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My internet at home broke yesterday, for no discernable reason. And we can't get anyone to come fix it until next Friday. I'm only able to post this because I told the public library that I needed to use the internet to do grad school applications (which is true, but I didn't mention the other personal stuff I wanted to do.

So, until then, I leave you with a new addition to the Kiosk: "Hey internet connection, I talked to your mom last night..."


There was a present labeled "To: Up all night, From: See you in the morning." I figured this was to me, referring to my tendency to stay up until 2 or 3 a.m. So I opened it. It was a halogen desk lamp. My mom asked who it was from. I said, "Dad, I assume." He just looked at me, very confused.

It turns out it was meant to go to my mom. Later we ascertained that all the clever tags were presents to my mom.
Every time a gift giving holiday comes around, I say there's nothing I can think of that I want that's within a reasonable price range (why does Excel have to cost $300?). Then the day comes, and I realize I should have asked for a sharpening stone for my knife. One day I'm just going to go by my own darn stone.


I still can't get into the Christmas spirit. For my first three years of college, the thing that made coming home for winter break nice -- and eased my disappointment at leaving my friends for five weeks -- was that as soon as I got home I was plunged into Christmas. The house was all decorated with candles and fake pine stuff, and the first Christmas cards were taped to the archway between the dining room and the kitchen, and it just felt festive.

This year that didn't happen. I don't know precisely why. In his Children's Sermon, Pastor Paul blamed September 11, but I don't think that's it. All along I've been saying it's the weather, but my mom told me that was a really shallow excuse. So I don't know.

And it's weirder because some of our traditions are getting jostled around. Because of my brother's work schedule, we didn't have our usual big Christmas dinner today (it's postponed until Christmas day). So instead we had chicken with cream-of-broccoli sauce. We went to the Christmas Eve service at church, which was fine, although not as good when you're just in the audience. And now there's talk of opening all our presents tonight, instead of just the traditional one, as we have differing ideas on what constitutes a reasonable time to get up, and we're all well past believing in Santa Claus.

We'll do the usual week-after-Christmas visit with our relatives up in northeast PA, but even that will be different. Granny is getting ready to move into an apartment now that Grandad is gone, so all her kids will be divying up any of the stuff she has around her house before she has a huge garage sale for the remainder. Then, at Mamie and Papa's house, there's suspicion that Aunt Denny and Uncle Jim won't be around, as they have to go to Denny's dad's funeral. Which means the traditional handbell caroling will be down the tubes, and I won't get to see my favorite cousin.

Wow. I just whinged about that for a lot longer than it merits.
My sister has been practicing playing "O Holy Night" on the piano for the Christmas Eve service at church. At one point she stopped for a minute and burped softly. I said, in all honesty, "Your playing sounds good, Leah."
She replied, "Thanks ... were you talking about my burp?"

I say nice things to my siblings so rarely that when I do, they think I'm making fun of them.
I'm going to be cool like Google.
Today, for a little break, I looked at the Calvin and Hobbes 10th Anniversary Book, where Bill Watterson reflects on cartooning in general and various particulars of Calvin and Hobbes. He talked a lot about the reactions he got from different strips, and the ways he let various messages -- political commentary, his frustration with they syndicate, criticisms of the pretentious art world, philosophical musings -- come through in the strip.

Then I picked up the book I had been reading on how past human land alterations affect modern ecosystems. And it seemed rather pointless. Not because it wasn't as fun as reading C&H, or because the information wasn't as useful. But just because it won't get to more than the handful of academic types who research cultural ecology.

I think that's what frustrates me the most about academic research (which is where I'm headed for at least a few more years) and keeps drawing me to the media, even a limited circulation medium like this blog. Knowledge seems pointless if you can't share it with anyone. But at the same time, the public media, even at its best, can't handle subtelty. How do you draw a comic strip about the importance of reforming land tenure systems in order to establish sustainable agricultural practices in Uzbekistan?


And lo, I have finally replaced all the photos from my trip to Canberra, which were destroyed last semester when spontaneously regressed to an earlier version of my website. The captions are pretty lame. I'm just not inspired tonight.
It weirds me out that hairdressers refer to hair as "hairs," as if it's a collection of individual items instead of just a substance.

"How short do you want them?"
"Just trim it."


I think muttonchops need to come back in style. If they did, I would seriously consider facial hair. I think it would be cool to compliment my George W. Bush hair with Chester A. Arthur cheeks.

