It's no "Strange Bedfellows" but...

I think my dissertation has a title. Try this on for size - "Oil This War Machine: Markets, Resolve, and the Efficiency of Conflict" I was thinking about how one of the implications of what I'm doing is making crises a more efficient process - and the negative connotations of that. The title is a play on hand-markered anti-war signs.

I understand, though, that "Strange Bedfellows" is still available, and I'm not ruling it out.

E-mail list abuse?

Am I being a fogey about this? Are these not inappropriate e-mails to send to 600 students, 6 TAs and a "professor"?

E-mail #1 - Keep in mind that there is a review session for the entire class this evening, and that all of the TAs are having extra office hours before the exam.
I am sure everyone is at the library studying hard for this midterm but I just had one quick question that i hope someone can help me figure out. I can't seem to find anything in my notes regarding USA: Internationalism vs. Isolationism. Can someone please briefly explain this concept to me. I would REALLY appreciate it. I'll bake you some special brownies! :)

E-mail #2 - Some entrepreneurial students used the class list to set up an alternative student-led review session. There were 12-15 e-mails to the class list involved in planning this alternative review. Some people were apparently less than pleased with this.

E-mail #3 - There was a response to e-mail #2 which said that the tone of e-mail #2 wasn't necessary, but that he would set up an alternative e-mail list through g-mail. This was a response to that e-mail.
blow it out your ass

Wild Packs of Family Dogs

This is probably a sign that I'm getting too old to watch concerts from the front row, but if you're taking up more than your allotted 1.2 sqaure feet of floor space (and, like states, the air directly above it) by leaning to point to the lead singer, by jumping while you lean and point, or by twisting and moving your arms wildly, then I'm annoyed with you. This is probably why we elderly sit in the balcony when its available. But I'll start at the beginning -

We were close enough to walk to the Eagle's Club, so we decided to go over as soon as the doors opened at 7:00. This show, it turned out, was in the actual Eagle's Club, rather than the Rave (where Zutons/Keane had played). The Eagle's Club is a former ballroom (I'm pretty sure), and it was, for lack of a more descriptive word, gi-normous. The hardwood floor could have easily handled 10-12 regulation basketball courts (although I imagine that would have been less lucrative for the owner). It was also gorgeous - an amazing ceiling and opera-esque balcony seats for VIPS. I really hated to see people throw their cigarrette butts on the floor, and hated even more when they ground them out with their feet.

We could only see the butt-throwers at the beginning of the show, though, before we lost the ability to move our arms, see the floor, move independently of the crowd, etc. The first opener was some forgettably-named rock band, although memorable for the tantrum that the keyboard player threw when his amp stopped working on the last number. We weren't quite close enough at this point to hear what he's was saying, but Missy thinks he may have quit the band over it - "I'm outta here!" is what she says his lips said.

Between sets, we used people going to the bathroom and out for drinks to move from the fifth row to the third row or so. We didn't force or shove - Missy was just really good at moving us forward and left a few inches at a time without being obtrusive about it. The highlight of opening band #2 (Mason Jennings - a neo-folk trio) was first watching the guy to our right yell at them, flip them off, and make fun of anyone in the audience (including us) who was enjoying them. He had a theatric laugh - like every time he noticed the band doing something new, like picking up a banjo - that was clearly meant to show us how much cooler he was and how shocked - SHOCKED- he was by the ineptitude of Mason Jennings. I won't deny wanting to punch him.

Then it got even funnier. Two young girls, who had been trying to get more frontward for about 20 minutes, pushed by him (and us) and said something like, "If you're not going to enjoy the show, then we're going in front of you." This, somehow, turned into a heated discussion of whether Modest Mouse had sold out, with the girls taking the position that they had. There was screaming and finger pointing, just like the Modest Mouse show, except it was between a group of three strangers. After the Mason Jennings set, security pulled the fake-laughing guy out of the crowd.

Missy has been reading the Eagle's Club flyer while I type and has just informed me that the venue is, in fact, officially called the Eagle's Ballroom. Take that, doubters. Now she's saying that Spice may have told us that it was called the Eagle's Ballroom.

The Eagle's Club staff was not quite so efficient at this show - the first band went on at 8:01 but the between-band movings about of equipment took a long time. There must have been a 45 minute break between Mason Jennings and Modest Mouse. Missy and I stood patiently, still in the third row just off to the right of stage center, while the rest of the crowd drank heavily (apparently). Like Keane (and probably every other band with a video on MTV), Modest Mouse has a large contingent of screamy young girls. Many of these girls were near us at the front of the crowd. Many of these girls would be crushed in a few minutes.

MM took the stage around 10:45, and everyone in the crowd decided that the show would be infinitely better if they could just see from 18" closer. This lead to giant waves of pushing, the likes of which I haven't experienced since a Nine Inch Nails show in Omaha (J.Sch will remember fearing for our lives there well). It was mayhem, but as I screamed in Missy's ear, I was just going to try to stay standing and enjoy the show anyone. Staying upright became progressively harder, reaching a pinnacle when Isaac Brock played the opening chords of "Float On" - the MTV single. Cuh-rist. Now we were moving back and forth 5-10 feet at a time, and elbowing people just to get them off of us. Quite a few people bailed out over the security barricade, including the two girls directly in front of us. That left us on barricade, immediately in front of Isaac Brock. They were _fantastic_ "seats" - the best I've ever, ever, ever had a big show like this. It's no wonder people were trying to climb on my back to see. I stood just behind Missy to make myself think that I was providing some protection from the crowd, although I found out after the show that her Elbows o' Death were providing some protection of their own. At one point, the two guys next to me (normal-looking but mopey guy, and crazy drunk guy with bandages on his head that I would later hear were from a beer bottle to the head from a concert the night before) started to argue very violently about who had pushed who. It was purely an academic argument, since the individual will to push had been long subverted to the will of the mob.

