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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Broadway strike ends

Too late for me, but I'm happy for them. Not sure about the details of the deal, but hopefully the stagehands got some of what they wanted, and holiday visitors to NYC get to see the shows. Good news all around. Just wish they'd managed to sort things out in time for my trip to The City!


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hardball is silly

I think of Chris Matthews as a pretty credible guy, though he's not my favorite or anything. He has a new feature on his show, The Number of the Day. Whatever. But tonight the number was 95 - the number of times Bill Clinton said the word "I" in the first 10 minutes of his speech in Iowa. So what? They tried to make it seem like he's totally in love with himself and that even though his wife is running for president and he's on the stump for her, it's still all about him. It was about the dumbest thing I've ever seen on a legitimate political show. Everyone starts lots of sentences with "I" - it's how we communicate - "I said," "I went," "I think." To read something more into it is really grasping at straws. And it felt very deliberate - undermining Bill and Hillary both with this interpretation. And most importantly, what does any of this have to do with The People's Business? How can we pick an appropriate leader if this is what the media is drawing our attention to? Odd and discouraging.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Professor Masursky

I taught the stats seminar for the first time today. It went pretty well. Of course I left way too much of the prep until the last minute - I was online last night reviewing more definitions and examples. And I talked way too fast - I covered all the material in about 15 minutes (I had 45). For Thursday, I'm going to slow down. The class was very passive and uninterested, but Dr Lopez, the resident coordinator, said this particular class is just like that and the group on Thursday will be different (livelier).
ADDENDUM 11/29/07
I spent all day Wednesday editing my presentation, based partly on feedback from Dr Lopez, but mostly on my desire to improve the information. I almost doubled the length, by adding more topics and lots more examples. I tried hard to slow down during the presentation, and I ended up using exactly the amount of time I was alloted. Only 7 of the 20 upperclass residents came to the session, which was a little discouraging, but the presentation will be loaded onto Blackboard and they can all peruse it at their leisure (it was worth the time to prepare it if it ends up as a valuable resource for the residents). Next week I'll use the time to discuss the design and analysis of a study reported in an actual journal article (selected by Dr Lopez).

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Enchanted was enchanting

Loved this movie. Totally adorable, cast perfectly, just fun, fun, fun. Amy Adams is one to watch - she's lovely and talented - she's going to be a huge star. And of course McDreamy is still dreamy. Most of all, I had to admire the way they managed to have it both ways - satirizing all the cliches and conventions of fairy tale romance, but at the same time totally embracing the dream of True Love. Plus that dance number in Central Park was da bomb!


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

More evidence of lying

With the excerpt from former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's book just released to the press, I am again left wondering, why is GWB not being impeached? McClellan's (granted, quite self-serving) account of the "outing" of Valerie Plame Wilson affirms yet again that Bush and Cheney "actively engaged in efforts to prevent the truth from coming out." Why were pundits and conservative activists so enraged by Clinton's (relatively minor) misconduct, but they give both Bush and Cheney a complete pass on their own blatant misdeeds?


Former aide says Bush misled media in CIA leak case
11-21- 2007

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20 -- Former White House spokesman Scott McClellan said in his new book that President George W. Bush misled the media in the CIA leak scandal, according to an excerpt of the book released Tuesday.

In the book titled "What Happened", McClellan said top administration officials -- including Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney -- were involved in his "unknowingly" passing along false information about the leak of a CIA operative's identity.

McClellan, a long-time Bush aide, served as White House press secretary from July 2003 until April 2006.

In October 2003, as controversy grew about the leak of the name of Valerie Plame, the CIA operative, McClellan told reporters that Karl Rove, then the Bush's top political adviser, and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, had not been involved.

"There was one problem. It was not true," McClellan writes in the new book, which is to be released in April.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bill O'Reilly's guest hostesses

Occasionally I tune in to Fox News, just to see what they're talking about (the other day a discussion panel was were ranting about a recent survey that showed more CEOs supporting Giuliani than Clinton by all of 25% to 19%, but by the way they talked, you'd have thought the margin was much larger and more significant). In any event, apparently Bill-o (as Keith Olbermann calls him) is on vacation this week, and hosting his show were 3 bleached blonde automatrons. Larry and I agreed that apparently it takes 3 dumb blondes to be as stupid as just one Bill O'Reilly.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Science or just silliness?

