Loophole

10 March, 2008

Well well well, I suppose the DC-based Emperors’ Club whores juuust weren’t good enough for Mr. NY governor. Typical NYC thinking, “we are the center of the world and better than everywhere else.” Well, neener neener neener, look where your NYC snobbery has landed you. Ha!

However, all may not be lost, Governor John. I have spotted a loophole.

The Mann Act, passed by Congress in 1910 to address prostitution, human trafficking and what was viewed at the time as immorality in general, makes it a crime to transport someone between states for the purpose of prostitution.

a-HA! DC IS NOT A STATE!

?!! Sexual innuendo much?!

22 January, 2008

Come on. I can’t be the only person who thought so when I heard this.

MODERATOR: The Nobel Prize-winning African-American author, Toni Morrison, famously observed about Bill Clinton, “This is our first black president, blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime.”

Do you think Bill Clinton was our first black president?

[blah blah]

OBAMA: I have to say that, you know, I would have to, you know, investigate more of Bill’s dancing abilities.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: You know, and some of this other stuff before I accurately judge whether he was in fact a brother. But…

(APPLAUSE)

MODERATOR: Let’s let Senator Clinton weigh in on that.

CLINTON: Well, I’m sure that can be arranged.

(Transcript.)

OTHER STUFF“? That needs to be investigated? Like what, exactly? We already know about the fried chicken and the soul handshake (scroll to the end).  And he DID marry a white girl.  Hmm, what else could there be, I wonder?

I await the Message‘s take on this.

Scroll down for the cheesecake. Keep reading for some meat.

Got an interesting idea from this post:

When people speak of losing a part of themselves when a loved one dies, they are speaking quite literally, since we lose the ability to effectively use the neural patterns in our brain that had self-organized to interact with that person.

What a great and accessible application of a neuroscientific idea to explain a psychological phenomenon — and it doesn’t even rid that phenomenon of its substance and depth.

I recently read Joan Didion’s book The Year of Magical Thinking, which is an extensive exploration of the psychology of grief and loss (I recommend it). If you read it with this thought in mind, I think it will give you an interesting angle on why grief can take the shapes it does. This certainly makes me think of how the same book could be written about the neurological changes Didion underwent in that time…and how that’d be a completely different but also valuable book.

I, for one, have gotten value out of both approaches, at different times. In difficult emotional situations I fixate on coming to an understanding of WHY — what could lead a person to do act X? Only later can I process them at a more emotional level. In the train ride to my parents’ house the night we got the news of my aunt’s suicide, I read this book like a novel. It provides an exhaustingly comprehensive psychiatric perspective on suicide’s origins, from the personal all the way to the epidemiological level. It’s written by a clinician/researcher and popularizer who’s respected in both areas, which is no easy feat. It’s later now, and so Didion’s book has been important to the current stages.

While I’m making book recommendations, I found the suicide book a bit too depressing before I had a particular reason to read it. On the other hand, Jamison’s memoir of living with bipolar disorder is gripping and of general interest.

The rest of the ideas in the post are the standard kind of annoying “we’re so close to developing supercomputers that we can download our brains to, and therefore use to live forever” crap we can expect from a certain stripe/era of AI research. Oh, so many issues I have there. A few:

1) One of my favorite neuroscientific truisms is “if the brain were simple enough to understand, we would be too simple to understand it.” Where would a bit dump of our brains/minds even BEGIN? The upper-left-hand neuron? (What about cultures that read right-left?) Memories (“I was born a poor black child”)? And which historical point in time to capture? Should we do backups to keep it current? Save older versions, perhaps to retain health, and ditch the body once deterioration sets in? Not to mention the utter meaninglessness of a consciousness without physical input. Just look what sensory deprivation can do to an embodied brain.

2) Metaphors squelch understanding and new ideas, and all the more so when they try to cover more complex phenomena. “The brain is a computer” squelches understanding of its function because it ignores a lot of the types of connections made between neurons.

In fact, it’s just this disconnect between computer simulations of brain function and the actual functioning of the brain that switched me from computer science geekery to neuroscience, lo these 10 years ago now. In a Neural Networks class, I kept trying to make my network’s neurodes more like biological neurons, and got more and more impressed with the impossibility of the task and how it revealed how little we knew about the brain. Considering that each year of biological education teaches you more and more about what the last class didn’t even get near, to have finally run up against the limits of knowledge in a field was heady stuff. I switched majors posthaste.

