Author: Andrew

I'm an officially minted writer and a new father, an amateur essayist, and a fairly dapper nerd.

Old Internet Article About the Metric System Nails it

Metric is useful for certain things, but Imperial is more human.

Then I start to realize that for length there is a similar problem in the metric system, in that you can’t divide a meter continuously by 2 without getting fractions. In the English system, the rulers are divided by quarters and eighths and 16ths, but the metric ruler is divided into units of ten, so any fraction of that you just have to guess. It is IMPOSSIBLE to divide a meter by three, because you get 0.333333333 etc meters; using the metric ruler, a third on a metric meter doesn’t exist! So then I start to think, hey, THAT’S why there are 12 inches in a foot, you can divide all sorts of ways, by 2, by 3, by 4, by 6, no problem! Cool!

We have this friend who is a carpenter, and I see him, and I say, “Hey, Freddie, when you have a board a meter long, how do you divide it into 3?” And he sort of gives me a funny look, and says why would he want to do that. And I say, well, “How does that work? Because in the metric system, a third of a meter isn’t marked on your ruler so what do you do? Don’t you ever have a board of one meter that you have to divide by three?” And he says, “No.” And I’m sort of crestfallen, and then he adds, we don’t buy boards by the meter, the standard lengths they sell are in 120 centimeters.

Americans are often castigated for not using the metric system. But we do. Where it’s more useful than the Imperial system. Where it isn’t, we don’t.

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An Open Letter to Comcast / Xfinity

Andrew:

If you replace this with Verizon, it would be essentially the same…

Originally posted on Ramblings:

Hello,

My name is Stacie Huckeba I have been a customer of Comcast for over eight years.

I realize that it’s a dirty little secret and you don’t like to talk about it, but c’mon, between just you and me, you can admit it. Basically you have a monopoly on internet service, at least in terms of speed. It’s ok, I like money too. Nobody is happier than me when I deposit big fat checks. Sadly, I’m not quite as “connected” as you guys.

I’m a photographer and I think I’m really good, unfortunately, I live in a town with a plethora of talented photographers so I can’t just sit back and be lazy. I’ve sent emails to the Mayor, and Governor and even my Senators and Congressmen asking that they put in regulations to make sure I am the only photographer who can use professional and top of the…

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Fun With Camille Paglia

Earlier this month, when some highly educated matron or other had to reach for her smelling salts upon hearing “Under My Thumb” whilst shopping for groceries (the Trader Joe’s manager who refrained from saying “Lady, I’ve heard that fucking song so many times in the last month I don’t even notice it anymore. All possibility of enjoyment of it has been systematically driven from me. I couldn’t come up with a fuck to give if you held a gun to my head. Now, are you gonna put that second package of gluten-free wheat germ back, or are you going to vacate the ’12 Items or Less’ aisle?” deserves a raise), I got a fillip of the familiar. Lester Bangs used to write about what the “woman’s libbers” were going to do to Jagger every time he toured, but I recalled something from Camille Paglia in particular, dealing with how “Under My Thumb” began her conflict with respectable feminism.

To wit:

This was where I realized — this was 1969 — boy, I was bounced fast, right out of the movement. And I had this huge argument. Because I said you cannot apply a political agenda to art. When it comes to art, we have to make other distinctions. We had this huge fight about the song “Under My Thumb.” I said it was a great song, not only a great song but I said it was a work of art. And these feminists of the New Haven Women’s Liberation Rock Band went into a rage, surrounded me, practically spat in my face, literally my back to the wall. They’re screaming in my face: “Art? Art? Nothing that demeans women can be art!” There it is. There it is! Right from the start. The fascism of the contemporary women’s movement.

This is from a transcript of a lecture she gave at M.I.T. in september of 1991. I read it as part of her first anthology Sex, Art and American Culture, which is a good companion piece to Sexual Personae. It contains what I believe to be Paglia’s initial cir-de-coeur “Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf.” This was published in Arion in 1991 and although it reviews two contemporary books before unleashing hell at post-structuralism, I believe it entirely relevant today, based on what I recall of college in the mid-to-late 90′s and grad school four years ago. She pulls no punches with Derrida, Lacan (“The French fog machine”), or especially Foucault, whom she finds guilty of being a boring-as-fuck snide poseur, full of facile wordplay and bereft of learning. An appropriate passage:

Foucault is the high-concept pusher and deal-maker of the cocaine decades. His big squishy pink-marshmallow word is “power”, which neither he nor his followers fully understand. It caroms around picking up lint and dog hair but is no substitute for political analysis. Foucault’s ignorance of prehistory and ancient history, based in the development and articulation of cultures and legal codes, makes his discussions of power otiose. He never asks how power is gained or lost, justly administered or abused. He does not show how efficient procedures get overformalized, entrenched, calcified, then shattered and reformed. He has no familiarity with theories of social or biological hierarchies, such as the “pecking order” universally observed in farmyards and schoolyards. Because, in the faddish French way, he ridiculously denies personality exists, he cannot assess the impact of strong personalities on events nor can he, like Weber, catalog types of authority or prestige.

