July 23, 2014

"I love the lotus because while growing from mud, it is unstained."


That's my photo, from 3 days ago. The post-title quote is from Zhou Dunyi, from a thousand years ago.

"Another professor showed me a large paper of instructions for discovering plots and conspiracies against the government."

"He advised great statesmen to examine into the diet of all suspected persons; their times of eating; upon which side they lay in bed; with which hand they wipe their posteriors; take a strict view of their excrements, and, from the colour, the odour, the taste, the consistence, the crudeness or maturity of digestion, form a judgment of their thoughts and designs; because men are never so serious, thoughtful, and intent, as when they are at stool, which he found by frequent experiment; for, in such conjunctures, when he used, merely as a trial, to consider which was the best way of murdering the king, his ordure would have a tincture of green; but quite different, when he thought only of raising an insurrection, or burning the metropolis."

From Jonathan Swift, "Gulliver's Travels":

You don't know squat.

Last night, we were discussing that article in The Guardian about how everything in the bathroom is wrong, beginning — of course — with the toilet. The statement "our bodies were designed to squat" irked the commenters, beginning with Joe:
[Our] bodies weren't designed.
Some religionists may protest, and I got sidetracked into wondering if the Bible has anything to say about what sort of toilet we should be using. I found something in Deuteronomy (putting the doo in Deuteronomy):
"Choose a place outside the camp for a latrine. Include a spade among your equipment so that when you squat to relieve yourself, you can dig a hole and then cover your excrement. For the LORD your God is on the move within your camp to deliver you and to hand your enemies over to you. Therefore your camp must be holy so that he will not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you."
When you squat to relieve yourself... Aha! So God was picturing you squatting over a hole. If we are to believe Deuteronomy...

In a nonreligious mode, ken in sc said:
Only a person who has never tried to rise up from a squat on 60+ year-old knees would think our toilets are too high. They make adapters to make toilets even higher for semi-invalids.
This got me thinking that if the squatting position is better for many people, there's no need to install different toilets, just make some sort of stool that fits around the base of the toilets we already have to raise the feet to a higher position. I figured this must already exist, but I despaired at the prospect of Googling the word "stool" with "toilet," given the alternative meaning of "stool." I carefully constructed my search: footstool for toilet to make it more like a squat toilet.

Behold: The Squatty Potty.

And here's NPR nattering about squatting. Last paragraph:
For most people, the modern toilet doesn't cause any problems," [said Rebekah Kim, a colorectal surgeon at the Center for Pelvic Floor Disorders at Virginia Hospital Center]. But if you're to believe Slate's [Daniel] Lametti, squatting on top of the toilet could be a time-saver — he managed to drop his 10-minute routine down to a minute.
I was afraid to click on that last link. I really don't want to hear about some man's 10-minute routine. But I did, and I'm not sorry, because the illustration is so absurd — 2 men on side-by-side toilets, one much happier than the other. Lametti concludes that even though he "gained an hour over seven days," he still preferred the familiar chair-height toilet and doubted that squat toilets would be "the next back-to-nature craze—the new barefoot running shoe or caveman diet," mainly because "Americans, now fatter than ever, are having trouble standing up from a sit, never mind a squat." Lametti's a bit of an asshole, no?

"I firmly believe — and I don't say this as a criticism — that life is meaningless."

Said Woody Allen, in the context of promoting his newest movie "Magic in the Moonlight." It's not incongruous to mix comedy-movie promoting and a statement of the meaninglessness of life, of course. If there is no larger truth about life and you're on you own with the life that you have, you've got to find some things to do, and obviously, going to a comedy movie is one of those things. I remember the scene in the Woody Allen movie "Hannah and Her Sisters" where the Woody Allen character, confronted with the meaninglessness of life, sees the Marx Brothers movie "Duck Soup" and decides that life is nevertheless worth living.

Nothing to see here! Move along! That Obamacare case is nothing — nothing, I tell you!

At the top of Memeorandum — which collects trending news and opinion pieces — the flop sweat shows:

(Click to enlarge.)

ADDED: It's funny, these websites are obviously trying to draw traffic, so they are imagining a need and serving it. These writers — especially the headline writers — must think there are a lot of potential readers who are upset and in need of soothing. The writers themselves may not be experiencing any sort of panic or anxiety. They may simply be grinding out the next damn thing that one does in the daily enterprise of grabbing eyeballs. The shamefully dishonest!!!! enterprise of grabbing eyeballs.

July 22, 2014

"A few years ago, Mel and I got into an argument about the house. I told her it was embarrassing."

