May 4th, 2010

This is a test post.  More to come soon.


March 19th, 2010

What defines a “cougar“?  This discussion came up at work.  We (a mixed-gender group of varying ages) came up with something of a formula that defines the cougar parameters.

One person suggested if a woman is 10 years or more older than the guy, she is a per se cougar.  (pedophiles excluded)

Another proposed that as both parties get older, the age difference can be somewhat greater without it being cougar-y anymore.  So, if the lady is 65 and dating a guy who’s 54, it’s not real cougar-y.  Basically, you can “age out” of cougar-ism.

Someone else said that the bigger the age difference, the higher the cougar factor goes up.  So there might be some leeway for a 38 and 28 year old couple, but 42 and 28 was definitely cougar country.  The old “I know it when I see it” standard.

Finally, there was a general agreement that a cougar must be 35 years or older.  Basically, you can’t be a cougar if you’re not yet 35, even if the guy is 10 years younger.

Okay, so maybe this discussion didn’t just arise out of a normal conversation.  Basically, I was told today that I am of cougar age.  !!!  I wasn’t as shocked by the implication that I was not even completely divorced and people thought that I was already stalking much younger men (which isn’t the case at all) as I was that I was now “old” and basically a per se cougar. : /  I had a hard time processing this, so I took it to the office floor for general discussion and debate.

My conclusion was that, to be on the safe side, I should just always date someone slightly older or slightly younger than me.   Or declare myself a spinster.  I’ve already got two cats, just gotta add a few dozen more.  I guess I could become a nun, but I’m not so great at singing or wearing long dresses or anything else nun-ish.  Guess I’m just going to have to live with being feline (a cougar) or with multiple felines (crazy cat lady).


The real question: Why am I reading this?

February 16th, 2010

I stumbled across this list of “50 Questions For Men We Want Answered ASAP.” For about half a second, I thought about making a post out of answering them. But then I realized how dumb they were, and how most, if not all, of them could be boiled down into two categories:

  • 1. Why are you so disgusting/lazy?
  • 2. Please re-assure me that I’m the most important thing in your life.

And then I got to thinking, What are 50 questions I (or men generally) could ask women? But I decided we’d be lucky to come up with five things we really need to know. If anyone else wants to take a crack at either list, be my guest. If anyone thinks any of the original list are legitimately answer-worthy, I’ll try to take a crack at them.

If I had my way, I would tear this whole building down

February 4th, 2010

I feel like the End Times are upon us. First Haloscan sends me a “Your money or your comments” ultimatum email. Apparently, they’ve decided to get out of the comments game, and are forcing me to switch platforms and/or lose all the old comments. I know nothing about other commenting platforms except that they tend to be havens for spam.

And now, Blogger tells me that it is ending its FTP thingy, which I don’t totally understand, but is the reason this site is published through the Blogger interface but ends up at my own url instead of a “blogspot.com” one. I mean, what’s next — they’re going to start making us pay for Hulu and the New York Times website? What’s that? Uh-oh.

Well, I have been meaning for a long time to do a serious redesign here at BTQ. And when I say “a long time,” check out how many defunct blogs are still listed on the sidebar here to get an idea of how neglectful I’ve been of the design/behind-the-scenes aspects of this place. I’m not knocking former co-blogger Fitz-Hume, who handled much of that gruntwork, but it’s like when your roommate moves out, and there’s a couple of boxes of miscellaneous junk left around that neither one of you can remember bringing in.

So, if anyone reading this is interested in helping me re-work this site (and probably move to WordPress or some other host that will allow me to continue using this url) and figure out what to do about the comments, I would love your help. Given the relatively short deadlines I’ve gotten from Haloscan and Blogger, I would need to do this pronto, as in within the next couple of weeks. I’m willing to pay a moderate amount for the technical help (ideally, cleaning up code and getting me to a point where I can run things once you take the training wheels off) and some aesthetic redesign help.

Any advice, pointers, contacts, etc., much appreciated.

The source for this post’s title: The Grateful Dead tune “Samson & Delilah.”