She goes on like this, sticking shaft after shaft in the old dead fart until it starts to look like the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian. But that line about picking up lint and dog hair is giggling genius. Post-modernism and post-structuralism are nothing more than the Sophists laughing at us from beyond the grave of their cultures. The whole goddamn thing is so brainless, a bot can do it.

Click to be Whisked, Whisked away to Amazon!

Click to be Whisked, Whisked away to Amazon!

The USA Tied Portugal!

And that puts us in a really good position in ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
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"Four points after two matches…that's…good?"

“Four points after two matches…that’s…good?”

A Few Modest Suggestions For the #NewRedskinsName

As it turns out, the Patent Office refusing to register the trademarks for the Washington Redskins means less than you might think. Largely it means that the federal government will no longer actively protect the trademark. It doesn’t mean the team can’t use the name or sue to keep its use in its own hands. Read here for how all that’s broken down. (h/t: Ace) So the lively twitter hashtag #NewRedskinsName will probably amount to naught.

But, there may yet come a point when the team’s owner tires of these shenanigans (especially if he reflects on how his stated intent of the use of the name will never be afforded the same courtesy as the stated intent of Liberals in Good Standing like Stephen Colbert), and decides that he wants news reports on his team to concern themselves with their most recent playoff failure instead of the racism-dissociation kabuki de jeur. To that end, I offer these suggestions for a new team name, depending on how Mr. Snyder wants to put an end to the matter:

1. If Mr. Snyder wants to change as little as possible, while flying under the PC radar:

redskinsThe Washington Potomacs.

Advantages: You can probably keep the same logo and mascot (after all, who is to say that the stately Native American bust on the helmets isn’t a Potomac?). If the University of Florida is allowed to call itself the Seminoles, this should fly. You might get the leadership of the 500 current members of the Patawomeck tribe to sign off on it, just to seal the deal.

 

If he want to be obnoxious about it: change the team logo to resemble one of the warrior indians from this picture:

WWscalping3

Edit the white woman out, of course, just make the guy look as badass as all football mascots are supposed to be. I’d go with the one on the right.

2. If Snyder Wants to Illustrate What it Would Actually Look Like if Football Team Names Were Intended to Disparage Their Subjects:

libThe Washington Liberals

Advantages: This could be a fun exercise in protest theater. The mascot could be someone dressed up as the College Liberal meme to the left, who could march up and down the field holding “Down With This Sort of Thing”-type signs. The coach should throw out his red flag -regardless of whether he’s used up his challenges – every time he deems the other team has played “insensitively”. Instead of Cheerleaders, they could have Discourse Providers, who would spend halftime lecturing the fans about how horrible they all are, before ritually flagellating themselves for whatever white or cisgendered privilege they happens to be holding onto (differently-gendered Discourse Providers of Color would naturally be excused from this).

If he wants to be obnoxious about it: whenever they make it to the Super Bowl, forfeit “in apology for America.” For bonus points, wait until after the coin toss to do it.

 

3. If Snyder Wants to Go Full Meta:

262112-Gray-Football-Helmet-largeThe Washington Football Players.

Advantages: Impossible to be officially offensive, yet contains as much gleeful obnoxiousness as the others put together. Grey helmets with no logo. Grey jerseys with darker-grey numbers and names on them. No mascots, no cheerleaders, no fight songs, no team spirit, and the offense should call the same play (up-the-middle play-action pass) every down.

If he wants to be obnoxious about it: Do it for one season, then go back to being the Redskins.

The “Dear Burrito Guy” Essay, and Why Irony Does not Translate

Over on Medium, a fellow referring to himself as “Lucky Shirt” (twitter handle, I’m assuming), just penned (it just sounds better than “typed”) an amusing rant about his poorly made burrito.

View profile at Medium.com

It’s funny in that over-the-top-rage way that the Internet loves to love; most of the joke is in how ridiculous it is to summon this much dudgeon over a burrito, while acknowledging that we all get hacked off from time to time at lousy customer service. The rest of the joke is in how wittily he does all that.

But the part that interests me is the appendix, added later:

Angry about the tone of this post?

It was a joke. The tone of it is most of that joke. I would never actually get this angry about anything. I hope nobody would. And it makes me sad that I even have to explain this.

Ah, but you do, good sir. You do.

Because working yourself into a towering rage over something unimportant: people do that. People take to the internet to issue jeremiads over how poorly mixed their smoothies were. It is an assumption to think otherwise.

And the worst of all assumptions is that everyone shares yours.

Irony – and indeed, all humor – is based on shared assumptions of what is rational and what is absurd. None of them are global. All of them are contextual. This is why we say “you had to be there.” This is why gags that tickled your parents’ collective ribs seem utterly tired and lame to you. And it is why the Beastie Boys spent the rest of their career denying that they were anything like the guys in “Fight for Your Right to Party”, to no avail.

