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Uncertain Principles

Physics, Politics, Pop Culture

Saturday, October 12, 2002

This Isn't SportsCenter

Repeated digs at the Redskins over the past few weeks probably have all three of my regular readers wondering how long it is before "Pro Football" gets added to "Physics, Politics, Pop Culture," kicking off some sort of "Nobody expects the Polish Inquisition!" moment, where I end up starting the whole blog over again. Or something.

Real sports cognoscenti, however, realize that the true role of NFL football is as a bridge between the long, dreary, watchable-sports-free months of the summer (aside from the occasional soccer or rugby telecast from overseas...), and the winter, when the real action is. Like the shortening of the day, the first blush of color in the leaves, and the unremittingly pissy weather in New England, the Monday night bellow of "Are you ready for some football?" and the reappearance of Tuesday Morning Quarterback are just markers to herald the arrival of fall, which is followed by winter, and winter, of course, means college hoops.

A mere matter of months, now. Fear the Turtle, and all that.

(Aside: Tom Izzo dropping from the ceiling dressed as Bruce Springsteen? Where's the streaming video, ESPN? You're letting us down, here...)

Posted at 1:05 PM | link | follow-ups | 6 comments

Comments, We Get Comments

Somebody named Tim (who provided no other identifying information) makes a late addition to the comments on the "Perfect Albums" post. It's an important enough comment that I think it deserves to be brought to everyone's attention:

Per your conversations about perfect or near perfect albums, I'm going to have to say that you've all made a painfully obvious mistake. You have omitted an artist and an album that makes all of the other records mentioned look and sound like demo tapes by high school garage bands. Therefore, I humbly submit my opinion that the greatest album ever released would have to be Britney Spears' creative opus "...Baby one more time". Besides the title track, such gems as "Sometimes", "(you drive me) Crazy" and the entirely underrated "E-Mail to my Heart" capture the essence of adolescence with grace and aptitude. Plus she has great abs.

Of course, her contributions to the field of Semiconductor Physics are even more important, in the context of this weblog...

Posted at 10:28 AM | link | follow-ups | no comments

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Requiescat in Pace, That's All She Wrote

Arts & Letters Daily is no more. It's been shut down in the wake of the Lingua Franca bankruptcy. Another sad casualty of the ongoing drive to remove or render useless every worthwhile site on the web...

A little while back, there was a brief craze for identifying "blogparents" and "blogchildren"-- weblogs that inspired or were inspired by a given weblog. I didn't add anything to that run of posts, not only because it seemed to be primarily an exercise in stroking the planetary-size egos of some major bloggers who really didn't need stroking, but also because ALDaily was really the blog that led to me getting into this whole thing, and seemed a little too large and impersonal to really need ego-stroking.

I was pointed to ALDaily a few years back by something Patrick Nielsen Hayden said on Usenet, and started reading it even before I started following Electrolite. Numerous citations of interesting articles led me to start reading Salon, and then Slate (as long as I'm mentioning Slate, I'll link to the new Supreme Court Dispatch by the always-worth-reading Dahlia Lithwick), and the late lamented Feed. At one point, Slate ran a feature called "mezine central" (with their signature and irritating lack of capital letters), which got me to start reading Josh Marshall, and you can figure out the rest of it.

Arts & Letters Daily was a great site, and I'll miss it. It was unusual for them to go more than a day or two without linking something really interesting, and they served as a great resource for locating worthwhile articles in the shrieking whirlwind of the "Information Supercollider" (to lift a phrase from one of Emmet O'Brien's old .sig files). I didn't always like the stuff they linked, but it was almost always thought-provoking.

Happily, some of ALDaily will continue in fragmentary form, at Denis Dutton's Philosophy & Literature. I'll fix the links on the left on another day, when Blogger is more stable, and I'm not wrapped up in trying to buy a house...

Posted at 6:00 PM | link | follow-ups | no comments

Sunday, October 06, 2002

Midnight in the Garden (State) of Good and Evil

In other New Jersey news, Josh Marshall points out that Douglas Forrester, who's currently insisting that there's no possible way to justify switching Lautenberg onto the ballot, got on the Republican primary ballot by violating the exact same law he's trying to use to block a Democratic switch. That's just beautiful. Hollywood couldn't write this stuff.

Finally, William Burton (who I finally added to the sidebar links) notes the criticism that this would set a precedent for candidates who trail in the polls to withdraw in favor of people with less personal baggage and responds with a resounding "So what?" He makes the interesting claim that if this were to become commonplace, it might reduce the effectiveness of negative campaigning-- candidates who currently win by slamming the personal failings of their opponents and avoiding the issues would have to worry about a switch to an opponent with fewer character flaws and more popular stands on the issues.

Given how personality-driven politics is, and the fact that fundraising is done mostly on an individual basis, I doubt this would ever become common (and Burton notes that, too). But it's hard to argue with his statement that anything which shakes up the current system almost has to be a good thing...

Posted at 10:05 AM | link | follow-ups | 8 comments

Great Moments in Scientific Polling

In a bit of "on the scene" reporting that would do the Telegraph proud, the Washington Post sends a reporter to survey opinion in New Jersey:

The outside world assumes New Jersey voters are incensed at the Democratic Party for making them a national laughingstock. State Republican chairman Joe Kyrillos said he's getting calls of support from across the United States. "There's real outrage around the country," said Kyrillos, a state senator. "It accosts people's sense of fair play."

But once you enter New Jersey, a funny thing happens to the outrage over the Democrats' last-minute decision to switch Senate candidates -- substituting retired, three-term senator Frank R. Lautenberg for the tarnished incumbent, Robert G. Torricelli. You almost can't find it except among people who say they traditionally vote Republican.

There's one minor problem with the article. That final qualification "among people who say they traditionally vote Republican" appears a half-dozen times, but they never tell us what fraction of the people interviewed that was. (We'll leave aside the fact that "traditionally" doesn't seem like the right word there...) They give party registration numbers (19% registered Republicans, 25% Democrat), but that's not all that useful, given that many registered Republicans actually vote for Democrats on a regular basis, and vice versa (my grandfather, for example, was registered as a Republican for fifty-odd years, because that's what was expected of a foreman at the factory where he worked, but he never once voted for a Republican, or so he said). And, of course, the party numbers they give leave 56% of the population unaccounted for.

Someone more paranoid than I would no doubt see this as "liberal media bias." It's less bias than sloppiness, in my opinion, but either way, it's bad journalism.

Posted at 10:02 AM | link | follow-ups | no comments

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