At some point, before the screaming turned into what could have been a dangerous fistfight, I pushed the drunk guys head. In hindsight, I could have made a better choice. Frankly, I was frustrated at my inability to stop the crowd, and that guy was right there, sweaty, and yelling - the embodiment of the crowd, if you will. Missy, ever the proponent of safety, yanked my arm back, and the guy yelled some obscenties at me. Later in the show, although I doubt he remembered that I was the face-shoving guy from earlier, he was jumping and pointing and leaning on the crease between my shoulder and the anonymous shoulder next to me, clearly trying to force his way to the front row. I was in the second row, right behind Missy, and yelled to him something like, "Dude - there's nowhere to go!". He replied, "I KNOW - SO STOP PUSHING ME - I PAID FOR THE SHOW TOO AND IF YOU PUSH ME I'M GOING TO KEEP PUSHING BACK...AND..." I lost track of what he was saying because he got sucked back a few rows. About 30 seconds later, I heard him arguing loudly with someone behind us - being hit in the head with a beer bottle happens pretty often for that guy, I wager.

By this point, until the encore that is, we were packed tightly enough that (1) I couldn't take a deep breath, and (2) there were no air pockets into which to move, so were were a pretty solid, unmoving mass of MM fans. Security walked along the front of the barricade, pouring water into our mouths. Missy got the first drink of a new bottle and told me later that, even though she was very thirsty, would have turned the drink down if it had been from the same bottle that the people beside her had their mouths on. As a very thirsty second-rower, I'd like to think I'd have made the same decision, but that probably wouldn't have been the case.

The three-song encore may have been the worst, in terms of crazy jumping and pushing. I was trying really hard to ignore it, though, because I realized that being annoyed with it was making me annoyed with the show. The concert was fantastic, though, and I wanted to enjoy it. I was also hoping that one of the encore songs would be "Wild Packs of Family Dogs" - sadly, no. Finally, the band left the stage for the last time, the house lights went up, the crowd untangled itself, and we went outside to fall down in joy at the fresh air. In addition to both shirts I was wearing, my JEANS were soaked in sweat - I'm afraid not all of it was mine. Eew.

Take this potted plant to the woods and set it free

More tomorrow morning on the concert, but I wanted to give you the sneak preview tonight - I'm sweaty, bruised, and possibly bloody (the wetness might just be sweat - I'm too exhausted to check), but we saw Modest Mouse from the first row. I pushed a kid in head and Missy was throwing elbows. I think it was worth it. Missy's not so sure.


I don't know why Jeffrey Dahmer would have killed that guy when he could have had so much fun playing with the in-room pc (on the TV screen no less). I'm blogging on the TV while I sit on the couch with a wireless keyboard. The Ambassador looks skanky on the outside, but up here on the 7th floor (which you need a special key to access in the elevator) things are schwanky. We're headed downtown now, then it's the Modest Mouse concert - maybe I'll post about it immediately afterward.

More Prof C

There's not a Victor Allen's in Market Square. Don't try to tell me that I'm wrong in front of the group after I told you that my wife works there.

Meeting on campus is not convenient enough, apparently. The west side is no big deal for me, but I'm sure that's not true for everyone.

Kissing the Lipless

Event #1) I got an overpayment check in the mail today from American Family Insurance
Event #2) I got an e-mail from the Eagle's Club about a Shins concert on 4/13 - tickets went on sale 2 hours and 18 minutes ago.

Coincidence? Probably. That's not going to stop WifeBro and I from seeing one of my favorite bands live though. We got general admission seats this time, so we'll be the watchees instead of the watchers-from-the-balcony.

If you're legally/illegally downloading tunes, I recommend "Fighting in a Sack" and "Young Pilgrims" to get you started. Even if you have the Garden State soundtrack, these tracks will give you a better representative sample of the Shins - the songs on the soundtrack are much less-poppy than the rest of their stuff.


See Mike Bike

If you're on campus today, take a look at the front page of the Daily Cardinal - specifically, the photo in the lower left corner. For those of you in other states, it's a photo of a guy on a road bike, taken from the perspective of his front hub (unfortunately, it's not on the Daily Cardinal website). The caption reads, "UW-Madison junior Michael Ritter trains for the UW-Madison cycling club on Library Mall earlier this week."

What irresponsible "journalism"! Mr. Ritter was not, in fact, "training" on Library Mall, which makes it sound like he was riding back and forth to get some cardio time in - he, along with a half-dozen other members of the UW cycling team, were riding their stationary trainers for an event called "Freezing for Safety". They ride all day long while they ask for donations - the donations are then used to buy helmets for needy Madison youth.

Thanks, Daily Cardinal staff, for turning a cool event into a stupid, misleading caption.

Face full of hair

There are a number of men that just can't grow good facial. Frankly, I owe it to my gender to keep this beard.

Defining resolve II

I think I'm getting somewhere with this. After a _lot_ of reading, most of it articles from the 70's and 80's, I think the two essential components to resolve are (1) willingness of a domestic population to bear the costs of war (the costs being something that can be estimated ex ante) and (2) the extent of an actor's risk-acceptance (which isn't observable and which an actor has an incentive to misrepresent).

Seriously, take my advice

Look, honestly, if you don't go to Amazon and download "The Laws Have Changed" by The New Pornographers right now, I may not be friends with you anymore. Spice, since you have the Matador at 15 comp, you're excluded.

It's free, so you have no excuse.

Now pull out your credit card and order The Electric Version. Need to order more to get the super-saver shipping? Pick up Blacklisted by Neko Case, Slow Wonder by A.C. Newman, or Your Blues by Destroyer (all solo projects by members of TNP).

