You are currently browsing the Breaching The Web blog archives for October, 2008.

Stop it already

October 28th, 2008

I want to sew a skirt for myself.

I am afraid to sew a skirt for myself. It might not turn out, and I don’t want to waste the fabric.

I wish I would stop it already. I keep imagining all the cool skirts I can make (there’s the one with lobsters, the black one with 4-gores, the one with pockets, the brown and pink one with zipper-teeth piping, the one with bowling balls….). Seriously, I need to stop being afraid!

Is this what hope feels like?

October 27th, 2008

A few years back, I read Kim Stanley Robinson’s Science in the Capital series, and I continually scoffed at the character of Phil Chase, an idealistic senator who ultimately wins the presidency during a worldwide ecological crisis. I kept thinking how nice it would be to have a president like that — a smart guy with a vision — and the further into the series I read, the more depressed I became. I kept thinking “There’s no way Americans would elect a president like that, and even if they did, a person like that wouldn’t want the job.”

I’m afraid to hope that I was wrong, and that Obama might be that person, and that he might actually win this election. I have been horrified by the Bush presidency, but that doesn’t mean I’ve loved our democratic presidents. Clinton disappointed me terribly — among many other things, he broke my heart with TANF.

But the more I listen to Obama’s plans, look at the way his campaign has been run, read the polls and (more importantly) read analysis of those polls the more I feel this thing in my chest with feathers. Is this what hope feels like?

Knotwork

October 26th, 2008

I’m not a fan of lawns, in part for environmental reasons, but also because they are wasted opportunities — something so much more interesting could have been done! This front yard edible knot garden is just one example of the sort of thing that can be done when you rip out the lawn.

Stayin’ Alive

October 17th, 2008

Apparently, The Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive”, at 103 beats per minute, is the exact tempo at which heart compressions should be optimally performed when doing CPR.

In other news, I now have the Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive” stuck in my head.

Play

October 16th, 2008

I would not have anticipated that a weblog about playground architecture would be interesting, engaging and fun. But it is.

Let’s Eat

October 14th, 2008

I’ve not read this book, but I just placed it on hold at the library: Crunchy Cons: The New Conservative Counterculture and Its Return to Roots. It’s a book with a manifesto:

A Crunchy Con Manifesto

1. We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream; therefore, we can see things that matter more clearly.

2. Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.

3. Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.

4. Culture is more important than politics and economics.

5. A conservatism that does not practice restraint, humility, and good stewardship—especially of the natural world—is not fundamentally conservative.

6. Small, Local, Old, and Particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New, and Abstract.

7. Beauty is more important than efficiency.

8. The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our senses to authentic truth, beauty, and wisdom.

9. We share Russell Kirk’s conviction that “the institution most essential to conserve is the family.”

There’s not much in that I disagree with. Of course the devil is always in the details.

Grudgingly

October 13th, 2008

I’m not a fan of Economics. Economists, as a rule, have too much of a tendency to adopt ideas from other fields and then claim them as innovations without acknowledging the borrowing (see James Surowiecki’s work for one of the most egregious examples). Yes, this is sour grapes, as much of the borrowing in recent years has come from Sociology, and I am a sociologist.

But in spite of my bias against economists, I am happy to see that Paul Krugman won the Nobel price for economics. Krugman is so often right that it’s hard to not be a fan.

Why aren’t you watching?

October 8th, 2008

I’ve been watching Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles since it started. It’s a really great show. The series’ story arc is inserted between Terminator 2 and Terminator 3 — in fact, it thankfully ignores T3 (a terrible movie) entirely.

The show captures the spirit of the first two Terminator movies exactly: the fatalistic dread, the hope, the determination, the love. Several new characters are introduced, including a “white hat” terminator played by Summer Glau and another member of the Reese clan. The stories are deep and detailed, more like watching a movie than watching TV. It’s a satisfying extension of a satisfying franchise.

Sadly, the show is in very real danger of being canceled because viewership is low.

Now’s your chance to start watching it. The series does have an ongoing story arc — John, Sarah and Summer Glau travel forward in time several years, where they fight off “black hat” terminators, while trying to stop Skynet (that’s right — Skynet wasn’t destroyed by the events of T2, just changed). That’s all you need to know about where we are now — you can dive right in. You can find old episodes on iTunes or Hulu.com if you’d like to catch up, but you don’t need all that backstory to enjoy it now. It’s a great show.

Defending Palin

October 7th, 2008

I keep finding myself in the odd position of defending Sarah Palin. It’s baffling. Not only do the few policy positions she has articulated appall me (even in — and perhaps especially in — her area of expertise, energy policy), but her hate-based, racist, untruthful and vacuous attacks on Obama disgust me. This is America at its very, very worst.

But she’s still a woman in a male-dominated field, and I guess that’s where I find myself feeling some kinship with her, even though I suspect she would feel little with me. I keep hearing comments about how great it is that she doesn’t dress like most female politicians, eschewing pantsuits and solid reds and pinks — to which I respond that it would be really great if we would stop talking the clothes of female politicians. I also hear comments that it’s disrespectful of her to refer to her opponents as Joe and Barak, when they go out of their way to refer to her as governor — to which I respond that she’s got to demonstrate that she’s at their level, that she’s part of their club.

Those are the kind of small battles that I fight every day. When I’m introduced as FirstName (no last name and no title) to someone of equal age and rank who happens to be of the opposite sex who is introduced to me as Dr. LastName, I have to find a way to politely work a comment like “what field is your doctorate in? mine is in sociology” into the conversation without looking like an ass or a moron so that this new network tie knows I am like him. It’s embarrassing, but it’s the only way I can avoid later being asked to take notes, fetch water or operate the projection equipment. When informal hallway conversations during review time focus on the “intuitive understanding” of our female staff and the “intelligence” of our male staff, I have to find some way to make sure that the women get credit for their brains as well as their empathy without looking like a crazy feminist. And don’t get me started on the nuances of what “business casual” or “causal Friday” mean for a woman’s wardrobe (and bank balance), nuances that men do not face.

I don’t like Sarah Palin and I desperately hope that recent polls are correct, that Obama is gaining ground over McCain. But I respect what she’s accomplished. As I said above, I suspect that she would not respect childless-by-choice-progressive-pro-choice-feminist me. Because of that, I really, really wish I could stop defending her, but I find that I just can’t.

Walmart Takes Over

October 6th, 2008

Watch the spread of Walmart over both time and space in this animated map from Flowing Data (link via Mr. Katxena). It’s interesting to watch it a couple of times and then mentally map major transportation routes (such as the port of New Orleans and the Mississippi River) over it. Whether you loathe or love Walmart (personally, I’m in the former camp), it’s a cool little case study in organizational ecology.