"Moniker madness" or "name-letter preference" in last week's issue of Newsweek. I'm a little worried - I have one "C" (Caleb) and one "A" (Alana)! While Ms Begley notes that the effect is small, she also says that in science it's important to focus on the fact that there's an effect at all! Below is just an excerpt - follow the link for more.


A, My Name is Alice: Moniker Madness
by Sharon Begley, Newsweek

You know the old children’s game (excellent for long car trips) where you think of a name, place, and item for sale beginning with the same letter: “P my name is Paul, and I come from Poughkeepsie and I sell potatoes.” Turns out there may be more to it than we thought: People like their names so much that they unconsciously opt for things that begin with their initials. Tom is more likely to buy a Toyota, move to Totowa and marry Tessa than is Joe, who is more likely to buy a Jeep, move to Jonestown and marry Jill. Even weirder, they gravitate toward things that begin with their initials even when those things are undesirable, like bad grades or a baseball strikeout.

In what they call “moniker maladies,” a pair of researchers find that although no baseball player wants to strike out, players whose names begin with K (scorecard shorthand for a strikeout) fan more often than other players. Most students want As, but those whose names begin C or D have lower grade point averages than students whose names begin with A and B—with an even greater effect if they say they like their initials. That has real-world consequences: students whose names begin with C or D and go to law school attend lower-ranked ones than students whose names begin with A or B.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Movie chat

Watched Lions for Lambs last night with Frank and Matt. I liked it, I found it to be very intelligent and thought-provoking. I had pretty low expectations because much of what I had read said it was dull or just not offering anything new. I thought it was well made and well worth seeing.

In other news, just heard about a fun movie website - a sort of "Match.com" for movies! You answer about a dozen questions about your movie preferences and tell the site what you're in the mood for, and it offers you a movie title that you should rent (or several, if you keep clicking).


My suggestions included Amelie, Before Sunset, La Dolce Vita, and Best in Show.

ADDENDUM 11/21/07

Turns out that this site produces almost the exact same list of suggested rentals for almost anyone who goes there. Not sure why these particular movies are featured so prominently in their algorithm, but it makes the whole enterprise rather questionable.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

T-shirts now available in many styles

I got this message posted to the comments of this blog b/c I used the phrase yesterday. You can even get it on a thong. I wonder if the woman who asked the original question gets a commission . . .

* * * *

It's the new anti-hillary conservative catch phrase!

'how do we beat the bitch?'

Now available: t-shirts, hats, stickers, mugs, buttons, magnets, and more



Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"How do we beat The Bitch?"

I saw this on cable news this morning. Maybe it's trite, but I'm really offended by McCain allowing a constituent to call HRC "The Bitch" without commenting on how inappropriate and counter-productive that is. It's especially offensive when you consider that the African-American community is having a painful conversation right now about calling women bitches and ho's (and each other the N word)!!

You can watch the clip at this website:

McCain thinks ‘bitch’ inquiry is an ‘excellent question’
Posted November 13th, 2007 at 3:15 pm

Obviously, presidential candidates aren’t responsible for comments made by their supporters. Candidates are, however, responsible for showing a little class. It’s apparently something that John McCain has forgotten.

At a campaign event in South Carolina, a McCain backer stood up to ask the senator, “How do we beat the bitch?” I

n response, McCain said, “We have our differences with our Democratic rivals, but I believe in treating people with respect. It’s why I don’t refer to women as ‘bitches,’ even when I disagree with them. I’m sure all of us believe we can debate the serious issues of the day without name-calling and degrading language.”

No, no, I’m just kidding. He actually responded, “That’s an excellent question.”

ADDENDUM 11/15/07

This morning Joe Scarborough's entire team, including Mika Brzezinski (daughter of hawkish Jimmy Carter advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who currently advises the Obama campaign), was tut-tutting the emptiness of this discussion, saying pundits have to fill airtime, so they go on and on about things that don't matter. I know it's not a "policy" issue, but I don't think considering the implications of calling HRC "The Bitch" falls in the same category as discussions of what people wear or their haircuts and that sort of drivel.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

"Anti-war movies don't sell"

This column appeared in our local paper today. I think Jonah Goldberg is a horse's ass, and he's typically hysterical here, but he also makes a couple of interesting points. The best:

This illuminates an under-discussed dynamic of our times. Americans are both anti-war and anti-anti-war.