Flockey update

I'm writing this from the kiosk in the Nat (which was cleverly designed to maximize wrist pain while typing to make sure I don't take more than my fair share of time) while I wait for my ride. Tonight's contest ended in a highlight-filled tie that involved our team coming back from a 0-3 deficit to tie the game at 4-4. Two of those goals were in the last three minutes of the third period - and one of those two while I was sitting out on a penalty (apparently I shoved someone - pansies). That gives us three series points for the season (two for last week's win and one for the tie) - we need four to make the playoffs, so we need to win or tie next week. The ref (not the one who called me for pushing) said the team we play next week tied the team we tied tonight - he said they're lazy, but they can shoot and score from almost anywhere. We have a much better goalie than the team we tied tonight, though, so we have high hopes for next week.

I'm going to have to wear a brace if I keep typing on this kiosk.

Defining resolve

What is resolve in a bargaining game? One important point to make, I think, is to qualify what resolve ISN’T – that is, it isn’t capabilities (which are ex ante) or probability of winning (which may come from capabilities, and for the purposes of this model, is incorporated as p already). It also can’t just be the probability of war, since that would be tautological or endogenous or something – i.e. the whole model is about the probability of war, so the probability of war can’t be a variable in the model. Likewise, it can’t be the probability of responding to a provocation (at, for example, node 2 in the Schultz game), since it occurs at the first node in the Powell game. So far, the only definition that makes any sense is to define resolve as the amount that would need to be conceded in order to avoid war – but that’s totally tautological.

Spice has suggested that it may be a brand of carpet cleaner.

By process of elimination, I think it may be some type of spicy mustard.

Edited to add: This is, however, the most enjoyable part of the dissertating process so far.

C-lucci II

The Methods Posse will also be interested to learn that counterfactual reason is not, in fact, a method, but a theory.

C-lucci I

I'm assembling a list of the evidence that the professor I'm teaching for is secretly a conservative jerk (in addition to being a bad professor, cradle-robber, CV-faker, etc.) -

+wears a flag pin on his lapel
+has a "9/11 - Never Forget" checkbook cover, complete with waving flag motif
+lists the Bush doctrine alongside realism and liberalism as a theory of International Relations
+made fun of anti-globalization groups
+used Newt Gingrich's book as an example of counterfactual reasoning

I will add to this list, I'm sure.

Neko Case

As I sit here deciding how to properly define "resolve" and working my way through a stack of CDs, I've decided that Neko Case may be the finest vocalist I've ever heard. Download any (or all) of the below and try to tell me that I'm wrong.

New Pornographers - Letter From An Occupant (from Mass Romantic)
New Pornographers - The Laws Have Changed (from Matador at 15 compilation)
Neko Case - Blacklisted (from Blacklisted)

Apparently Amazon has a couple free mp3s from The Tigers Have Spoken - not my favorite tracks, but good nonetheless.

Neko Case is followed closely by Jenny Lewis from Rilo Kiley. That's the same Jenny Lewis from such classic teenage movies as Troop Beverly Hills (with Shelley Long!) and The Wizard (with Fred Savage!). You can hear (but not download) tracks from More Adventurous on their website - just click on "music".

Cut 1hr:20min from my swim split

This is a fantastic idea and I'm heartbroken that I didn't find out about it until today. I'm trying to get pictures - which I'll certainly post.
On this Sunday, February 20th 2005, at Noon we will shock Madtown (as though that could happen) with the 3rd. Annual "Ironman Frozen Swim/Run".

This will be your chance to cover the FULL 2.4 mile IM swim course distance in the fastest time you will ever see. We will run the on the frozen waters of Lake Monona, Followed by a run up the Helix to transition into warm gear in the convention center.

Attire (Not mandatory, though highly recommend): Swim suit (for the hardcore) or wet suit, goggles, swim cap, IM race number(if you have one), and shoes (highly recommend). Last year we started out with full wet suits but got hot and striped down to swim suits after the first lap (a few women striped down an ran the last lap in men’s briefs/"Tidy Whites", the look on the ice fisherman’s faces were CLASSIC).

This is not a race.

All are welcome, *Mandatory for Past and future Ironman*. :-)


Velonews has a good article today on car v. bike conflict, including a description of the incident below. Although I've had a number of close encounters (like every cyclist with more than a few thousand miles under their wheels), I've never been in this type of situation - having a threat from a driver carried out. I'd like to think that I'd take their plate number and file charges, but I can't honestly say that in the heat of the moment I wouldn't do the same thing this guy did.
After the local Saturday group ride, three cyclists -Trek VW's Nick Martin, Chris Hopwood, and Dwight "Whitey" DuBroux, both members on the local Team Giant mountain bike racing team -were heading back into town when a honking, screaming Jetta passed within inches of them. The trio caught up to the car at a stoplight, and some ugliness ensued.

"The lady driving the car started yelling, and then the dude in the passenger seat got out of the car and he was pretty massive, but he got back in," said Martin. "Whitey got in front of the car, and the lady told him if he went before her he should wait and see what happens."

When the light did turn green and DeBroux started pedaling, the Jetta rammed him from behind, knocking him off his bike, taco-ing his rear wheel, and mashing his wattage meter.

The collision stopped traffic, and another group of cyclists gathered around to watch. DeBroux picked up his LeMond from under the car and swung it down on the Jetta's windshield twice, the second time shattering the glass with the seat post.

"I felt like I was acting out of self defense," he said. "I thought at worst I would have to buy her a new windshield."

The authorities felt differently, however, and after the Sheriff arrived on the scene, DeBroux was cuffed, charged with Criminal Mischief and Disorderly Conduct.

When Martin and Hopwood asked the officer why the motorist was not charged as well, he responded that, despite the witnesses and crunched bike, there was not sufficient evidence of any wrongdoing.

