Sunday, January 29, 2006


The historicists speak:
"Livery in the broad sense--that is, the payments of dependents in food, lodging, and clothing--continued well into the nineteenth century. Karl Marx's servant, Helene Demuth, was never given a regular wage, and she lived mainly off non-monetary 'gifts.' And the poorer you were, the more significant was livery as a crucial part of your income... ."
Is this practice really dead? I've known many people whose retail jobs require that they wear the company's clothes. Are there companies that allow employees to wear sample outfits on the sales floor?--I doubt it. I think that most of the employees are probably forced into the position of taking the employee discount and buying the clothes outright. Some of my friends who are simply withstanding their temporary employment with these companies have decribed this requirement as an excuse to load up on decent clothing at wholesale costs. I've also known a fair number of people who've blown their paychecks buying from the store for which they were working. The difference between these groups is mobility: for the upwardly mobile, buying a few clothes at employee discount represents an investment in the future. For the non-upwardly mobile, buying livery is a cruel imposition and a travesty of what livery used to mean in the old economy.

They keep saying that the service sector is America's future in a globalized economy...


Thursday, January 26, 2006


When I was growing up, my mother kept a a quote-box. A number of them, actually. She divided her quotes as she needed them--"Man's Estate, God and Man, Men and Women," etc.--but she read widely and stocked her quote box with all of the authors who had fashioned a few sentences that had made her think.

She passed that tradition on. I kept an index box, for a while. The following three posts are, in some way, tribute to her.


The Logic of Terrorism

"It does not do to rely too much on silent majorities, Evey, for silence is a fragile thing... One loud noise, and it's gone. But the people are so cowed and disorganised. A few might take the opportunity to protest, but it'll just be a voice crying in the wilderness. Noise is relative to the silence preceding it. The more absolute the hush, the more shocking the thunder clap. Our masters have not heard the people's voice for generation's, Evey... ...and it is much, much louder than they care to remember."
--Alan Moore, David Lloyd, V For Vendetta

(Opening in US cinemas March 17th; we'll see how that goes.)


"Relations" with Humans

"Lust is more abstract than logic: it seeks (hope triumphing over experience) for some purely sexual, hence purely imaginary, conjunction of an impossible maleness with an impossible femaleness."
----C. S. Lewis Allegory of Love


Relations with the Divinity

"Aujourd'hui quand on me parle de Lui, je dis avec l'amusement sans regret d'un vieux beau qui rencontre une ancienne belle: 'Il y a cinquante ans, sans ce malentendu, sans cette meprise, sans l'accident qui nous separa, il aurait pu avoir quelque chose entre nous.'"

Sartre, Les Mots
[update: Html error corrected to, ahem, restore what the vieux beau said.]

(Clumsy translation across the fold.)

"When someone speaks of Him today, I say with the bemusement of an old lover who crosses an old love: 'Fifty years ago, had it not been for that misunderstanding, that disagreement, that incident that separated us, there could have been something between us."


Monday, January 23, 2006

Menu: Easy Rich Food For When You're Really Hungry

Creamed Sauteed Mushrooms, Shell Steak, and Salad.

1. Marinating the steak.
--A simple marinade is worchester sauce and chopped garlic. Or you could go with a bit of red wine, onion, and garlic. Don't forget a bit of olive oil, a fair amount of freshly ground black pepper, and not an insubstantial amount of salt.

2. Set oven to broil.

3. Preparing the Mushrooms. (if you can afford cremini or shitaki, these are excellent. You want at least a half-pound of mushrooms for two people, I find, but then I love mushrooms.)
---a. wash and scrub them
---b. cut them into chunky matchsticks. (I usually lop off the bottom third of most shrooms.)

1. Cooking the Mushrooms.
---a. heat olive oil in skillet (Medium-low heat)
---b. crush two cloves garlic into skillet
---c. add 1 teaspoon cumin (turn heat up to medium)
---d. add mushrooms
---e. add two tablespoons fines herbes
---f. stir for ten minutes, then turn heat down to medium low, and cover.

2. Go relax for ten minutes.

3. Maybe prepare your salad, you know, wash those greens, chop that cucumber.
(Note: I have recently discovered Persian cucumbers; a quarter of the size of the standard cucumber, they have twice the flavor and much less annoying seeds. They tend to be pricey, though, and available only in the posher supermarkets. Check them out when you're feeling flush!)

4. Look at your mushrooms.
---a. have they reduced in size by at least a third?
---b. do they begin to taste almost meaty?

5. If so...
---a. add at least 2 tablespoons creme fraiche
---b. add 1 more tablespoon fines herbes
---c. turn down heat to low, stir, cover, keep an eye on.