'Anti-' doesn't sell

Though the war in Iraq is unpopular, Hollywood is finding out that Americans aren't clamoring for anti-war diatribes.

By Jonah Goldberg

We've all heard the stories, many true, some apocryphal, of soldiers returning home from Vietnam only to be disrespected and shunned by an ungrateful nation. How many were called war criminals or spat upon is as controversial as it is unknowable. But there's one thing we know our troops never experienced. We never filled the movie theaters during wartime with films calling them war criminals, rapists and, figuratively, spitting on them or on their mission.

Not so today.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Currency free fall

I have to admit, this is starting to freak me out.


Morning Edition
November 9, 2007
Dollar's Woes Threaten Status
by Eleanor Beardsley

This week the U.S. dollar has hit an all time low against major world currencies, including the euro and the British pound.

The greenback's decline has been going on for two years. Some are predicting the dollar may soon lose its status as the world's leading investment currency.

There is such a lack of confidence in the U.S. dollar that the world's richest model, Brazilian Gisele Bundchen, says she will no longer accept payment in the currency. She says the euro is now her currency of choice.

And she is not alone.

Paris-based financial analyst Pierre Briancon says the world's major investors — including China, Russia and the Gulf states — are beginning to switch their reserves and assets out of dollars and into euros.

"Major holders of currency reserves would rather hold currencies that are likely to appreciate than the dollar when there's no end in sight in the slide of the dollar against the euro," Briancon says.

The dollar has depreciated 10 percent against major currencies in the last year.

America's current account and budget deficits, plus the recent subprime mortgage crisis, are fueling the dollar's free fall.

While a weak dollar makes U.S. products cheaper abroad, thus boosting U.S. exports, it also leads to a spiral of inflation and recession.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Aqua Dots' toxic glue

This is all over the news. Commentators are criticizing the Chinese, the toy companies and government oversight (the head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Nancy Nord, may lose her job). I'm extremely grateful that my kids are old enough that they rarely put toys in their mouths - I'd be really worried if I had a 2 year old.


Friday November 9, 2007
The Guardian
Chinese-made toy beads recalled after children fall ill
Chemical similar to liquid ecstasy blamed for comas
Panic spreads to North America from Australia

A scare over a popular toy made in China that was found to contain a chemical similar to the recreational drug liquid ecstasy has spread around the world, with millions of the toys being recalled in Australia and North America.

The alert began in Australia and New Zealand where six children fell ill, some of them going into a deep coma, after swallowing small beads that make up the toy.
[. . .]
The scare is the latest blow to the industry in the commercial run-up to Christmas and damages further the reputation of Chinese goods, which account for more than 60% of global toy sales. This year the giant Mattel recalled more than 21 million toys made in China from its global outlets after concerns were raised about detachable parts and lead paint which can cause brain damage in children.

The image of the "made in China" label has been particularly battered in the US, where there have been a record-breaking 472 recalls this year, particularly of toys, pet food and tires.

Recent surveys of American parents suggest that a third have decided to avoid all Chinese-made goods as they plan their Christmas shopping.

On Wednesday US authorities announced a separate recall of more than 400,000 children's products, mainly toys sold at dollar stores, with dangerous levels of lead.

Aqua Dots kits are made up of small beads that can be stuck together to make shapes and designs once they are sprayed with water. It has proved to be wildly popular - it was voted 2007 Australian Toy of the Year.

The normal product is coated with a harmless glue made from a chemical, 1,5-pentanediol. In the faulty batches the glue was replaced by 1,4-butanediol, a chemical which when taken into the body breaks down into a poison similar in composition to liquid ecstasy, or gamma hydroxy butyrate. The drug, which is also known as GBH or fantasy, is a well-known dance drug, inducing a degree of sedation, and has been linked to cases of date rape.

It remained unclear last night whether the chemicals were intentionally or mistakenly swapped. Both chemicals are widely used in factories in Shenzhen in China's southern Guangdong province where the beads are thought to have been made before being distributed by the Australian-based firm Moose Enterprise.

