April 2005
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April 2005 Archives

April 30, 2005

Blogroll Edit

Just a note to say that I updated the blogroll.

I removed a couple of discontinued blogs; I removed a couple of blogs I stopped reading; I shuffled a couple of people back and forth between academical villagers and political pundits - the two categories are somewhat arbitrary; I added a few new reads.

After some thought I decided that Darth Vader's blog is more like a livejournal than a set of political commentary.

EDIT
Added some of the gaming geeks from the old Sunsword Forums (now closed due to excessive hacker visitation.) Then I moved a couple of other gaming-related links from people and prose to the gaming geeks corner. Big Ed got alphabetized under B, because that is the first letter of his use-name.

Darth Vader is still a livejournal. I wonder how long it will be before he gets Dooced?

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Red Ted
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April 28, 2005

Jewish Vampires?

J. was just wondering out loud if, since you can make rolls out of matzah meal, it was possible to make a pizza crust out of matzah meal?

My immediate response was to make the sign of the cross to drive away the evil beast, as if I were Van Helsing trying to deter the nearest vampire.

But, of course, it was the wrong holy symbol to use to drive off evil matzah beasts.

What do you do to chase away a Jewish vampire?

(J sez you splash them with chicken soup made with extra garlic, so I suppose the correct hand motion is a sort of throwing/sprinkling motion.)

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Red Ted
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Things to look forward to

Earlier this week I decided that on Friday I would take the toddler to the Penn Relays.

I have been looking forward to it all week.

I suspect it will either be a really great day, or it will be an all-time-record meltdown.

It might also be both.

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Red Ted
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April 27, 2005

Footwork

John Cheney, the Temple Basketball coach, likes to teach his players that everything starts with footwork; if they can get their feet in the right place then the game becomes easy.

This is a lesson that works both in sports and in life, which is I suspect part of why he spends his mornings screaming about footwork.

This morning I had a moment of good sports footwork. (I also wrote very slowly before going running, a sign of bad life footwork.) I went for a run, the first one since Saturday. I was feeling good, running slowly, and decided to up my mileage to a whopping mile and a half. I did it.

It was a good run.

Sometimes, in a good run, the mind separates into two distinct Joycean streams of consciousness. One is the body monitor, checking pacing, stride, breathing, and yes, footwork. The other looks at the world around, or thinks about problems, or wanders aimlessly.

Today the leaves were that bright green of spring, and they reminded me of the bright green spring leaves along my favorite dirt road back in Virginia. That was a 3 mile run up a dirt road to a mountaintop reservoir, where I turned around and ran back down the rolling hills. It was a great run, and when I was in good distance shape I did it as speedwork. In the springtime the leaves simply glowed with an incandescent bright green that SCREAMED about rebirth and new possibilities. I was reminded of that road as I ran today, and I miss having a body that could run those distances.

The other stream of consciousness was focusing on footwork, since I have found that footwork controls how my knees feel, and my knees are the limiting factor in my running. The following gets a little technical and perhaps a little boring.

One way to breakdown and explain running form is to focus on footstrike, the point on the foot where the foot first contacts the ground on each stride. Runners also generally expand the term to refer to the overall motion of the foot and ankle on each stride. I find that I have five possible footstrikes, and that two of them work best for me.

To find your own footstrikes and strides, run barefoot in the grass without thinking of your mechanics, then look down and notice what your feet are doing. Try going at different speeds and notice how the footstrike changes.

For me, I can footstrike

  • on the front-middle of the ball of my foot, the sprinting stride,
  • on the center-back of the ball of the foot, which is my best stride for knee maintenance,
  • dead in the middle of the foot,
  • at the front of the heel of the foot, my most efficient stride
  • at the back of the heel of the foot, the strike most people use when walking and the only strike that is commonly in front of your center of gravity.
I find that my biggest mechanical problem is that my ankles roll inward, putting lateral stress on the knee. The best way to keep the ankle straight is to strike at the back of the ball of the foot, then let the rest of the foot come down until the heel lands, then roll forward and push off the ball of the foot again. This keeps the ankle straight. In addition, the knee is bent throughout the strike and stride, so that the muscles of calf and thigh help take the impact of each stride. Of course, it also means that the muscles are doing more work each stride, and as a result it is a less efficient more tiring stride than some of the hell-rolling options.

