Listen, My Children...

Every Little Helps

Saturday, May 31, 2003


I have an apartment! Not a huge classy one with oh-so-many rooms, like one I looked at; not a dreamy one with a room divider made out of open bookshelves, like one I also looked at; not one with an incredibly large kitchen, like one I looked at and drooled over; but a good one, nonetheless: I sent Bob to find me an apartment, and, as one might predict any boyfriend would do, he got me one in his apartment complex. In my mind I've been making nonstop trips to Ikea and antique stores for the past two days, as well as furtive glances in the window of Williams-Sonoma (Crate and Barrel is trendy, but they've got no class) (of course, nothing is ever better than the Carlton House, but, like the River Oaks Country Club, they're too upper-crusty to have a website). Move-in is July 1, and I'll probably drive up with a stool and a sleeping bag or some such. I'll be moving myself, for the most part, and I've got a rather old T-bird named Quetzlcoatl -- which I now see I shouldn't expect to get more than $2000 or so for! -- so I can only move what fits in the car. I'll borrow the Kid Sister's fancy and expensive SUV (funny how that happens) for the small amount of furniture I've got, and for trips to Ikea! Ikea! Ikea!

(I'm not excited. Not one whit.)

Friday, May 30, 2003

On the Tax Cut

There's something that quite a few conservatives of my acquaintance have been puzzled about: why does the child tax credit not include those in the over-$20,000 (and therefore taxpaying) but under-$40,000 bracket? (of course it wouldn't include those under $20,000, as you can't get a refund of what you've never paid.) It can't be that huge an amount, compared to everything else; and those people will be spending that money as much on kid stuff as the higher-earners; so why not? The main answer you'll hear from liberals is that conservatives are mean ugly hook-nosed people just dying to make poor people poorer out of the deep-down sadism of their hearts, but I kind of doubt that's the actual reason. I can't for the life of me think of a plausible one, however. Anyone?

On Myself

I would just like to remind people that:

-adrianne is a little more alert these days though she still likes to sleep most of the day
-adrianne is not your typical pregnant woman
-adrianne is proof that texas is the home of beautiful women
-adrianne is a very nice girl with very nice home page that i really feel you should visit

and, most importantly:
-adrianne is not taking orders at this time

the friday five

1. What do you most want to be remembered for?
My academic goal is to be footnoted somewhere. Someone else will write a book, and one footnote will say, "Adrianne Truett has demonstrated this point well in her work _____."
Otherwise, I want to be remembered for showing others how to live. I've got to get good at that first, though.

2. What quotation best fits your outlook on life?
"Life is a black, sucking vortex of anguish and despair, filled with brief moments of false hope and empty joy, all the while dragging you inevitably closer to final, absolute, and eternal death." -- I've heard this attributed to various people, including Isaac Asimov and Homer Simpson (I find the former more likely).

3. What single achievement are you most proud of in the past year?
My thesis.

4. What about the past ten years?
Surviving Germany -- or learning how adaptable I was to foreign life in any country.

5. If you were asked to give a child a single piece of advice to guide them through life, what would you say?
Do what your mother says; she's probably right.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

On Seatbelts

The seatbelt conundrum: as is well known, in identical accidents, people wearing seatbelts will generally be much better off than people not wearing seatbelts. But, as is also known (but not as well), drivers wearing seatbelts, on average, drive worse than drivers not wearing seatbelts. That is, when they're forced by law to wear seatbelts; people who choose to wear seatbelts when they don't have to are also generally safer drivers. But those who would normally not automatically wear seatbelts, when they have to wear them, feel safer, so they're less cautious. So, they have more accidents. According to my economics textbook (of all places), the increased accidents and increased safety pretty much cancel out, making it that seatbelt laws are neutral in terms of drivers and bad for pedestrians. But, seatbelts in and of themselves are helpful things, and they're not to blame for the bad psychological effect they have on people. So, what the solution? Enact universal seatbelt laws that are good in intent but end up just being bad for pedestrians?

I'd say have child-seatbelt laws (gotta strap your kid in), but leave others up to discretion. But I think it's an interesting problem.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Too Much Coffee Man

Oh, yeah.


Is it just me, or is anyone else having trouble getting to the professor?
UPDATE: Wasn't just me, but now he's back.

"White Trash"?

I'm rather disturbed by a scene I witnessed on the subway today. Coming back from a trip to town, we stopped at a station where a youngish (~20) black guy stood between the doors, holding them open and preventing the train from leaving, even after a PA message saying to stand clear of the doors, until his friends sauntered in. One woman said, in the brassy Bostonian manner, "Don't block the doors, people; the train needs to leave! take the next train!" --at which point the original door-blocker stood right in her face and started shouting, over and over, "white trash! white trash! white trash!" while she, visibly scared, tried to scoot further back into the corner of the train. Thankfully, the guys got off at the next stop (which is visible from the first one -- Downtown Crossing to Park -- and much easier to walk), or else I and I'm sure some other passengers would have called MBTA security.

I hear so much about the power structure and intimidation inherent in the system; that may well be true, but it seems pretty obvious who held the power and was intimidating.

It's sickening to see such a display of outright unapologetic racism; I hope I never do again.

Monday, May 26, 2003


Kendall at Titusonenine has several good posts, along with the continuing story on Khazraji. A poem:
She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard
and a quote:
That a few simple men should in one generation have invented so powerful and appealing a personality, so lofty an ethic, and so inspiring a vision of human brotherhood, would be a miracle far more incredible than any recorded in the gospels.
and much else.

His permalinks aren't working, like those of many blogger-users. It does seem to help to republish the archives -- you can do that by going to your main blog-input page, clicking on the little "archives" tag at the top, and then clicking, "republish all."


Trying to change to look brighter; not having much success at the moment. We'll see how this turns out.

On Neo-Con-ness

And someone else has joined the soul train.

On King James and his Version

The KJV-only types -- for those of you not in the know, that means the people who say God's Word is only contained in the Authorized Version, more commonly known as the King James Version of the Bible -- amuse me to no end. They'll go on and on about how it's better because it came from the right original sources, how it's better because it uses the best of archaic English (and shouldn't all people know that "charity" doesn't mean giving material possessions and money to other people, but instead means "caritas"?), how it's better because it's got the right sense of detachment and honor in using "thees and thous"... it's so easy to throw them into a loop and make them sputter. First, start by pointing out that, at the time, and in most current languages with such a distinction, the "thees and thous" -- the second-person pronouns -- which are used universally for God are the most intimate pronouns, used often to convey an insult and always showing familiarity and a marked lack of honorific respect; if the KJV sounds formal and stilted now, and the KJV at the time was the best way to approach God, then it no longer is, for, at the time, it was anything but formal and stilted. Second, continue by asking what they suggest for speakers of non-English languages. If the KJV is beneficial by means of its exact words, then everyone who does not speak English is lost. If it is beneficial because of stilted and archaic speech, then should Germans go for the now-archaic Luther Bible, although Luther himself pointed out that it was largely a loose paraphrase? Most of the KJV-only crowd are also extreme literalists, so that will never do. And if it is beneficial because of its original sources, can those sources not be translated into modern English as well as they can be translated into other languages?

I've tried these questions over various mailing lists I'm on, but I only hear sputters in response. I usually ask several questions at once, as well, which makes it very easy for the responder to touch on one fragment of one question and ignore the rest.


Dancer in the Dark is described by one reviewer quite well as "one of those supposedly feminist films in which a woman chooses martyrdom when it would take about five minutes to clear everything up."

On the Crimson

So I was reading some Crimson archives this morning, and found this not unfamiliar-sounding quote:
Senator Burton K. Wheeler, in Boston yesterday to speak at the America First Committee's mass meeting against entrance into the war, warned that any attempt by the President to sent the U.S. Navy into the war zone would be unconstitutional.

"The President has claimed the right to sent the navy where he wishes," said the Senator from Montana, "but I believe he doesn't have this power."

What makes this quote interesting is that it does not date from a few months back, but from the first of May, 1941.

May today's non-interventionists be as wrong as this senator.

(aside: I'm always sickened by -- and shocked to find -- those who say we should not have joined WWII. Especially by the ones who say we shouldn't have joined because, you know, national sovereignty and all that, Hitler was elected, he could do whatever he wanted with his people, and the Jews were controlling finance and business and being a bother just like they are today.)

Anyhow; I wandered through the archives at length and found it a fascinating journey. For instance, did you know that Harvard offered a course in ditch-digging?

But let's do this chronologically: let's begin with the sinking of the Titanic. From it comes the most wonderful thing at Harvard, Widener Library (dedicated to the memory of Harry Elkins Widener, who perished upon the foundering of the steamship Titanic, a plaque informs us), the main Harvard thing I will miss.

Next, Harvard men showed their acknowledgement that the Cliffies were equally of an intelligence to enable them to vote; in 1914, they were marching in suffrage rallies.

By WWI, such novelties as airplanes were being used by Harvardians; the article's headline enthuses, "Actual Sensation During Flight Uniquely Described"!!!