The company says it will resupply the product coated with an ingredient that is bitter to the tongue to dissuade children from swallowing the beads.

The Chinese government has attempted to assuage rising fears about the quality of Chinese products by stepping up factory inspections and investing in training on international safety standards. But with the demand for cheap goods continuing to boom, and China's exports growing at an astonishing 28% a year, the country is likely to continue to find it difficult to meet safety standards set in the United States and other highly industrialised nations.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Hair of the Dog

This was balm for my hangover - not only did this NPR story recap the nationwide election results (which contained much good news for the Dems), but they featured a discussion with a Republican Congressman who tried rather unsuccessfully to spin the situation, just making it more obvious that the "permanent Republican majority" that Karl Rove dreamed of is just a pipe dream now.


All Things Considered
November 7, 2007
Election 2008
Challenges Ahead for GOP

Election 2007 has just wrapped up in a few states, and the Democrats won big.

Looking ahead to 2008, what does this mean for the Republican Party and its effort to win back Congress? Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) talks with Robert Seigel about the steep mountain ahead for the GOP.


Election Day Hangover

I'm pretty disgusted this morning, though there are some high points. In our local County Executive race, a young woman named Joanie Mahoney won handily over her Democratic rival (though, to be fair, there's a 2:1 ratio of Republican voters in this county, so the Republicans easily dominate in many races). She won the primary against the endorsed Republican candidate by the slimmest of margins (21 votes!) I was excited to see her as a viable candidate, and even considered voting for her, until I read about her and the opposing candidate. She has absolutely no relevant experience and her political credibility arises more from her father's long political career than from her own activities. She reminds me of Bush - she's charming and well-connected, but she's completely unprepared for the job. The County Executive oversees a workforce of 4000+ people and a budget of over $1 billion (including fire, police, water, sanitation, and social services). It's a serious job that deserves a serious stewart, not a wannabe with a chip on her shoulder (her father was defeated in the race for Syracuse mayor 2 years ago).

The high points are the two Republican seats in the county legislature that went to Democrats, including the first ever seat in a suburban district - my own (I saw quite a few lawn signs in my neighborhood for the Democratic candidate!) That feels great!

Sadly, when I went to vote yesterday, they told me the turnout had been low - the turnout is always over 50% and hadn't hit that point. Very discouraging. And on the news this morning I heard discussion of America's incredibly low voter turnout compared to other democratic nations - we're in the bottom 25%. What does that say about us?

Among those not voting was my husband, who was on a plane to Florida yesterday. On the way to the airport in the morning he said, "What's the point, they're all corupt scumbags." I hope that he's only saying that to tweak me. I contend that local elections are just as important as national ones, in fact, in many ways they're more important, because they impact on your life more directly. Just as significantly, the less involved that voters are, the more the choice does become pointless, because politicians can see that we're not paying attention. Ms Mahoney won the primary by 21 votes. That's not very many people who decided the fate of a billion dollars.

Just to make the taste in my mouth even more sour, on Joe Scarborough's show this morning, he and his two co-hosts ALL predicted that Rudy Giuliani will be the next president. What a vile thought. I would consider a move to Canada.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Here's a cheerful assessment from my Main Man, Fareed Zakaria, in the most recent issue of Newsweek:


President Bush continues to talk about Iraq's shining democracy in speeches that seem utterly detached from reality. This is a nation where 4.5 million people have fled their homes, ethnic cleansing has transformed whole cities and religious fanatics have imposed a theocratic rule that is often more extreme than in Iran. In much of the country, thugs rule the streets. . . The central government is barely functioning. Half of the cabinet ministries are either vacant or nonfunctional. Iraq's oil production is down this year. Sectarian divisions are, in some ways, getting worse.

Monday, November 05, 2007

It's just a mess

Argh, the world seems full of bad news:
  • Turkey wants us to help them kill the PKK
  • Pakistan is now officially a dictatorship, but we can't do anything about it, because the alternative is another Iraq (ineffective government and stronger Islamic militants)
  • Mukasey is getting confirmed despite his refusal to disavow waterboarding (it makes me sick to even write that)
  • Hillary Clinton is being attacked for playing the "gender card" (what a joke) and the discussion just won't die

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Latest movies

Saw several movies recently. In the theater:

The Kingdom. Better than I expected, but more depressing too - it essentially suggests that we're all doomed and there's no real solution to The War on Terror. Plus they killed off a great character and turned him into a plot device - annoying.