N.B., the metaphor of DNA as blueprint/book of life is similarly harmful to the understanding of genetics. But that’s another post.

Yeah, I fully and humbly acknowledge that these objections may someday seem as hilarious as “heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible” and other statements are today.* In fact, one of the coolest things about extended lifespans, to me, is getting to see so many new things developed and so many old things proved wrong. Not to mention the chance that I could see the Cubs win the World Series, although my brain may need to be in a computer for that one.

In other news, vote for me for DC’s Sexiest Female Blogger. Here is some cheesecake to encourage you.

No, I have no idea who nom’d me (Reaganite swears it weren’t him), why I care, or why I would be OK being associated with some of the most gossipy damn people in the DC internet tubes. Since becoming aware of the Best DC Blog site on Monday, I tried to figure it out by reading a few comment threads there and “DC blog wars” posts on BigHeadRob’s blog, and I tell you whut: I’m never getting that two hours back.

Here’s another perspective though. While I had fun comparing the bizarreness to junior/high school on Monday and Tuesday, on Wednesday we spent an hour in lab meeting discussing some psychiatric-genetics-research-field politics. And as any DC resident knows, politics is high school. When I tell him some of my hair-raisers, Reaganite assures me that scientist politics is not substantially different in form from Hill politics. So when we tell the poor kids who find themselves at the bottom of high school food chains that “it’s not always like this, it gets better, people grow up,” we are lying. Lying lying lying!

Other reasons I care. Well, I’m self-centered. Show me a blogger who isn’t. Heck, show me a human being who isn’t. I’m competitive too, in weird indirect ways that are hard to describe: more against past versions of myself than other people. In my defense, I think people who know me will agree that these are not my mortal-est sins. (Guess which is!)

Also, as a child, I was an ugly duckling. Glasses filling half my face, feathered hair, not grown into the nose yet…maybe if I win I’ll post a photo of those days. Yay for the exorcism of childhood demons. And how better to prove the old saw that DC is Hollywood for ugly people? 😉

Also also, it’d make a truly hilarious addition to my imaginary business card. Dr. Scientist. Photographer. Sexiest Blogger DC 2007. OK, only sorta hilarious.

Yeah, I’m in Florida. Reaganite’s mom and I get on fine, as I knew we would. But we are all tired and stuff, and R. has to do some work, which is why I have all this goddamned time to blog. Shouldn’t have much more until I get back–going to Disney tomorrow, for the first time ever.

Vote for me!


*As you may know, Bill Gates denies saying “640K ought to be enough for anybody.”

Ain’t nobody dope as him

20 February, 2007

Mos Def plays Obama’s tune

You’ll recall comments made recently by Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., which landed him in some hot water. A few weeks ago, he said that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” That controversy seems to have blown over but it resurfaced Friday night in Brooklyn, N.Y., of all places.

Musician and actor Mos Def, a Brooklyn native, took to the stage Friday night for the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Brooklyn Next festival, which showcases local artists. No stranger to comments made recently by Biden, Mos Def (real name: Dante Terrell Smith) and his 15 piece orchestra (and DJ) all wore T-shirts with the words “So Fresh, So Clean” around Obama’s picture.

I MUST HAVE ONE OF THESE SHIRTS.

WordPress seems incapable of doing video embeds, so if, like I was, you are now inspired to see the Outkast video, you’ll have to actually click a link.

Now, the song has a “nigger” or two in there, and it’s all sexed up, so unfortunately I can’t really see it being used at a campaign event. But let me here and now plant the meme that it should be played at any inaugural balls that might someday be held for President Obama.

Or, hell….even for President Biden.

*jaw drop*

1 February, 2007

Seriously? You don’t read the blogs for one day, and you have to have the radio tell you that both Joe Biden AND George Bush called Barack Obama “articulate”?

(comment from tpmcafe’s post on it: well, it’s more than we can say for Bush. Snicker.)

Biden also called him “bright” and “clean” and “nice-looking” and I gotta tell you, I’m having a hard time figuring out which of those descriptors is the icing and which is the cake. This disturbs me. I’m Metaphor Girl, and I can’t even figure out what’s icing, what’s cake, and whether the cake is chocolate with vanilla icing, vanilla with chocolate icing, or marbled. Oh, if only I were more articulate. Help me Obama!

