Springfield Isotopes, are secretly planning to move to Albuquerque. The "Isotopes" name is appropriate, since New Mexico has a number of well-known scientific/military facilities dealing with nuclear technology, such as Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP), as well as hosting the first nuclear weapons test, the Trinity test.

Thursday, June 07, 2007
My Niche

Between this, and the earlier that, I think it's clear that I'm a better blog-correspondent than blogger.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Another Oopsy

As Mark Liberman says at Language Log,
...I guess the problem is that Silicon Valley hasn't yet invented a spell-checker for banners.

You Will Laugh

Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard put out a press release with a staffer's notes still in it:
"First responders in Colorado have recently provided critical services in the face of blizzards and tornados," added Allard. "Since I don’t think first responders have really done anything significant in comparison to their counterparts who have dealt with real natural disasters, I have no idea what else to say here..."

This Won't Last

Every TV show you've ever heard of, viewable on your computer. Hosted in the UK, which might make it slightly harder to shut down.

Here, try the German version of The Office.

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