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Archive for December 2006


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Well now. Do you know what all the chattering stuff is about? They’re having something of a political discussion, the hooded guys and Saddam. And this is exactly the sort of thing that confirms my paranoia, that encourages me in my arguments against those who believe that all of this mess is simply the stuff of incompetence at the top. Just as the timing of the verdict was synced to the US elections, we have now a taunting celebration of Sunni impotence just as things really start to heat up over there.

This is the sort of thing that makes it impossible not to believe that the guys pushing the buttons are, in short, interested in generating, not restraining, sectarian violence….

I can’t bring a cigarette lighter on a plane but someone was able to smuggle a cameraphone into the execution chamber?

UPDATE: Here’s what I was talking about in particular, from the NY Times:

The cacophony from those gathered before the gallows included a shout of “Go to hell!” as the former ruler stood with the noose around his neck in the final moments, and his riposte, barely audible above the bedlam, which included the words “gallows of shame.” It continued despite appeals from an official-sounding voice, possibly Munir Haddad, the judge who presided at the hanging, saying, “Please no! The man is about to die.”

The Shiites who predominated at the hanging began a refrain at one point of “Moktada! Moktada! Moktada!”— the name of a volatile cleric whose private militia has spawned death squads that have made an indiscriminate industry of killing Sunnis — appending it to a Muslim imprecation for blessings on the Prophet Muhammad. “Moktada,” Mr. Hussein replied, smiling contemptuously. “Is this how real men behave?”

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December 31, 2006 at 2:04 am

Posted in war

Remember Time Warner?

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I’m guessing that just about everyone is getting a full dose of this new brand of spam designed to slip through the nets – random prose plus a hot penny stock tip in the form of an image…

Annoying, yes. Very, of course. And rumor has it that there’ll be no way to stop it, it’ll just get worse and worse until we abandon email altogether and start penning letters to each other again, the old fashioned way.

But I have to admit, I’m starting to get interested in the dummy text that they clip / is auto-clipped into the messages. Fragments shored against the ruin of our banally benighted period, they perform the Really Short Signification (RSS) that informs, perhaps, our collective trajectory.

The rate of employment growth is slowing as business confidence appears to be undermined by rising oil prices.

Oil prices have been on a roll this year.
Having excess cash is a good problem for companies to have: It can lead to higher dividends, larger share buybacks, and accretive acquisitions.
The Mad Cow disease scare, obesity issues, and management health have drawn attention instead. The ability and investing style of the portfolio manager are at least just as important as fees. However, these investors typically seek to own mutual funds within a single family such as Fidelity Investments for purposes of administrative ease.
Investing in the Best No Load Index Mutual Funds. What does this mean for biotech investors? ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY YARD CARE – three easy things you can do this year to take care of your yard in a responsible and eco-friendly way during the fall and winter.
What Oracle and Siebel do with their cash remains to be seen.
Whether you prefer to index or take an active approach to managing your investments, ensuring that your mutual fund is putting your interests first is good investing practice. Past performance is not a guarantee for future results.
The rate of employment growth is slowing as business confidence appears to be undermined by rising oil prices.
Remember Time Warner?
AlphaProfit Investments, LLC disclaims any liability for any direct or incidental loss incurred by applying any of the information in this report. Valuation metrics now are less attractive than they were in prior months. Then it was the unrest in Venezuela and Nigeria.
The Mad Cow disease scare, obesity issues, and management health have drawn attention instead.
The Root Cause: Transportation Relies on Foreign Oil. How are these grades determined? Mutual funds get kudos if their independent directors invest in the mutual funds.

Unfortunately, I already chucked it out of my inbox, but a great one came the other day with a subject line that went something like “But the new spam is sent as an image and computer security experts are struggling to cope with it,” which suggests, but does not prove, that there is a certain degree of non-mechanical authorship going on here…

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December 20, 2006 at 12:03 pm

more on florida

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From Inside Higher Ed:

Divisive Semester at Florida

The fall semester at the University of Florida started with a lot of uncertainty, as reports of a growing deficit in its College of Liberal Arts and Sciences led to calls to eliminate dozens of faculty and graduate student slots in the humanities and mathematics. The semester is drawing to a close without much more clarity and with considerable rancor — the dean is leaving, the English department is in receivership, and administrators have admitted that, initially at least, they didn’t sufficiently involve professors in finding a way out of the college’s financial mess.