(If it’s a little early for you and you can’t quite figure out why this is offensive — after all, he IS articulate, he’s one of the best orators in politics today, right? — try and think of how often you hear white folk described as articulate. Among other things, it’s code today for “Doesn’t speak with a black accent.” The offensiveness of “bright,” “clean” and “nice-looking” are left as an exercise for the reader.)

I like how Obama’s response points out that it’s not even true (Biden actually said that Obama was “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”) Even if you leave off the legendary activist and orator we just had a national holiday for and only consider the field of past black presidential candidates, that’s fucking rude. Of all the things to be said about Moseley Braun, Chisholm, Jackson and Sharpton, “inarticulate”? You could probably find examples of them having the same backhanded compliment tossed at them when they were running.

I’m not up on my senatorial gossip. is Biden an alcoholic? Was he high? Can you really be that unconsciously racist in America today? (Y’know what…don’t answer that.) Bush, we can explain. He is after all famously INarticulate and can be expected to say dumbass things. Why, the dumbass things he’s already said in 2007 would be front-page news for another president, but at this point we know his verbal fuckups are just a sidenote to his general incompetence.

In a bit of meta-analysis….I heard the teaser about this at the top of the hour, but the radio turned off and I missed part of it. Oh no, I hope I didn’t miss hearing what was said, I thought as I turned it back on. The first thing I heard was Juan Williams’ voice. Ah good, thought I. I didn’t miss the story. I wonder how Williams feels about being the pundit who gets the call when something racist happens to Obama?

Molly, Ralph, and me

29 January, 2007

A lot of feminist blogs are linking to my photo of the annoying bus ad (and others in its campaign, don’t miss this one!), and it’s getting me into an interesting segment of the blogosphere where I haven’t spent much time. In one of these spots, I hear that Molly Ivins is seriously ill. She’s had breast cancer on and off for years, I knew, but this seems pretty damn serious since apparently it’s metastasized enough that she had to stop writing antiwar columns to be hospitalized.

I’d come home from college for winter break, and after the first week of holiday madness I’d find myself at home with nothing really to do. So I’d read through my parents’ bookshelves, and one winter break my stepfather had some new books, compilations of Molly Ivins columns. This being the Clinton years, they dated from the Bush presidency up through the Republican takeover and the 1996 election. They had a big influence on me. They taught me how to follow the money, they taught me how to judge politicians by their records, and they analyzed events I remembered but had been too young to understand. And being teh hilarious didn’t hurt.

Fast forward to 2000. You may remember that there was a presidential election that year. As it got down to the wire, I realized that I would be out of town and would have to vote absentee on election day, which was worrisome because I was planing on picking Nader or Gore depending on how close Illinois looked to be (believe it or not, it was considered a swing state for most of that year). Try and put aside how ridiculous this seems in the context of modern politics and remember along with me how difficult a choice that was for a pragmatic progressive at the time. I could see the arguments on both sides and one day I thought — hey. Why don’t I ask Molly Ivins?

So I wrote a letter. It was long. (You’re shocked, I know.) It praised, if not fawned, and then it begged for guidance. I don’t know what I was expecting, I think in my irrational-est of hearts I was thinking she’d write me back privately and we’d chat and become great pals. Instead, a few days later:

Molly Ivins, Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2000 Fort Worth Star-Telegram

My vote for Nader; your vote for . . . ?

AUSTIN — As Gen. George Patton said of war, “God help me, but I love it so.” I realize that the only people in America having a good time right now are political reporters, but we haven’t had this much fun since Grandpa fell in the fish pond. What could be more exciting than David Broder and Tom Oliphant trading thoughts on whether a heavy black voter turnout in north Florida will make all the difference? [creepy, no? -t.]

OK, Nader voters. Let’s talk.

I’m voting for Ralph. I’m voting for Nader because I believe in him, admire him and would like to see his issues and policies triumph in our political life. I’m also voting for him because I live in Texas — where all 32 electoral votes will go to George W. Bush even if I stand on my head, turn blue and vote for Gus Hall, the late communist.

I know that many of my fellow Nader voters are young people and probably don’t want to hear from a geriatric progressive. (We had to walk three miles through the snow, barefoot, uphill both ways.) But I have learned some things just from hanging around this long, and with your permission, I will pass them on.

When I was your age, I was, I suspect, far angrier than most of you. Some people I loved died in Vietnam — it was an ugly, bad, nasty time. We’ll not go into it again, but in 1968, I could not bring myself to vote for Hubert Humphrey. So I helped elect Richard Nixon president by writing in Gene McCarthy; and if you ask me, 30 years on, it’s hard to think of a worse turn I could have done my country.