Things We Lost in the Fire. A really great cast - Halle Berry, Benicio Del Toro and David Duchovny. And a really beautifully made movie. But ultimately it was a bit disappointing - kind of arty and a little random - not quite what I expected. Worth watching, especially for Benicio Delicio (my husband and stepson coined that!), but not quite the emotionally or psychological impact that I had hoped for.

Bee Movie. I took my son to this, but I enjoyed it at least as much as he did, and therein lies it's brilliance - it holds the interest of all ages. I thought there were many charming jokes and of course the basic message was timely. Seinfeld's still got it.

On video:

Gray Matters. A surprisingly adorable Heather Graham coming out of the closet when she falls in love with her beloved brother's hot new wife (played by the incredibly gorgeous Bridget Moynahan). Also features Rachel Shelley, who plays Helena Peabody on The L Word. Quite a charming romantic comedy, with a light touch and likable characters (and a smokin' hot kiss) - it just may be the first lesbian rom-com on my Must See list.

The Dog Problem. Deliberately quirky charmer with Giovanni Ribisi (does he make any other kind of movie?), written and directed by Scott Caan. Odd but funny right up to the off kilter ending. Minor complaint: Mena Suvari, who's been terrific in other movies was completely wasted here.

Wedding Wars. With John Stamos as a gay party planner who helps his brother, a political aide, plan a big wedding. The brother is played by Eric Dane ("McSteamy" on Grey's Anatomy). This was made by A&E, but I missed it when it was broadcast months ago, so had to get it on video. Pretty respectable for a TV movie - a couple of dorky moments, but more charming that I expected. Bonus with the DVD - nice little "Making Of" video on the disc.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Election musings

I've been cogitating on this ever since I heard it: Tucker Carlson, before the debate on Tuesday night, said that John Edwards proves that you can't win by focusing on policy - he said that no one has been more specific than Edwards with regards to what he would actually do if elected, and it's not getting Edwards noticed by the voters. It's so true and so annoying. Not that Edwards is necessarily the best candidate, but the fact that he's focusing on issues is just not a winning strategy. It's so frustrating.

Then today I had this exchange with my friend Mike. He's a moderate Democrat who has supported various Republican candidates and is not a fan of Hillary Clinton. Here's what he said:

From a practical standpoint, I think she's too divisive a candidate and will have a tough time getting elected. In terms of not liking her, I can't put my finger on it- [at the debate] she did not answer a number of questions that pointedly asked for yes or no- she danced around her views and, to me, wasted a lot of time. She also kept saying "when I was in the White House I did..." but the fact is that she was never elected to serve in the White House and I think that was part of the problem in that administration. Finally, Hillary has never governed anything in her life and while the same can be said about Obama, he seems much more likely to build bridges and far less arrogant than she does . . . Wanting to be president and feeling like you deserve to be president is fine, but she is easily the weakest candidate in the Democratic field (there's no way she's better than Dodd, Biden, Richardson and Kucinich, those at the bottom of the popularity scale) and I think she would never have even been considered had she not been First Lady.

And here's what I said:

I hear what you're saying Mike, I really do, and I'm not a big fan myself, for a lot of reasons, but it's been such a difficult 8 years, and, at this point, I would like to see any Dem in office over any Republican . . . I didn't think she could get elected in NY, being as she was a total carpet bagger, but she was elected and reelected. There are many people who like and admire her, and many people who think that she is straddling issues out of necessity, not b/c her character is flawed. I agree that the other candidates would actually make better presidents, but they clearly aren't electable for various reasons. I don't agree with the process that this country uses to choose a leader - if we picked the best person for the job, we never would have ended up with GWB - but this is the process we're stuck with and I think Hillary would make a better president than Bush (though that's not saying much, of course, but that's the standard we have at this point).

Frankly, I'm getting sort of terrified by hearing various Democrats (including my own husband) saying they wouldn't support Hillary Clinton. That seems like a recipe for that Neanderthal Giuliani to get elected and that is SO not what this country needs right now. Of course it's WAY too early to be projecting this race, but he whole thing is nerve-wracking.