The next best is to strike at the front of the heel - the natural point when running on grass. This is a very efficient strike and does very well with the little shuffling old-man strides I have to take these days. It lets the foot roll forward and then push off, instead of levering on the ball of the foot, and it works well with using your oblique muscles to swing the hips a little forward and back on each stride, putting your core to work for motion and not just for stabilty. But, it encourages my ankles to roll inward, and so I do not let myself use this stride.

I want to try to connect my two Joycean streams of consciousness from this morning, to suggest that the mental effort of keeping my legs in good form, my breathing regular, and my pace constant somehow shaped my memories of running up and down the rolling dirt roads of Virginia. It did not, or rather anything I could say would be forced and contrived. It will be a writing day today, as I discuss the Sabbatarian movement of 1810-1817, the U.S. mails, and civil religion. I will try to keep my mind on my grammar, and on clarity, and on keeping the paragraphs to the point. That, I suppose, is my writing equivalent of good footwork.

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Red Ted
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April 20, 2005

Odd companions

What do these four folks have in common?

Arthur Wellesly, Duke of Wellington
Emperor Francis Joseph I
Adolf Hitler
William Jefferson Clinton

All are biographies sitting on my "read me" shelf after my most recent trip to the library.

So far I am 180 pages into volume 1 of Ian Kershaw's 2 volume Hitler. April seems to be biography month.

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Red Ted
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Note to self

Babies LIKE it when you poke them in the stomach and say "tum, tum, tum, tum, tum!"

The same is not true for the lady wife, nor, I suspect, for most women.

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Red Ted
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April 19, 2005

Hasty Pudding

When did the American Revolution begin?

The political contest became a shooting war on April 18-19, 1775.

Where did the fighting begin?

Lexington and Concord

Who won?

The British won the early skirmishes, the Patriots won the day.

Who fought?

The British had sent the elite companies - light infantry and grenadiers of the force occupying Boston on a quest to seize powder that the shadow government had stored at Concord. They were met by the minutemen.

What is a minuteman?

A militia man who obeys the orders of the shadow government organized around the committees of correspondence and the Continental Congress, not the Governor or the official instruments of government.

What happened the next day?

On April 19, 1775 the militia/minutemen from all over Eastern Massachusetts had converged on Boston and beseiged it. Estimates range as high as 20,000 men in arms surrounding the city, "as thick as hasty pudding."

So,
Mind the music / Watch the step / And with the girls be handy!

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Red Ted
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April 16, 2005

Prince George's Petition

I checked, and according to Google this one is not yet on line. Since I wanted to type it in for my own reference, and since it is trival to cut-and-paste from Wordperfect to the blog, I give you the most signed and most distributed petition during the 1785 debate (scroll down to VA) over the Virginia General Assessment (failed) and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (passed.)

Petition copied from Thomas Curry, The End of Christendom, pp 123-4

NOTE - this was written before they invented spelling. I kept the 18th-century spelling, capitalization, and punctuation.

Prince George County Petition, November 28, 1785
Petitions can be found in Religious Petitions Presented to the General Assembly of Virginia, 1774-1802 (Virginia State Library, microfilm, 3 vols)

