Tuesday, October 30, 2007

That's refreshing

When was the last time you read anything about Halloween costumes that didn't involve the requisite chiding of those who choose the more revealing ones? For me, it was today in WSU's Daily Evergreen. The word "sexy" or "slutty" isn't even used.

Monday, October 29, 2007

How to know things

I don't find myself saying this very often, but I really enjoyed David Brooks' editorial about the way digitizing information has changed the way people learn and collect knowledge over time. As Brooks says:
Until that moment, I had thought that the magic of the information age was that it allowed us to know more, but then I realized the magic of the information age is that it allows us to know less. It provides us with external cognitive servants — silicon memory systems, collaborative online filters, consumer preference algorithms and networked knowledge. We can burden these servants and liberate ourselves.
This really reflects my feelings pretty well, but Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon isn't ready to buy it. She responded in a post about Brooks' editorial:
Except that you already were part of the large external mind. The digitalization of it doesn’t change the fundamental nature of outsourcing the memory. Everything Brooks mentions, from iTunes to Tivo setting your schedule to cell phones replacing Rolodexes to GPS devices has an ink and paper counterpart, or at least an analog one when it comes to recorded music. Though sheet music predates recorded music and is, yes, another externalized memory device.
I have to say that I'm surprised that anyone very heavily involved with the Internet could make this argument. I wonder if my famously bad ability to retain facts predisposes me to identifying with Brooks' feelings, but I can say that the ability to quickly access information has had a profound effect on the way I think about information and what kind of hold I need to keep on it. Brooks uses the example of phone numbers, which many have observed that people do not store in their heads anymore, but on cell phones. At this moment, I can think of three phone numbers - mine, my husband's, and my parents' land line. I remember knowing others as little as two or three years ago, but I was happy to cede that knowledge to my cell phone.

I have a naturally weak grip on the facts that I learn, and it's only by connecting them with other, more vital pieces of information that I can remember anything at all. Any class I've taken where simple memorization was important was a class I did not do well in. I'm not sure if it's inability or disinclination, but my abilities with rote memory are very unimpressive. I've had to adapt by creating systems for remembering things, rather than keeping The Things I Know in a list in my head.

For example, I work with a sort of archaic computer program that stores information about diagnostic cases in my lab. It requires the use of myriad codes for differing functions, all written by different people with different motivations. It's not systematic in the least, and drives me nuts. My boss, when coming up with a new code for, say, a new test that needs to be ordered, likes to insert little jokes into his codes, and says it helps him remember it more easily. To me, it just means that I have to remember a code and a joke, neither of which is connected to anything else, and that's twice as much work as any random code.

Brooks isn't talking about the existence of written information. Amanda's right that it's old hat. What's new is the ability to rely on information being more easily accessible through Google or speed dial than through your own memory. It's like an open-book test in school, which only a fool mistakes for a cakewalk. Yes, the information is all in front of you, but if you don't have a familiarity with how the book is structured, and at least a few central formulas, you're boned. Your jittery, test-anxiety-ridden brain is at least then free to function at a higher level of complexity than simple recall.

Tangentially: check out my favorite of Lev Yilmaz' Tales of mere existence.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

You knew it was coming

Dave Barry is dressing up as Larry Craig this Halloween. He's the first one I've spotted, and I haven't even gone to any parties yet.

If you follow the link, you'll find (I asked for permission to use the photo and am awaiting a response) that it's Barry in a suit, with a toilet seat around his neck labeled "Larry Craig." I say any costume that has to be labeled needs more work. In fact, I was recently trying to decide how best to execute a Larry Craig costume, and couldn't come up with anything that didn't involve some kind of wearable bathroom stall.

It might just be an unworkable idea, I'm afraid. Anyone seen a better one, or got any better ideas?

Me, I'm sticking with something non-political, and dressing up as a peacock.

UPDATE: Yikes - this sure is a scary Larry Craig "costume."

UPDATE II: I suppose I should have done more research before hitting "post." TheHill.com has several hints for making your Larry Craig costume work.

Here are several options that can be added to your basic suit, glasses and senator’s pin. This system will allow dozens of Larry Craigs to coexist at one party without losing their individuality.

•Sport a large sign that reads “NOT GAY”
•Carry a roll of toilet paper and keep a square taped to your shoe
•Construct a bathroom stall around you, held up by suspenders (much like a kissing booth)
•Carry a boarding pass, Minneapolis to Washington
•Attach a knife handle to your back, identified by the letters “GOP”
•Wear tap shoes
•Cling to a giant Senate seal (you can occasionally mention that you’re about to let go, but then don’t)
•Show up with a friend wearing a police badge around his neck.

Cross-posted at Red State Rebels.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Moscow Drinking Liberally featured in UI Argonaut

A reporter from the UI Argonaut joined us at Drinking Liberally and the article came out today. Check it out - and notice that my husband Andy was given my last name, since the reporter learned my last name first.
“Its not a strictly blue democrat thing, we just share some of the same liberal ideas,” Anderson said. One of the big topics on Thursday was Children’s Health care. The group all voiced opinions on this topic, and then moved on to another drink. The conversation switched to debate over “Battle Star Galactica,” a popular Sci-Fi TV show. However, another topic brought up in conversation was who will be the next President of the United States will be. Asking whom the next president of the United States would be struck up several interesting conversations. One member said they favored Hillary Clinton, while others pitched in. “Who we need to worry about is Giuliani,” Andy Anderson said. However, Sara Anderson isn’t worried.

“The next president will definitely be a democrat, all the republican candidates suck,” Anderson said.
Don't I sound articulate?

Cross-posted at Red State Rebels.