Good enough for government work

January 21st, 2010

Here’s all you need to know about federal habeas corpus review of state-court decisions. It comes from the transcript of the Supreme Court’s oral argument in Berghuis v. Smith (available here at SCOTUSBlog).

Under the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), federal courts reviewing state-court rulings for constitutional error are supposed to grant deference to the state courts’ decisions, and not throw out those holdings unless they are — not just wrong — an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. Courts have spent about fifteen years trying to parse out the intricacies and nuances of this language. Chief Justice John Roberts hit upon a very succinct and pithy distillation in the Berghuis argument.

The case involved the proper standard a court should apply to determine whether members of a particular minority group are systematically under-represented in jury pools for criminal trials. (Here is a nice overview from SCOTUSwiki.) A fair amount of the argument revolved around various statistics, and percentages, and methods of analyzing group representation, and whether the state supreme court used the correct test for assessing the prisoner’s jury claim. Justice Stephen Breyer, in sort of a roundabout way, asked the state’s lawyer a question about the absolute numerical difference versus the expected sample size (or something), and basically said he didn’t want to get the math wrong and “write something, like, saying 2 and 2 is 6.”

Chief Justice Roberts tied this circumlocution back to the governing statute:

[I]t’s not that you are going to say: 2 plus 2 is 6. I suppose, under AEDPA, all you have to do is say: 2 plus 2 is somewhere between 3 and 5, right?

And that’s the bottom line in federal habeas. The state court, in ruling on someone’s federal constitutional rights, can say, in essence, that “2 plus 2 is somewhere between 3 and 5,” and a federal court cannot (or at least should not) overturn that decision, even when it acknowledges that 2 plus 2 is clearly 4 and the state court’s didn’t get that right. Now, you can debate the wisdom — and even the constitutionality — of that policy, and you can certainly debate how well the federal courts abide by that dictate, and you can debate whether the state court in the Berghuis case even managed to get in the right ballpark. But you’ll never see a more cogent summation of the rule.

The Me Decade (for the right price)

January 11th, 2010

I don’t really understand all the consternation over what to call the last decade. I agree that there doesn’t seem to be much consensus on the right name, but I fail to see why this is much of a problem. Whether you say “the zeros” or “the aughts” or some other name, people pretty much know what you’re talking about.

For the record, I think we’ll eventually call the decade “the oh’s,” because we’re likely to refer to the years in that decade as “twenty-oh-eight” rather than “two thousand and five” or whatever. My hunch is based on the fact that we refer to every other year by saying the first two digits as if they were one number, like “nineteen-oh-six” and “eighteen-oh-four.” “Twenty-oh-X” seems easier to me, hence the number of people who catch themselves saying “twenty-oh-ten” for this year.

Still, we could do away with all the confusion by just giving the naming rights for each decade to the highest bidder. I’m not sure how the payment system would work — maybe they could make donations to the U.S. Treasury — but it’s not like it wouldn’t be worth a lot to the bidders.

In this spirit, I propose naming the decade that just ended “the googles.” It works well because those “o’s” in “google” look like the zeros in the years. And, of course, the provenance of the company name is a math term with a lot of zeros in it. Plus, it’s hard to dispute that this wasn’t Google’s decade. We could even give the decade’s naming rights to Google for a reduced fee, both in gratitude for how much easier it’s made things, and also because the decade is over.

The real bidding war can start with the current decade. Why do we have to call it “the teens”? Ugh — moody, awkward teenagers are not the kind of brand association we want with our calendars. Someone else should step up. What about “the AT&T’s”? As in, “Will Sarah Palin run in AT&Twelve?” I’m sure that a certain Japanese car company would be all over the following decade, “the toyotas.” Future history books will talk about how “in twenty-toyota-five, a Chinese rocket landed on the moon.” Oh, I’m sorry, I meant “a Chinese rocket landed on the big M&M in the sky.”

I know what you’re saying: How are we going to write these numbers? I’m way ahead of you. Part of the naming-rights deal would include a license to use the company’s logo as part of the year name. So the “1” in “2012” would be replaced by the little blue AT&T globe icon. And the second “2” in “2025” would be replaced by Toyota’s circle-t thing logo.

