Monday, November 27, 2006

this is a very interesting concept with shamefully poor execution. It is nominally about the implications of the rise of careers or subfields within careers whose compensation packages are vastly disproporionate to those with similar levels of training.

the author threatens to investigate the interesting ideas here:

1. This phenomenon is diverting skilled workers from socially meaningful but comparatively underpaid work,

2. The social reasons for people to make choices that emphasize pay: lack of confidence in the long term coproation-employee contract, declines in the confidence in the welfare state, increasing social isolation.

3. Real pros and cons to such a career choice

but instead this piece winds up reading like something out of people magazine. it features anecdotes about rich people who chose to be management consultants or hedge fund managers without creating much a framework for these stories. The most interesting part of the article to me is listening to our featured workers describe their consumption relative to their peers rather than in absolute terms. There is a confusing detour about philanthropy which is totally unrelated to any of the articles featured workers. it is poorly structured and too timid to either criticize this developing social trend, but it is also too timid to laud our masters of the universe unequivocally either. I guess this is explained by the fact that the article appears in the business section of the new york times instead of the NYT sunday magazine or Forbes. It's reporting style is caught in ideological limbo and it paralyzes the article.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

welcome to the suck. it's cold here. really cold. -22C cold. this is an electric kind of cold. If you are underdressed in this cold and get outside, your heartrate accelerates precipitously. This is the fight-or-flight response. Your autonomic nervous system knows if you stay out much longer you are going to die. Boston never gets this cold. and it is still November.

Expatriot thanksgiving was a rousing culinary success despite a small turnout (more leftovers for me). it was done generally without recipes which was invigorating if a bit harrowing. sweet and sour kale was a surprise hit (adapted from springydog's collared greens recipe) as was the stuffing (in bird with excess put inder the skin of the breast and thigh). I went with a stuffing of butter, savoury, sage, lightly toasted white bread, celery, onion, and sausage. they sausage was utterly superfluous and will be omitted next time. The turkey was successfully juicy, despite Erma Rombauer's hysterical warnings about the cooking style I employed (aluminum foil covered at 350F).

My desserts were sugary but lacked the quality or daring of the main dishes. but sugary goes a long way. I wound up having to remove both the pumpkin pie and the chocolate pie from their shells in order to tweak the batter (this is harrowing part of no recipes). remember kids, don't be like billy, avoid this at all costs. trying to get pie filling out of a pie shells is tremendous pain. Taste the batter first. Nobody ate the pumpkin pie for the second straight year. Pumpkin pie and mashed sweet potatoes are not staples of canadian thanksgiving. But this year I got smart and skipped the arty, all day, bon appetite pumpkin pie in favor of the classically banal one.

I spent of bit of time thinking about why we make as large a meal as we do on thanksgiving and what that means (mine outsized its diners a full two-fold and outsized any meal I had made in 5 months at least 10 fold in time and volume). I muddled around in my head about this being a gustatory halloween for a culture that has had its puritanical roots morphed into a disdain for the obese. Or a domestic halloween for groups of people who emphasize professional achievement over personal care.

I also considered the fact that pumpkin pie is a classic thanksgiving dish, because it is so utterly egalitarian. you can't screw it up, and you can't really make it better. no application of love or money changes pumpkin pie. the yuppie-foodie industrial complex has essentially passed this dish by. it is just canned pumpkin, cream, egg, sugar and spices. even that arty one I made last year isn't really any better. I believe this to be beautiful. As each american mass movement has give rise to the hope of giving the populace common ground only to be shattered by exclusionism or cultural elitism (cinema, TV, professional sports) pumpkin pie remains stalwart. pumpkin pie, we salute you

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving! Or as they say in Canada, "it's thursday."

being that it isn't a holiday here, I am graphing and emailing and meeting and generally having a thursday. delayed thanksgiving is scheduled for saturday at my place. Turkey brings up the inevitable question of stuffing. Members of my family absolutely suck at making stuffing. We have never made a decent one--ever. Everything I read talks about how the culinary world is totally over actually stuffing the bird (stuffy gets soggy, can't get the stuffing temp high enough for food safety, slows down turkey cooking) and you are supposed to cook your stuffing outside and call it "dressing." But I stuffed last year's turkey with a stuffing that was almost entirely white bread and newfie savoury. It was absolutely delicious. (Newfie savoury is apparently a locally grown dried herb. it's green. the internet does not recognize its existance.) so I might try that again. wish me luck. I am thinking of branching out to sweet potato pie from the usual pumpkin. (and no, Domino will not be making an appearance althoguh I am sure he is available.)