Come 1940, the relationship between Harvard and Radcliffe appeared to be a very pleasant one, with much fun being had on both sides.

A few days later on that year, a speaker who could have chosen his words much better attempted to rouse the students to support of the British side in the war in Europe. While his specific words understandably fell flat, the response from the Crimson was that "flag-waving" also falls flat:
1940 cannot resuscitate the drunken enthusiasm of 1914, any more than ten million men can be resuscitated from the fields of glory. There will doubtless be a number of flag-waving enthusiasts in this country; and perhaps one of them will even climb on a rostrum in Memorial Hall to address an audience of future soldiers. But however noble-spirited his talk, it will not elicit the raucous cheers of olden times. To convince the new generation of the necessity of war, more plausible arguments are needed than the hackneyed formulae which sent the heroes of 1914 to their graves.

In another article which gives modern readers a sence of deja vu, the March 1, 1941, Crimson reports:
In a cablegram sent to the students of England this week, the Harvard Chapter of the American Student Union warned against the visit of President Conant and described his trip as a "visitation of American imperialism."

Things were different by December 8, just after Pearl Harbor. This article says,
The Chicago Tribune published an extra edition yesterday, emblazoning over its masthead the slogan, "Our Country--Right or Wrong." We do not agree with the Tribune. We believe in our country and in the right, and we believe that in the present war they are synonymous. In that belief we fight, and in that belief we will triumph.
The more interesting part of that article, however, is the description of Hawaii as "as much a part of the country from a psychological point of view as Omaha or Kansas City." Now, since that's written by New England-dwellers, that statement may just as well mean that, psychologically speaking, none of the above are a part of the country.

There were more changes the next day:
Learning the news of Japan's sudden attack upon the United States, American Defense, Harvard Group hastened yesterday to take a stand upon the new developments and stated that we should now be prepared to declare war on Hitler, the real instigator of Japan's actions, and on Italy, the other Axis partner.

But not everything had changed by the 9th, and there were still several Harvard leaders opposed to war against Germany:
Leaders of prominent political and University organizations were unanimous in their approval of the United States' declaration of war yesterday, although a few men distinguished between involvement in a Pacific war, which they supported, and entry into a European war, of which they disapproved.

As a counter-measure, a Harvard Conservative League was finally started in 1944.

Of course, not all wartime news was about the war: do check out the sunbathing regulations, from May of 1945, and be amused that even back in the 1940s students were warned away from the water in the Charles.

After the war, a Harvard professor was involved in reeducation of Germans:
Professor Jones, on a one year's leave of absence from the University, has prepared textbooks which will form the core of the English course for the German POWs. The book will be used not only to tech the elements of English, but size to further among the prisoners a better understanding of American ideals and traditions.

Contained in the textbook are English and German passages, so devised that a prisoner first reads the German text to a group and an American instructor then reads the English. Divided into thirty units, the text including ninety days of instruction, at the end of which period of prisoner should have a fairly substantial speaking and reading knowledge of the language.

A twenty-four course in American history and civics supplements the English course and is so devised as to stress the democratic ideals involved in history from its discovery by Columbus to the second World War. The English and history course are the foundations for this educational program, the purpose of which is to replace Nazi doctrines with sound democratic ideals.

And the gem of my browsing: a playful article felicitously entitled, "If You Can't Get a Woman, Why, Go Get a Harvard Man."

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Quote for the Day

"Everyone should have at least one job and own at least one company so that the IRS has plenty of paperwork."
--Daniel Lewis

The Roadmap

Well, Israel has approved, with major qualifications, the "roadmap" for the creation of a Palestinian state.

I hope this is accepted with optimism, with nation-building, with moves to form and plan for a functioning separate country.

I hope this is not greeted with bombs and demands for the execution of all Jews, like some similar offers have been.

We'll see.

Saturday, May 24, 2003


Went to conservative minyan at Hillel today; not being Jewish, I generally only go to Jewish things on special occasions, such as bar mitzvot and funerals and such. I had an absolutely fabulous time; were it not for my excellent priest back home and my refreshingly orthodox church visit at Easter, I'd be tempted to become Jewish. Well, and were it not for my actual religious beliefs. But, one of the main members of Hillel here is Catholic, recently baptized at that, and that doesn't seem to hold him back or bother other people; he's leading services next week, at popular request. So, while I probably won't go pseudo-Jewish like him, it's nice to know it's not impossible. I will definitely get to know people at UT who will take me to services with them, though, just as I always find people to take me to their different churches.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Oh dear; death

Don't Trip
You will be smothered under a rug. You're a little
anti-social, and may want to start gaining new
social skills by making prank phone calls.

What horrible Edward Gorey Death will you die?
brought to you by Quizilla

Link from Owen's new site, which messes up my browser every time I go to it. I don't know what's wrong, but as soon as I go there, I can't leave the site -- I can click through to other links, but his site still shows up in the address bar, and I end up back there if I press "refresh." Help?

The Friday Five

1. What brand of toothpaste do you use?
Ultrabrite; I used to use some wretched 1980s junk called "viadent" or some such, purely because nobody else could stand it, so now I've settled on Ultrabrite as the spicy-yet-tolerable alternative.

2. What brand of toilet paper do you prefer?
NO idea. Bounty?

3. What brand(s) of shoes do you wear?
Life Stride. I'm fifty-five. I wear the same brand shoes as Bob's mother.

4. What brand of soda do you drink?
Tab. (see above.)

5. What brand of gum do you chew?
Back when I chewed gum, Buzz Gum. Maybe that explains why I went on to other things. (From which I've eventually quit.)

Thursday, May 22, 2003


I generally try to stay away from extremes of profanity. So, I'll just say, Media Minded expresses my sentiments about Jayson Blair in a way I won't.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

On Reagan

My word, this is lovely.
The dream was always the same. We would all be playing with our Star Wars toys out in a harvested bean field, wearing ripstop nylon windbreakers to protect us from the cold bed sheet breezes of autumn. Luke (Jeff) and Wedge (Me) would be running down the Death Star trench described by a stubbly dirt row, valiantly dodging Darth Vader (Jimmy) and his evil henchmen (Stewart). Just as we were making our "final run" (when everyone got to change sides), the sky would be split by a ripping sound, like someone tearing apart a thousand sheets of steel. The gray clouded sky would show a spark arcing across it like a struck match head, quite clearly a missile inbound. I knew what it was, we all knew what it was, and we would start running for home.

Linked to by the Emperor, of course. Who may be a raging patriot, but, if so, it's only because he's lived in another country, expended effort to become American, and knows how much better it is here.

Conspiracies! Insanity!

Mr. Lileks gives us some paranoid and imaginative gems today to help me finish studying:
Sure, they say the sun rises in the east, but that’s just to keep you from looking west where the real action is.
I disagree with my opponent's position on taxation, and therefore I believe he has sex with goats.
I'm so happy :)

Vedic Omniscience

Anyone who's spent any time listening to Hindu Nationalists, Arya Samajis, or anything of the sort, will know that all knowledge is contained within the Vedas. Computers, electricity, food coloring, flying, everything. Ravikiran Rao shows us that SARS is also not foreign to the Vedas:
It now turns out that Reliance didn't actually develop the SARS virus. As is traditional in India, they merely rediscovered the knowledge that was already there in the Atharva Veda. In the course of the rediscovery, they also found that the SARS was a waterborne disease, the spread of which in fact caused the destruction of the Indus valley civilisation. Aryans (and the Dravidians who remained) developed immunity to the virus, which carries on to this day. It is not yet known whether the disease was intentionally spread by the invading Aryans. If they did, it would be the first recorded instance of bio-warfare.

The virus was waterborne remember? The Aryan Invaders called the river which carried the disease SARSwati.

The scary thing is, there will be people who believe this.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Thought-provoking comment of the day

(From Salam, where else?)
If anyone went to the streets now and decided to hold elections we will end up with something that is scarier than Khomeini’s Iran.

STD poetry?

My very best search engine hit ever: Web Search - syphilis in verse.

So, how's about it? Please post, in the comments, poems about STDs! Make 'em up!

On Gender Roles

Here's a funny story (link from Kendall):
Some years back, Washingtonian Magazine ran an article on celebrity couples in Washington, DC. In it, they pictured Bob Dole - then Senator from Kansas - and his wife, Liz Dole - then Secretary of Transportation - making the bed in their Watergate apartment. Bob Dole received a letter which runs roughly as follows:

Dear Senator Dole: I have seen the photograph of you and your wife making the bed in your apartment. In my judgment, the fact that you allowed the photographer to take that shot represents not only an embarrassment to American manhood but proof positive of your own emasculation. Sincerely, Thomas Bentsen

Bob Dole wrote back, and here I am quoting:

Dear Mr. Bentsen: I am in receipt of your blunt letter oflast month in which you criticized me for allowing a photographer to take a photo of Liz and me making the bed.