In related news:
FEBRUARY 21, 2005 -- BRUSSELS, Belgium (BRAIN)--The European Union, now 25 nations strong, may be on the verge of shaking motorists out of the unconscious fog some seem to be in when driving into cyclists and pedestrians. The method: slap 'em in their pocketbooks, where it may actually hurt.

The European Two-Wheel Retailers' Association (ETRA), reports that a bill making motorists automatically liable in an accident with cyclists and pedestrians has passed the European Parliament and will soon be before the European Council, the union's main decision-making body. If the council adopts it, all member nations will within the next two years have to pass similar laws guarantee cyclists compensation if they are involved in a crash with a motorized vehicle.

"In ETRA's view, assuring non-motorized road users of damages is making a clear signal to motorized users. Many accidents happen because of the dominant attitude of motorized users, as a result of which they seriously lack attention for non-motorized users. This attitude needs to change in order to get priorities right," said Annick Roetynck, the association's secretary general.

A piece of Milwaukee history

Apparently Jeffrey Dahmer killed his second victin, Steven Tuomi, in September of 1987 at the hotel Missy and I are staying in next Saturday.

Somewhere lots of people know

WifeBro., Spice, and I gave mother nature a big "whatever-extra bold" last night and drove to Milwaukee to see The Zutons and Keane, despite snow earlier in the day and really messy roads. The concert was at The Rave/Eagle's Club, which I've heard of but never been to. It turned out to be a gorgeous old building that may or may not have been some sort of a boxing club, or men's club, or ballroom, or secret government lab. We're still doing the research on that.

Our tickets said our seats were 1-3 in row 1 on the balcony - sounds pretty good, right? Not so much with the right-ness. We were behind the bands, and our viewing choices were either sitting (and barely being able to see over the balcony) or standing (and being eye-level with a horizontal support board). We did get to see the towel guy hand the bands towels as they left the stage, so all the people on the floor in general admission were pretty jealous of us for that. "What did the towel guy look like," they asked me. I smiled in my mysterious way and told them nothing. Fools.

The show, though - on to the show! The Redwalls, an opening band I've never heard of and wasn't that impressed by, took the stage at 7:57 - three minutes early. What the &#?(%?!? I've _never_ been to a concert that started on time, let alone early.

After a quick equipment change (the Rave is nothing if not efficient, apparently), Zutons came on for their set. I really like the Zutons, and feel a little like I discovered them (or at least recommended them simultaneously with Entertainment Weekly). They played a fun, high-energy show with lots of crazy instruments (a saxo-ma-phone? At a rock concert?!) and tempo changes. I was impressed. Weird, mustachioed man in the fifth row was not so impressed. More on him later.

Another quick set change, and Keane took the stage. I didn't realize that Keane had such a screamy-teenage-girl-centric audience - I feel more effeminate for owning their album. Their set was....solid, I guess. The lead singer mostly just sang and danced - only playing keyboard on a couple new songs. I feel like lead singers without an instrument always look..I don't their dancing is an affectation. I'd rather see a lead singer with a guitar in his or her hands, or at least a tambourine. Or that crazy wind/keyboard instrument that Zutons used in their last song. Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs - if you're reading this, you are the exception. You keep truckin', Karen O. Spice had some good insights about the Keane set, so I'll direct you to her blog entry.

I've never watched a show from that sort of perspective before, so I've never really had the chance to watch the audience in action. There were interesting folks there last night, including
-drunk, orange-shirted pointer-guy - who registered his appreciation for Keane by wooo-ing and pointing randomly into the air (many times looking like he was pointing directly at us).

-creepy, mustachioed man - who started to bop a little bit during the Keane set, but mostly just stood in the fifth row center and glared at the band. He was well over 6' tall and closing in on 50, and he stood out.

-devil-horns, I-lurve-Whitesnake chick - who was giving the double devil-horns to the guy doing the drum test. I didn't hear her say woo to him, but I was way up in the balcony - I'm not ruling it out.

-Mini-Hammie - who looked not so much like her own person so much as a miniature version of Hammie.

-Various groupie-wannabes in the front row - who may or may not have been crying during "Somewhere Only We Know". There's nothing like watching the adoration in a teenager's eyes as she sings along a future-pudgy man with rosacia.

-one non-white face in the entire audience.

Next week - back to the Rave for Modest Mouse. WifeBro. and I have general admission seats, so we're leaving early and crowding the stage. That's good news for people who love bad news.

LOOK OUT - It's housing for the poor! RUUUUNN!

GROTON, Conn. (AP) - The USS Jimmy Carter entered the Navy's fleet Saturday as the most heavily armed submarine ever built, and as the last of the Seawolf class of attack subs that the Pentagon ordered during the Cold War's final years.

The 453-foot, 12,000-ton submarine has a 50-torpedo payload and eight torpedo tubes. And, according to intelligence experts, it can tap undersea cables and eavesdrop on the communications passing through them.

It can reach speeds of more than 45 knots and carry Tomahawk cruise missiles and anti-submarine torpedoes, and it is engineered to be quieter than the other Seawolves, making it better for surveillance.

To be fair, Jimmy Carter served in the Navy on a sub, so it's not completely off-base to name an awesome machine of death after him.

Pros are faster - who knew?

Xtri has a nice article about an age-grouper (the non-pro triathlon masses) living with and training with a small group of pros before Ironman-New Zealand. At one point in the article, he's asking their insights on each leg - how do I get faster? I think their answers shed some light on why some of us can just never hope to be elite athletes -
We started with Miss M. She told us that the secret to a good swim is to simply hang on and remember “if it hurts then the other guys are hurting too”. Hmmm, the whole reason I started going long was because I didn’t really savor that short course type of pain.

