Category Archives: You a slave to a page in my commonplace book

Do whatever you say do, but blog, it can’t save you

I know, Mos, I know.  And I’ll have real content up here soon, I think, for certain generous values of “soon.”

But for now:



The adventure of links

Sorry I haven’t posted much lately. I blame the ennui. Other people have posted some stuff, though.

Matt Selman: The United States of America vs. Wesley Snipes:

DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The defense would like to call to the stand… Blade.

PROSECUTOR: Objection. Blade is not a real person, but rather Mr. Snipes in sunglasses and fake vampire teeth.

JUDGE: Overruled. I’ll allow it.

Digby: They Will Not Stop

I wish I knew how either Clinton or Obama planned to deal with this, but I confess I haven’t the vaguest idea.

Matt Yglesias: Fear Factor

The real world doesn’t work this way. If Saddam Hussein wasn’t frightened of George W. Bush and the United States of America in 2002, then he was making a big mistake. He had good reason to fear Bush, just as Iranians would have good reason to fear John McCain. The trouble is that international relations isn’t zero sum. Even America’s relationship with someone as odious as Saddam wasn’t zero sum. We were able to take action that was incredibly harmful to Saddam personally, and to the cause of his followers in Iraq, but it was also incredibly harmful to the United States.

And more Yglesias.

Chris Clarke: Killing Whales for Empire

The issue is profound and usually mortal injuries that whales and dolphins, and likely other types of marine life, suffer, directly or indirectly, from exposure to intense bursts of artificial sound such as active sonar pings. Mass strandings of cetaceans have been documented after sonar tests in the Bahamas, the Mediterranean, and elsewhere. On her blog Cocktail Party Physics, Jennifer Ouellette has posted one of the best summaries of the issue I’ve seen, discussing the political and scientific angles.

The midlevel active sonar pings being discussed range around 230dB. Water conducts sound much more readily than does air, and 300 nautical miles away from the test zone, the ping may only have attenuated to about 140dB, about like standing next to a military jet taking off. That’s also the level the Navy has set, after study, as the loudest underwater sound to which one of its divers can be safely exposed. Cetaceans, with senses of hearing unimaginably more sensitive than humans’ — humpbacks have been observed carrying on conversations across distances of hundreds of miles — get a whole lot louder sounds than that “safe level” if they venture within 300 miles of a test.

Jill at Feministe: Framing

Dear fellow progressives,

Please, please stop using the term “identity politics” as a negative. “Identity politics” is a term adopted by conservatives (and moderate-to-right-leaning lefties) in an effort to insult the political action of women, people of color, the LGBT community, and other traditionally marginalized groups. It assumes that advocating for gender, racial or sexual orientation equality is about promoting particular “identities” as opposed to doing what white men have always done — engaging in the political system, often in a self-interested way. If you’re going to use the term “identity politics,” go for it — but own it as a good thing. We are all influenced by our identities; but since white, straight, Christian male is the default, it’s only commented on when the rest of us voice our opinions.

Stephen Fry: Why I love smart toothbrushes and loathe internet plug-ins

The problem is that Nokia claims ownership of some elements of Ogg, which is essentially the file format for the streaming and delivery part of the codec. This was news to me: I thought Ogg was as Open Source as Vorbis. Anyway, Apple doesn’t like the idea of its QuickTime not being the baseline video codec and, of course, iPods don’t read Ogg Vorbis audio. So it seems it’s going to be the same old mad world of plug-ins and incompatibilities for the near future – unless, that is, you all subscribe to the Working Hypertext Application Technology Working Group mailing list ( and exert pressure. Despite the high ideals of W3C, it is often closer to Swift’s Isle Of Laputa than anything sane – indeed, an angry developer recently compared it to Orwell’s Minitrue. Oh dear. All things that are human are also frail and foolish. Never mind. I am sure thousands of individual voices can be as influential as two big corporations.

On a happier note, I have added to my collection of unnecessary but pleasing technological doo-dads. I have not spent any time in the bathroom with you yet, so I am very happy to report that Oral-B has come up with a mad new electric toothbrush. It is so over-engineered as almost to defy description. A base station, where sits and charges the toothbrush itself, transmits by radio to a receiving element. The receiver substation is a plastic cartouche complete with obligatory LCD screen called a SmartGuide (phrases compressed with UpperCaseLetters such as this are DeRigueur for today’s sad MarketingPerson), which gives a reading of how long you’ve brushed, and how long you’ve got to go in each of the quadrants of the mouth, according to “professional” brushing standards recommended by dentists. It also tells you the time and rewards you with a smiley face when you’re done. Sigh. I think I’m in love.

On that last one, I’m still unable adequately to express my joy about Stephen Fry’s blog. It’s like, he couldn’t just be erudite and British, he also had to be erudite and British about gadgets and web standards, like he’s Joel Johnson’s Watcher or something. It is to swoon.

Quote of the Day


Kate Harding, at Shakesville

For the record, if any of y’all were hiding your support for Clinton under a bushel, don’t think that just because I favor Obama, you can’t talk her up if you want. It’s not like I won’t gladly pull the lever for her in November if she gets the nomination. (Like Harding, for instance, I think she has the better health care plan.)

Going to a book club meeting would require getting out of bed

Somewhere on the web, I do not remember where, I read a recommendation of Inglorious, by Joanna Kavenna, as a good book worth reading, especially if the reader has the experience to appreciate everything Kavenna gets exactly right about having a depressive episode. I’m not very far into it yet, but I’m enjoying it quite a bit (though it’s a hell of a pivot from the last book I read).

This is a cover letter that Rosa, the protagonist, writes, which is probably the most perfect example I’ve seen outside my own head of the very cover letter I feel like a fraud for not writing every time I apply for a job:

Dear Madam, I am a person of inconstant aims and mild destitution. I find this combination of qualities excludes me from many jobs. But working together, I’m sure we can exploit my talents successfully. I still have a cream suit, a relic from a former life. I am unexceptional in every way, and eager to serve. You can find me in a borrowed room, in west London. Yours faithfully, Rosa Lane.

I can see why the Publisher’s Weekly reviewer quoted on the Amazon page would say “but Rosa’s repetitive, nonresolving woes give the novel an unpleasant quality, something like Leaving Las Vegas meets Groundhog Day.” The novel’s prose style is halting to the point of almost resisting the reader (though lovely and erudite in a way that makes me miss having a decent vocabulary). But for Christ’s sake, the point-of-view character is depressed. Repetetive, unresolved woes are maybe, y’know, to be expected. Upon seeing that bit, maybe someone more generous than I wouldn’t have thought Oh, precious, was it unpleasant for you to read about that? My heart bleeds. but I couldn’t tell you for sure.

Quote of the day

Caroline Kennedy’s Political Romanticism

She says that Obama could be a president like her father. I assume that means that he’ll be overrated, not that he’ll bring us to the brink of nuclear war.

Ramesh Ponnuru at NRO. The guy’s an asshole, but in this case* funny is funny.

(via Matt Yglesias)

*The most important feature of this case being that it is located in what I assume is the sliver-thin overlap on the Venn diagram of our political ontologies.

I’m the worst blogger ever

Shut up.

But you’re right, I am. I can’t believe I spend as many hours a day as I do on the interweb, and have never heard Chocolate Rain until today, when Shakes linked to it while showing this:

First: “I move my mouth away from the mic to breathe in,” as I mentioned over there, is a ridiculously good line; I don’t care that it’s actually completely literal. That shit should be on t-shirts.

Second: Tay Zonday has the greatest voice since Kool Moe Dee.

I have become enthusiastic. I think I’m replacing the Airwolf theme with that piano loop for my ringtone.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention – he released the mp3 on a CC license! That’s real.

Also, I admire Tay’s iron determination to avoid anything that even looks like a chorus. Or a verse, I guess, depending on what angle you’re looking at the song from.

Second quote of the day

Via Shakes:

What does our poll show about the black vote in the Democratic race?

Well, it shows that black voters respond to other things besides race.

Another white guy who thinks it’s remarkable that black people live and think, just like you and me. I always get this image in my head of them running around like the end of Soylent Green:

“OMG black people are made of people! THEY’RE PEEEEEEEOPLE!!!”

“Captain, Stephen Fry is decloaking off the port bow.”

“The cloak appears to be finely-tailored velvet, and has an inside pocket to hold Mr. Fry’s cell phone.”

For real: Stephen Fry has a blog, and his first entry reveals him to be an Olympic-level gadget geek. He makes my own technolust look like chastity. Maybe I associate him too much with Jeeves, but it was delightfully surprising to see Stephen Fry, of all people, go all thunder-nerd.

What was actually decloaking off the port bow was a microscopic gold ring. In 10 years, though, it’ll be a Warbird, you wait.

Also worth reading is tristero’s post about Intelligent Design creationism at Hullabaloo, with a little paean to Charles Darwin.

And I finally got around to watching the Iron Man trailer today, and it makes me tingly in both my comic-book and military-pr0n areas.

Quote of the day

I already don’t understand how I ever walked around an unfamiliar city without by iPhone’s google maps function. Also glad nobody’s stolen the phone yet.

Matt Yglesias

Maybe it’s an East Coast/West Coast thing, but you don’t ever read the C-netty Silicon Valley gadget people worrying that their ostentatious wielding of shiny, new, technofetish objects will get their asses robbed, and probably rightly so. When I first got an iPod, there was part of me that knew I’d have had it coming, should someone have noticed those precious white earbuds and come up behind me with a sock full of nickels. Similarly, if there’s anywhere in this country that a person riding a Segway down the street doesn’t immediately get the shit mugged out of them, I don’t want to go there, because its population knows nothing of good citizenship.