This doesn’t mean that people who don’t “get it” are stupid, mind. It just means they aren’t in on the gag. Either because they haven’t been introduced to it, or they are confused by the assumptions inherent therein. So, the more over-the-top your irony, the more obvious it is to you that no one could take this seriously, the more it needs a disclaimer warning against exactly that.

Because IRONY DOES NOT TRANSLATE TO MASS MEDIA. Irony is a wink. Mass media is a bullhorn.

Round-Up of Ephemera: The Euphemistic Papal Love Infusion

As it turns out, the Pope is Catholic.

People ask me to quit “spinning” for Pope Francis, when I point out that he is not the liberal progressive’s dream pope, that he isn’t a Marxist, and he won’t be presiding over gay weddings at St. Peter’s. (He tells us, also, by the way, not to ignore our brother — including the prisoner, the immigrant, the beggar, and anyone else you or I might have passed by or ignored today). In truth, I’m just trying to share what I know — what anyone can know by listening in.

Cracked Discovers the Euphemism Treadmill

Now we use terms like “mentally challenged,” “learning disabled,” or “special needs” to describe the same people, and we can only hope humanity has the wisdom to not turn those into insults as well.

We just probably shouldn’t bet money on it.

The making of ‘Whole Lotta Love’

Jimmy Page: I came up with the guitar riff for “Whole Lotta Love” in the summer of ’68, on my houseboat along the Thames in Pangbourne, England. I suppose my early love for big intros by rockabilly guitarists was an inspiration, but as soon as I developed the riff, I knew it was strong enough to drive the entire song, not just open it. When I played the riff for the band in my living room several weeks later during rehearsals for our first album, the excitement was immediate and collective. We felt the riff was addictive, like a forbidden thing.

Indeed.

Someone Invented Marijuana-Infused Coffee.

Because why not.

In Austin, Apparently Things Aren’t Supposed to Cost Money.

Parks and light rail are made with hope and dreams and the fierce urgency of change, you see.

“I’m at the breaking point,” said Gretchin Gardner, an Austin artist who bought a 1930s bungalow in the Bouldin neighborhood just south of downtown in 1991 and has watched her property tax bill soar to $8500 this year.

“It’s not because I don’t like paying taxes,” said Gardner, who attended both meetings [of "irate homeowners"]. “I have voted for every park, every library, all the school improvements, for light rail, for anything that will make this city better. But now I can’t afford to live here anymore.”

Um…

Homer-BlankStare-1

 

Okay, so…is this how things are supposed to work in your world?

  1. Vote for All the Neat Things
  2. Government builds All the Neat Things, Because it has All the Money
  3. ???????????
  4. TAXES STAY THE SAME!

Perhaps I’m being unfair. The person did say that she doesn’t mind paying taxes, so there’s obviously some awareness of the connection between public projects and the public purse. But the idea that public projects should keep pace with the tax base seems never to have occurred to her.

I should be sympathetic. I really should. This is exactly the result that people on my side of the aisle predict from the Progressive insistence on Having All the Things Now. But I’m not. Because when people on my side of the aisle make that prediction, people in Austin tell us we’re just a bunch of racist patriarchal bitterclinging ungoodthinkers, and that they, the Right Kind of People, know better.

So this silly bint can choke on her property tax bill until she figures out that when she approves a public project, she’s sending a bill to herself.

youdensemotherfucker

Why Government Bureaucracies are Un-Fixable

Megan McArdle gets the nature of the problem, in a very sensible article on the VA.

  1. You can’t fire government bureaucrats – especially not en masse, so matter what you do, old patterns re-emerge.
  2. Every “reform” just adds a new set of directives and rules without trimming or significantly changing the old ones.

What that means in plain English is that when you put reforms in place, you can’t just rip out the stuff that’s not working and do something different. What you’re actually reforming is the process, and because many of the current elements of the process are functionally mandated by other government rules, or court rulings, or bits of legislation that your reform effort didn’t amend, you have to layer your reform on top of the system you wanted to reform, rather than in place of it. Many of your reforms simply stack another layer of bureaucracy on top of the bureaucracy that was already causing problems. This is a problem that CEOs don’t face, unless they’re in some heavily regulated business such as banking or oil refining.

Most important, it is easier to change some parts of the system than others, and much easier to give something than to take something away. So it was relatively easy for Barack Obama to tell the VA that they had to do more to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. It seems to have been very hard to change the claims process to make it move faster or to hire more staff to help things move more quickly. The result was an even bigger backlog — and, since the reforms commanded the staff to move more patients, more quickly, the temptation to “juke the stats” to make the waiting lists appear shorter than they were.

So, while fully intending to make the VA work better, the Administration made it even worse.  And to a certain extent, this isn’t Obama’s fault. It’s not a question of having people who care more or are smarter – this is how bureaucracy functions. George W. Bush made a serious effort to make the VA work better, too. It did not.

So if every good-faith effort to fix a bureaucratic system just makes the thing more complex and counterproductive (Hi, No Child Left Behind!), what is to be done?

bureaucracy-cartoon