Mister A was 5th out of the water last year so I asked him what he thought of the swim. His reply, “it was pretty easy, Brent Foster didn’t start all that fast”. Suppose that’s all a matter of perspective. Bjorn did a 2K TT the other day and held 1:14s (LCM) without a wetsuit. So, it might feel just a little different for me.

On to the bike… Mister A blitzed the bike last year with a 4:33 on a windy day. 17 minutes faster than Cameron, who had the day’s second fastest ride (4:50). So how did he do it? Did he break it up into sections? Did he seek to negative split? Nope, turns out that his best advice is… “ride steady the whole way”.

“Ride steady the whole way” – oh boy, I felt ready to rock with that nugget!

OK, so far I was going to “hang on” for the swim and “ride steady” on the bike. Turning to Baron, I was hoping for something at least approaching insightful. After all, he managed to break the event record with a 2:42 last year. His offering, “run fast downhill”. After thinking for a bit more he added, “and push the uphills”.


What's hot (if you're a bicycle)

The list below is courtesy of the editor of the new VeloNews Buyer's Guide. As a once-in-a-while bike industry foo', I have to admit that the company that employs me is only doing #5 (and that's not really even something we can take credit for). There's a big future for us, I'm sure!
1. Integrated, oversize bottom bracket technology: You gotta give thanks to old Roger Durham at Bullseye for pumping out the first modern production two-piece crankset in the late 1970s. Shimano remixed and remade the engineering concept with its HollowTech II crankset (debuted in 2003) and just about every serious crankset manufacturer has caught on to the idea with their own variations of the two-piece crankset and oversize, outward positioned bottom bracket cups. Lighter and stiffer without too much added price. And if you're still concerned about "bearing issues" with the new bottom brackets, word is they're entirely worked out for 2005.

2. Affordable carbon bikes: Gotta have a full-carbon ride for 2005? Giant's TCR Composite 3 costs an amazing $1600...for the entire bike!

3. Better fit: After scouring through hundreds of catalogs it's clear to see that more manufacturers are producing a wider array of sizes (with corresponding component size selection) to fit their customers.

4. Team issue replicas: Want to own Lance's Madone or Jan's TCR? No problem in 2005. Many manufacturers are issuing nearly identical production bikes of your favorite cycling heroes.

5. Trickle-down: From Shimano's Ultegra and Deore LX to Campagnolo's Centaur, to SRAM's X.7 trigger shifters, the good stuff keeps getting integrated into parts we can all afford.

Travelin' in style

Apparently the Atlanta airport has been fog-bound for three days, and today is the first day that flights have left since Sunday morning. My wife's plane, which was supposed to leave early this morning, was delayed multiple times. She just called to say that she's finally in Milwaukee, though - many hours after she was supposed to be. She and her boss have plane tickets that are supposed to go all the way to Madison, but the airline doesn't have any Milwaukee-Madison flights leaving for another few hours. "Oh no - does that mean you're not getting home until late tonight?" is what I asked her. Apparently not - the airline is sending a bunch of passengers back to Madison in limos. Yeah - limos.

Young dorkhood

Some recent posts by Spice and J.Po about young dorkhood had me thinking about the music that I grew up with, and how those albums still have a special place on my shelf. The thing is, I think I've lost the ability to form the sort of spiritual bond with an album that I could when I was 16. I still love music, sure, but albums are good or they're bad or they're mediocre - they don't change my life.

There's only a half-dozen of those albums - some are still pretty good (Portishead - Dummy) and some are just embarrassing now (AC/DC - The Razor's Edge). Some I would still count among my favorite albums (Pearl Jam - Vs.), but most are just good for nostalgic value. I haven't listened to Whip-Smart by Liz Phair in years, but I bet I could sing along with the entire thing. All the lyrics, all the chord changes, all the intro riffs - they're stored in the same part of my brain as old TV show theme songs ("Chaaaarles in charge - of our days, and ooouuur niiiights..."). I listened to those albums over and over and over - while I was reading, studying, mowing the lawn, playing video games, driving my first car, etc.

It's all over, though - Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral was probably the last album that got to me that way. I've found some great bands since then - Pavement, Modest Mouse, Beck, Cake, The Flaming Lips, Ween, The Pixies, Wilco, Neko Case, New Pornographers, Bright Eyes, and lots of others - but I don't think I've listened to anything that I'd add to that half-dozen from when I was a teenager.

I can think of two things that might explain it. First, I have a lot more music now and I expose myself to a lot more new music. More music means that everything gets listened to less. I just don't listen to albums 55 times on repeat anymore, so they don't get into my head like Nirvana's Nevermind did. Second, listening to more music has made me a better music critic. There are lots of new bands with smart lyrics and catchy hooks that I like, and would recommend (Franz Ferdinand, TV on the Radio, The Liars, Secret Machines, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Grasshopper Takeover, The Shins, The Faint, to name a few), but their CDs just don't hold up to the same repeated listening. Not because they're worse - because a track that TV on the Radio decides isn't good enough for their album is probably better than the best track on The Razor's Edge - but because I can hear what critics are talking about and understand the faults.

Was it just Simon and Garfunkel for you, you young dorks? Will there ever be another S&G for you?

Three Good Ideas

I have three good business ideas. If you are a large corporation and would like to buy the rights to any of these ideas, I can be bought.

Good Idea #1 - A Mapquest-esque website that not only shows driving directions, but pretty colored circles along the route that represent which radio stations you are in the range of. Want to know where you can listen to Rush Limbaugh as you drive from Muskegon to LaCrosse? What top-40 stations can I listen to while I drive from L.A. and Denver?

Good Idea #2 - Sub-catastrophic car insurance. My health insurance covers more than just accidents - why can't my car insurance cover a bad alternator, worn brake pads, or a broken u-joint? I'm willing to pay a co-pay to get my oil changed, and so are you.