To the Honourable, the Speaker and Gentlemen of the House of Delegates The petition of the Inhabitants of Prince George County Humbly Sheweth That whereas it hath pleased your Honourable House to publish a Bill obligeing the Inhabitants of this Common Wealth to pay the Teachers of the christian Religion, and have requested their opinion concerning it; Your petitioners therefore do most earnestly declare against it: believing it to be Contrary to the Spirit of the Gospel, & the Bill [of] Rights. Certain it is, that The Blessed author of our Religion supported & maintained his Gospel in the world for Several hundred years, not only without the aid of civil power, but against all the powers of the Earth. The Excellent purity of its' precepts, & the unblamable Behaviour of its Ministers (with the devine Blessing) made its Way thru all opposition: nor was it better for the church when Constantine first established Christianity by human Law, tho, there was Rest from persecution. But how soon Was the church overrun with Error, Superstition and Immorality. How little were Ministers then like what they were before either in principle or purity? but it is said that Religion is taking it's flight, & that Deism, with it's bainfull Influence is spreading over the State; If so, it must be owing to other causes and Not for want of Religious Establishment. Let your laws punish the Vices and Immoralities of the times, and let there not be wanting such men placed in authority who by their pious Examples shall recommend Religion: & by their Faithfullness shall scurge the Growing Vices of the age: Let Ministers manifest to the World that they are Inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon them that office: that they seek the Good of mankind, and not worldly Interest: let Their Doctrine be scriptural & their Lives upright; then shall Religion (if Departed) speedily return, and Deism be put to open shame & it's dreaded Consequencies speedily removed.
But what valuable purpose would such assessment answer? would it Introduce any More useful and faithful Men into the Ministry? Surely not, those whome devine Grace hath called to that work, will esteem it their highest Honour to do his pleasure: on the contrary, it Might call in many Hirelings whose cheif Motive would be temporal Interest. that religious Establishment & Government are Linked together and that the latter cannot stand without he former is soemthing new: Witness the State of pennsylvanie wherein no such Establishment hath ever taken place: Their Government stands firm, & which of the neighbouring States hath better Members, of brighter Morrals & more upright Characters.
That it is against our bill of Rights, which sayes all men by nature are born equally free, so that no person in this Commonwealth shall enjoy exclusive privileges or emoluments, except for services rendered to the state, shall not those then who are not professors of the christian Religion, who are in the state at the passing of this Bill, and others who have been Invited since by the benefit held out, when they shall be obliged to support the Christian Religion, think That such an obligation is a Departure from the Spirit and meaning of it.
Finally, if such Tax is against the Spirit of the Gospel, if Christ for Several Hundred years, not only without the aid of civil power, but against all the powers of Earth and Hell supported it; if Establishment has never been a Means of prospering the Gospel: if no more faithful Men would be introduced into the Ministry by it: if it would not revive decay'd Religion and stop the Growth of Deism: or Serve the purpose of Government: and if against the bill of Rights: which your petitioners believe: they trust the wisdom and uprightness of your Honourable House will leave them Intirely free in Matters of Religion and the manner of supporting its Ministers: and they shall ever pray . . .

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Red Ted
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Concurrent Majority?

The current feeding frenzy over judicial nominations and the filibuster is operating in a serious absence of context, especially on the right side of the blogosphere.

What the right is forgetting, and the left is hammering on, is that the House and Senate have, in recent years, altered their standard operating procedures so as to freeze out the minority party. Judicial nominees have not been filibustered in the past because there were so many other moments where the minority party, or indeed individual senators, could put a hold on objectionable nominees. Those internal checks and balances have been eroded as conscious and intentional Republican policy, leaving the filibuster as the last refuge of the minority.

John C. Calhoun, elitist, racist, and brillian logician, argued that society should be governed by a "concurrent majority, that in any situation where society was clearly divided into to distinct and differing interests that any major decision must be approved by both. He was thinking both about the politics of lowcountry-upcountry South Carolina and the politics of slavery within the union. In effect, the concurrent majority gives a majority of the minority party, or a mere fraction of the whole polity, a veto over legislation. It is a recipe for inaction.

As part of the Northern concession to the South during the Progressive Era, the concurrent majority was added to a number of Senate procedures. Judicial appointments were one of the items where the interests of national unity meant that it was better to tilt the field towards the unobjectionable and against the divisive.

As a procedural matter, the concurrent majority lowers the stakes for any particular election or any particular regional coalition. If, win or lose, your friends are guaranteed to retain some say in legislation and appointments, especially appointments made for life, then it is much easier when you lose to say "we will get them next time." If, on the other hand, the majority of the moment can make changes that will last for decades, then every election is a crisis, every loss a catastrophe, and the higher stakes make it more likely that people will ignore the process in order to achieve a victory.

Thus, even though the concurrent majority and the senate filibuster were used by a racist minority in order to maintain local elites, they also served, and could still serve, a larger purpose as a stabilizing flywheel for the republic.

The debate we should be having is to what extent we want to move our republic towards a democracy, in the language of the founders for whom democracy was a bad word. Do we want the victors every two years to have total control over events and procedures, or do we want to see slower, more consensual change?

More precisely, which parts of governance do we want to see dominated by the victors of the moment, and which parts by the concensus of the entire nation?