6. If the oven is ready to broil, put the steaks in.
---a. remember that tin-foil makes clean-up easy.
---b. remember that fresh meat from a trusted butcher can be served very rare, if you like it that way; if you don't know your butcher, maybe waiting for the meat's being cooked all the way through is safer.
---c. cut through the center of a piece of meat to check on doneness.

When the steak is done, reheat mushrooms (if need be), toss salad, and serve.

[Update: a typo corrected to appease the Grammarian.]


Leftists' Adventure


You are in a cave of twisting little blogs, all slightly different. To your right, there is a dim glow of heroism and steadfastness. To your left, a stobe light flickers, revealing criticism, schadenfreude, and cock jokes. There is no there here.

>Get no there.
How do you expect to do that?

>Go left.
You are in a cave of twisting little blogs, all slightly different. To your right, there is a dim glow of reasonable compromise and bipartisanship. To your left, a strobe light flickers, revealing criticism, schadenfreude, and conspiracy theories. There is a cock joke here.

>Get cock joke.
Aren't you clever?

>Go left.
You are in a cave of twisting little blogs, all slightly different. To your right, there is dull gleam of critical engagement and meaningful difference. To your left there is a phosphorescent glow of conspiracy theory and revolution. There is a well-written screed here.

>Get screed.
You pick up the screed, which, when unfurled, tells in the harshest language the sins and misdemeanors of the authoritarian regime. The language is stirring, yet its proscriptions are vague.

>Look at screed.
A closer examination of the screed reveals a hand-written marginal note: "To overthrow the regime, we'll need the bumper of a 1952 Mustang, an emerald as big as a plover's egg, a G4 processor, a rubber hose, a massive mailing-list, and a roc's egg!" There is a filibuster here.

>Go right
You are in a cave of twisting little blogs, all slightly different.

>Go right
You are in a cave of twisting little blogs, all slightly different.

>Go right
You are in a cave of twisting little blogs all alike, but overhead the translucent dome of Television shines in upon you.

You have a well-written screed against Republican malfeasance. You have a steadily dimming lantern. You have a financial analysis of Medicare Part D costs to the average senior.

>Go right
The television dome seems to be more permeable here; the light is crisper, more flattering, and the vertical passage seems easier. There is an Iranian nuclear threat here.

>Use screed.
That doesn't seem to work here.

>Use analysis.
That doesn't seem to work here.

>Use lantern.
Who else would need your light?

>Use filibuster.
You don't have a filibuster. Your lantern is dimming.

Click through for credits.
I wrote this in comments at Unfogged, in reference to a post that referenced this fricking hilarious Bush Adventure parody.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

My Awesome New Knife.

A friend of mine brought me this for all of my Halloween pirate costume needs, which are annual. Thanks, RA! I'm planning to sharpen it to a razor-point, sa-ha!, so that it'll be even more illegal to carry.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I Double-Dog Dare You To Prosecute Trolls

When the alert first sounded across the 'sphere about the Anonymous Annoyance Internet Prohibition, my first thought was something like "Oh, that's really stupid. Either I don't understand the case law here or this will get struck down instantly."

The first blogger to register skepticism, as far as I know, was TAPPED's Garance Franke-Ruta: here and here. Her general argumentative line was then taken up (without attribution, I note) by Orin Kerr of Volokh.

First amendment extremist Eugene Volokh, however, details his concerns with the statute, here most substantively and as an important footnote here. Volokh's central point is that extending telephone-based harrassment laws to internet technology is sloppy and dangerous because the internet, as a single-user-to-multiple-user techology is a fundamentally more public kind of communication.

Here's what I'm hoping for:

First, a clear precedent of a victim deserving of protection from a cyber-stalker receiving protection under this statute.

Next, a completely crazy anti-troll lawsuit that brings tens of thousands of netizens in their ghoulish splendor onto the Mall! With cellphone-coordinated zombie games near the White House--because I hear the Service Service has a really good sense of fun about that sort of thing.


Hating on Samuel A. Alito

I listened to the Alito conference comfirmation hearings today on NPR, almost all god knows how many hours of them; fortunately, I had a ton of housework that needed to get done.

Going sheerly on what was said and how, I can say this: I do not like or trust Samuel Alito. I did not like his smug, pat self-introduction yesterday, and I did not like his practiced evasions of the value of precedent today. I did not like his attempts to please everyone by saying nothing ("nobody is above the law"); I did not like his faulty memory--or his inadequate "racking" of said faulty memory--about Concerned Alumni of Princeton. I did not like the shift in his voice when he launched his answers to softball questions; I did not like the lilt of amusement in his voice when he pronounced "penumbra."