Good Idea #3 - The "Technology Institute", which exists only on paper, and only to "certify" products that companies pay me to "certify". Got a new crunch-based exercise machine you want to sell on your info-mercial? I bet you'll sell more once its "certified by the Technology Institute"! It's vague enough to be meaningless, but important-sounding enough to fool the stupid.


If my wife doesn't get home from her business trip until late tomorrow afternoon, is it acceptable to buy flowers tomorrow morning instead of today? Or do I only get credit for v-day flowers that are bought on or before v-day?

Paying for a PR

I ran my fastest 5K ever this morning (23:24 / 7:35 per mile), but I'm paying for it with a redoubling of the hacking, phlegm-y cough that I've been fighting for a week. I couldn't have ordered a nicer morning for a race - 45, sunny, and still. There must have been 400-500 people at the Valentine's Run this morning, so the start was a little sketchy. We thinned out by the first mile, which I hit in 7:15. I was pretty stoked at that point, because I knew the crowded start had slowed me down at _least_ 15 seconds, and I would have been on pace for a really good race. The illness and week away from the gym caught up to me pretty quick, though, and my second mile was 7:45. My breathing was starting to get really ragged at this point, which I knew wasn't a good sign. I caught one of my former students (hey Carmi) at mile 2.2 or so, said hi, and used her to pace myself to the finish. She had more left in the tank, though, and finished around :30-:45 ahead of me.

All in all, I feel like I have a lot of potential to go faster - I just need to spend more time going faster on the treadmill (and come to the starting line healthy). I can hit 21:00 this summer, and run a sub-20 next Spring.

Making beautiful memories

You can be among the first to see the new Scrapbook Superstore commercial! A sneak-preview is available here. My wife, for those of you who've never met us, is in the commercial a few times (and was the executive producer - uncredited). If you watch closely, you can even catch a glimpse of Madison's hottest new male model - Jason Zoolander.


Why can't I beat this? I've been sick since Friday afternoon, with extreme lows on Saturday morning and relative highs yesterday afternoon through about two hours ago, but it just _will not_ go away. I pride myself on being sick very infrequently - healthy constitution, my grandparents would say - and I'm ready to be done with this now. I've taken three bottles of various -Quils, but they just make me groggy and/or stoopid, so I'm done with them. Argh. I'm going to go home and sleep under every blanket we own.

Less than a dollar a K

I'm calling Spice out - I know you can run a 5K on very little training, let's see how you can do on 30 days of MBG training at the UW Running Club Valentine's 5K this Saturday. My wife is in sunny Atlanta, and I need a teammate. Put that crazy boot-camping and body-powering to work!

And look at that course! Right along the lake and a finishing quarter-mile as open and clear as the space on my forehead that my hair has receded from. You can't beat that with a stick!

"And you'll want to remember Prisoner's Dilemma because...uhhh..."

I was off my game in section today. I need to get it together before Friday. Maybe this picture of Dick Cheney from 1990 will help.

A different world

The photo below is a bicycle parking garage in Amsterdam, which you'll notice, is full of bikes. I heart cultures that travel on two wheels.


I saw Autolux/Moving Units/Secret Machines on campus last night. By "on campus" you probably think I mean some hip venue. You'd be wrong. The show was at "Club 770" in Union South, which is just a curtained-off section of the Einstein Bros (a bagel place) dining area. Despite the crappiness of the venue, I always enjoy small shows. When there are only 200 people at a show, everyone is close to the stage and the speakers. I stood about two rows back for Autolux and Moving Units (who put on, in my opinion, a better show than the headliner), but got pushed back a couple rows when Secret Machines came on.

The bands were good, and I actually enjoyed being close enough to watch the stage changes (it was intimate enough that I felt like I should offer to help), but I felt like the oldest person there. Secret Machines aren't a teenie group by any means, though, so I attribute my perceived elderliness to the nature of the show - free and on-campus.

As they always seem to, good shows come in waves. Secret Machines was the first, to be followed by Keane and The Zutons on Feb 20, Modest Mouse on Feb 28, and Interpol (hopefully) on March 13. After that, I expect there will be a break until the summer tours start to come through.

Maybe Queensryche's "Jet City Woman"?

Every stereo/discman/ipod has one song that will make it implode. If you haven't found yours yet, it's only a matter of time.

Triathlon forums are fun in the off-season

On the Slowtwitch forums, a user relayed a question from his 11 year-old daughter - "Daddy, my teacher said the universe is always expanding - what is it expanding into?" Speaking of girls and science, someone needs to steer that pre-teen into physics classes.

Here's one of the answers that I liked quite a bit:
The universe is not expanding "into something". Space itself is expanding, but this is not so easy to understand for us, since we are 4 dimensional creatures.

However, we can make a stab at it using a crazy but interesting analogy. There are 4 dimensions that we can experience: for anything to exist for us, it must have height, width, thickness, and it must exist for some length of time (that is why time is called a 'dimension'). But science indicates that they are likely 5 (or many more) dimensions. For us to understand any additional dimensions, we must stretch our brains and imaginations to the max.

So imagine a new "fairy tale" world where all the beings were only 3 dimensional: they had height, width, and time, but no thickness. These beings were thinner than a piece of paper and they lived on a flat plane (not an airplane of course, but a very large flat surface like a giant piece of paper). The beings lived on the plane and were able to move about, but only in two dimensions: forward-backward and left-right, but they could never leave the plane or comprehend that there may be another dimension (thickness) above or below their planar world.

Now imagine that the plane upon which the flat beings were living on was not really a plane, but was actually a very large sphere. To us, we could see that it was a sphere, but the flat beings were small and the sphere was very large so they still thought they were living on a very large flat plane. To them, there were some very odd things about their world. For example, if one of them were to start in a particular place and move exactly straight for a long, long time, the being would end up in exactly the same place it began. This was odd to them, but still every measurement they could take seemed to indicate that they lived on a large flat plane, not a sphere (plus, a sphere is a 4 dimensional concept and they could not comprehend additional dimensions very well).