Friday, October 19, 2007

We <3 Katamari

For a little while, I thought that cleaning house with a Katamari would be cool, but then I realized I'd just be left with a big ball of dust and hair and pennies.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

WSU's toxic environment for women

Things have been bad for women in Pullman, Washington and on the Washington State University campus lately. Within the last month, two high-profile stranger rapes have been reported, and now, women in Pullman are being advised by police to "walk with at least one friend and carry a cell phone to call police if needed to help prevent and report harassment and assaults," due to a string of physical and verbal harassment incidents against women. It's a chilling thing to read on the day scheduled for a Take Back the Night rally as part of the national Week Without Violence. And it's frustrating, knowing that one of the recent sexual assault victims was attacked by a man who had offered to walk her home. It's frustrating knowing that this isn't the first time WSU and Pullman have seen a flareup of violence against and intimidation of women when people are supposed to be working to prevent it - while I was an undergrad there was a TBTN rally that was heckled during its walk through WSU's Greek Row.

I was never a student at WSU, though I currently work there, and anyone who's been to the area knows the close relationship that Moscow, Pullman, and the two universities maintain. I do know that I generally avoided Pullman's "nightlife" (such as it is) while I was in school, and have heard it remarked on more than one occasion that a meat-market date-rape streak is prevalent in Pullman's drinking and partying culture. I've heard the kinds of stories women tell each other when they don't feel they can go to the police - inappropriate and uninvited touching, harassing catcalls, even sexual assault - and I'm sick of it.

I don't want Pullman to be the place that it appears to be, and I am glad that WSU has lately taken small steps towards addressing and acknowledging the problem. But emergency beacons and a nighttime transit service for women do not a woman-friendly environment make. The harassment and violence are happening outside the official and legal realm, between students and residents walking down the street, so excuse me for not feeling comforted by the availability of self-defense classes. The problem is cultural, it's not a joke, and I'm tired of keeping these opinions to myself. I've used terms as strong as "toxic" in my mind to describe the way women are treated socially in Pullman for years, and always batted it away as being too harsh. And then I read about a sexual assault. And then I read about harassment of people protesting violence against women. I mentioned the harassment happening during the "week without violence" to a coworker today, and she replied that it was "ironic." But it's not ironic - it's typical, it's directly harmful to every woman who deserves the freedom to walk someplace alone, and I just can't keep quiet anymore.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Idaho Democratic Party Fall Central Committee Liveblogging

I'm going to be liveblogging the IDP Central Committee meeting through the day at Red State Rebels. Stop in if you'd like to see Idaho Democrats in their natural habitat.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Idaho house delgation split over SCHIP: guess who's holding up health care for Idaho's children?

After Bush's shameful veto of the bipartisan-supported SCHIP expansion, all eyes are on the House of Representatives and the push to find the 15-ish Republican votes that would override the veto. Mike Simpson, one of Idaho's two representatives and a medical professional himself, voted for the SCHIP bill, saying:

"As a fiscal conservative, former dentist, and a person who believes we must invest in our children’s health and education, my vote in favor of the CHIP bill was a difficult decision.

"The bill ends coverage of childless adults and returns the program back to its original intent – a health insurance program to cover our country’s most vulnerable children. The bill also provides much needed dental coverage for these children in hopes that tragic losses, such as the young boy in Maryland who died from an abscessed tooth, can be avoided. Among other issues, the legislation prohibits new waivers to cover parents in the CHIP program.

"In order for a child to grow, prosper, and contribute to society, they must have access to quality healthcare. By improving healthcare and children’s access to it, we are investing in our nation’s most valuable and precious resource, our children."

Bill Sali, Idaho's first district representative, has demonstrated much more interest in spreading misinformation about this much-needed bill for Idaho's uninsured children than finding solutions for Idaho's uninsured. Sali's propaganda made its way into my inbox this morning, including this gem:

"This bill would raise taxes in order to provide a form of welfare for middle income people and illegal aliens. In short, this bill is going to hurt the people it is supposed to help, and help the people it shouldn't," said Sali. "This bill is very harmful. It takes money from hardworking Americans while opening the door to provide health insurance to undocumented foreign nationals, including gang members, drug cartel operatives and terrorists. Further, it taxes Idahoans to provide health insurance to people already covered by private insurance or those who can afford to get it."


The SCHIP bill, which was originally intended to focus on low-income children, expands the program to include people who are well above the federal poverty level - providing coverage to families who earn in excess of $80,000 a year. By allowing people with high incomes to join the program, it encourages people to give up their private insurance in favor of government-provided health coverage, and requires Idahoans to subsidize healthcare for people on the east coast earning more than $80,000.

Simply put, the Republican talking points Sali is leaning on are dead wrong. SCHIP coverage can only be provided to American citizens who provide social security numbers as is written in the law, and while it is possible for some states to increase the maximum income eligibility level (tied to the poverty level), these are states whose living costs far outstrip Idaho's. These states also provide far more tax dollars to the federal coffers than Idaho does (simply by virtue of Idaho's small population and relatively small incomes), and therefore will foot a proportionally larger chunk of the national bill than Idaho will.

I suppose it is possible that there are "gang members, drug cartel operatives and terrorists" amongst the ranks of uninsured American children, but if that's the case, there are more direct ways of dealing with such law enforcement problems than denying teeth cleanings and antibiotics to thousands of low-income American children. Sali has aligned himself with George W. Bush's veto and against the uninsured children and the majority of voters in this country.

If you're as unimpressed as I am, feel free to contact Sali and let him know.

Cross-posted at Red State Rebels.

Easy one.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A friendly reminder

I've totally seen this happen before. where a professional acquaintance of mine stuck a USB memory stick into a computer, walked away for a second, and all of a sudden I was watching a porn video. I was able to close it before he reappeared and noticed his mistake, but people - PLEASE - do not store your porn in the same place as your work documents.