I didn't, however, hear any obvious slips. It seems as though the best people who share my dislike for Alito can hope for is for Specter to vote against the nomination out of concern about Roe. That would be it 9-9; I don't know exactly what happens then. Then it's either a rout or the Apocalypse in the Senate.

(Cross-posted at "Hating on Charles Bird")


Thursday, January 05, 2006

SuperShuttle: Downsides.

I generally approve of SuperShuttle's venture, which provides door-to-airport service in shared vans, but everyone thinking of taking a SuperShuttle rather than, say, enlisting friends to drive them, calling a cab, or taking public transportation, should know what that door-to-airport service for a smaller fee entails.

1) You tell them when your flight is, and they tell you when it's convenient for them to pick you up. Since it's absolutely in their interest to get you to the airport on time, I've found that they pick me up some six hours before my flight leaves. I spend the next two hours shuttling all over the damn place picking up other passengers, and then I arrive at the airport a good three or so hours before my flight leaves.

2) Their drivers, almost uniformly, drive like maniacs. On a recent SuperShuttle trip, our driver hit a parked car, a parked motorcycle, and sheered a retaining wall. We passengers all decided it was best to close our eyes; we wished each other luck as we were dropped off at our destinations.

3) Do Not Pay Ahead Of Time. If their scheduling gets screwed up and you end up having to ditch your reservation because of their error, you want to be able to cut your losses and not go through a complaint process. It's cheap; pay in cash.

4) Having a door-to-airport service does not mean you can close your eyes and have everything taken care of for you. You need to know how long your trip will/should take, and how long before take-off your airline's check-in service closes.

5) While navigating SuperShuttle's phone service is a first-class pain-in-the-ass, and while dispatchers have--just today!--lied to me, once I met the driver, he gave me a straight, honest answer to my questions ("seriously, how many people are you picking up before you go to the airport?"), and once I reached the woman assigned to answer the phone calls of pissed-off customers, she dealt with me professionally and credited my friend's credit card. So: not dishonest, but caveat f'ing emptor.



...might be stance the next couple of days, on account of my having jury duty.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Schoedinger's Cat, explained in heroic couplets. (Link.)

One man's obsessive journey through French cuisine, with recipes and explanations. (Link.)

A pretty good recipe for Pomegranite-Walnut Poultry stew (Khoresht-e Fesenjan). (Link.)

Anyone interested in visual art needs to be reading Edward_'s artblog. (Link.)

'Tis the season of leftie blog awards. Keep an eye on Wampum (link) for the US "Koufax" awards, and on A Fistful of Euros (link for the European "Satin Pyjama" awards. [Added: and, of course, the much broader "Bloggie" awards. (link.)]


Monday, January 02, 2006

"A Reasonable Expectation of Privacy"

I've been trying to follow the NSA wiretapping story, and as worried as I am about what this government has been up to, as hopeful as I might be that finally an indignity worthy of uniting a majority might have been found, I have become rather pessimistic about the future of privacy in the American culture.

The title of this post comes from the FISA authorization law. Link. All of the definitions of "electronic surveillance" include this clause of "reasonable expectations of privacy." I presume that would include emails and phone calls. We've all always known that bloggish posts and commentary were public (that's the point, of course), but it still puts a shiver up my back to know that the law doesn't have any gray line for this kind of semi-public speech.

What really scares me, though, is the thought that most kids these days take for granted a much more public, exposed, surveilled existence. I'm right between Gen X and Gen Y. I can see and understand Gen Y's desire to live life in the open, as though paparazzi were just dying to photograph your every move, as though Kofi Annan were suddenly going to take directions from you--but my instincts are more Gen X: lie low, persevere in your talent, take it to the fuckers as you can, live your own life despite the bastards. We're headed into a new world, a more public, more easily surveilled world, and the younger generation seems already to know that privacy as we once imagined it is over.

An example: I've been going to the same NYC drug store for years. Every time, the clerks asked: "Do you have a club card?" and eventually, I cracked, figuring that a club card would get me instant discounts. The store price codes somewhat cryptically indicated that I would. So, after six months of dutifully presenting my card for every purchase, I receive what amounts to a five-dollar coupon that would expire in some 20 days. Not needing anything in that time, I didn't redeem it. They got a free consumer-tracking report, tagged to my real name, for nothing. I'm outraged, but then, I'm old-fashioned.

This shit is going on all the time, and people are only getting more used to it. Our laws are getting abused (but then, they were set up in the late 18th-c), but our culture is changing.