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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Tom DeLay Wants An American Caliphate

Tom DeLay, at the "War On Christians" conference in DC:
"Sides are being chosen, and the future of man hangs in the balance!" he warned. "The enemies of virtue may be on the march, but they have not won, and if we put our trust in Christ, they never will. . . . It is for us then to do as our heroes have always done and put our faith in the perfect redeeming love of Jesus Christ."

Holy crap. This is poisonous stuff -- you'd think he's talking about the guy in Afghanistan on trial for converting to Christianity, but he's talking about the political environment in America. The audience gobbled up this unbelievably cynical ostentatious piety from a man who lost his GOP leadership position for some very sin-based reasons. "This is a man that I believe God has appointed," said conference organizer Rick Scarborough. Ridiculous BS like this can be found throughout the WaPo column about the conference.

How can they possibly not see that being played for politics cheapens their faith almost to the point of making it worthless? The people leading these fundamentalist victimization-claiming fests have an interest in nursing a sense of grievance, so their actions are understandable (though reprehensible). But these presumably well-meaning people being led around by the nose by these organizations are just so sad. And I mean that in both a sympathetic and a judgmental way.

The Economist has made a habit in the past of asking where the religious left is amid all the hard-right religious posturing in the U.S. I rather like the approach
of the United Church of Christ, which I was brought up in. They have a new ad airing on TV that's pretty funny, for this sort of thing.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Claw

Sorry, couldn't resist.

"When we got it open, he didn't want to come out," Fire Chief Dan Wilson said Tuesday. "One of my firefighters had to reach inside and get him. He was happy in there."

From the Star Tribune.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Immigrant Movement

From the Washington Post article on the movement that has swelled up in response to the anti-immigrant bill passed by the House in December:
On Saturday, Hernandez, his wife, Gloria, and their three children marched in the first protest of their lives -- along with more than 500,000 other demonstrators -- through downtown Los Angeles. "I have lived for 15 years in America," said the 34-year-old gardener. "All that time I have lived with my head down, you know. On Saturday, all these people were telling me to put my head up."

The bill would make it a felony to be an illegal immigrant, and it would make it a felony to do anything to help an illegal immigrant. I hope this election-year pandering to some of the baser instincts of the voting public comes back to bite Republicans.

Keeping Guns Out of Criminals' Hands

Pardon my smug satisfaction that Tom DeLay has had his Texas concealed handgun permit revoked as a result of his criminal indictment.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Collective Innovation

This is really cool -- companies creating internal markets for employee ideas. It's a much more sophisticated version of the old employee suggestion programs where anyone whose idea is implemented (and successful) gets a reward. This market model makes people much more likely to contribute ideas because they get feedback right away, and has the additional benefit of providing collective filtering of ideas. Stuff like this is where I find myself agreeing with economists.

(Andrew also finds himself thinking like an economist of late.)

Saturday, March 25, 2006


Tim Harrington, the lead singer of Les Savy Fav, one of my favorite bands, is quoted in a New York Times article about how beards have suddenly come into fashion as an antidote to "metrosexuality." He laments the loss of political meaning:
"Style has separated itself from viewpoint," said Tim Harrington, the lead singer of the rock band Les Savy Fav, who is known for his full beard and balding head. "This is not like when beards were worn by hippies. Now you pick a style for aesthetic reasons as opposed to a viewpoint. I wonder if beards can have the oomph they once had when it feels like someone will ask you: 'Where did you get that beard? Is that beard from Dolce & Gabbana?' "

Back to B-more

I drove back to Baltimore yesterday. It was a fairly pleasant ride, done without sharp turns or braking to in order to baby the fragile several-foot-high cactus I was transporting. (It arrived with only one small "leaf" broken off.)

The low-key break did me good. It was great to see my father doing a lot better -- he was 25 pounds heavier than when I saw him in January, and can walk pretty well now. He still has limited use of his hands, but is making progress with those, too.

