Archive for April, 2009

Weather Delay

April 25, 2009 Leave a comment
Montlake Bridge

Montlake Bridge

James Fallows had a post yesterday that was inspired by a flight he took within China the night before. Fallows has been reporting from China for years, but the flight provided him with new insight into the differences between Chinese and American culture. I certainly recognized myself in his description of American behavior.

The precipitating event was bad weather in Beijing, which forced his return flight to Beijing to be diverted to Tianjin, where it sat on the tarmac for three hours before being able to head back to Beijing. Fallows observes: Read more…

Categories: Culture, Travel

MIT Sports

April 25, 2009 Leave a comment


I was saddened to read in today’s NYT that MIT is dropping eight of its 41 varsity sports: alpine skiing, competitive pistol, golf, wrestling, and men and women’s ice hockey and gymnastics. They are being eliminated in order to save $1.5 million. It is noted that “even in flush times, the 41 teams weighed heavily on the department, and that the cuts were intended to strengthen the remaining 33 squads.”

A few decades ago, Sports Illustrated had a long feature article about sports at MIT. At the time, MIT had teams competing in more NCAA sports than any other university in the country. The article also had some statistic about the overall rate of participation in sports by MIT students at all levels — intramural as well as intercollegiate. I don’t remember the percentage, but it was high, perhaps on the order of 80%. The article appeared not long after my years at MIT, and I was proud to be a part of that great sports participation rate. I was one half of the pitching staff on the MIT Math department intramural team. We weren’t the best, but we were competitive. And we had a lot of fun. It was a great program, with just the right level of seriousness. My fellow pitcher was Jerry Griggs, now chair of the Math department at South Carolina and a superb combinatorialist. Jerry was also responsible for introducing me to orienteering. We drove to some park in the outer suburbs of Boston one Saturday to compete in a race. That was the extent of my orienteering career, but I’m glad I gave it a try.

You know, maybe I should take it up again. I just looked at the website of the Cascade Orienteering Club. I love reading maps. This could be fun.

Oh, and another thing. In my days with Harvard Crew, we would compete every year against MIT. One of the regular events on the heavyweight crew schedule was, and is, the Compton Cup, in which Harvard, Princeton, and MIT race. I just read at the MIT athletics site that last Saturday, MIT “delivered a shock to the decades-old balance of power in American college rowing by beating nationally-ranked No. 11 Princeton in the 76th running of the Compton Cup regatta. A powerful Harvard crew, ranked No. 4 in the country, took first place by eight seconds.” The article goes on to explain that, “Since its inception in 1933, the Compton Cup has been a battle between two of the country’s premier heavyweight crews – Harvard and Princeton, with MIT almost always trailing many lengths behind. MIT won the cup once, in 1962. For three years in the mid-1970’s MIT beat Princeton, but still trailed Harvard by margins of 11 to 14 seconds. Other than that, the race has meant only frustration and embarrassment to the Engineers. That changed today, when Tech finished ahead of Princeton for the first time since 1975 and closer to the winner than at any time since 1963.” Hooray!

Categories: Sports

Bucatini Amatriciana

April 25, 2009 Leave a comment


Gail and I had dinner last night at a nearby Italian restaurant, Piatti in University Village, on the edge of the University of Washington campus. We don’t eat there often, but we like it when we do. We went with Joel in December, just before New Year’s. That’s when I discovered that it’s part of a chain. Joel and I were discussing chain restaurants and we agreed that Piatti had some features of an upscale chain. I looked for their website, thereby discovering that there are a dozen Piattis: six in northern California, three in southern California, plus three more in San Antonio, Denver, and Seattle. But the website provides assurance that Piatti is not exactly a chain:

Piatti is a collection of restaurants, rather than a chain. In order to ensure that each Piatti location is a unique experience, suited to its surrounding, Piatti chefs are encouraged to personalize their menus to meet the needs and desires of their guests. Like their European inspirations, Piattis are as much a part of their communities as they are dining destinations.

In any case, chain or no chain, it does a pretty good job.