Look, buddy, if it hadn't been for the photographer, no way Liz would have been caught dead helping me with that job. Sincerely, Bob Dole

Bob and I are like that :) He's the safe and cautious driver (well, going to stereotypes of half a century ago, that's the men, but not in today's world), I'm the one who knows about cars; he likes to play with babies and change diapers; I'm the one who rushes to be able to assemble the new furniture he's bought that's still in its box. Sure, I knit and cook and want to nurture, and he watches football. I'd say he's masculine enough. But, I figure, as long as you have someone in each of the gender roles for each module, even if sometimes you're switched, you're fine. I like BobDole!

Quote of the Day

"[I have been] speculating -- partly in American funds, but more especially in English stocks, which are springing up like mushrooms this year...are forced up to quite an unreasonable level and then, for the most part, collapse. In this way, I have made over 400 pounds and, now that the complexity of the political situation affords greater scope, I shall begin all over again. It's the type of operation that makes small demands on one's time, and it's worth while running some risk in order to relieve the enemy of his money."
--Karl Marx

(from OxBlog.)

Monday, May 19, 2003

Desis on TV?

A member of the South Asian Association just complained about this show, about the life of first- and second-generation South Asians in New York City. Apparently, it's exotification. My response? DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT!!!

Nobody, as far as I know, has problems with the basic idea of travel shows on TV (yes, I know, this isn't a travel show, but I'm getting there). I have, however, heard complaints about travel shows that go anywhere but Europe and Australia. If you show just the buildings and scenery, you're "whitewashing" out the people. But if you put the people in, it's "exotification." Then again, not having the shows at all implies that only white locations are worth visiting. But if you put in non-white locations, it's emphasizing that they're foreign and non-white and therefore inferior. (Apparently, to emphasize something is different is to emphasize it's inferior, as there's no such thing as different but equal.)

The same thing happens with immigrant communities in America. Tons of the people my age, second-generation people, who I talked to during my thesis and who are otherwise my friends (Bob's included) don't like shows about immigrant communities because they don't like the existence of such communities. They are opposed to racial separatism and ghettoization -- which is not much different if people are choosing to live in a ghetto or if they're put into it. They think that shows pointing out "look! separate racial group that keeps their special culture -- cool!" help to perpetuate that segregation. Then again, people like that aren't made very welcome in race-based associations, for obvious reasons.

A lot of other people, like Bob's parents, love and want to keep their racial separatism (they interact as little as possible with people of different races); they will want to watch this show, and they will be thrilled to have it on network TV (if they actually turn off Zee TV and B4U from cable and watch an American network channel once, which is pretty rare!), but they won't want people who aren't members of their racial group to watch it. This view is quite popular, even if it's not initially voiced and has to be brought out over a long conversation. It's the only way to reconcile the conflicting ideas of, "wow, cool, a TV show about us!" and, "but that's giving us too much attention, and we don't want to get caught up in race problems." Or to reconcile the ideas of, "finally, the oppressive white-black dominated media is acknowledging our existence," and, "any white or black person who would watch this has to have an Asian fetish and they're exoticizing us."

Then again, if discussions I've heard of (from the children of the parents involved) over what to serve at a "South Asian" dinner are to be believed, every one who watches the show will be frustrated that their own specific group wasn't given a central enough position. Bengalis mad that the Gujaratis dominate the menu; Tamilians mad that there are dishes for many northern states, labelled by state, but just one dish labelled "south Indian" (just like the national anthem, listing all these northern places by name and then "Dravida"); Malayalees fed up that the "south Indian" dish is Tamil; Nepalis frustrated that they're not even given a place, because nobody eats Nepali food. (It's good, really -- it just gets a bad rap, even in Nepal, where everyone kept telling me to go to the Indian restaurants.) It goes on and on.

So, anybody see this show and feel satisfied at the end? Anyone take issue with that person's viewing and satisfaction? Why? WHAT WILL MAKE YOU HAPPY???

More on the violence

Here's a pretty good summary of what's been happening over the past few days.

The last paragraph is something I hadn't seen mentioned elsewhere, although it does cause one to doubt whether or not this is a sign of an organized group ready for nationhood:
And in the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian militiamen dragged a suspected informer into the main square and killed him with several shots to the head as about 200 people watched, witnesses said. One bystander said the gunmen forced their victim to kneel with his hands tied behind his back, then executed him.

Quote of the Day

"If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun."
-The Dalai Lama, (May 15, 2001, The Seattle Times) speaking at the "Educating Heart Summit" in Portland, Oregon, when asked by a girl how to react when a shooter takes aim at a classmate.

(from the Angry Clam.)

Tact or agreement?

I'm tired of people saying that the only reason for not participating in rude and in-your-face protests would be agreement with what would be protested. Unlike most presidents, Clinton never tires of criticizing and ridiculing his successor; as far as I recall, other presidents have tended to limit their criticisms to, "well, I would have done things a bit differently," and then not said much more about it. Truman couldn't stand Eisenhower, but, my high school history teacher assured me, kept his opinions pretty much under wraps while Eisenhower was in office. What does that mean, according to some people? Not that Clinton's unique, but rather that Bush is unique in deserving ridicule. And the reason GHW Bush resisted temptation to say things about Clinton? Clinton was entirely beyond reproach.

It's the same with protest marches. The reason there weren't pro-war marches (at least not until people just plain got fed up)? It's obviously that nobody was pro-war. Not that people of that bent tend not to be involved in political marches, seeing them as silly and ineffective; not that people of that bent (at least the ones I know) are likely to go to work if they have a contract to be there and are likely to be at class if they have signed up for one. Nope, it's just that no people of that bent exist, if they're not expressing their opinions in exactly the same way as the anti-war crowd.

Sanskrit Commentaries

Sanskrit literature is excellent. What's even better than the literature are the commentaries. Not just your everyday commentaries, they were designed for Indian language scholars as well, so double as thesauri. For instance, if the sentence in the text said, "The woman slugged the cat," the commentary would say, "woman, wench, girl, wife, slugged, hit, cat, feline, not-dog." Not extraordinarily useful if you have no vocabulary whatsoever, but quite good once you've got a bit.

Friday Five (late)

May as well start doing the friday five. Everyone else does it. Peer pressure and all.

1. What drinking water do you prefer -- tap, bottle, purifier, etc.?
Tap. Actually, tap through a Brita that's never changed, so it's truly tap, but makes me feel like it's purified.
Come on, look at the back of one of those costly jugs of "Ozarka Drinking Water" (not the "spring water") -- it says, "source: Houston municipal water supply." Houston's got good tap water.

2. What are your favorite flavor of chips?
Salt and Malt Vinegar.

3. Of all the things you can cook, what dish do you like the most?
I make an excellent low-fat chicken salad.

4. How do you have your eggs?

5. Who was the last person who cooked you a meal? How did it turn out?
My med-school adoptive big brother. It was excellent. I was amazed, a male med school student going through tiffin-boxes with Indian spices his mother brought over and somehow coming up with a very non-Indian pasta dish.

Journalistic Integrity (or the lack thereof)

I just wrote a long post on this, and Blogger ate it. So, the short version:
Today's Crimson has an article on a friend of mine, Harvard chef Larry Houston, who has gotten much grief since he says he used to be attracted to men, but is no longer. He looks at his own experience and that of many others and thinks that it shows that sexual preferences are not necessarily hard-wired. He does not initiate conversations with students on the subject, but is willing to talk with those who come to him on their own. Because of this, he's a "promoter of hate speech" and should be banned from the university, angry yet pro-tolerance students say.

Anyhow, the Crimson today quoted him as saying, “I don’t see myself as a victim at Harvard, but I’m going to play that game for the political benefit."

I know Larry; he wrote me and others (including a Crimson reporter) an email about his upcoming trip to DC a while back. In it, he had that quote, but with a very important lead-in: he said that he had qualms about the trip because he doesn't see himself as a victim at Harvard, and yet in order to make his point PFOX needs him to emphasize it. He's miffed that the administration told the Crimson they were investigating him, but they never told him he was being investigated, yes, but he's gotten a much better deal at Harvard than the reaction many people get when they announce that they no longer consider themselves part of a protected sexual minority; he's aware he's gotten a good deal, but he wants to help the people who have been hounded out of their jobs because of their unwelcome sexual preferences, people who don't have the luxury of a trip to DC to talk with congressmen.

Then again, the number of times my friends have been straight-out misquoted (a la Blair) or had their words twisted or taken out of context (a la Dowd) probably outnumbers the number of times they've been correctly quoted in the Crimson. The paper's ridiculous.

Israel, just like Saudi Arabia

It's just the same, it seems. You get ready to meet and make big offers, and what do you get from the people you're trying to please? Four suicide bombings in a day and a half. You ask them why, they'll sometimes tell you quite openly that they won't give up until every Jew has left the entire Middle East -- "push Israel into the sea" and all that. Kind of hard to negotiate with people who admit they won't accept anything short of your nonexistence.

UPDATE: make that five in two days.

How do the anti-Israel activists react to such an obvious correlation? I was a squishy idealist moderate on the subject ("well, both sides are wrong, but they'll work it out somehow") until someone pointed out the direct relation between Israel doing what moderates and liberals want them to do and increases in violence, and told me to go research the stated goals of both sides. Then, my opinion changed. But I'm sure not all the anti-Israel people are as uninformed as I was; does anyone have any idea how one can see this recurrent chain of events and say it's Israel's fault and they need to make more concessions? I honestly don't understand it.