Nixon was a sorry, sick human being, with a gift for exploiting lower-middle-class resentment, envy and bigotry for his own political purposes. This country remains a nastier place today because of Nixon.

None of that has any particular relevance to the election in 2000. Dan Quayle was no Jack Kennedy, and George W. Bush is no Richard Nixon. [Double creepy! -t.] What’s more relevant here is my 40 years’ experience in Texas electoral politics.

Not to Texas-brag, but we are No. 1 in the art of Lesser Evilism. I have voted for candidates so putrid that it makes your teeth hurt to think about ’em. Why? Because they were better than the other guy.

So here you are, trying to spot that fine hairsbreadth of difference between the sanctimonious Gore and the clueless Bush, ready to damn both of them in favor of a straight shooter like Nader. Here’s the problem: Government matters most to people on the margins. If I may be blunt about this, we live in a society where the effluent flows downhill. And the people on the bottom are drowning in it.

And it is precisely those citizens — whose lives sometimes literally depend on the difference between a politician who really does have a plan to help with the cost of prescription drugs and one who is only pretending that he does — whose lives can be harmed by your idealism.

The size of a tax cut doesn’t matter to people in the richest 1 percent. They’re in Fat City now; they don’t need more money. But the size of a tax cut makes a real difference to Bush’s oft-cited example of the single mom with two kids making $22,000 a year.

When you are barely making it in this society, hanging on by your fingernails, with every unexpected expense a crisis, it matters which is the lesser of two evils.

I know it’s hard for young people to envision age or illness, or the sick feeling of frantic despair when your old wreck of a car finally dies (it always does this in traffic) and will not start again. People who work two and even three jobs to support their kids get so tired — you can’t imagine how tired — and guilt and depression and anxiety all pile on, too. The difference between Gore and Bush matters to those folks.

This is an old argument between radicals and liberals; sometimes I’m on one side, and sometimes I’m on the other. In the primaries, I vote to change the world; in November, I vote for a sliver more for programs that help the needy.

I do not believe that things have to get worse before they can get better. I think you will find that most mothers object to the idea that you would deliberately do something to make a child’s life worse in order to bring about some presumed greater good in the long run. I believe that the best can be the enemy of the better. I believe in taking half a loaf, or even a slice.

And how do we ever change the whole rotten system at that speed? Brick by brick, child by child, slowly, toward liberty and justice for all. The urgent, crucial need right now is to fix the money in politics. It can be done, it will be done, it is being done, and we will get better politics.

In Texas, we’ll vote for Nader and a perfect world. You swing-state progressives need to make the hard choice — but you’re not making it just for yourselves. Good luck to you all.

I’d been lectured at about why it was dumb to vote for Nader by so many people by then, but nobody had said it this well. This was the first argument to actually give me a REASON, a logical and moral framework for making my choice — and not just that choice but many many choices to come.

(I’ve often remembered the bits in this about Vietnam and Nixon in the intervening years. They made me feel defensive at the time, although I could not deny it of course. How many people did I lose in Vietnam, after all? I have not actually read her column in a while, due to my outrage fatigue, but I wonder how she sees it now.)

Get well soon Molly.

second laugh of the day

9 November, 2006

Thanks BoingBoing:

The first laugh of the day came at around 6:30, when my landline started to ring. I only have this line for DSL and pizza place’s caller ID, so this was extra weird. “Who the fuck is calling me at 6:30?” I mumbled. “Don’t forget to vote on Nov. 9th” Reaganite said, eyes still closed. Ah voter fraud, always teh hilarious!

Speaking of Reaganite, some may remember this post, wherein my refusal to refer to that airport in Arlington, VA by the name of a particular ex-President caused some transportation miscommunication between us (he got that name from that post’s comments, actually). Well, darlin’, and world, my moratorium has been broken: to book a flight through an airline’s phone automated system recently, I was forced to refer to the place as “Washington Reagan National.” Sigh. I didn’t even book it, so it was all for naught! (Guess which airline it was?)

Lastly, welcome, Wonkette readers. There have already been almost 1000 of you. Eek, maybe I shoulda put up some content yesterday. (I will be blogging more often now, in general, because I found the WordPress dashboard widget, so there’s hope for the future…) Enjoy my bizarroworld pics of Tryst and please check out my flickr photostream, linked to the right. Thanks and enjoy the afterglow!