Now imagine that the very large sphere was like a balloon that was being filled with air. The sphere was stretching and expanding everywhere: the very material of the sphere was stretching and the 'space' of the planar beings was expanding at all points simultaneously. Note that their planar universe was not expanding "into something". Their planar space itself was expanding. To us, as 4 dimensional beings, this was easy to see and comprehend from a perspective above their world, but the 3 dimensional planar beings could not figure out where this additional planar space "came from." Their entire and very existence was confined to their planar surface--they could not comprehend any other 'space' outside of it.

So, to end the analogy, we are very similar to those flat beings living in their 3 dimensional world. Our very space (4 dimensional space) is expanding all around us, but this is hard to see or understand clearly unless one can exist and observe it from a 5 dimensional world (time, height, width, thickness, and another dimension{s}). But just as we can understand and oversee the 3 dimensional planar world expand, a 5 dimensional being could easily understand our universe expanding in the same way.

And here's a funnier answer:
"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know."

An exercise in nostalgia

Good title, huh? I stole it from the back page of the Ishthmus. We're going to do this, my Madison-based friends. He may not be your president, but this is your presidential physical fitness test! My school has the Presidential Fitness Test, but we never got patches - this is my chance to relive that missing part of my childhood!
Sit-up, push-ups, sit-and-reach, the 30-foot shuttle run, and the mile run. These events are familiar to anyone who has attented public schools in the last 40 years.

Meet the standards and you get a patch. If your performances put you in the top 15% of your age group for all five events, you get a patch designating you as a winner of the blue Presidential Physical Fitness Award. Place in the upper half and get the red National Fitness Award Patch.

Erik Schmidtke, a planning analyst for the state Department of Administration, got to wondering how he'd stack up all these years later[....]

As a result of Kelliher's endorsement, Madison School & Community Recreation will facilitate four opportunities to try for a patch, from 7 to 8 p.m. and 8 to 9 p.m. on two Tuesdays, March 8 and April 26, at the Memorial High School Fieldhouse.

The $20 registration fee is due one day in advance, and includes a t-shirt and either a Presidential, National, or Participant patch, depending on your marks in each of the five events.

Marrow donation

Back in '98 or '99, when I was a sophomore, Wayne State organized a big marrow donor screening to find a match for the son of one of the faculty. Over the last six or seven years, the National Marrow Center has sent me letters once every couple years to make sure they have my contact information correct and that I haven't had any health changes. I've never been a match for anyone - until I got the call this morning. I was in the shower so I only got a message, but they're going to have me go in for bloodwork to screen for some other things, and then they'll have me make the donation right away if everything is OK.

I'm not sure whether to be nervous or not - does marrow donation hurt more than, say, blood donation? I'm assuming that drawing marrow from my bones will be a hospital procedure, and not something they do on a cot in a big RV. I'm not wondering if it's painful because I might drop out - it's worth some pain for me to potentially save someone's life, but I want to prepare myself.

Edited to add:
Here's some information from the National Marrow Donor Program website -
Marrow donation is a surgical procedure performed in a hospital. While the donor receives anesthesia, doctors use special, hollow needles to withdraw liquid marrow from the donor's pelvic bones. Many donors receive a transfusion of their own previously donated blood. A donor's marrow is completely replaced within four to six weeks.

Marrow donors can expect to feel some soreness in their lower back for a few days or longer. Donors also have reported feeling tired and having some difficulty walking. Most donors are back to their usual routine in a few days. Some may take two to three weeks before they feel completely recovered.


Just checked the live blogging at powerline - insipid, pandering, disgusting crap, but about what I expected. An excerpt:
8:48--A few years ago it was the Axis of Evil. Now it's Syria. Iran, too. And finally: a message for the Iranian people. "As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you." I've never understood why we don't do more of this.

8:53--Good stuff on the Iraqi election. "They have earned the respect of us all." Frankly, with the way events have gone over the past year, that respect has been understandably lacking. That started to change on Sunday, I think. More good stuff--the Iraqi human rights activist is introduced.

8:56--The stuff on the benefits of Iraqi freedom is powerful. Back to back shots of Hillary and John Kerry applauding, but not looking happy. Kerry looks sick, too.

8:57--A tribute to the troops--good climax. The Sgt. Norwood story is powerful. Mrs. Norwood gets a grateful hug and thanks from the Iraqi woman next to Laura Bush. Planned or not, it's the missing bit of stagecraft. The applause goes on and on, as it should.

9:03--Wonderful concusion.

On the whole, an excellent job. Bush came out swinging on the two key issues: Social Security and the benefits of the war in Iraq. As usual, the President is his own best spokesman. He made the Social Security case well, but punted, essentially, on the transition issue. For now, though, that's probably the right approach. Sell people on the need for and desirability of change, then work with Congress on the details. And on Iraq, he was impassioned and effective. The embrace between the Iraqi activist and Mrs. Norwood was powerfully emotional and symbolic, summing up at once the sacrifice, the purpose and the progress of the Iraq war. And reminding us that the military is overwhelmingly behind this President.


Maybe someone should put on one of those leftover giant flip-flop costumes -

From a comment on DailyKos:
On Stem cells: "We will not sacrifice one life to save another..."
On Iraq: "He gave his life for others..."


Paul Begala, writing on CNN's live blog, is right - if Bush supports democracy from Syria to Iran, why not from southern Maryland to Northern Virginia?
The president is recognizing the Iraqi and Afghan women in the First Lady's box -- women who cast their first free votes. I wonder if that means the president finally supports voting rights for the women and men who live in Washington D.C., which still has no voting rights in either the House or the Senate. His spokesman this week indicated Mr. Bush does not.