The house is empty today; I haven't seen anyone around since I've been back. That's actually kind of nice, because it lets me take care of the numerous little tasks I had been putting off in the crush of work before break. April and Jason are getting back from New Orleans very late tonight, I believe.

A while ago I posted about the new Flaming Lips single "The Wand" from their forthcoming album (At War With the Mystics). It's awesome, and I can't wait to hear their new album that comes out a week from Tuesday. It's apparently a lot more rock than their past two, but still weird (of course). Only a week later, Built to Spill release their first album in 5 years, You In Reverse. I just bought their single, "Goin' Against Your Mind," on iTunes, and it's also great. So it'll be a good several weeks of music. You can listen to "Conventional Wisdom," also off the new BtS album, while you play basketball against Doug Martsch. Seriously.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


A few cool songs and their accompanying videos that I ran across in a pleasant evening of online indie-rock recreation:

Earlimart - We Drink On the Job [streaming Real]

The Gossip - Standing In the Way of Control [Quicktime]

The Postal Service - The District Sleeps Alone Tonight [Quicktime]

The Thermals - How We Know [Quicktime]

Also, completely unrelated but great: Alex has gotten into the curatorial grad program at NYU! Pending news from the other programs, it looks like he'll be joining me on the east coast next year. I certainly won't mind an additional excuse to visit NYC.


Forgot to note this when it came out, but I finally have a new piece in Professor Yeti. It's on Health Savings Accounts.

I was out and about a bit with my parents today. I got a new backpack to replace the one I've had since high school, because the zipper had given out. And we went to dinner at Friendly's, where I haven't been in a few years. (For those not from the northeast, it's sort of a regional Denny's with an emphasis on ice cream.) We went there a lot when I was a kid, so it's a bit nostalgic. I rose to the occasion by ordering a sandwich that involved fried chicken fingers, BBQ sauce and bacon. I also had ice cream.

Also, I got an email today from Andrew P., who has just been accepted to the prestigious fiction writing program at Hopkins. Good for him, since it should be awesome, but also good for me because it'll be nice having him in town. He's going to stay at my house for a few nights week after next when he comes to B-more to check things out. There are already a surprising number of cool Carls in Baltimore...I need to take the time to hang out with them a bit more. My schedule should allow it now, so I'll make that a second-half-of-spring-semester resolution.

Monday, March 20, 2006


I'm in Connecticut now. Davin and his friend Megan got into Baltimore late Saturday night, and then stuck around through early afternoon Sunday before leaving for their geology conference in Harrisburg. While Megan met up with a friend, I got brunch with Davin at Pete's Grill, which is a neighborhood diner place in the "bad" neighborhood adjacent to our house. (Doug, it's an authentic third place -- one counter, regulars, chatty waitresses, etc.)

My piece on Wikipedia did indeed run today in the Sun. They made a number of minor edits, which are mostly good -- except for capitalizing "Internet," which drives me crazy. (It might have originally been a government program with a proper name, but it is no longer a Public Broadcasting System or Compuserve, it's more of a television or radio.)

Two people I don't know have emailed me about the article. An active Wikipedia editor complained that I would be causing people to create articles about themselves and make more work for them. I don't really picture that as an effect my piece would have, but I did wonder a bit when another guy emailed me to ask for help posting a Wikipedia article. That's a little weird; hopefully it's not about him.

On a completely unrelated topic, Tapes 'n Tapes, a band led by Josh Grier, who was the Station Director at KRLX the year before I got on the board, has been doing quite well recently. I noticed that they got a coveted "Best New Music" review for their new album at Pitchfork, and that the site covered their tour dates as well. Now, the New York Times' front-page writeup of South By Southwest includes a glowing quote. After noting earlier that they were one of the bright spots of this festival of all festivals, and that they're from Minneapolis, Jon Pareles wrote:
...the most extraordinary bands defied categories and tore apart verse-chorus-verse forms. Tapes 'n Tapes were rhapsodic, with songs that metamorphosed from reticence to frenzy and back.