Or not.
Well, that post did get me motivated to write Compter's letter. The thing is, I'm not quite sure how to write it. When I started, I slipped easily into a hyperbolicly glowing recommendation. I made it sound like she was Brad Heath, only she smelled better. She's got her faults, such as not usually getting much done on Wednesday, and she was the one behind that stupid "Puns of Fun" thing in the first few issues. But I hesitate to point out her problems too much. For one thing, I know I dwell on people's shortcomings more than on their strengths, so I would wind up giving a picture of her that's skewed toward her faults. And I feel like I have to oversell her, as everyone else applying to this workshop is doubtless getting extremely strong recommendations. So on the one hand I don't want to be inaccurate, but on the other I don't want to jeapordize her chance of getting into this workshop, as I do think she deserves to go.


Today was a pretty blah day. I slept until noon, didn't feel so great (not bad, but not good either), and laid around the house like I have been doing for the past week.

I've got lots of free time. Heck, that's pretty much all I have now, as I'm not working this break (the store doesn't need anyone, and I wouldn't be able to work many days anyway between getting my wisdom teeth out and going on vacation). Yet the few things I need to get done haven't gotten done.

I'm going to try making a list here. Maybe if I publicly declare the things I need to do, I'll be motivated to do them:
  • Apply to Syracuse and Clark

  • Write to professors at Syracuse and Clark

  • Relearn Spanish

  • Become familiar with the layout and structure of

  • Scan additional photos from Canberra that got mysteriously deleted a long time ago

  • Make George W Bush images for the Potato God site.

  • Write letter of reference for Compter to go to some journalism conference

  • Read a crapload of books

  • Think of overdue Secret Santa present for someone from Brunching.


Today's language lesson:

katou matehine means "your mom" in Moriori. The Moriori were a small society, related to the Maori of New Zealand but altered culturally by hundreds of years of isolation on what are now known as the Chatham Islands south of New Zealand. In general, they were more egalitarian and hunter-gatherer, and far less warlike, than the Maori. A combination of European diseases, overhunting of seals (their main food) by European hunters, and an invasion by the Maori very nearly eliminated them, though some people of mixed Moriori and Maori or European ancestry survive today. A longstanding myth holds that the Morioiri inhabited New Zealand and were driven out by the Maori. This story is used by Pakeha (non-Maori New Zealanders) to justify Europeans' similar treatment of the Maori.
Another thing that commentators love to harp on, and have done so much more since September 11, is moral relativism. The argument is basically that moral relativism means a person is unable to tell the difference between right and wrong, and therefore anything anyone does is perfectly ok.

But what moral relativism really is is a tool to allow us to make the philosophical distinction between what people should do and what people do do. By allowing us to set aside moral judgements (which tend to stop investigation -- "that's wrong, end of story"), relativism permits us to dig deeper into the causes and motivations of things that have happened. The purpose of this is not to excuse things, but rather to understand why they happened and therefore allow us to project the consequences of our future actions.

Just because something's wrong doesn't mean people won't do it again. You should be able to walk through a dark alley with $100 bills hanging out of your pockets. But I'd rather avoid dark alleys than get mugged in one and take self-righteous solace in the fact that the mugger is to blame.
I just had the following conversation with my mom:

Some segue involving my mom's observation that if we lived in Afghanistan, I could smack my sister around for being annoying.

Mom: Well, if we lived in Afghanistan, you'd be dead or hiding in a cave.

Me: So I'd be a member of al-Qaida?

Mom: Sure. They recruited pretty much all the men your age.

Me: Or, I could have joined the Northern Alliance. You know, the good guys.

Mom: Well, I guess.

Me: You just assumed I'd be one of the bad guys.

Mom: Well, your political beliefs are so different from ours.

Me: You know, the Taliban is the more conservative movement.


Yesterday I talked about cheese on toast. Today we ate it for dinner. Ugh.

I have nothing else of value to say about today. So I'll throw out a few observations from the past few days:

I need a haircut.

Grand Buffet seems to have taken "Find the Cat" off their new website, but they put up "Candy Bars" and "You're On Fire". Now if only they'd put up "Jesus can't save me, Allah can't save me, George Bush can't save me..."

The home computer is very screwed up. Explorer keeps randomly crashing. And as soon as I connect to, my ftp program crashes. So there go my plans to update the Geography Department webpage.


Things My Girlfriend And I Have Argued About
I spent far too long today reading through this site. But it did help me to learn that (unfortunately) cheese on toast is known outside of my household. It seems we can blame the English for that one. As a tangent, it's fun when your ancestors all come from the two countries -- Sweden and Britain -- best known for bland food.

I wonder if his girlfriend's bad musical taste includes "Final Countdown."