For dinner last night at Piatti, I had — well, you can guess — yes, I had the bucatini amatriciana. It’s described in the menu as “Hollow Spaghetti, Pancetta, Chili Flakes, Garlic, Red Onion, Pecorino & Tomato Sauce.” I wouldn’t have mentioned it here had I not read about the very same dish this morning at the end of a wonderful article by Mimi Sheraton that will be in tomorrow’s New York Times. The theme of the article is meals that are worth a flight, the initial example being a meal at L’Ami Louis in Paris. After lovingly describing one such meal, Mimi writes: Read more…

Categories: Food, Restaurants

Rule of Law, cont.

April 25, 2009 Leave a comment


No sooner do I finish a post on the rule of law than I turn to my RSS reader and find a new post from hilzoy on David Broder’s column in tomorrow’s Washington Post. I can’t bear to read David Broder anymore, and I have already commented on him in a post a couple of months ago. But let’s see what he’s up to now. We’ll start with his opening:

If ever there were a time for President Obama to trust his instincts and stick to his guns, that time is now, when he is being pressured to change his mind about closing the books on the “torture” policies of the past.

Obama, to his credit, has ended one of the darkest chapters of American history, when certain terrorist suspects were whisked off to secret prisons and subjected to waterboarding and other forms of painful coercion in hopes of extracting information about threats to the United States.

“Torture” in quotes?! What’s your problem, David. Do you have another name for waterboarding? And painful coercion? Being forced to read your columns is painful coercion. Walling is torture. Good god. Even Peggy Noonan, who advised us last Sunday, in response to the torture memos, that “Sometimes you need to just keep walking,” managed in her column in today’s Wall Street Journal to grant that waterboarding is torture: “Torture is bad, and as to whether the procedures outlined in the memos constituted torture, you could do worse than follow the wisdom of John McCain, who says, ‘Waterboarding is torture, period.’ This is something he’d know about.”

Broder tells us that “now Obama is being lobbied by politicians and voters who want something more — the humiliation and/or punishment of those responsible for the policies of the past.” Huh? I don’t want punishment for policies of the past. I want punishment for crimes of the past. I would hardly be the first to bring up the Nuremberg trials as evidence of what I have in mind. Should the Nazis not have been punished for “policies” of the past. Gee whiz, David. What are you thinking?

But let me leave it to hilzoy to say more. The passage below is responding to particular points in Broder’s column, so for full context, read both his column and her full post:
Read more…

Categories: Newspapers, Politics, Torture

Rule of Law

April 25, 2009 Leave a comment


I shouldn’t overdo using Ted Rall cartoons for blog posts, especially when my most recent post was a Ted Rall cartoon. But how do I resist? What has Obama been doing for weeks talking about wanting to look ahead, not worry about the past? And what was Rahm Emanuel doing last Sunday saying the Justice Department lawyers won’t be prosecuted? At least Obama got that right two days later, in saying it’s not his decision, it’s Eric Holder’s as Attorney General.

This is and has always been about the rule of law, not politics. Investigating and, if appropriate, prosecuting is an obligation, not a choice. I could go on, but let me instead turn to Glenn Greenwald: Read more…

Categories: Torture

183: Just Right

April 23, 2009 Leave a comment


As we now know, thanks to emptywheel’s analysis of Steven Bradbury’s torture memo of May 30, 2005, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003. Fortunately, torture works, at least when done with scientific accuracy and legal justification. Ted Rall explains all, above.

By the way, let’s give credit to Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel) for her important waterboarding story. And more than credit, let’s support her continued investigative reporting and blogging. You can do so here.

Categories: Torture

I Want That Shirt

April 22, 2009 Leave a comment
Future PC

Future PC

Apple has had some new ads on TV the last few days — those ads with the two characters Mac and PC. I went to Apple’s website with the latest ads today so I could see them systematically and found one I hadn’t seen yet. It’s called Time Traveler. In it, PC uses a time machine to go to the year 2150 so he can find out if all the problems with PCs have been solved. A future Mac and PC pair are at it as usual, arguing about their merits, when he arrives on the scene. Like today’s Mac, future Mac is dressed casually, whereas like today’s PC, future PC is more formally dressed. He wears the business outfit of 2150. I’m ready. I would like one now.