A score of graduate students approached President J. Bernard Machen at Friday’s board meeting to express concerns about a controversial five-year plan to lift the college out of debt, but were told, as The Gainesville Sun reported, that it will stay in place until a faculty-approved alternative is developed. Professors and graduate students filled the room for the meeting, students with posters protesting the recent happenings and faculty wearing stickers displaying their opposition, according to Nora Alter, a professor of German culture and film. Her department, Germanic and Slavic studies, also underwent a period of receivership in the spring and faces a reduction of TA-supported graduate spots from 10 to 0 by 2011 if the five-year plan to slash spending is enacted.

Under the plan — which would benefit the sciences but cut budgets for four humanities departments and mathematics — 54 faculty vacancies would be created by attrition, administrative staff would be cut by 14 and the college would probably be back in the black by 2008-9.

While many faculty members said they think the existing five-year plan is effectively dead, they see the recent events as indicative of an attempt to force changes in the profile of the University of Florida’s largest college. Some faculty wondered aloud why an institution that is unabashedly angling to crack the top 10 public universities would propose cuts to its humanities programs. They described an atmosphere of mistrust between arts and sciences professors and the administration. Several faculty members described a disregard for shared governance and an inability to even get their hands on budget numbers so they can effectively develop an alternative path forward.

Yet, the differences in faculty reactions, even within those departments targeted for cuts, are striking. While virtually everyone agrees that the development of the five-year plan without significant faculty input was inappropriate, some express faith that the plan was simply a misstep on the institution’s now more sure-footed path toward greater shared governance.

A new faculty financial advisory committee for the college has been established and the incoming interim dean, Joseph Glover, has already actively begun soliciting faculty input. Glover has pledged not only that he does not feel constrained by the unpopular five-year plan but that “everything is on the table” – leading some faculty to express confidence that a new, more palatable plan will emerge, with faculty input, to lift the college out of the red.

– snip –

The number of full-time faculty spots in English, for instance, would decrease from 59.5 to 51 by 2010-11, with graduate spots cut from 59 to 54. The Germanic and Slavic studies faculty count would drop from 20 to 14, and mathematics would lose 6.5 of 58.5 faculty positions and 10 of its 80 funded graduate slots. On the flip side, the sciences and several social sciences, including psychology, criminology, political science and communication, would see an infusion of resources. For instance, chemistry botany and zoology would each enjoy a handful of extra faculty positions and increases in graduate funding. And the number of funded graduate students would increase by 16 in chemistry, from 130 to 146.

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December 16, 2006 at 8:30 am

decadent, inhuman…

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Wow. A roundtable on the “Condition of the Novel” from a 1965 issue of NLR. I’ve only read the Robbe-Grillet contribution so far. He’s getting, here, a bit testy with the commies:

The comparison which has been made during this conference between the novelist and the airline pilot is no more than a joke. The novel is not a means of transport, it is not even a means of expression—by which I mean that it knows in advance the truths or the questions which it sets out to express. The novel, for us, means search which does not even know what it is searching. The pilot of course must know where his passengers are bound, and the shortest route; The writer by definition does not know where he is going. And so, if I had absolutely to answer the question of why I write, I would simply say: ‘I write to try to understand why I feel the desire to write.’

But what seems most scandalous to us, is to find the socialist camp sharing the illusions of the bourgeois world, about the political power of art, sharing the same cult of obsolete artistic forms, the same language in which to couch its criticism, and in the end the same values.

‘Decadent’ you say? In relation to what? ‘Inhuman’? Isn’t it rather your conception of man which needs revivifying? It is understandable that bourgeois critics in the West persist (although more timidly than you) in defending literary forms which embody for them the golden age of the novel and of the propertied class. But what we find bizarre is that you are fighting the same cause, and that you can talk about innocent and natural writing when Gustave Flaubert began to have doubts about this in 1848.

You accuse us of ‘formalism’, but it is the literary form that expresses a work’s true meaning; and we know precisely that the forms which you advocate are representative of a world which you are supposed to be fighting.

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December 14, 2006 at 8:25 am

first ever…

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AWP forum…

So. My father sent me yet another chain-email today. I expected to scroll down to find some image soaked with bêtise, stupidly funny or “cute” or “frightening.” Instead I found this.


This is awesome! This came from a Rig Manager for Global Marine Drilling in St. Johns, Newfoundland. They actually have to divert them away from the rig by towing them with ships! In this particular case the water was calm & the sun was almost directly overhead so that the diver was able to get into the water and click this pic. Clear water huh? They estimated the weight at 300,000,000 tons. And now we know why they say one picture is worth 1000 words… And now we also know why the Titanic sank!

Now for the forum part. Please explain – succinctly, of course – why it is that I find this image so disturbing.