I think this is a win-win for everybody, and I want to see it happen. I just hope I live until “the Gatoradeys.” I think 20G4 (that’s “twenty-gatoradey-four”) will be a pretty good year.

Cautiously Optimistic About 2010

January 4th, 2010

Happy new year from an old friend of the blog. She’s nicer than she appears.

50 Book Challenge

December 28th, 2009

I’ve decided to take the 50-book challenge again in 2010. I have tried this a few times before and come up short. I’m sure I made it well past 50 in my youth, when I had more free time, and although I always seem to lose count nowadays, I think the best I’ve done in recent years is probably in the 35-40 range. Anyway, this post will eventually collect all the reviews; for now it’s a placeholder.

Any suggestions for good books to read in the new year?

Read something I wrote somewhere else!

December 2nd, 2009

I’m a big fan of the blog and podcast from the Stuck in the ’80s guys. I follow it pretty closely, and I was surprised a couple of weeks ago when the blog didn’t mention the death of actor Edward Woodward. Woodward was most famous for the work he did in the 1980s, especially the tv series The Equalizer. Well, I emailed Steve Spears, the proprietor of the blog, to ask what was up, and he offered me a chance to write an obituary for Edward Woodward. I did, and he ran it. You can check it out here on their website. (Click here to find a great podcast about “Red Scare” movies of the ’80s, including the one that inspired my name!)

After you check out the Edward Woodward obit, or maybe even while you’re reading it, please enjoy the totally awesome theme song from The Equalizer.

We put your diploma at the end of this obstacle course

November 23rd, 2009

Via Deadspin, I found this story about a college in Pennsylvania, Lincoln University, with an interesting graduation requirement: students with a body mass index over 30 have to take a physical education class. They don’t have to actually lose weight or body mass, but they have to take the course, which consists of “walking, aerobics, weight training and other physical activities, as well as information on nutrition, stress and sleep.”

Some students object to this rule. One, Tiana Y. Lawson, wrote an opinion piece in the school paper titled “Too Fat to Graduate.” With a headline like that, you know it has to be a thoughtful, well-reasoned discussion of the issue, right?

Lawson starts out by acknowledging that the school has had the policy since 2006, but that “it seems as though Lincoln is more adamant about students taking the course this year.” So the first class of student to whom the rule applies are being pressured to fulfill a graduation requirement they’ve had three years to meet? Well, that makes no sense! Tell me more!

Lawson goes on to say, “I feel as though the administration is now telling me that not being a size two may hinder me from graduating from Lincoln.” Now, I don’t know much about women’s sizes, but I do know that there’s a lot of range between a size two and a BMI of 30. Even if BMI is a flawed or incomplete metric, this isn’t a situation where the school is using Kate Moss as a model for their graduation robes. It would be just a hyperbolic of me to assert that this rule will only apply to the fat twins on motorcycles from the Guinness book. But regardless of what Lawson “feels,” this policy isn’t a putsch against everyone who isn’t waifish.

Lawson makes a point, somewhat obliquely, by noting that if the aim of the phys. ed requirement is to “make everyone healthy” (as a friend put it), then everyone should be required to go. After all, skinny people can be unhealthy, too — ask Keith Richards. And maybe some people with a BMI over 30 are perfectly healthy, too. (You know, if they’re seven feet tall.) So maybe the college should require the course for everyone. But short of that, why not try to do some good without being terribly overinclusive?

I can see some cause for consternation if Lincoln had sprung this policy on its students with no warning. But, as noted, the rule has been in place since 2006, and students have had plenty of time to (a) not attend Lincoln, (b) transfer, (c) lobby the administration to change the policy, or (d) take the course. Weeks before one’s final semester isn’t the time to start griping. And hey — at least they don’t go to VMI. That school requires a phys. ed course every semester except the first one, when being a “rat” is exertion enough. Oh, and finally, who complains about taking what sounds like a fairly easy course during their last semester in college? Isn’t that the best time to try some of that experimentation I mentioned in the last post?!