Categories: Clothing, Computing

Lyrics by Bybee

April 22, 2009 Leave a comment

A week ago, on the eve of the release of the Justice Department torture memos, I wrote a post about Mark Danner’s second article in the New York Review of Books on the International Committee of the Red Cross report about CIA “high value detainees.” Since the Justice Department memos were released last Thursday, I haven’t written anything. I don’t lack things to say. It’s just that they’ve all been said, and said better, by so many others, including my usual list of bloggers on the subject, Andrew Sullivan of the Atlantic Monthly, hilzoy of Obsidian Wings, Glenn Greenwald of, and Scott Horton of Harper’s.

But now let me bring to your attention the work of Jonathan Mann, who has been busy writing a song a day since January 1. You can find his songs at his website or on youtube. I first learned about him in early March when I saw a link to his paean to Paul Krugman. At the top of this post is song #109, the April 19 song, with lyrics by Jay Bybee. If you haven’t read the torture memos yet, the song captures their spirit well. After watching the video, read more of Jay Bybee’s work. Here for instance is his memo of August 1, 2002 as Assistant Attorney General. Really, what more can one say?

And if more must be said, start with emptywheel’s comments last Saturday: Read more…

Categories: Music, Torture

Missed Opportunity

April 20, 2009 Leave a comment
Saidah Arrika Ekulona, left, and Russell Gebert Jones in Ruined

Saidah Arrika Ekulona, left, and Russell Gebert Jones in Ruined

When we went to Chicago last November, we had one free evening, a Saturday, which I hoped we could use to see the Chicago Symphony. But they weren’t playing that night. Instead, Orchestra Hall was home to a special concert by the Chinese pianist Lang Lang and friends. Given all the time I spent at Orchestra Hall when I lived in Chicago during the 1980-1981 academic year, I was eager to return. But I was also eager to attend a play at the Goodman Theater, and that same evening we had the option of seeing a new play, Ruined, by the playwright Lynn Nottage, who received a MacArthur Award in 2007. From what I read at the Goodman website, the play sounded interesting, though also perhaps painful, dealing with Congolese women who were rape victims. No doubt this is a simplistic description, but it’s what stayed with me, and I thought I might just rather go to a concert. Gail was content to let me decide, so that’s what we did.

I wrote about our evening with Lang Lang here. In February, Ruined opened in New York at the Manhattan Theater Club and received some good reviews, such as Ben Brantley’s in the NYT and Hilton Als’ in the New Yorker. When I read them, I wondered if we had made the wrong choice. But we did enjoy Lang Lang, and you can’t do everything.

The point of all this is that Ruined was awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in Drama today. The citation reads:

Awarded to “Ruined,” by Lynn Nottage, a searing drama set in chaotic Congo that compels audiences to face the horror of wartime rape and brutality while still finding affirmation of life and hope amid hopelessness.

Oh well.

Categories: Theater, Today's News

Wrong Word of the Day

April 20, 2009 1 comment


Where have all the editors gone?

Noam Cohen has an article in today’s NYT about Randall Munroe and his xkcd comic strip, which will soon appear in a book. As Mr. Cohen explains, “the idea that Randall Munroe, creator of the online comic strip xkcd — wildly popular among techies the world over for its witty use of programming code in its gags — would for the first time publish a book is still something of a head scratcher.”

You can go to the link for more details, which are not the point of this post. The point is another head scratcher. It occurs in the following sentence from the article (with bold done on my part for emphasis): “The book will include a forward from Mr. Munroe as well as red-ink commentary from him on the most popular strips.” That was the print edition. Online, forward has been changed to foreward. Progess of sorts. A step foreword. I wrote to Mr. Cohen. Maybe he can have the online version corrected.

Categories: Language, Newspapers