On the staging of rescues

I saw this report yesterday, but was waiting to post until I'd thought about it. But, as might be predicted, many other people have gotten there first.

I tend to keep what Richard Dawkins would call a ridiculously open mind about such things; to use his example, I don't know that there are no faeries at the bottom of my garden, so I'll just believe there are none until I run into some. I read very detailed reports, based on things such as melting points of Kodak film, on how the moon landings were faked, and I'll accept the possibility that it could have been all a publicity stunt; Gotta ask Messrs. Aldrin and Armstrong et al, though, and they seem to be of the opinion that they went there. So, even if the science-talk of the conspiracy theorists is correct, and it's impossible, I'll have to accept that it did happen anyhow. Like how bees fly, even though my biology textbook insisted that it wasn't possible for them to fly (they're too heavy) -- a certain novelist took that idea and ran with it to a world where bees fly because nobody's ever told them they couldn't.

So, I'm willing to accept, if you can show me, that there has never even been a war, or that there is not and never has been any such place as "Baghdad." You'll have a harder time convincing me that no bombs have ever fallen, as I know people whose word I trust who have been there, but I'm open to the possibility that they were reprogrammed to think that, or that it was all staged to look like there was really a war going on when it was mostly sound stage.

I don't think it's likely, though.

Not so for the BBC, it appears.

UPDATE: Even more fun reading is the comments page on that article. My word! There are people convinced that the US decided to target UK forces just because they felt like it (what does that person think the point of that would have been?), who are certain that Jessica Lynch's amnesia is too "convenient" to be true (the US says she doesn't remember it! that's proof they're lying!), who believe all the US media coverage was faked (and who are thrilled that their own country has perfect and unbiased state-controlled media), who feel quite assured that Hollywood (like Clear Channel, I suppose) makes movies because the current administration wants them to instead of because they think the US public wants to pay to see such movies... Wow. Yes, I'll accept that all those things are not *impossible* (like the garden faeries), but (also like the garden faeries) nothing in the world I have experienced leads me to believe there is any likelihood whatsoever of such things being true.

I think it's a good thing I'm not going to England next year; how incredibly detached from reality can you get?

(No, I know they exist on the other side as well -- head over to LGF to see! -- but LGF-types don't dominate the academic world much of anywhere, and comment-writers do.)

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Deutschland, Deutschland, über alles, über alles in der Welt!

The professor has a three-part post on current pro-Nazi feeling in Germany.

While I'll side with the second update, on the lack of national pride across Germany, I think the first writer -- bogus though he may be -- has a point. In the bathroom of the small-town public school I attended (in Braunschweig, Brunswick, formerly one of the main cities of Germany), someone had written on the wall, "Ich bin stolz, Deutsch zu sein." That is, "I am proud to be German." Underneath it were scribbled comments to the effect of, "How could you feel that way?" and, "I am ashamed to be German," etc. Apart from a few people (presumably, the first writer), most modern Germans are of the opinion that to be proud of Germany means to think Hitler was right on.

This leads to some unfortunate consequences; If you're of the belief that German patriotism means support for the Nazi cause, and you feel that you are proud to be German for any of a number of other reasons (it's a lovely place, they're good at technology, they've got Fahrvergnügen, whatever), then you'll end up a neo-Nazi. I met and was even very good friends with some people who had been taught all their lives that pro-Germany means pro-Hitler; because they knew they were pro-Germany, and because they had been raised up with that equation, they felt that they had no choice but to be pro-Hitler. Only a few questioned the underlying assumptions about the nature of patriotism.

What has to be done is, a new generation has to be brought up believing both that Hitler was wrong and that Hitler does not define what Germany is. What might also help would be trying a new national anthem, rather than one where the first verse has to be banned because it defines Germany as "Von der Maas bis an die Memel, Von der Etsch bis an den Belt" -- yes, going well into France and otherwise quite out of the borders of modern Germany. When you can't sing your own national anthem because it demands the conquest of lands outside of your nation, well, that's not a good sign. (Yes, I'm also in favor of changing the words of that northeastern anthem -- Maryland or Maine or some such -- that included an exhortation to go fight and kill the Indians. Not changing history by pretending it never existed, but change what is sung today. Nobody's offended by the progressive title change of Agatha Christie's novel from Ten Little Niggers to Ten Little Indians to And Then There Were None, are they?)

Co-ed, Naked...

Well, that also refers to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, to which I went tonight with the Beekeeper, the Jewish Boyfriend, and his roommate who is not named Josh but whom I call Josh anyhow, because he looks like one. Rather co-ed; rather naked. Lovely girl in small scrap of nether satin and then two duct-tape postage stamps dancing around in front of us, then the live version of Susan Sarandon's character falling out of her corset and stuffing herself back in, providing a welcome distraction from thoughts of "but that lady on screen in her undergarments is in Dead Man Walking!"

Yes, got my debauchery on.

Got it on a bit earlier, as well, when our Pet Sophmore became quite suddenly over-familiar with the Catholic Boyfriend, who is Goodness and Light and is Not To Be Assaulted By Sudden Hands On Pants-Covered Areas. She got herself slapped by the Catholic Boyfriend's girlfriend, who was holding a frisbee. And I saw that it was good.

But anyhow. Back to the original topic: sports. Shanti, to whom I am suddenly linking quite frequently (I've read her for a while now), had a point that made me think: should women be allowed in men's sports leagues? Her answer: no; "If women are allowed to cross-over, why not let men do so?"

I'd never thought of that. I'd always thought, if they can do the same as the men, and they want to, and there's no good reason to keep them separate, why not? (With Girl Scouts, I feel that there's a mild reason to keep them separate -- the coed Scouts in Germany have a well-deserved reputation for, shall we say, interesting camping trips. I wanted to be in the Boy Scouts, but that was mainly because Freakish Girl Scout Mothers had sued GSUSA so that we couldn't do anything that was even vaguely possibly mildly dangerous or that someone seriously unable to do anything physical couldn't do. Our "bike" patch was earned by learning about the parts of a bike, reading about a famous biker, and showing that we knew how to care for a bike; my brother had to bike about 100 miles. Then again, if they let the children of such mothers into Boy Scouts, they'd probably sue the BSA into insipidity as well.)

But I had never thought of letting women into men's leagues in relation to the continued existence of women-only leagues before. I definitely feel that way about race-based and gender-based (normally, I'd say "sex-based," but that's a little too orgiastic for me right now) groups at college. Explicitly race-based groups (with the specific race mentioned in their title or statement of purpose), designed for the exclusion of other races either officially or through preaching on the inferiority and unwelcomeness of other races, I feel ought not to exist; as a good libertarian on this issue, though, I feel they should be allowed to exist, and public sentiment should be encouraged to change such that they should naturally fall from existence. But if they are allowed to exist, they should be allowed to exist for ALL racial groups; they are equally legally permissible in the general public, and they should be given equal standing on a college campus.

I had a friend who wanted to form a "white men's forum" to stand alongside Harvard's "black men's forum," framing the statement of purpose and constitution exactly the same way but just changing the color or continental-origin adjectives. Just to make a point, mind you. He broached the topic to members of the Undergraduate Council freshman year, and they told him an official application for such a group would probably result in his probation for "hate speech."

Same with the "women's groups" -- groups designed explicitly for discussion of such issues as pertain only to women. Sometimes officially barring anyone with a Y chromosome because "women need a place to be away from harmful male presence." (Mary Daly banned men from her college classes for that reason. She insisted that she would teach the courses to male undergrads, if they would set up times to meet with her privately outside of class. A wit for the Boston Globe pointed out that a male teacher making such comments about female undergrads would raise a few eyebrows.) If these groups are permitted to exist, groups designed explicitly for discussion of such issues as pertain only to men, sometimes banning anyone who is not male, should be equally permitted and accepted.

One Harvard professor sees things my way; she's in the "Women's Studies" department, but she calls herself a professor of "Gender Studies" and definitely includes men. I say, equality all the way -- good for her!

And it should be the same for sports leagues -- either separate them, or have everyone together, not just "the good people" and "the other women." If you need a separation, make it "the good people" and "the not so good people"; it'll be mostly men in the first category and mostly women in the second, just as if you called it "the tall people" and "the not so tall people," but there will be overlap in both directions.

Saturday, May 17, 2003

On resegregation, II

Shanti phrases it well and adds another angle:
I think that is form of racism too - not acknowledging racism unless perpetrated by white people. It is like assuming there is no way blacks and Hispanics can feel superior enough about themselves to be capable of racism.

Ms. Anti-Dowry

A brave Indian woman has refused to let her parents be threatened into paying huge dowry:
The musicians were playing, the 2,000 guests were dining, the Hindu priest was preparing the ceremony and the bride was dressed in red, her hands and feet festively painted with henna.

Then, the bride's family says, the groom's family moved in for the kill. The dowry of two televisions, two home theater sets, two refrigerators, two air-conditioners and one car was too cheap. They wanted $25,000 in rupees, now, under the wedding tent.