I realized today that Age of Empires doesn't allow for sustainable development. When you chop down trees, they don't grow back. And when you catch fish or hunt deer or pick berries, they're gone for good. I think I prefer Civilization, where you can keep using a piece of land as farm or forest or mine for as long as you want. And if you research Environmentalism and build Solar Plants, you can do it without creating any pollution.


Assume that the production of a widget produces happiness in the owner of the widget, and harm due to pollution, such that the amount of happiness and the amount of harm are equal. For convenience' sake we will represent this value as 1 and -1 util. In this case, by a strictly utilitarian calculation, making a widget and not making a widget are equally desirable, because the values cancel out.

Imagine a closed society of 100 people. Given the widget conditions stated above, we can deduce that each person will have a widget (and possibly more, but it would complicate the analysis if we attempted to take into account the diminishing returns of happiness for each individual widget owned). In this situation, the society will be experiencing 100 utils of happiness and -100 utils of pollution harm, leaving it no better off than if it had no widgets, or 50 widgets. But the society will always have 100 widgets.

Why? Dispersed burdens and concentrated benefits. Consider the decision-making process of each individal. If that individual produces a widget for herself, she will receive 1 util of happiness. She will also produce -1 util of harm. But she will not experience that harm herself. It will be distributed across all members of the society. Assuming that all members of this society are equal, -1 util of pollution distributed over all 100 members of society results in -.01 utils of harm for each member, widget ownder and non-widget owner alike. So each member of society will face an option of gaining 1 util and losing -.01 utils, for a net gain of .99 utils, if she buys a widget. Sounds like a pretty good deal.

This goes some way toward explaining the problem with the libertarian/conservative stance on economic imperialism, which goes something along the lines of "they obviously want a McDonald's on every corner, if they didn't, they wouldn't eat there, so it would go out of business." The choice faced by society -- no McDonald's (and whatever benefits come with that, I'll refer to a prettier cityscape just because it's the only one that's coming to mind at the moment) vs. fast food -- is not the same as the choice faced by the individual. The individual does not get to experience a prettier cityscape if he decides not to buy a Big Mac. The harm done by the existence of a McDonald's is dispersed among the members of a society, whereas the benefits of eating there are concentrated in the decisionmaker. So each customer is faced with the choice between having a meal, and making a tiny (and possibly worthless, if nobody else joins in the protest) contribution to driving the franchise out of business. Corporate financial backing makes that tiny contribution seem even more ineffectual, thus leaving the consumer feeling powerless to change whether there is a McDonald's there. The customer bears the burden of an uglier cityscape whether or not he eats there. So the only choice that remains is whether to gain the benefit of a McDonald's meal or not.

Boycotts must be organized. Individual boycotts hurt the boycotter more than they hurt the target of the boycott.


Bush Withdraws From ABM Treaty, Refuses To Release Reagan-Era Documents

"Because I believe that congressional access to these documents would be contrary to the national interest, I have decided to assert executive privilege with respect to the documents and to instruct you not to release them or otherwise make them available to the committee," Bush wrote.

In other words, "Ronald Reagan was a major criminal and I don't want anyone to be able to prove anything about him." The only reason I can think of that he'd refuse to release these documents is that they're incriminating to members of the Republican Party. Although, refusing to release them makes Bush a criminal too, as the law says he has to release them. I can't believe this guy is going to get to be leader of the free world for 7 more years.


It can be amusing sometimes to read the little message board thing Yahoo puts up for its news stories. It's nice to know racism and hate are alive and well. And some are downright funny. There's a nice dysfunctional community over there. This was my favorite.
I finally got a working scan of the note that Y2Karen sent with the copy of the AP Stylebook she sent me:

I like the editing monster.


OK, so I finally have plenty of time to blog, and I have nothing to say. Gah.

Some of you need to change your bookmarks/links. Half my hits are still coming from blogger.html.


Charts and statistics from the hihihi experiment are up. Finally, a useful application of SPSS.


Most of the time when I use Australianisms -- like "realise," "no worries," or dates written dd/mm/yy -- I am very conscious of it. Which is not to say that I deliberately do these things just because they're Australian and I think that makes me cooler than you.

As I was proofreading my geography seminar paper, I saw I had written that Afghanistan was "different to" former Soviet Central Asia. I hadn't noticed that when I wrote it, which is odd considering that "different to" was the Australianism that most irritated me when I first encountered it.
I am continually amazed at the glee conservative columnists take in decrying pacifism as immoral given the nearly complete absence of a major pacifist antiwar movement. It seems like some people have so completely convinced themselves that they are a minority embattled by the Left that, when they're suddenly in agreement with 95% of the country on an issue, they have to concoct a strawman enemy to defend against.


I seem to have forgotten to blog for a while.