That's pretty heady stuff for guys who probably just quit their day jobs within the past few months. Congrats to them. Aside from hearing them on the radio in Minneapolis a couple times, I hadn't paid much attention until this recent spike of publicity, but I must agree that their stuff is pretty good. You can find sample mp3s here if you like.

(Note: Not that I was trying for it, but this post is surely a personal best for link density.)

Saturday, March 18, 2006


So, as I said a couple posts ago, this past week was incredibly hectic. Now that I'm through with most of it and starting in on spring break, let me recap in a lengthy manner that only I will find interesting:

The most exciting thing was my interview at the Government Accountability Office on Wednesday. The interview itself lasted for an hour and a half or so, with 7 people sitting in from the Physical Infrastructure and Strategic Issues teams. I then went around with a couple of young staffers for a little while, and finished with talking to one of the leaders of the PI team. I thought it went pretty well on the whole.

They said they'd be making a decision in about a week, so I was pleasantly surprised when I got a call on Thursday morning from the staff manager saying they planned to offer me the internship! I'm really excited -- I think it'll be a very cool internship where I'll get exposed to a sophisticated and broad view of policy analysis. Plus, they do a lot of hiring through their internship program. A number of people from my program applied to the GAO, and Maura was also offered a position last week (on the Education and Workforce team). We'll be able to keep each other company on the train this summer, which should make the commute quite pleasant (it also doesn't hurt that I maintain a child-like enthusiasm for riding the train). Anyway, the internship will be about 16 weeks starting May 30, and the pay isn't bad either.

I also got called in for an interview for the Baltimore Mayoral Fellowship program, my second choice for the summer. Now I'm canceling it, since I prefer the GAO, but it's nice to know I had a shot at it. And in general, it's a big relief to know that my summer internship is squared away.

While I was getting all hyped up about the GAO interview, I managed to (barely) get all my work done this week. Perhaps the highlight of deadline-supercharged productivity was when I wrote the last 8 pages of an 11-page paper between getting out of class at noon and going to the class where the paper was due at 5:00. But now I go from having 7 classes to 4 classes, which is way more manageable, so I shouldn't be run ragged for the remainder of the semester.

I got word yesterday that my op-ed on Wikipedia will be in the Baltimore Sun on Sunday. That's pretty good, since the circulation is a lot higher Sunday. I asked them to include my email in the author tagline, so hopefully someone will email me what they think about it. I'd even like to hear from someone who vehemently disagrees. Anyway, since I'm leaving town tomorrow morning I'll be able to pick up a hard copy of the paper before I go, which will be nice to clip and file.

Due to some inept communication on my part, Erin thought I was going to visit this past week, not next week. And she's going to CA for a lumberjack tournament next week, so I'm not going to get a chance to visit her after all, which is a bummer. I'm still going to visit my parents, though, which should be nice.

Finally, I'm writing this post from the couch on my new MacBook Pro! It actually came on Monday, and through superhuman self-restraint, I managed not to open it until Thursday because I needed every spare moment to get all my work done. But this is the epitome of something that's exciting to me and not really interesting to anyone else, so I'll just say that it's really awesome -- I'm currently playing Ted Leo through the speakers in the living room via WiFi.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

It's electric

Baltimore's electric rates are going up 72% in July. Hello, deregulation.

It's going to be very expensive to run our six window air conditioners this summer.

EDIT: It turns out that BGE and the Public Utility Commission decided to phase in the increase over several years. Everyone will still owe the increased rates, however, and the amount you haven't paid yet will accrue 5% interest. So when the phase-in is complete, people will be paying the higher rates PLUS any additional increases PLUS the deferred amount PLUS interest on the deferred amount. So very benevolent of them. (If you request to, you can pay the whole increase right away.)

I can whine all I want, of course, but it's really going to hit those who are on the edge of poverty, for whom the electric bill is already a significant chunk of their expenses.

Friday, March 10, 2006


Various things are coming fast and furious right now, putting me in a state of mind that spawns bullet points:

  • My MacBook shipped today, 5 days earlier than expected. I should get it the middle of next week. It's embarrassing how excited I am about it.