Geography lesson

Did Bush just say that the elections in Iraq were going to inspire democracy from Damascus to Tehran? I'm pretty sure that's....yep....just Iraq. Take a look -

Is it a hat trick if you fall down three times?

Floor hockey is harder than you think. My team, Eternal Floor Hockey of the Poli Sci Mind, was demolished tonight by younger, spryer, more polished, and frankly less nerdy undergrads by a score of 12-0. Compared to the opposing team, we lacked not only hockey skills, but the ability to hit the puck out of the air, the ability to pass, a goalie that could stop shots, and a cheering section of 18 year-old girls.

Our only respite from the shame - one of the first-years on our team told one of our opponents that we're grad students, to which he replied, "Wow - I wouldn't have guessed that." If you squint and look at it from far away, that's a compliment.

I'm raising awareness of the fact that I have a hip bracelet

Awesome - you can buy bracelets for awareness in general ("I have a joint between my forearm and hand") or dead people ("Maybe someday we'll find a cure").

As Slate nerdily notes (and I, also nerdily, find to be a good application of the collective action problem), more bracelets do not necessarily mean more awareness:
Perhaps you're familiar with "the tragedy of the commons," a social dilemma outlined by the late biologist Garrett Hardin in a famous 1968 essay of the same name. The dilemma is that when individuals pursue personal gain, the net result for society as a whole may be impoverishment. (Pollution is the most familiar example.) Such thinking has fallen out of fashion amid President Bush's talk of an "ownership society," but its logic is unassailable:

Picture a pasture open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons. … As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly or implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks, "What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?" This utility has one negative and one positive component.

1) The positive component is a function of the increment of one animal. Since the herdsman receives all the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the positive utility is nearly +1.

2) The negative component is a function of the additional overgrazing created by one more animal. Since, however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all the herdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decision-making herdsman is only a fraction of -1.

Adding together the component partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another; and another …

The same logic applies to awareness bracelets. In this instance, the "common" is the visible spectrum, and the "herdsmen" are the groups promoting various causes by selling awareness bracelets of various colors. The problem is that there are only so many colors, while the number of causes is nearly infinite. At this late hour, it's impossible to look at somebody's awareness bracelet and learn precisely what that person is trying to raise awareness about, because there are simply too many possibilities. Purple, for instance, now signifies support for Alzheimer patients, abused animals, battered women, epileptics, children in foster care, or people with irritable bowel syndrome, among other things. Teal invokes the fight against ovarian cancer, except when it invokes the fight against myasthenia gravis, drug addiction, or sexual assault. Gray can raise awareness about brain cancer, diabetes, disabled children, emphysema, lung cancer, multiple sclerosis, mental illness, or a couple of diseases I've never heard of; or it can raise awareness about asthma or allergies. ("Please join me in the fight to cure hay fever.")

Paper Topics

I have a number of complaints about the professor I'm TAing for this semester, not the least of which is that he gave an intro class (primarily freshman) the option to write their term paper on the topic of their choice. Their only direction is that it has to be a policy recommendation for a contemporary topic. While I appreciate giving students (1) the chance to write about something that they're interested in, (2) some self-responsibility, and (3) enough rope to hang themselves with, I think this is a bad, bad idea that's going to cause me major headaches this semester.

The paper isn't due until March 28th, but I gave my students instructions to bring a paper topic idea to section this week. The topics I got today range from OK (whether the US should have pulled out of the ABM treaty) to horrible/undoable/vague (why the US "should just mind its own business everywhere"). Also, in retrospect, I should have told them that they couldn't write on Israel-Palestine. Strangely, however, out of the 45 students I had today, only one student told me he wanted to write on the US intervention in Iraq. Odd.

Other complaints include (1) asking ridiculous rhetorical questions to which he expects answers and (2) confusing anarchy and chaos, as well as liberalism in American politics and Liberalism, the IR theory.

Edited to add:
Apparently I'm not the only one that's is annoyed (which is reassuring) - I just got this e-mail from another TA, and we're going to meet with a member of the IR faculty on Friday to discuss the issue (thanks, Jon!)
Timo and I were talking this morning about some of the problems we are inevitably going to encounter (or have already encountered) in trying to teach theory in a way that doesn't undermine Lamont and confuse the hell out of our students, but also gives them a solid grounding in IR theory for those who want to take more IR classes in the future.

Nature (your own) or Nurture (yourself)?

Does survival of the fittest still apply to humans? We don't have to run from dinosaurs or bears anymore (except in Honda commercials), but our culture values thinness and athleticism pretty highly - making sure those genes get passed on first. Does that mean that high variance in athletic ability, body type, and fitness are primarily genetic? Are there slow gazelles? If so, my next question is about the threshold that my genetic makeup keeps me under - that is, even if I am not gifted genetically, can I train my way to speed/endurance substantially higher than the level I'm currently at? Can hard work get me to the same place that someone with better parents could get to after twenty-five years of cheetos and Real World re-runs?

Edited to add: From a post on a triathlon forum -
socially, distance runners never get the girl. Girls like the ones who can stay and fight, not the ones who can get away the fastest. Distance runners have muscles -- very well-developed muscles. But they are long and thin, not short and thick. The best are featherweights. Look at the guys who are at the front of the marathon pack. They have all the bulk of the javelins that the really strong guys toss a couple hundred feet.

forgot to mention

When Missy and I got to the MBG for Body Power on Saturday morning, K.Fal was leaving the previous class - Missy agrees that K.Fal is, indeed, K.Fal.

Also, my arms - the inside of my elbow joints in particular - are still store. I blame the body rows. Or the punching. Definitely one of the two.