The religious revolutionaries who dominate the Republican Party. (They are not conservatives. Edmund Burke was a Conservative. DeLay, Dobson, Frist, and Rove are Revolutionaries.) The religious revolutionaries and recipients of corporate rent-seeking want to increase the power of the moment. In doing so I fear that they are weakening those aspects of the American Republic that were meant to be a contract between those who went before, those now living, and those not yet born.

And I worry, I worry a lot, that after raising the stakes and invoking the infinite in behalf of short-term political goals, that they, or more realistically their more radical supporters, will not be able to accept future election losses. That instead of "wait until next time" we will see "to the barricades!"

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Red Ted
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April 12, 2005

Parsing

By the way,
I was very confused by the name of the website in the post below this.

I could not figure out what America West And A Sone had to do with anything.

It is funny how we parse a stream of letters, looking for words. I saw the "west" very strongly, and never imagined that it might be "we stand".

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Red Ted
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Fascism, American Style?

When I saw this confluence of religion and nationalism, all I could think of was a few lines from Mussolini

Anti-individualistic, the Fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with those of the State, which stands for the conscience and the universal, will of man as a historic entity (11). It is opposed to classical liberalism which arose as a reaction to absolutism and exhausted its historical function when the State became the expression of the conscience and will of the people. Liberalism denied the State in the name of the individual; Fascism reasserts the rights of the State as expressing the real essence of the individual (12). And if liberty is to he the attribute of living men and not of abstract dummies invented by individualistic liberalism, then Fascism stands for liberty, and for the only liberty worth having, the liberty of the State and of the individual within the State (13). The Fascist conception of the State is all embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism, is totalitarian, and the Fascist State - a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values - interprets, develops, and potentates the whole life of a people (14).
But, I fear that the comparison is unfair . . . to Mussolini.

Ah well, there is always the fuck yeah remake.

Hat tips to Atrios and, feh, I forgot who linked me to Atrios.

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Red Ted
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April 11, 2005

Neither the quantity nor the quality but the mixture

I don't really mind fighting off a cold, so long as it is mild enough that cold pills and the prescription nose spray can handle most of the daytime symptoms.

I don't mind rattling a little and not getting to sleep until after 10:00 last night.

I don't mind waking at 2:30am to listen to the littler man stir, and then to listen to him as he put himself back to sleep.

I did not even mind giving the littler man a bottle and a jar of carrots between 3:30 and 4:00am, after all, I had never gotten back to sleep after the 2:30 waking.

I rather enjoyed spending the morning reading microfilm. I have take this perverse pleasure in reading microfilm, even though it leaves me a little dizzy and a little goofier than usual.

I don't mind being so wired from coffee and cold pills that I could not nap this afternoon.

The combination, ah, now that is pretty darn impressive.

Right now I have just enough energy to transfer student grades from their homework to my spreadsheet, and even that goes slowly.

Oh, bonus points for anyone who can name the book that I stole the post title from.

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Red Ted
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Call me Daddy Morden

Lately I have felt an awful lot like Mr. Morden, from the old Babylon 5 TV series.

I have been constantly repeating "what do you want?" with various degrees of emphasis, to an audience who does not really understand the question.

Of course, when Morden asked his question he was trying to figure out which major power would answer with a paraphrase of Genghis Khan's definition of what is good, while when I ask I am more interested in getting a shirt, any shirt, onto the toddler.

Still, I find the similarities distressing.

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Red Ted
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April 10, 2005

Poop blogging

The littler man got a gut bug on Friday. He has had it over the course of the weekend.

I may never be able to eat butterscotch pudding again.

That is all.

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Red Ted
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Signs of Summer

We got two new signs of summer today:

The first sunburn and the first time using the grill.

J. made some very tasty grilled chicken with barbecue sauce for tonight, and some very tasty grilled lemon chicken for sandwiches later this week.

Now I am off to rub soothing lotion on my nose, forehead, bald spot, and left calf.

Somehow, I think that the first burned bald spot will never come to replace the first robin or the first crocus as a sign of warmer weather. This is probably a good thing.

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Red Ted
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April 08, 2005

Blasphemy in Texas

I really don't want to grade these papers.

Last semester one of my students said that two things "went together like beans and chile." I noted in the margin that "FYI, this is blasphemy in Texas."

Northeasterners, like that student and like J, say that what defines chile is that it has beans in it, oh, and some Southwestern spices.

Texas chile, in its orthodox persuasion, is stew made from meat, normally beef, and chiles.