I’ll start: the feeling that I get from looking at it is something like the feeling that I have when I come across a bug with an engorged torso-ey thing. Like a tick full of blood…

OK… your turn…

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December 14, 2006 at 2:37 am

Posted in uncanny

it could happen to you….

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(go look over at the colonel’s and then come right back…)

I actually love hearing about this sort of stuff, as I’m constantly in search for raw plots to stage in class (or writing) as a backdrop for the non or complexly plotted stuff we take up. I.e. one wishes that one could order at the bookstore Generic Capitalist Romance for the students to buy and read before the start of the semester…

Dreaming of a socialism, but codedly, un-comprehended, confusedly, with deliberate blindness, packed into moralising notions of just desert and fairytale.

The happy ending: we know what it requires. The filmmakers’ can put a $ figure on it. But it can be imagined at once only as the miraculous reward for Prince and Princess Glamorous Deserving and movie fairy dust land, air-castle impossibility.

Just so. And what I can’t help taking away is the idea that if you just stripped the middle out of the before and after, the torques and twists of romance, you would have plotlessness, yes, and with it…. well… this legitimate desire…

(In short, this draws my eye because I am thinking about – almost exclusively at this point – the relationship between the political temporality of plot and the specter / promise of socialism. I am thinking about taking it right back to the Aristotle and trying to start anew. And, more broadly, I am trying to think carefully and honestly about what it is that the sort of thing I can write might actually do…)

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December 13, 2006 at 4:43 pm

The Long Tomorrow

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December 13, 2006 at 2:05 am

city without ads

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Amazing little piece in the Times today, reporting that São Paulo will ban outdoor advertisements of every sort come January 1:

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Imagine a modern metropolis with no outdoor advertising: no billboards, no flashing neon signs, no electronic panels with messages crawling along the bottom. Come the new year, this city of 11 million, overwhelmed by what the authorities call visual pollution, plans to press the “delete all” button and offer its residents an unimpeded view of their surroundings.

But in proposing to transform the landscape, officials have unleashed debate and brought into conflict sharply differing conceptions of what this city, South America’s largest and most prosperous, should be.

City planners, architects and environmental advocates have argued enthusiastically that the prohibition, through a new “clean city” law, brings São Paulo a welcome step closer to an imagined urban ideal.

The law is “a rare victory of the public interest over private, of order over disorder, aesthetics over ugliness, of cleanliness over trash,” Roberto Pompeu de Toledo, a columnist and author of a history of São Paulo, wrote recently in the weekly newsmagazine Veja. “For once in life, all that is accustomed to coming out on top in Brazil has lost.”

As you might guess from the title of this site, I have a somewhat ambivalent relationship to advertisements, but this seems like an amazing, almost revolutionary idea, at least to this American.

….but then again, one might start to wonder how exactly the Paulistanos will find a way to navigate the city…

(think I’ve posted that video before… sorry if so…)

(There’s an update here…)

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December 12, 2006 at 9:32 pm


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Well, sorry about that. The not posting I mean. The end of the semester has been particularly, insanely actually, rough for me this time around.

Relatedly, on the way home today I caught an NPR discussion on “burnout.”, from which I think I currently suffer, yes, just enough that I’ll say no more other than to note that it never ceases to amaze me, the American ability to discuss in depth workplace stresses while sidestepping, definitely yet subtly, any possible mention of political economy. All pills, all self-management, all Getting Things Done, all callers with advice to share gleaned from company-provided psychotherapists. All academics drawn from the ignoble branches like institutional psychology and related academicizations of “human resources,” for whom the issue is never, of course, the sanity and welfare of the burned-out worker, but the productivity losses for the corporation that come of it…

But never ever a matter of those old, obsolescent terms: intensification of labor and deskilling. No… anything but that….

I am, currently, most definitely in violation of my union’s rules. I have taken up a serious amount of extra work without due compensation. Obviously, I’m not talking about the very much expected extra work that comes with an academic career. I wish there was a union rep in the department who would step in and force me to comply with the contract, etc etc etc…

And of course, there’s the saddest and sickest issue of all: that I’m actually way more healthy, in a certain sense, in this condition than I am when the burden of incessant unrewarding work is lifted. Joy of Stress indeed. A few weeks ago, when things were going more smoothly, I was something of a mess. Now, there is no time to poke my head up and worry. My wife wanted me to go see a therapist. Now, I fall asleep on the couch from 7-10 every night, before resuming work, rather than clutching her sleeve and pouring out my unsolvable problems and irremediable issues. Sad. Sick.

Sorry. End of bellyache. For you, not for me. Regular service will resume shortly.

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December 1, 2006 at 1:56 am