"I asked her what she did all day. 'It really can’t be that hard to keep the house clean,' I said."
We got into a huge fight. Mel told me that I needed to realize what she was up against. And then she told me something that really hit home. She said, “Sometimes it comes down between cleaning the house, and taking Tristan and Norah to the park. Or spending time having fun with them, or teaching them to read or write. Sometimes I can either do the dishes, or teach our son how to ride a bike, or our daughter how to walk. I’d rather do those things, frankly. I’d rather not be that mom who ignores our kids, and myself, because I’m so busy worrying about what the neighbors might think of our messy house.”
How about spending time teaching Tristan and Norah how to help with the dishes? 

IN THE COMMENTS: Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) says:
Our daughter turned 3 a few months ago. So far this month she's done all of the following, most of them several times, and it's not an exhaustive list: picked up her books and toys; swept the kitchen floor; vacuumed her room (sort of); fed the cats every day; fed the dogs; rinsed dishes and placed them in the drainer (we wash by hand); set the table for supper several times; picked raspberries; made and baked cookies in her own toaster oven; cracked and scrambled her own breakfast eggs; hung clothes on the line; brushed out a shedding dog and put the fur in the trash; picked tomatoes; sliced cucumbers with a very sharp serrated knife (under close supervision); competently nailed in shoe moulding with her own 12 oz hammer; figured our which wire nuts I need or three different projects and handed me the right one; helped prune *roses*; cut zinnias and made a vase of them for Papa's office; handed me wrenches (usually the right one) as I have repaired farm equipment; and ... had a glorious good time with each and both of her parents as we go about the normal activities of our lives.

*None* of that has prevented her from beginning her basic reading, becoming fluent in two languages (beginning a third), going for walks with us, taking music lessons, spending hours creating kingdoms in her sandbox, or bringing us caterpillars she wants to watch become butterflies.

"My own childhood seems to have become illegal."

"I was the son of a single mother. During summers I would explore my neighborhood, visit friends' houses, walk to a pond to fish, ride my bike from our home in Bloomfield, N.J., to the abandoned lots of Newark, and jump it over curbs. I could be unsupervised from 10 in the morning until 8:30 at night, when the streetlights started coming on. If I was home with my grandmother, sometimes she would leave me alone to do grocery shopping."

From "Why are so many parents being arrested?/The communities that used to assist them are gone. So we call the cops instead."

"I always forbade everyone to clean my studios, dust them, not only for fear they would disturb my things, but especially because I always counted on the protection of dust."

"It’s my ally. I always let it settle where it likes. It’s like a layer of protection. When there’s dust missing here or there, it’s because someone has touched my things. I see immediately someone has been there. And it’s because I live constantly with dust, in dust, that I prefer to wear gray suits, the only color on which it leaves no trace."

Said Picasso.

"It is hard to find something that we actually got right in the modern bathroom."

"The toilet is too high (our bodies were designed to squat), the sink is too low and almost useless; the shower is a deathtrap (an American dies every day from bath or shower accidents). We fill this tiny, inadequately ventilated room with toxic chemicals ranging from nail polish to tile cleaners. We flush the toilet and send bacteria into the air, with our toothbrush in a cup a few feet away. We take millions of gallons of fresh water and contaminate it with toxic chemicals, human waste, antibiotics and birth control hormones in quantities large enough to change the gender of fish."

From "Why the modern bathroom is a wasteful, unhealthy design/Piped water may be the greatest convenience ever known but our sewage systems and bathrooms are a disaster." Via Metafilter, where somebody says:
Don't care won't care. That Guardian article is yet another attempt to put the blame for environmental problems on me the customer/individual when the system needs to change. I like my hot shower and want enough water and energy to run it, cleanly, not dither around pissing in straw buckets.

The hottest day of the year...


... that would be today, here in Madison, Wisconsin. Dare I go out? It's 83.3°F — feels like 89! It might hit 88.

The other Obamacare lawsuit: "A federal judge threw out a lawsuit Monday brought by U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson...

"... and one of his aides attempting to force members of Congress and their staffs to stop getting subsidies for their health insurance under Obamacare."
Johnson, a Republican from Oshkosh, argued that members of Congress and their staffs were required to get insurance on their own under the Affordable Care Act, also widely known as Obamacare. But U.S. District Judge William Griesbach in Green Bay ruled Monday that Johnson and his aide, Brooke Ericson, didn't have legal standing to bring their case because they hadn't been injured.
Here's our discussion, begun earlier this morning, about the D.C. Circuit's Obamacare opinion, dealing with subsidies for people using the federal exchanges. There was a standing issue in that case too. There (PDF) court found standing because one of the plaintiffs had an injury in fact that would be remedied by the relief sought from the court:

A big new NIH survey finds only 1.6% of American adults say they are gay or lesbian.