As a free-for-all erupted between the two families, the bartered bride put her hennaed foot down. She reached for her royal blue cellphone and dialed 100. By calling the police, Nisha Sharma, a 21-year-old computer student, saw her potential groom land in jail and herself land in the national spotlight as India's new overnight sensation.

Yes, I am aware that the parents had already paid quite a bit as dowry. But the problem today in India is twofold.

One, out of fear of future dowry payments at all, parents and parents-to-be kill their female children before and after birth. The abortion industry in India is specifically directed at getting rid of unwanted females who only bring dowry demands; everyone who's spent any time there has seen the ads, a woman with a girl baby, saying, "Pay Rs. 500 now, or Rs. 50,000 later."

The other, and what is directly relevant here, is not related to transactions agreed upon and paid up before the wedding, but instead to last-minute requests like in this case or post-wedding demands. Demands for more money after the wedding are frequent. I've met women who were told by their husband's parents (with whom they live, and who, these women say, see their purpose in life as making their in-laws' life hell -- our western "mother-in-law" grumblings are NOTHING) that, unless they came up with 2,00,000 rupees right off, and a car, and gold jewelry, etc. etc. etc., they'd be sent back to their own family in shame. Many of these women are quite sure their own parents would kill them (not just metaphorically) if they were to return home; some say they did go back to their parents, but had a brother or other relative forcibly bring them back to their husband's house. When they don't kill themselves to escape from their horrid situation, more often than not their mother-in-law or husband will douse them in petrol and set them on fire, saying it's a "kitchen accident." I talked with one woman, horribly disfigured from being burnt in such a way, who was rescued by a neighbor (a neighbor who has gotten death threats from the in-laws); her mother-in-law told her, pre-burning, that, unless she would come up with more dowry immediately, they would kill her so that her husband could marry someone new for more dowry.

Her husband paid for the case to be dropped, and now he's remarried.

One Madrassi social worker I know says some men kill several wives and get rather rich off of it. Parents will know their daughter's future husband has such stories told about him, but they'd rather find themselves well rid of their daughter, no matter whether or not she'll be killed. There's technically a law saying, whereas in all other cases it's "innocent until proven guilty," there should be an assumption of guilt in dowry death cases; however, like pretty much everything else in India, you can buy off the courts.

Times of India articles on the original story and dowry-related anti-woman violence in general add more information. It's telling that Nisha's father complains that he's spent Rs. 18,00,000 and the wedding's not even going to take place; at least his daughter is sensible enough to understand that it's a heck of a lot better this way.

Anagrammatic Poetry

What if poets wrote poems that were anagrams of their names?
I Will Alarm Islamic Owls
by William Carlos Williams

I will be alarming
the Islamic owls
that are in
the barn

and which
you warned me
are very jittery
and susceptible to loud noises

Forgive me
they see so well in the dark
so feathery
and so dedicated to Allah

CZARS virus

Harvard has many humor publications; one of the better ones is the backwardsly-named Satire V. Much like Scrappleface, it does news spoofs loosely based on real news. One article from the current issue is not yet online (and, considering that the last online article is from fall 2001, likely not to be online anytime soon):
W.H.O. Issues CZARS Virus Warning
Early last week World Health Organization officials issed travel warnings for Russia, as outbreaks of the CZARS virus were discovered. The Russian government has confirmed 32 cases of the disease. Russian President Vladimir Putin remained calm, but also warned that "in the past, we've only had one case of CZARS virus at any time. It will be difficult to handle the growing number of victims."
Symptoms of the virus include the accumulation of serfs, hemophilia, and the growth of pointy beards. The building of palaces and the construction of beautiful Faberge eggs have tripled in the last three months in Russia. Several Russians with the disease have also had outbreaks of Russo-Japanese wars....

I'm so happy!

Friday, May 16, 2003

On ill-advised homosexual activism

Today's Crimson has an article worth reading, from a group of homosexuals disgusted by the ignorant and exoticist actions of Harvard's most prominent homosexual activism group:
While one might be tempted to dismiss the BGLTSA’s mode of activism as, at worst, a harmless attempt at visibility, the real effects of such political ignorance are far more treacherous.

Blast from the Past

Just got off the phone after a half-hour conversation with an Australian girl I knew as an exchange student in Germany 1997-1998. My, that's odd. I hadn't talked to her in years. Now I'm off in a different world, and it's so difficult to reorient to today and America.

Thursday, May 15, 2003


Like, whoa.

Return of the Dixiecrats?

Shanti links to this article out of Dallas on how the modern Black leader is pro-segregation.

Remember that southern school a couple years back that made national news by having its first desegregated prom (previously, they'd had two proms)? And remember how the only student protests against it were by black students who said they didn't want to have to listen to crap white music at their prom? (Yeah, that second part got mentioned a few times, but not nearly as often as the first THE SOUTH IS EVIL part.)

The Christian Science Monitor ran an article on black parents agitating for resegregation about a year ago. 60 Minutes, in one of only two times I've ever watched it (before I fell for Tom Brokaw and latched on to NBC), had an episode on "black-flight," rich suburbs populated entirely by black people who have left their white neighborhoods because they want their children raised up around only other black children.

This appears to be a growing trend. I don't even know whether or not to find it disturbing. One part of me says, "aack! choices, even private ones, based on race! evil! die! die! die!" ("Shrink, I want to kill. I mean, I wanna, I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean kill, kill, KILL, KILL!") The other part says, eh, do whatever you want, as long as you're not hampering by your choices what choices other people can make (perfectly fine to try by any legal ways of bugging people to make white people not want to come live in your neighborhood; not fine to attack them or bar them from buying a house there). Just let anybody of any race (or mixed or was-auch-immer) be allowed to do the same thing.

So, what do you think?

Brits, widely known for their bedroom abilities...

So, England's brushing up on her legal terminology for sexual behavior, no longer referring to a flasher's activity as "exposing the person," and altering any number of other things. While kindly informing us that "sex with dead people is not currently a crime" (Emily of the Rose would be quite pleased, I'm sure), the BBC reports that new propositions include "a softening attitude to so-called 'zoophiles'."

Well, then.

On Role Models

The esteemed Mr. Volokh writes:
while I'm not an expert on the psychological research surrounding this subject, my sense is that it's not inherently that hard for people to find role models who differ from them in race or sex. People are capable of being inspired by people who lived centuries before them, who spoke a completely different language, had a completely different ethnicity, and lived a completely different sort of life.

I'd second that. My mentor at Harvard is female, true, but is from a different continent, speaks a different native language, and has quite a different skin color. The Sanskritist I base my academic goals on and take inspiration from, in the way a young chemist would look to an older one for inspiration, is a man with entirely different political philosophy and life history. The Sanskritist I dream of working with is a male Sinhalese. There simply are very few female Sanskritists who are any good. It doesn't bother me that I have few females to look up to; in my opinion, your sex has no bearing on how you translate things.

Ethnicity seems to have some bearing -- one can, I hear, translate things in a very "Indian" way. (Don't ask me what it is; but I do assure you it won't sound like Salman Rushdie. And I assume it's not like the "translations" of Dayananda Sarasvati, who had Krishna travel to America in an electric boat.) But it's not impossible for someone who's not brown to write in any writing style; and it's certainly quite possible and frequent for brown people to translate in and approach the language from the preferred style of the west.

Christians for centuries have been urged to look to the historical figure of Jesus as an example of how to live. All modern Christians are temporally removed from him; nearly all are spacially and ethnically removed from him; pretty much all are linguistically removed; and half are not male. So what? Language can be learnt or translated; time appears not to be a problem, nor space, nor culture, as cultural references can be explained; skin color has been entirely done away with, with every race depicting Jesus as looking just like them; and the "women's bibles" that try to point out women to look up to don't sell very well. We don't seem having too much trouble drawing inspiration from stories of the life and teachings of Jesus. (We have trouble actually having the resolution to live by such an example, obviously; but we don't have too much trouble knowing basically how we had ought to live.)

But what of Mary? Women are the only people who can be mothers, so Catholics and High Church Episcopalians such as myself have embellished the story of Mary into a near-cult in order to have a model of the most godlike female life. Isn't that proof that you need role models of both sexes? Well, yes, but only if the men and women in whatever field role models are being put have necessarily different roles. Men and women scientists have, as far as I know, no necessary practical differences in their work. Men and women sociologists must conduct field research quite differently from each other in countries with strictly defined male and female spheres, so having a guide of one's own sex to look up to is quite helpful. Same thing with porn stars, I'm sure.

So, if men and women cannot do the same job, or if people of different races cannot do the same job, then different role models would be very useful for young people looking into said jobs. In literature, science, music, mathematics, construction work, or anything else where your race and sex has no bearing on what kind of work you are able to produce, I don't feel that you need a separate role model for each variety of person who might be interested.

On Primal Scream

Harvard students like to scream. Primally.