Band awards received:
* Band bitch award.
* It Took Me Four Years But I Finally Got In Mikey's Pants award
* Bandcest award for me and Amanda

Secret Santa gift received:
* Backstreet Boys fan club starter package, including folders, pencils, pencil case, and other assorted items. I hate you too, Joe Converse.


[the hihihi experiment, "fun with Google," has been moved to a separate page because it was messing with my formatting. Useless statistics coming soon.]


"Our biggest threat is abstract thought." -- Chris Hedges, Colgate class of 1979

I spent 3.5 hours today around Mr. Hedges, a New York Times war correspondent. Marty had too much work to do, so he had to skip the dinner at the President's house with Hedges that he had RSVPed for. So I went instead. Jane Pinchin kept telling me how glad she was that I could make it, and that it was "fabulous" that I was there.

Hedges had been a reporter in Central America, Bosnia, Gaza, and most recently tracking Mohammad Atta across Europe. We mostly asked him about the conflict in Israel and Palestine, and the war in Afghanistan. The stuff he said really resonated with things I already knew and figured out. And it squared with everything Christine had told me about how horrible life in Palestinian areas is. So they start to feel like death is the only way they can bring meaning to their life. It becomes easy to project all their problems into a religious framework, which gives them a black and white abstraction as a worldview. He was particularly distressed that the same thing had happened to us, with the widespread jingoism in this country and Bush essentially issuing a fatwa on bin Laden and al-Qaida.

He also had a lot of interesting things to say about the biases in newspaper reporting of war. About how the New York Times has three reporters in Jerusalem doing a good job of investigating the subtleties of the Israeli situation, but no one in Ramallah or Gaza to complete the story. And about how the army siezes reporters' satellite phones in Afghanistan so that they have to call in their stories from military phones.

I feel like I should be able to say so much more of substance here, because it was a really great dinner discussion and lecture afterward. Maybe it's because what he said made so much sense, and just reinforced so much of what I'd been thinking, that it doesn't quite stick as "this was Chris Hedges' argument."


Looking through the site where that Hiitler thing came from, I found a bunch more World War II propaganda. I like the contrast between these two:

TibortheAdequate: best picture ever:
Acsumama: indeed
TibortheAdequate: i like how sad hitler looks
Acsumama: yeah
TibortheAdequate: it's like, hey i'm just an outline
Acsumama: he doesn't want to ride with you any more than you want to ride with him


I forgot to post about this when it happened.

My early class on Friday got cancelled. It was a wonderful thing, as I was at The Maroon-News until 5 a.m. On a slight tangent, I think next semester will be the first semester of my college career when I don't have an early class on Friday. So my plan was to sleep until noon, when I would wake up in time to get a shower and meet Amanda and some of her friends for lunch before my 1:00 meeting of my anthro methods class. Speaking of sleeping in, I'll get to do that Tuesday and Thursday next week because my anthro professor will be off learning about alternative medicine (hence the extra Friday session). We still have to get up at 8:30 to fill out SET forms on Tuesday, but I can come home and go back to sleep easy enough.

I woke up around 11 feeling fairly rested. I found this odd, as I hadn't gotten my healthy 8 hours, much less made up for the lack of sleep over the rest of the week. It probably had to do with the fact that my body didn't think I should still be in bed at 11. So I laid in bed, determined to take advantage of the fact that I could sleep in if necessary.

At 11:20 the phone rang. I got up (since I was clearly not getting much more sleep) and answered. It took me a moment to realise the guy on the other end was asking for me, not Marty. I never get phone calls. He said he was from National Geographic, and that they had selected me for an internship this summer. He went on to explain what I'd be doing -- basically living in DC and working in the .com division -- until, about 5 minutes into the conversation, he asked, "so, do you accept?" I was a bit surprised that hadn't been communicated yet, because I was certainly thinking it.
African Artifacts Suggest an Earlier Modern Human

"Why so finely polished?" Dr. Henshilwood asked. "It's actually unnecessary for projectile points to be so carefully made. It suggests to us that this is an expression of symbolic thinking. The people said, `Let's make a really beautiful object.' "

Looks like archaeologists in Africa are finally catching up to the Australians. Yeah, that's a really unjustifiedly smarmy thing to say, considering that archaeology in Australia is so poorly understood. But finding evidence of modern human behavior at a 70,000-year-old site in South Africa doesn't really surprise me when I know the Aborigines got to Australia 60,000 years ago.
Themes of exclamations made to distract the opposing team's free throw shooters at today's Colgate-Cornell women's basketball game:

Exotic foods
Banking terminology
Animals that begin with "O"
Kitchen appliances
WWII generals