And only 0.7% say bisexual.

Why are these numbers so low? Is it that people are hiding or in denial, or is the proportion of nonhetereosexuals really pretty much that low?

"All of us who do what Thomas Frank does — what I do — have failed. Our goal was to persuade the public to move in a liberal direction..."

"... and that didn't happen. In the end, we didn't persuade much of anyone. It's natural to want to avoid facing that humiliating truth, and equally natural to look for someone else to blame instead. That's human nature. So fine. Blame Obama if it makes you feel better. That's what we elect presidents for: to take the blame. But he only deserves his share. The rest of us, who were unable to take advantage of an epic financial collapse to get the public firmly in favor of pitchforks and universal health care, deserve most of it."

Writes Kevin Drum in Mother Jones (citing the same Thomas Frank article we were talking about here yesterday).

"Pitchforks" refers to Obama's claim to be "the only thing between you and the pitchforks." And "you" was investment bankers. Drum is saying the financial collapse was the opportunity for left-wingers to turn the American people into a pitchfork-waving mob, but they let that serious crisis go to waste (as they say).

Why a pitchfork? In pop culture, it's "standard equipment for any angry mob on a Witch Hunt."
The mob may be going after a witch, an evil wizard, a vampire, a Mad Scientist, a "perverted" person, or any other unpopular local figure. If the mob is after the villain, he most probably ends up being shamed by the mob. f they're coming after the good guys for one reason or another (like if our heroes are hiding a Reluctant Monster), their best defense is Shaming the Mob or an obstacle that will force them to go one by one, raising the question of Who Will Bell the Cat?
But Drum is pro-mob. He wants out-and-proud pitchforkery.

I'll take the cotton candy. And I won't let the opportunity of this post go to waste. This is my time to say that when I voted for Barack Obama in 2008, I was not hoping for the United States to lurch way left. I was hoping for the very moderation that irks guys like Frank and Drum. Frank-n-Drum. Frankendrum!

A big defeat for Obamacare in the D.C. Court of Appeals.

"The 2-1 ruling said such subsidies can be granted only to people who bought insurance in an Obamacare exchange run by an individual state or the District of Columbia — not on the federally run exchange HealthCare.gov."
"Section 36B plainly makes subsidies available in the Exchanges established by states," wrote Senior Circuit Judge Raymond Randolph in his majority opinion, where he was joined by Judge Thomas Griffith. "We reach this conclusion, frankly, with reluctance. At least until states that wish to can set up their own Exchanges, our ruling will likely have significant consequences both for millions of individuals receiving tax credits through federal Exchanges and for health insurance markets more broadly."

In his dissent, Judge Harry Edwards, who called the case a "not-so-veiled attempt to gut" Obamacare, wrote that the judgment of the majority "portends disastrous consequences." 
ADDED: Here's the PDF of the opinion,  Halbig v. Burwell. Excerpt:

What's so terrible about that Verizon "Inspire Her Mind" ad gently prodding parents to encourage intellectual development in girls?

Ironically, the ad milks emotions, with mawkish violins and the sad faces of young girls — every single one of whom is pretty. There's nothing scientific about this presentation.

And that's quite aside from the iffy statistics that Christina Hoff Sommers highlights in her critique, here (via Instapundit):

My favorite part of that critique is the part that begins at 4:00: The ad "conveys the message that science is masculine," and "conventional girl culture" is "shown as an obstacle to girls' science careers." It's as if what is feminine is inherently bad, and what's masculine is good, so shake off the feminine and be masculine. That's misogyny, precisely.

In this light, consider how we treat boys who feel drawn to girly things. I'm thinking of the "Go Carolina" chapter in the David Sedaris collection "Me Talk Pretty One Day." As a 5th-grader, he's one of the students chosen for speech therapy:
None of the therapy students were girls. They were all boys like me who kept movie star scrapbooks and made their own curtains. “You don’t want to be doing that,” the men in our families would say. “That’s a girl thing.” Baking scones and cupcakes for the school janitors, watching Guiding Light with our mothers, collecting rose petals for use in a fragrant potpourri: anything worth doing turned out to be a girl thing. In order to enjoy ourselves, we learned to be duplicitous. Our stacks of Cosmopolitan were topped with an unread issue of Boy’s Life or Sports Illustrated, and our decoupage projects were concealed beneath the sporting equipment we never asked for but always received. When asked what we wanted to be when we grew up, we hid the truth and listed who we wanted to sleep with when we grew up. “A policeman or a fireman or one of those guys who works with high-tension wires.” Symptoms were feigned, and our mothers wrote notes excusing our absences on the day of the intramural softball tournament. Brian had a stomach virus or Ted suffered from that twenty-four-hour bug.
Anything worth doing turned out to be a girl thing... Now, there's some material for an "Inspire Her Mind" ad we never see. Or for an "Inspire His Mind" ad....