I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


magic on the prairies (actual grey cup slogan)

the dude and papa dude attended the Grey Cup in Winnipeg this sunday. The Grey Cup is the CFL championship. It moves around between the 8 (yes, only 8) CFL cities on a rotating basis. there is no layoff between the conference championships and the cup, so the stadium is mostly filled with people from the host city or people who go to grey cup every year. This makes it more like a new year's party than a football game. Molson was gracious enough to sponsor buses from all over the city to the game which is great because all the public parking in the area is in the lots of the big box stores nearby and winnipeg likes to close streets surrounding big events. Now that the bloom is off the arctic biological rose, I figured my matching suit of carhartt arctic insulated overalls and jacket would see little continued use, but this was a clear exception. Despite being unseasonably warm (it cracked 0 degrees C at noon) it was a solid -12C by halftime. hey, it could have been -35C. I have never attended a sporting event with more people wearing snowmobiling clothing in my life. The game began with a pair of flyovers from the canadian precision flying team and then two jets (F-18?) Does Canada even have F-18s? Do they buy them from us? I don't know.

in the middle of the 1st quarter, a man in the upper deck with us wearing saskatchewan roughriders clothing stands up, points to his blood-stained boot, and shouts to his buddy, "I shot a moose this morning and drove straight to the game." I am not sure if he is kidding.

The game was between the B.C. (British Columbia) Lions and the Montreal Alouettes. montreal has been to the grey cup 6 of the past 8 years (including this year) but only won once making them the buffalo bills of the CFL (superbowl bound!). An Alouette is the french common name for a small, non-descript brown bird. nice choice of mascot, montreal. but I am rooting for them nontheless because BC is heavily favored.

The goal posts are at the front of the endzone, so field goals are much easier, and there were lots of them. BC won, but not after a fair amount of referee cheating that helped them out.

Nelly Furtado was the half-time show. it is hard to sexy-dance in a hat and scarf combo and down jacket, but she tried her best. At least she is canadian. The Hamilton Ti-Cats cheerleaders made a big splash by removing their down coats mid-routine. yes, this passes for titillation here.

CFL football is comprised largely of american college players who didn't make The League. This gives rise to an incredibly fun game of "spot the college star whose skills didn't translate." Jarius Jackson, mid 90s option QB of fabulous Notre Dame is the backup for BC. Robert Edwards former RB of the New England Patriots and sand football is the starter for Montreal.

Canadian football has a lot of structural differences from american football. the field is 110yds long with 20 yd deep endzones. the field is also wider. there are 12 players per side and the formation rules are significantly looser (receivers can be moving forward at the snap, no set rule about the number of people at the line of scrimmage). instead of the american 4 downs to acheive 10 yds, teams only get 3. all this makes for a lot of passing. despite the surfeit of throwing and the necessity of man coverage that comes with having 5 wide recievers and a running back, the receivers remarkable not-open. I can understand not being open on a short route, because given the distance from the outermost receiver to the quarterback laterally, the reciever would need a lot of separation to allow for such a long lateral pass, but what about up the field. Can someone explain this to me. is it as simple as inferior arm strength and receiver speed in the CFL?

Anyway, it was good, cold fun. maybe a little overpriced for the quality of play, but when am I ever going to see a grey cup again?

Friday, November 17, 2006

I was watching this bit of youtube delight (which is 100% courtesy of senor beavis). I have now watched it on at least 5 separate occaisions because it cheers me up. the humor is based on a a simple premise of white people engaging sarcastically in a piece of traditionally urban black culture--in this case "ghostriding." when framed in those terms, it doesn't sound so funny. but it is. It has a distinct air of self-irony and harmlessness to it.

I have been wondering for a few months about when cultural cooption becomes offensive.