Freshman year, spring semester, I recall leaning out my window (we had taken off the screens; now they're screwed on much more securely so I don't leap out the sixteenth floor in a fit of desperation) and releasing a bloodcurdling scream at midnight the night before exams. Freshman winter, I remember going out to watch people run around naked. Apart from European and Brasilian topless beaches, German late-night television, and a few live instances, I had little experience of naked people. None whatsoever of naked people running. Even less of naked people running over and falling in heaps upon ice floes planted by sadistic freshman armed with buckets of water and assisted by below-freezing weather. It was interesting.

Ironic side-note: my best friend from home, who came to Harvard with me, ran freshman winter. I went into his dorm afterwards, to talk with my towel-wearing friend and express my sentiments, and we were interrupted by a girl saying, "______ ________, I have just seen more of you than I ever want to see."

They're getting married next month.

Anyhow. This year, I knew which of my friends had habits of running, so I was (for better or for worse) prepared to see them, and therefore looking for them. So, I identified them far off, so then could see all of them up close. It was... interesting. The Jewish Boyfriend ran, but neither I nor his Beekeeper girlfriend identified him (much to her relief, I believe).

So, why do people of politically and occasionally morally conservative bents choose to be at such events? I don't know. Repression? Curiosity? Boredom? Eagerness to pat ourselves on our philistine backs for being better than those we are watching?

Personally, I'd say a mix of the middle two, but then again, I'm not exactly as morally rigid as some of my co-religionists would like me to be. Much more so than many of my friends, but not exactly a prude.

On Krav Maga

Daniel over at Trivial Pursuits has an excellent series of posts on Krav Maga (which I always want to write, in good Sanskritic form, as Krav Marga, the way of the Krav, the Way of Contact). I am quite sure I wish to follow up on his suggestions and start taking this. Not just for self-defense; also for fitnesss; as it's time I got away from Jane Fonda on my TV. Anyhow, he says:
I love that KM is Jewish in origin, that it is Israeli, that it is the antithesis of victimization. As a Jew, I refuse to be a victim. I will fight if need be, I will protect me and mine, with the ferocity of ha'ari. I will not run and hide. My roar will be heard across the veldt. I will be the lion.

Very nice. Several other personal things exist there as well. Everyone, go read him.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

On Saudi Arabia

I must confess, I was a slight believer in the idea that things would be nicer once we pulled our troops out of Saudi Arabia. However, blowing people up is a rather odd way of saying, "we're glad you've left."

Kind of like Israel. They pull back, relax controls, and people start shooting up families at dinner or blowing up pizza parlors; they tighten up again, things are more peaceful, and they're called all sorts of things by a section of the west who don't seem to have noticed the reason they're tightening up again.

On desparate criminals

What do my readers think of desparate criminals? It's an argument against the death penalty, but I've also heard it used against life sentences (it's one of the reasons there are no true life sentences in some Indian districts) or even just lengthy ones: if someone knows that, should he be caught, he'll die / never get out / not get out for a long time, he'll get desparate and do many worse things to avoid capture because he knows he's already getting the maximum punishment and it can't be increased no matter what else he does. This argument holds for any maximum sentence, no matter if it's a new maximum sentence due to the abolition of a previous and larger maximum (the old joke law that stops the rails: the last car must be removed from every train). If the maximum sentence is five years, and there's no possible way to get a higher sentence, someone who doesn't want to serve that sentence has nothing more to lose by killing everyone who stands in his way and who might turn him in.

Julie Newmar

This is pretty. :)

On Whoredom

Another bit from today's Bleat:
The Jesus of the New Testament would start with the observation that a whore was indeed a whore, but that she should be treated as you would treat your sister. The quote on the Saudi site starts with the presumption that your sister is a whore if other men catch the fragrance she daubed on her neck a few minutes ago.

That's it: he's encapsulated what I've tried to say in a few conversations recently about different religions' approaches to the same concept.

On the "indispensable" modern techniques

As frequently happens, the delightful (especially when he writes about daily life) Mr. Lileks writes something that makes me think:
the state is considering dropping a program that sends nurses to the homes of new parents, giving them valuable hints on childrearing such as “feed your baby” and “hold the child from time to time.” How we raised generations without this program, I’ve no idea, but the need is clearly there - one woman quoted in the article said that without the nurse’s words, she would have had no idea when to feed her baby. (Hint: when they cry.)

I have worked in a temporary child placement facility (formerly known as an "orphanage") run by Child Protective Services (to quote Arlo, there's a study of my fingerprints in black and white up there in Washington with the FBI). Bob works in a certified daycare. He enjoys changing dirty diapers. I mentioned that to my beloved senior tutor here, who responded, "when's the wedding?" -- exactly; I think he's a keeper! But anyhow: we have been trained different ways in our jobs; we also have grown up with different ideas (some traditional Euro-American, some South Indian) on how to care for children and keep house. Therefore, we argue about things frequently.

He's of the opinion that dishes must be handwashed and soaked in bleach before children can safely eat off them. And of the opinion that one should not clean much of anything, nor change diapers (even of your own child, away from daycare), without using disposable rubber gloves (two pairs for diaper changing). Otherwise WE WILL ALL DIE!!!!! And so forth.

I'm of a, in my opinion, more sensible mind. How ever did all generations of children before this one grow up without being protected from every thought of germs? And how did their brains develop without learning-oriented structured playtime?

Back at my high school, one mildly insane biology teacher raised her children in a germ-free home. The effect? the poor children could not eat anywhere but at home without becoming very ill; they could not sleep over at friends' houses; and they were some of the most frequently diseased children I have ever met.

There are pictures of me as a child eating mud pies. I have seasonal allergies, but I only get sick when I've been terribly cruel to my physical being -- not sleeping for a week, living on coffee, etc. I didn't have special toys when I was little; I had one doll, one teddy bear, and an unlimited supply of crayons -- which I normally ignored in favor of dry spaghetti noodles (a remarkably entertaining toy, I seem to recall). I had parents who spent time with me, a mother who would plop me down in the middle of her scarves and costume necklaces and let me entertain myself while she showered and got ready in the morning, and a father who would read the paper aloud for my benefit (when I was 2 -- I don't think I understood too much, but it got me started on reading!). I was largely a self-entertainer. Immediately, they gave me an entirely harmless dog to play with; two and a half years on, they provided me with a small human plaything, and taught me how to treat her. (Once we got to middle school, the kid sister and I didn't get along too well, but we were fine up to then.) We didn't have a TV until several years down the road, and then our reception was (and still is) so bad that we only got PBS and ABC, plus watching old classic movies and Disney animations; even then, TV watching was rare. (Yes, it's on all the time in my room here, but I swear that's an anomaly; when I go home, I watch the news for half an hour in the evenings, and maybe one of the fascinating PBS reality shows or a James Bond movie once a week or so.)

Bob's constantly catching some virus or other, has constant troubles with respiratory allergies and asthma, can't travel without being laid up for two days upon arriving there and upon returning home, and has a very weak immune system (which is improving, from contact with germy babies). His parents, as far as I can tell, were unsure what to do with him. His mother pretended he was a girl at a family reunion (to this day, Bob's uneasy around men in drag). I don't think he's ever had a conversation with his father -- he doesn't even know anything about his father's job beyond the company it's with and that it entails lots of lengthy travel. He's very admirably close to his brother and cousins, but none of them have any sort of functional relationship with their parents. Bob's parents are trying to get a mail-order bride for his brother, who hasn't told them he's already got a girlfriend and who won't tell them he's not interested in the girls they keep sending for. He was raised largely by Nintendo and cable TV.

I feel I've got the upper hand here, both in terms of knowledge of how to have a working family and in terms of my opinion of paranoid obsessive übercleanliness.

But programs and advertisements tell us we can't live without everything in our home being antibacterial! and without children being raised by smart-toys and interactive tv shows! and without special self-esteem boosters!

How ever did I turn out so good?

UPDATE: Didn't mention how we're solving the problems of disagreement: in things that I don't think that are directly harmful, but just an unnecessary hassle, and which I don't want to do, such as washing dishes in bleach, -- well, if it is that important to Bob, the dishes can be washed in bleach, but he'll have to do it. My father was of the opinion that dishes must be soaked in several basins of progressively increasing temperature and decreasing soapiness as part of the handwashing routine; my mother said he could have his dishes washed that way, but he'd have to do it himself. That lasted two days. Something I think is actually unhealthy (keeping my children from all exposure to bacteria ever, for example), well, I'll have to put agreement to those of my ideas as a precondition for childbearing. My uncle tried that quite successfully; his wife is Christian Science, but my uncle would only agree to adopt a baby with her if she would let him take the baby to the doctor in case of any diseases, rather than just praying about it while refusing to use our God-given mental abilities to think of ways to fix it.

#2: If anything keeps us apart, and it's not our massive religious differences, it'll be his moods.

What's in a Name?

Shanti has a story on a Chinese baby saddled with the unfortunate moniker of "Saddam SARS."

Tuesday, May 13, 2003


The apartment I was hoping for is all sold out. So, I've sent dear long-suffering Bob to go look for new ones for me. Austin is such a nice place, with such huge and inexpensive apartments! (Yes, I know, I'm moving from a place probably second only to Manhattan.) Whatever; wish me luck in apartment-searching! (And no, I won't put up where I end up; in the interests of retaining mild anonymity etc. I'll keep that to myself. I'll just celebrate loudly when I find a place at all!)

ZT craziness

Owen Courrèges (here, if permalinks are working) links to this story on firefighters who, while quoting someone else, used the "n-word." And were then suspended.

As Owen points out, "this same zero tolerance regulation would ban the reading of Huckleberry Finn out loud."

I'm amazed, astounded, and entirely distressed by this. Zero Tolerance is insane. Utterly and entirely devoid of any modicum of sense. I can't believe it -- I hope this turns out to have been a fake or somehow misunderstood by the paper or by the fire chief or someone!

For more on ZT looniness, head over to Randy Cassingham's astonishing and impressive pieces on it.

On Texas in absentia

The professor weighs in on the Texas hubbub:
When the 14th Amendment was up for ratification in Tennessee, the same thing happened -- a bunch of legislators absented themselves to avoid a quorum. The Sergeant-at-Arms hired Pinkertons, chased them down (one was recovered after "a wild night-chase over mountains on mule-back"), and brought them to the Capitol. They were then marked "present" and locked in a closet until the voting was over. Thus, Tennessee became the first state of the old Confederacy to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment.

Seems to me this is just like a minor skipping school -- they're cutting out on their legally-mandated duty (they ran for office and got voted in; they're cutting out on their contract), so whoever's in charge has the right to use the power of the law to bring them in.

Then again, I know very little about law. I'll let my law-type readers educate me as to whether or not this is legally feasible (morals aside).


(I have such a problem with that word; always want to write "sanity.")
Anyhow: bathroom hand dryers are less sanitary (and sane, why not) than paper towels.


So Steve, over at ThoughtsOnline (here, if permalinks are working), says, of Bennett:
And, if he hasn't done anything wrong, then why the promise to not gamble again? He should rise up and defend his actions!

Now, to people with no knowledge of a Christian moral system, I see how Bennett's apology could look like hypocrisy.

However, anyone with even a basic grounding in Christianity should know that things that are, in and of themselves, not sinful can become sinful if they damage someone else's faith or lead that other person into something sinful.

Some Biblical support for this argument:
Romans 14:2 One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.
Romans 14:15 If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.
Romans 14:20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.
I Corinthians 8:13Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.

This focuses purely on the question of eating meat -- a quite pertinent one in some areas; I think evangelical Christians in north India could be well advised to avoid the meat seen as offensive by those they wish to influence. It is the way I see the question of head-coverings for women as well -- in places where it is seen as disrespectful or sexually licentious for women to go bare-headed, the church should not require women to abandon headcoverings they feel comfortable with, and outsiders entering the society should consider whether they value their bare-headed-ness or the impression they leave on others more highly.

But the argument can be used for anything that is not per se sinful but can be spiritually/morally harmful to others. Alcohol is not banned (not in the least -- Paul advises Timothy to drink less water and more wine; Jesus' first public miracle was to change water into wine -- you can see which one he preferred!), but a minister going into a bar and having a drink might be a terrible influence on a member of his congregation struggling with alcoholism.

Gambling also seems to me to be, like alcohol, not in and of itself evil. Like alcohol, quite a number of the people who partake do so to excess and several to their eventual ruin. The excess is sinful; the ruin is the consequence; but the existence of excess does not mean that all participation is wrong, any more than junk food should be banned in California because some people can't control themselves. However, the situation changes for someone who is aware that their (moderated) actions are being seen by people who cannot control themselves in the same actions and who will be affected by the example they see set for them.

The minister can drink in his own home, or in public when he is sure that no one will be aversely affected by the example he sets. (This is not the case for things that are in all situations wrong, such as infidelity -- he's just as wrong to sleep with his secretary in his office as he is to sleep with her out on the lawn, although the latter's illegal for many more reasons. I'm making the argument purely about things that are not always wrong.)

Someone who works with people with eating disorders has a moral obligation to eat meals that set a good example for others when others can see. In your own home, you can eat whatever you want, as long as it doesn't go to abuse of your own body, which belongs not to you but to the Lord.

Similarly, a prominent moral authority in America can (if gambling is permissible in theory) gamble so long as he does not do it so publicly as to set a bad example for those with gambling problems who might look to him for moral guidance. (And, additionally, so long as he does not have a gambling problem himself; from what I hear, he gambled often, with high stakes, but did not seem to have problems controlling himself.) As long as only friends and family and people not unduly influenced by him knew what he was up to, he was up to nothing wrong. (If masses of everyone knew it, I kind of think news would have gotten out earlier.) Now that everyone knows, it is his duty to those he claims to guide to make a break and abstain from it either for ever or purely until his actions will no longer be a bad influence on people.

In short: it is not his behavior that is wrong, but just the influence it may have on others not as able to control themselves. Regretting the behavior because of its effects on others is not hypocrisy.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Katie Couric

This is pitiful. For those of you not in the loop, Katie Couric and Jay Leno switched jobs today, Katie hosting the Tonight Show and Jay hosting the Today Show. Jay Leno did a pretty good job, because he's just so great, but she's ridiculous. Visibly nervous, tense, and jokes are falling flat. She's relaxing a bit, but still she's out of her element and not exactly a killer at slapstick.


Graduation's coming up, on June 5. Until then, I'm attending so many senior events, packing and shipping boxes, and transcribing and memorizing over five hundred Sanskrit verses (along with studying for a Hindi exam), so I shall probably remain as sporadic as I've been the past few weeks. I'll keep coming back, though, when I think of something.

On Blackness

Good stuff from Juan non-Volokh over at The Volokh Conspiracy:
Apparently African and Caribbean immigrants remain insufficiently aware of the "color line" which prevents them from succeeding in America.

Of course there is another explanation: African and Caribbean immigrants experience greater rates of educational, professional, and economic success than native-born blacks. African-born blacks are among the most successful immigrant groups in the United States in terms of education and per-capita income. With more success, perhaps these immigrant groups have less to blame on "white America" – or in another panelist’s phrase, "white supremacy." Alternatively, perhaps the refusal of immigrant groups to embrace victim status explains part of their success.

Sunday, May 11, 2003


There's sad news out of England today (linked to by everyone, including Owen, who also has a nice cartoon of it):
Government lawyers trying to keep the Norfolk farmer Tony Martin behind bars will tell a High Court judge tomorrow that burglars are members of the public who must be protected from violent householders.

My priest, who, like any good Texan priest, packs heat, is taking me to learn how to shoot a handgun this summer, and urges me to get a concealed-carry license. Ah, what a different world it is, where the person breaking into my home would not be at fault, but rather I, if I even threatened him with shooting him. That's insane.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

The pavement on hell's entrance ramp

Matthew Yglesias is on the mark again, as he often is when making philosophical statements:
Ultimately, I think it's very rare in the real world for people to actually mean ill. The whole problem is that people acting on good faith beliefs about the correct course of action are often simply wrong, on occassion egregiously so.

I hope more people start realizing that. Bono made a similar comment (along the lines of "people who don't want to increase foreign aid usually aren't heartless; they just think increasing foreign aid is not going to do anything to solve the problems"), at which point I gained respect for his activism to go along with my nearly blasphemous idolatry of him in a musical context.

Things we didn't know

The X-Men are Jewish.

Scum of the earth

This is disgusting. A girl, schooled largely at home, given nearly straight A+ grades by her mother, and exempted from courses (P.E. and fine arts) that didn't come with extra weighted GPA points, was named valedictorian of her school; because it would have been impossible for any other student in the school without the special exemptions of non-weighted courses to match her GPA, even if they matched or exceeded her grades in all the same weighted courses, I hear, the school decided to name the highest-achieving regular student as co-valedictorian. I hear he would have had a higher GPA than hers, if he had been exempted from P.E. But being named co-valedictorian was a disgrace, apparently, so she and her judge father are suing for $2.5 million.

There's more on the case and on her father here:
A state judge threatened to manipulate rules to ensure his daughter became valedictorian of the graduating class at Moorestown High School, Superintendent of Schools Paul Kadri contends in court papers.

But the judge's daughter claims the district is discriminating against her, and she has sued in an effort to ensure that she remains the high school's top student.

In court papers, Kadri contends Superior Court Judge Louis Hornstine last fall said he would "use any advantage of the laws and regulations to give (his daughter, Blair Hornstine) the best opportunity to be valedictorian.

"I don't care if others get hurt," Kadri also quotes Hornstine as saying in a meeting between the two. "All I'm interested in is what is best for my daughter."

One email I have seen on this adds,
Furthermore, it's not even clear that Hornstine's disability is genuine. Her lengthy resume includes the Congressional Gold Medal for Youth, one of whose requirements is the completion of 200 hours of physical/sports activity. And she was an Olympic Torch Bearer as well. And she's traveled to China to speak to disfigured girls. And participated in model congress trips. But somehow she's still too fatigued to sit through a day of school or take a gym class, when her GPA is in question...

I'm so glad "class" and "taste" are no longer automatically congruent with birth -- and they never have been uniformly related with economic status. This way, regardless of her family's money or her father's profession, it is clear to anyone that she and her family are singularly devoid of both, along with many other social virtues.

Her name's been widely broadcast here at Harvard, and I hope she is made to feel ashamed of what she is doing. (I also hope that, should it turn out that she was forced into it by her parents -- like the boy in my class whose parents had a press release on their son's Harvard admission -- and actually is not the type of person to do this, she, like press-release guy, will be accepted as a regular person with unfortunate parents. And, because holding grudges is silly and pointless, if she was in the wrong, but apologizes and attempts to make amends, I should hope that people accept that and her.)

UPDATE: Looks like she won her case.


From the San Francisco Chronicle: Palestinian students recreate paradise to show what awaits ``martyrs''. The most interesting quote to me is: "The university -- a hotbed of Palestinian nationalism and a Hamas stronghold -- said it officially opposes bombings but didn't want to stifle the students' views."

That's like Harvard letting students put up a VNN -- no, a KKK exhibit of the most violent sort, calling for and praising those who bring about the deaths of those not wanted, and arguing that it's free speech.

There are many restrictions on free speech in this country, some of which I agree with and some of which I don't, but one I feel is necessary is a ban on "fighting words." Along with not being allowed to yell "fire" in a crowded theater, you can't make threats on someone's life and defend it as "free speech."

Another masterpiece from Bryson

Am reading Bill Bryson's latest work. It's excellent, as could be expected. He's also followed in the admirable lead of Dr. Armand Nicholi (in what is an excellent book, putting between two covers the substance of the best Harvard course I've taken) in putting a loose notes section at the end of his book. Bryson has heretofore avoided notes altogether, at least in the books of his (nearly all of them) which I've read, probably because foot/endnotes break up the reading. What he has done in this book, however, is to put a notes section at the back, where all references to page and line stand in the note itself rather than in the text, serving as a resource for those interested in further information (or in fact-checking him, as I quite enjoy doing -- he writes back to letters and is a most entertaining correspondent!) but not demanding that casual readers see his citations. The best part of the whole book? I seem to have a companion in my often impenetrable writing style. In the midst of a fascinating and hilarious recounting of the exploits of insane and masochistic semi-professional scientists of the 18th century, he quotes one Mr. James Hutton:
The world which we inhabit is composed of the materials, not of the earth which was the immediate predecessor of the present, but of the earth which, in ascending from the present, we consider as the third, and which had preceded the land that was above the surface of the sea, while our present land was yet beneath the water of the ocean.

Or again:
In the one case, the forming cause is in the body which is separated; for, after the body has been actuated by heat, it is by the reaction of the proper matter of the body, that the chasm which constitutes the vein is formed. In the other case, again, the cause is extrinsic in relation to the body in which the chasm is formed. There has been the most violent fracture and divulsion; but the cause is still to seek; and it appears not in the vein; for it is not every fracture and dislocation of the solid body of our earth, in which minerals, or the proper substances of mineral veins, are found.

See? I could be worse!

Insulting Islam?

I just heard something entirely insane; apparently, missions groups are asking Christian leaders not to speak of Islam as a violent religion, because such a statement could endanger the lives of Christian mission workers in Islamic areas.

What??? Islam's a religion of peace, and if you say it's not, we'll kill you???

UPDATE: Dang, apparently J.T. got there first again. And says it better than I. (thus saith the Lord.)

Friday, May 09, 2003

And another one

Of course, Oxblog's is pure perfection:

OxBlog body {background:in tight leather
U.S. troops including elections, which
critics across genres, from Deputy
Secretary Wolfowitz
aka Wolfivitz from engaging listening to, democracy , in order
to prioritize their
favored minority and amusing
odd stories.... Posted 11:39 . I guess that
Lieberman also more than
Syria, Jordan, and in Britain
is that over at headquarters.

Personalized Poetry

A poem written just for me:

Listen to do you get accepted, interpretation of
the truth in France have changed
in GujaratThis is
when the muslim pigs as is
weighted heavily in brought you think problematic if I
have someone in jail
for it was selling out the
supposedly rhetorical well, Plus, the wake of
Christ, he can no friends
and then Matthew Yglesias. Goldberg, and detachment and
the most recently had been
The author of
themselves deciding
among them with, a role for her ; to check
it out with quite
a picture just weird and
I have complained that
not refrain from India. and it is
a weeknight, my translation
from the tag, fold your head of what
he said it ourselves, first, Indian prints to have
as I know not
translate German,
words appear at meetings if no they
invited any
more people grow out of
woman apparently; Doctors and everyone
was about, half
admirably individual argument. I before.
in the part of hoop skirts and
my footnotes all
take a conference held in the world
so I swear I think that even
the people are going
to make
government .

Bible Bracket 2003

This, my friends, is genius.

On Disenfranchisement

Or, a descent far from my original topic

A certain acquaintance has written a book: Invisible Citizens: Youth Politics After September 11. I went to the book signing yesterday; their presentation was rather interesting, and the book looks good. The author of my acquaintance will be the first Indian president of the USA, I'm quite certain. One point was made with which I did not quite agree, however: one of the authors said that the current college-age population is disenfranchised because they are not interested in voting.

There comes a time when an idea becomes so overextended that it ceases to have any use and minimizes the importance of its original meaning. When the British decide that pornography within a prison is a basic human right, classifying it at the same level as access to food and air and so forth, the whole concept of "basic human rights" becomes ridiculous. When Mary Daly wishes to define feminism as necessarily believing that all heterosexual intercourse is per se rape, both the work of worthy feminists interested in giving a woman equal right as a man to ask a bank for a loan etc. and the suffering of women (and men) who have experienced the more commonly accepted interpretation of "rape" are trivialized.

It's the same argument made about PETA's WWII campaign -- saying killing chickens and killing Jews and Jehovah's Witnesses are morally identical minimizes the latter. An article I read perhaps a year ago asked the question, "why are there no woman philosophers?" (to which my initial response was, aren't there?) and then answered it, and I paraphrase, "There are no woman philosophers for the same reason there are no child or animal philosophers." The article was attempting to be pro-woman (although it failed miserably and was in many other ways horridly offensive), but, especially in that one comment, came across as implying that women in philosophy are either immature or sub-human.

In the political sphere, saying that George Bush is a terrorist of no moral difference from someone in Iraq who puts people through shredders or someone in Finland who will kill his female relative for dalliance with a male not in her family (and then defend it, and have many Fins join in in the defence on the basis of tolerance of other religions) becomes entirely ludicrous. Saying that Bob Dole wants to "put women's rights back 100 years" is equally laughable (you may believe he wants to outlaw abortion; does anyone believe he wants to deny women the right to vote, or any other thing that has changed in the past century?).

Back to the original point, calling apathy about politics "disenfranchisement" trivializes the state of people actually disenfranchised, actively denied the opportunity to vote, and makes them out to be no different from lazy collegians. They may be no different in effect, as neither is voting, but eagerly desiring to vote and being prevented is quite different from not caring and not bothering.

Yes, there are people who sincerely believe that each of these extreme positions are morally equivalent to the core of whichever concept is being stretched. Mary Daly appears quite certain that there is no such thing as consensual heterosexual intercourse. I have met an educated Jain monk (a rarity, I hear, because of his order's tenets, among which is a requirement that you must believe the world to be flat) who was filled with self-loathing because of his conviction that he was constantly committing murder by existing and therefore killing microorganisms whose life was entirely morally equivalent to his own. Telling any of these people that they are extremist is useless, because they believe themselves to be correct; I'm sure we all take some positions that others would believe to be extremist. (As a dear friend often says, as long as the death threats are coming from both the right and the left, you're probably doing ok.) I've recently had a conversation in which I was called a racist Zionist extremist for disagreeing with the proposition that all Jews must abandon the middle east in order to atone for their sins. I found the other person's position a bit extreme, myself, which goes to demonstrate that extremism is in the eye of the beholder, to some level. I don't have a solution to this problem (yes, my omniscience fails me here).

I've made this point on another blog recently, but it fits here as well: when you have someone fully convinced that aborting a baby six months along is murder, what do you say to them -- that it objectively isn't murder? that it's murder, but it's allowable? that they can feel it's murder for them, but it's ok for other people (incidentally, I can't for the life of me understand the people who say they believe abortion is murder but also call themselves pro-choice)? That society has decided what is murder and what isn't, and they must go by what the courts feel (why do the courts get to decide what is murder and what isn't)?

When you have someone fully convinced that killing a chicken is murder, what do you say to them? which of the above answers?

And what when you have someone fully convinced that killing a four-year-old is murder, what do you say to them? Or someone fully convinced that it isn't -- what do you say to them?

Why would any of those discussions be different from the other?

Is murder defined as depriving another human, after birth, of life without their consent or the consent of the court? Can courts approve of killing a person? Does an individual's consent to be killed change the moral status of the circumstances of his death? Why is it restricted to humans? Why is it restricted to humans of a certain age/location? Is allowing someone to die when you can keep them alive murder? why? why not?

Why is murder wrong?

Is it?