I tend to think in terms of herbs. For me, chile is any dish made with: chiles, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt. One of my favorite chiles is a green chicken chile which has neither beef nor beans.

We bought a jar of dried, ground, ancho chile pepper from Penzey's Spices (dangerous website, if you click you might well spend.)

Tonight is a meat and bean chile. I intend to make two pots: one mild with ground turkey, beans, onions, bell pepper, garlic, ancho chile, cumin, oregano, and a small pinch of salt; one three-alarm with the same ingredients plus a couple of three Thai dragon peppers with their seeds, and some of the canned chipotles in adobo we have left over from the last time we made fajitas. I will be shooting for a 3.5 on the scale of: boring, tastes hot, clears sinuses, face sweats, vein in forehead appears. Anything over 2.5 qualifies as a "ring of fire" chile, and that means that J won't eat it.

Me, I like to get my endorphins twice, even if I am a northeaster hot-food-wimp unable to eat proper Texas or Colorado chile.

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Red Ted
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Tired or Wired?

I spent most of this week being tired. I have a minor head cold, and sinus pressure knocks me right out.

Last night I took cold meds, finally. I took them again this morning, despite getting only a few hours sleep because I had been wired on sudafed.

I am no longer tired, sleepy and stupid.

Now I am wired, forgetful, and stupid.

Still, changes can be a good thing.

And so to grade some papers. (Poor students.)

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Red Ted
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Truth in Advertising ???

After reading the latest raft of things that Tom DeLay has done, and then reading in Sports Consecrated about the stock car being sponsored by a small company that sells diaper rash ointment, it hit me that perhaps we should combine the full disclosure principle, the truth in advertising principle, and the Nascar sponsorship principle for our politicians.

Standard attire for a male politician is a blazer or suit. Women's fashions vary, but we can work something out for them. Lets just say that all money that you, your family, your PAC, and your office receive -- including junkets paid for by the Russian military -- must be represented by appropriately sized pins or placards on the front of your jacket. So, every time you appear in public, the viewing audience can see that you are beholden for so many hundreds of thousands here, so many hundreds of thousands there.

Heck, given the reverse popularity of product placement, it probably won't be long before we see politicians vying to be the Senator from Nike, or Co'Cola.

Or not - the tracking and identity problems would be a mite overwhelming. Still, I do like the idea of combining truth in advertising, NASCAR style sponsorship, and the current crop of careerist politicans.

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Red Ted
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Teaching and Social Norms

This one could easily have been titled "things the toddler taught me about teaching undergraduates," but that title would have raised expectations beyond this little post.

We were talking about the 1920s yesterday, and I chose to frame the decade using art in general and literature in specific to argue that it was an era of anxiety. So, we talked about Hemingway's "A Clean Well Lighted Place" and Mary Webb's With Affection and Esteem, then moved to a nice loose discussion about changes in class identity between the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. To the first approximation, 18th century class is defined by birth, 19th by behavior, 20th by consumption, with the qualifier that all three always matter. As Flea points out, you don't take your boyfriend to the job interview.

a graph showing births declining, behavior as an uneven bell curve, and consumption increasing steadily then going asymptotic

The transition between class defined as behavior and class defined as consumption came during the "modern" era - that moment between about 1885 and 1925. I used one of our short stories, Mary Webb's With Affection and Esteem as our transition. Read the short story, it is only about 1500 words and it is very good but sad.

I argued that one aspect of the story is that the landlady is coming out of the 19th century, with class, and worth, and meaning, defined by behavior and expectations. Myrtle Brown is a more modern woman, and wants to add worth and value and meaning to her life, to pay the debt of beauty that she feels owed, by engaging in an act of consumption - buying cut flowers.

So where does the toddler come in?

The slacker section had exactly two people read that short story. After pulling teeth for a while I gave up, decided that it was short, and spent 5 to 10 minutes of class time reading it out loud. I cry almost as easily as Dick Vermeil, and I choked up at the moment when she was buying her flowers and fulfilling her dream. But, since part of the toddler's bedtime ritual is to read three books, and since his second favorite toy after the Little People Schoolbus is the closest book, I have had a fair bit of practice at reading out loud.

Afterwards we had a pretty good discussion. The kids are not dumb, but they are overworked and a bit lazy.


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