I was originally very turned off by this starbucks ad that features a bunch of white commuters step dancing, but no one else seemed to find that weird. I had cooked up this extended theory about how step dancing (last paragraph only) is rooted in the black fraternity tradition and symbolizes unity, pride, and paramilitary discipline. It seemed to me that the satirical cooption of this tradition by starbucks as part of its ironic-yet-energetic ad campaign (e.g "the eye of the tiger piece") was inappropriate. but in retrospect, I think maybe I was being over-serious.

However, there have been some obvious examples of highly distastful versions of the same cultural cooption. including the 1Ls at UT having a ghetto fabulous party complete with african-american name tags.

This issue seems to have run me up against my ceiling as a culture critic. I can't figure out any kind of objective guidelines for offensiveness.

but you really should watch ghostriding if you are feeling down.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Grammar police, arrest this man?

as a bit of backstory, I am in charge of a bunch of volunteer stuff in our department. one of my many BS jobs is organizing the seminar series where zoology grad students give talks to the rest of the department for practice and to increase cohesion. there has been a movement to change the name from "crackerjack seminar series" to something more formal. Given that too much student democracy is a waste of time, I changed it to "Zoological students seminar series" (ZS cubed for short). One of my friends in the department contends that my formation is improper; he believes that we should be "Zoology students seminar series." My rationale is based on two points: "Zoology" is not an adjective and hence cannot modify "students", and that I have used the same construction as the widely accepted "medical students." (No one would call them "medicine students.") He counters with the idea that chemistry, physics, and philosophy grad students would not be called "chemical students", "physical students", or "philosophical students" respectively. This seems valid to me. I believe that I am correct de jure, but I am swayed by the pragmatism of his arguments. When does the fluency of common usage trump proper grammer, and is my grammar even correct? What's a canadian farm boy to do?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

William Styron died last week. William Styron was my great uncle. He married my grandfather's sister, Rose, and they moved out of the orbit of our family network. In every marriage, someone packs up the trunk and moves away physically or spiritually. He was our elephant in the room; far and away the most famous person to whom any of us was related, but clearly someone over whom we did not feel ownership. I am certainly not about to tell you some kind of personal tale of vibrant, gruff, fanciful childhood memories in the style of stephen james joyce. I probably only spoke to 'Uncle Bill' twice. My only distinct memory of him is watching him come downstairs to eat soup and then retreat upstairs at a lunch after I graduated from college. It was always funny to me that he was this great "bard of depression" who gave seminars and spoke at length about his personal struggle, because he was always just the guy who didn't talk in the years that he came to thanksgiving. He and his descendants came down to DC from new york about every five years, and the baltimore-washington axis of the family were always a little perplexed by them. To our clade of earnest jews engaged primarily in advanced degree having and sociology, the broad artistic sweep of the styrons was engaging but also confusing. His son was an actor/director, his daughter-in-law a dancer, his wife a poet, his grandson had something to do with recording music. This all fell in line with the idea of our relative by marriage as "literary giant," but bill himself never fit that Mailer-esque ideal. His clothes weren't fashionable nor were his eyeglasses. He did not gesture or allude, his eyes didn't sparkle conspiratorially, nor speak of Montmarte or Morocco in an off-handed way the way one imagine internationally renowned writers to do. (Where is Padma Lakshmi when you need her?) In fact, he rarely said anything to anyone. I guess that is what having a depressed relative is all about even if he wrote a great book about it years ago. Rest In Peace, Bill.

can someone please explain to me who the hell is Tinsley Mortimer?

Monday, November 06, 2006

OChem midterm was good. not quite as good as I had hoped, but still good. I was harmed by my trademark inattention to detail, but to a lesser extent than other times.

We DFLed at CURCs but only by a 2 lengths. This is to be expected for a number of physiological, technical, and sociological reasons which would required a long enough treatise about rowing to bore everyone except terry. basically after 4 years off, six weeks on at 3 rows a week with a prairie giant isn't quite going to get it done against the best of the canandian best. but it was fun to get out and rock again.

now we are home trying to get down to business.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

dude updates:

the 2 bedroom dude mansion has lost its 3rd inhabitant returning it to its conformation of maximum stability.

wish the dude luck:
he has
an OChem midterm tonight
Canadian University Rowing Championships on friday. (the old grey mare.........)

it is snowing here a lot. and sticking. adios bicicleta, hola autobus.

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