  • An op-ed about Wikipedia that I wrote for my Mass Media Writing class has been accepted for publication by the Baltimore Sun. I don't know yet when it will appear, because it's not pegged to any news event, but I'll post a link when it's published. Incidentally, housemate Jason got his piece on baseball accepted, too.

  • Nick says that Ted did a great job at the caucuses on Tuesday night in Senate District 25. There's apparently no straw poll for State Senate candidates at caucuses, so it's hard to quantify how well he did, but he got people going at the ones where he talked, and it sounds like Nick and company out-organized the other candidate despite only being at it for a few weeks. Contribute to the campaign if you can; you don't have to be a Minnesota resident.

  • I have 28 to 36 pages to write (depending on where in the length guidelines I fall) and a Stats midterm to complete before I leave for CT a week from Sunday. Ack.

  • It was suddenly gorgeous outside today, in the 70's and maybe just a tad humid, too. It will be nice all weekend, conspiring to make it hard to do the aforementioned work.

  • We have now caught 5 mice in our house, but none for a few days now. Fingers crossed.

  • My GAO interview is Wednesday; hopefully I'll keep myself from getting too wrung out by work before then.

  • Davin and a friend are spending next Saturday night here on their way from a frisbee tournament in GA to a geology conference in PA.

  • I'll be leaving next Sunday morning to visit my parents in CT for a few days and then visit Erin at her new place in NH for a few more.

So, I'm not planning to do a lot of blogging in the next week or so...

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Songs of the Moment (An occasional feature)

(Links are to free and legal mp3s provided by the bands.)

> The Decemberists - Sixteen Military Wives
The cheeriest protest song you'll ever hear, accompanied by a delightful video [Quicktime] to boot.
> The Constantines - Love In Fear
The Constantines are sort of like Spoon in that they play rock and roll stripped down to its basic elements, with an understated sense of drama. But their sound is a bit grittier, and they're Canadian.
> !!! - Dear Can
> Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Over and Over Again
Sounds like the Talking Heads crossed with...David Bowie, maybe? I love the vocals...the guy sounds British, even though they're from Brooklyn.
> The Drive-By Truckers - Do It Yourself
Country-rock that's really good.
> Outkast - Humble Mumble
> Xiu Xiu - Clowne Towne
Xiu Xiu are irrepressibly weird, and this song happens to be really awesome.
> Soul Coughing - The Idiot Kings
Mike Doughty's solo work since Soul Coughing broke up hasn't had the sort of groove (for, uh, lack of a more descriptive term) that this song does.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

To the weekend

I have an absolutely enormous amount of work to do in the next few days. That's additionally complicated by the fact that I'm going to spend most of Sunday out in Frederick interviewing public housing residents as part of my HOPE VI research assistant job (should be interesting). But if I can just make it to spring break on March 18, I'll be all set, because Research Methods, Inequality and Health, and Mass Media Writing will all end then.

Tonight about 10 of us from IPS went to dinner at a Peruvian restaurant in a strip mall outside the city. It was pretty good. I had goat stew, which you wouldn't call a stew if you saw it -- stewed goat and potatoes over rice. Anyway, the impetus for going was that Karen is from Peru and had been craving some familiar food; she judged it reasonably authentic.

Big news for me: I got called for an interview at the GAO today. The Physical Infrastructure Team, specifically. I'm pretty psyched about it, but of course I don't know how many people they're interviewing, etc. The interview will be in a couple weeks.

On the home front, we are locked in battle with the mice -- I've seen them plenty of times now, and we've caught three in traps in the last few days. The second one (last night) was pretty terrible. April and her mother (who is here for a few days) heard a trap go off in the kitchen followed by squealing mouse noises. They avoided it until I came home, at which point I discovered that the mouse wasn't dead, it just had its back leg stuck in the trap and was dragging it around the kitchen. After some minutes of debate between Jason and I (we were too chicken to touch it), April's mom volunteered to take it out back and let the mouse out of the trap. She did, brave soul, and it limped away. Can't imagine it made it very long. Ugh.