"The full Biden plays better around the Mediterranean and in Latin America than in, say, England and Germany."

"A former British official who attended White House meetings with Biden said, 'He’s a bit like a spigot that you can turn on and can’t turn off.' He added, 'For all of the genuine charm, it is frustrating that you do feel as if he doesn’t leave enough oxygen in the room to get your points across, particularly for those who are polite and don’t interrupt.' He learned to leave extra room on the schedule to account for what colleagues called 'the Biden hour.' In Israel, Biden’s approach goes down better. On a visit in 2011, Biden quoted his father saying, 'There’s no sense dying on a small cross'—to urge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take a larger step toward peace in the Middle East. Ron Dermer, the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., said, 'We’re in Jerusalem, we’ve got a Catholic Vice-President, we’ve got a Jewish Prime Minister, and he’s telling him, "There’s no sense dying on a small cross." The Prime Minister starting laughing, and, I have to tell you, it is the single most succinct understanding of Israeli political reality of any other statement that I’ve heard.'"

From "The Biden Agenda/Reckoning with Ukraine and Iraq, and keeping an eye on 2016," by Evan Osnos in The New Yorker.

If you have to ask...

... the answer is "no."

Leave John Koskinen alone!

He's trying to work!

Scientists struggle to determine whether you should sleep 8 hours...

... or only 7.

Lots of correlation/causation issues there. People sleeping lengthily may be trying to catch up, sleeping something off, or just plain ill. Why would they do well on brain tests?

And why assume that there is one right answer for human beings or even for one individual, year 'round, in different light conditions? I think it's amazing that our need to sleep fits with the day-to-night cycles of the earth. But then I lived through the great "biorhythms" pseudo-science outbreak of the 1970s:
Most biorhythm models use three cycles: a 23-day physical cycle, a 28-day emotional cycle, and a 33-day intellectual cycle. Although the 28-day cycle is the same length as the average woman's menstrual cycle and was originally described as a "female" cycle, the two are not necessarily in any particular synchronization. Each of these cycles varies between high and low extremes sinusoidally, with days where the cycle crosses the zero line described as "critical days" of greater risk or uncertainty.
Fortunately, that's total nonsense, and we are pretty well attuned to day and night. Night is for sleeping. How long? Why is that question even needed? I think it's because people are waking up to alarm clocks or other intrusive noises and jostlings. Too bad! I think you'd know how long you need to sleep if you'd just go to bed when you're tired and wake up when you wake up, but I guess that's some kind of luxury these days... or in any day. 

"With the BLACK ALBUM, we get to hear the boys write on adult life: marriage, fatherhood..."

"... sobriety, spiritual yearning, the emptiness of material success — 'Starting Over,' 'Maybe I’m Amazed,' 'Beautiful Boy,' 'The No No Song,' 'God' — and still they are keenly aware of this fact: Love does not last."

From the liner notes, by Ethan Hawke for the post-Beatles Beatles album constructed out of the solo effort of the post-boy boys. Scroll way down to see the 50 songs and the order in which they will be played.

Is "The No No Song" about "the emptiness of material success"? Just say "no" to... everything?

Nah, it's a sobriety song. And it was years before the "Just Say No" ad campaign that linked the word "no" to Nancy Reagan.
The phrase "Just Say No" first emerged when Nancy Reagan was visiting Longfellow Elementary School in Oakland, California, in 1982 and was asked by a schoolgirl what to do if she was offered drugs. The first lady responded by saying, "Just say no." Just Say No club organizations within schools and school-run anti-drug programs soon became common, in which young people make pacts not to experiment with drugs.
"No" was once a Ringo word, especially when repeated. But maybe you, like me, associate the repeated "no" with The Human Beinz. What were they "no"ing?

That "no" is about rejecting the capacity of others to turn in a superior performance of the shingaling and the boogaloo.

And, no no no, don't accuse me of failing to notice The Isley Brothers. Their original "Nobody But Me" did not include the repeated "no." The absurd non-negative "no"ing was the contribution of The Human Beinz:

"The recording's two 31-fold repetitions of the word 'no; fulfill Casey Kasem's 'Book of Records' category of most repetitive word or phrase in a Hot 100 top 10 hit, besting the 26-fold repetition of 'I know' in Bill Withers' 'Ain't No Sunshine.'"

"Know"/"No"... a telling homophone... as The Beatles knew: