Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Jane Says

There's a somewhat semantic discussion going on in the blogosphere in regards to people who once called themselves "liberals" parting ways with that term (due to the negative connotations its taken on after years of derisive use by Republicans) and embracing the term "progressive" instead. The terms are not quite interchangeable, but I think most people who only have a cursory familiarity with the terms wouldn't sense a yawning gap in meaning.

However, a fight has broken out in regards to the historical meaning of the term "progressive" and the views the original Progressives expressed in regards to eugenics.

Thankfully, Jane Galt tackles this and makes an important distinction.

Update: Julian Sanchez has a very smart take on this entire discussion over at his place.

Monday, July 30, 2007

"There Is No Emoticon For What I Am Feeling!"

Apologies to this guy, but the post title seemed appropriate given this little story in the New York Times Style section about how emoticons have gone from dotting the IM messages of tweens to populating the very grown up communications of adults. Interesting stuff.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Throwback Video of the Day

Crowded House is one of my favorite 80's bands and I am quite happy to hear that they are releasing a new album. I listen to their greatest hits c.d. at work rather often and while "Don't Dream It's Over" remains their defining song and probably their best, I have a special affinity "Fall At Your Feet". Check it out below:

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Who's a chef?

Certainly not me, but I did have my first cooking class tonight, courtesy of Sur La Table. The menu for the evening:
Crostini with Homemade Ricotta and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Jam
Crispy Onion Rings with Homemade Tomato-Chipotle Ketchup (my team worked on this)
Polpettini: Little meatballs braised in tomatoes, garlic, and white wine
Asiago and Pepperoni Puff Pastry Pizzas
Mini Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Frosting

17 people attended and the class ran from 6:00 to 8:30. The instructor and assistants were great and the recipes were fairly easy to follow. I tried making onion rings once before (with much assistance) and I'm happy to say that should I ever try again, I now know some tricks to make things easier. The ketchup is fantastic and truly easy to make (toss everything into a blender, blend, and then heat for about 20-30 min). Everything we had was pretty spectacular and while the Polpettini was voted favortie dish of the class, my vote went to the surprisingly good Crostini with Homemade Ricotta and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Jam (who knew making ricotta cheese was so easy?).

All in all, a very fun evening and I'm hoping to do more of this kind of thing in the near future.

Pundit Smackdown #2: Greenwald takes Joe Klein's pride

It's really rather sad the Glenn Greenwald doesn't have a more visible pearch than his current one at Salon, because if he did, this column would probably succeed in removing Joe Klein from the ranks of the Highly Serious Beltway Priesthood. The post is a complete and total indictment of Klein (and the mindset that pervades the work of other, "consensus" minded pundits, like as David Broder and David Ignatius of the Washington Post). I can't wait to see Klein try to respond.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

John Yoo - Despicable Hypocrite

Boalt Hall lends credence to the idea that John Yoo should be taken seriously by keeping him on staff and that is an notion that is beyond me. This man has provided the (compromised) moral justifications for virtually every power grab the Bush Administration has attempted or enacted (he was a co-author of the notorious "Torture Memo" and has tried to advance the theory of the "Unitary Executive" to name just two examples).

Per the usual, Glenn Greenwald delivers a withering takedown of Yoo here.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A book I need to read

I just heard about Deer Hunting with Jesus and I have to admit I'm ready to go out and get it now. Seeing as the book is about a guy who grew up in a small town in Virginia (which I did), then moved to the West Coast (which I also did) and then moved back to Virginia with liberal politics (which I won't do...move back to VA, that is), I want to see how much his experience jives with mine.

A review of the book from Tapped can be found here.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

From the "You Don't Say?" Department

This, via Andrew Sullivan:

I'm a terrible long-term planner
- secretary of state, Condi Rice in Businesweek.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My problems with Edwards supporters

I should (and will) go more deeply into this at some point, but for now, my problems with John Edwards' supporters can be mostly found in this comment section over at Tapped.

I understand the idea of wanting to go to the mat for "your guy" (or girl), but even as I find myself gravitating towards one candidate over the others, I'm willing to entertain the idea that my preferred candidate might indeed not be the best one. But what I see from Edwards supporters (at least in the progressive blogosphere) is an arrogance based only in self-righteouness.

I get the appeal of the Edwards' "Two America's" campaign (especially coming from a rural area of Virginia and now living in San Francisco), and I do admire his commitment to both poverty issues and making universal health care a reality. But, let's not forget that Edwards voted for the Iraq War (despite his loud change of course, he still cast the vote), that he is viewed by many, rightly or wrongly, as a slick huckster due to his making millions as a personal injury attorney , and also, despite being from the south, couldn't even deliver his home state to his running mate in the last presidential election (he also looked bad getting a draw out of Dick Cheney in the V.P. debate that should have gone the way of Kennedy/Nixon in 1960, given the aesthetics of the participants). He also has just about as much legislative experience as a certain senator from Illinois who happens to be running for president (if inexperience is used against one, it should used against both, though Obama really isn't all that inexperienced).

In any case, none of what I mentioned above should automatically dismiss Edwards as a viable candidate. However, it should be enough to understand why one might have pause about his nomination. Personally, I think it's too early in the game to get into the tank for one guy. It seems like people have short memories and are forgetting about things like this .

Update: Something else I wanted to mention...to me, one of the major contrasts between the Edwards and Obama campaigns is that one seems to be emphasizing (maybe too strong a word) divisions (Edwards with the "Two Americas") while the other is talking about reconciling our differences (Obama). Both Edwards and Obama, I think, want to usher the country into a healing process, but I think the economic rhetoric that Edwards represents will be a bit radical for some (not everyone is enamored with using government funds to help the poor or to create a single payer health care scheme). A lot of this is packaging, but packaging is important. Obama, while not necessarily "post partisan", strikes a chord with a lot of people who are tired of politics as mudslinging. The last six years have been filled with a very high level of partisan vitriol and, with our image around the world in tatters, many want us to get back to "traditional" American ideals (whatever you hold those to be). Obama's emphasis on community, family, education and rebuilding our alliances abroad are all very appealing. In any sense, I think that a good portion of the progressive blogosphere is reading this moment in time wrong; they're looking for a fight when a lot of people are tired of fighting and while the generally pugnacious nature of Edwards' campaign appeals to that instinct, I'm not sure that is what the electorate at large is ready for. 8 years in Bush's America would make even the most skilled political infighter wary of going another round in the ring. Having said all that, I could very easily be wrong.

And for another take on this, Matt Yglesias contributes some nuanced commentary here:
I agree with Ross and with Jason Zengerle, that Ezra Klein's account of why John Edwards can't get ahead (lack of media coverage) isn't very plausible. If anything, Edwards has gotten more coverage vis-a-vis Bill Richardson than he seems to deserve.

That said, I don't think Ross is quite right either. There's actually nothing to explain here. Ex ante a former one term Senator and former losing Vice Presidential candidate just doesn't have a very good chance of winning the presidential nomination. Given the objective realities of the situation, his campaign's doing pretty well. He's leading in Iowa. Lefty intellectuals love him. Progressive bloggers love him. Labor leaders love him. If he continues to establish a lot of good will among opinion leaders on the left, plus continues to be a white man in a world where a lot of people think a white man is more electable than a woman or a black guy, and pulls off a win in Iowa, then he just might be able to "bounce" his way to victory. How much better could he realistically be doing?

Update II: Mark Schmitt wonders out loud about Edwards' commitment to poverty issues and a massive flame war breaks out in the comments.

Ezra also chimes in on Mark's post here.

Update III: Oliver Willis offers another take on Edwards and his poverty message.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Friday: Dinner at Terzo and drinks afterwards. Solid.

Sat: Canoing on the Russian River with co-workers. The weather could not have been better and many good times were had.

Sun: Oysters on Hog Island for Rebecca F's birthday! Great scenery and good people.

Monday: Patrick Wolff trio with the lovely Ms. Drea post work. Nice little show in an intimate venue on the Stanford campus.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Young Ezra is frustrated:

Delta Dental is currently arguing that my root canal -- done at an in-network dentist -- does not merit much in the way of reimbursement, and is telling me that my share of the procedure comes out to around $2,000. A procedure, mind you, that's already been done, and that appeared to be fully covered. A procedure, too, that was by all accounts medically necessary. This is what you get when your insurer makes its money by not paying for your claims. I'm pretty sure that this will eventually be covered, but not without a lot of hassle and argument, all of which is designed to convince me that it's not worth the trouble and I should just fork over the cash, which would then count as pure profit for them.

This is how they earn money, people. This is how it works.

I, too, have Delta, but thankfully have not had to go in for any major dental work in the last few years. I did, however, have to get orthotics for my flat ass feet and my HMO (PacificCare), in its infinite wisdom, decided that this was a "cosmetic" procedure, and, as such, is not coverable.

So getting me these things now to help my walking for $400 isn't cheaper than the long range prospect of having to treat back/spinal issues that could arise from the problems with my feet?


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What do you mean you won't cover fighter jet damage?


So, the cooking thing

On the upside: I made a nice, tasty, quick and cheap chicken chow mien from Trader Joe's for dinner.

On the downside: I set off both fire alarms and almost started a massive fire in the kitchen. Note to self...adding water to a skillet that already has vegetable oil in it = bad idea.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pundit Smackdown #1

Shorter Gregory Djerejian on David Brooks:"Dear David...stop acting like the rest of us are as lacking in foresight as you are."

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Do "The Rules" still apply?

In today's interesting "Modern Love" column in the N.Y Times Style section, Sari Botton addresses a central sticking point of contemporary relationships, the crucial question of who makes the first move. During the course of her commentary, Botton recounts her father giving her a copy of the famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view and dating status) The Rules, a "how to" plan to help woman met the men of their dreams.

What's funny about the column is that it, to me, illustrates how out of whack dating has become. This may have to do with the jaundiced eye I'm forced to cast on the relationship scene where I live, but in reading the column, I was shocked at how the observations made by the female author could just as easily apply from a man's perspective (sub in "girlfriend" below):

Of course, I was complicit in my misery. No matter how badly my men behaved, I hung around for more. I remained the best, most low-maintenance girlfriend in the world, requiring next to nothing. I would get out of my boyfriend’s way whenever I sensed he needed space — anticipating it so he wouldn’t even have to ask. I would never ask for a thing, fighting back tears when he flirted with other women or forgot my birthday.

I would tolerate his negligence, just as my mother had, racking up resentments as ammunition until I couldn’t take it anymore. Then I'd walk, and my favorite part would begin: I would get flowers and love letters and promises of better behavior. He would plead for a second chance, but by the time we had reached this stage, I was already out the door. Sometimes I had my eye on someone else, who would no doubt turn out to be even worse, and the cycle would repeat.

There's a lot of painful truth here. It's terribly frustrating to fall into a series of relationships that you know, deep down from the outset, aren't going to help you evolve as a person, and yet, you can't seem to find a way to break free. Most of this has to do with how we judge our own self-worth, but it is, of course, hard to be at peace with who you are when you find yourself in dating relationships that reinforce your own worst suspicions about how others view you (and how you view yourself).

Continuing on, Botton relays an episode with her therapist (again, subbing in "woman" or "girlfriend" where necessary):
I'd had therapists before, most of whom worked slowly and let me keep getting in my own way. Not this guy. He wasn't the central-casting version of a male therapist, the paunchy, bearded, paternal Judd Hirsch. No, he was a ruggedly athletic man in his late 40s who was into rock climbing. He worked fast and didn't mince words. He dubbed me the Needless Wonder because of my doormat ways. At the end of a session, he would open his office door and bellow into the empty waiting room, "There she goes, ladies and gentleman, the Needless Wonder, able to exist on air alone."

I was unnerved when he tried to persuade me to take an active role in courtship, and to ask to have my "healthy needs" met in a relationship. Didn't he know about "The Rules"? Didn't he, as a man, know that a boy chases a girl until she catches him? That guys respond not when you ask them for stuff, but when you blow them off?

"There's a term for that," my therapist would joke. "It's called 'sadomasochism.' You don't want the guys who respond to that."

Again, there's a certain sad truth to that passage (I'm not even going to address the the insanity of "the chase" in dating...that's another post, altogether). While I have an immense distaste for the touch-feely sounding nature of the term, "healthy needs", I do have to admit that I often (always?) fail to define my limits/expectations about the direction of a relationship, and in so doing, I prevent both myself and the person on the other side of the ledger from getting the maximum takeaway from the experience (that sounds like an economist talking, but whatever).

So being happy with one's self and knowing what you want are keys to having lasting and fulfilling relationships. Earth shattering! Common knowledge, yes, but building a positive view of self while also possessing a sense of reality about the things you want versus the things you actually need is much easier said than done. I've found that most people often get into relationships taking into the account the "wants" but disregarding the "needs" side of things, and in so doing, end up in situations that are more complicated than they need to be at the outset. This, to me, is the ass-backwards way of approaching things, but, sadly, we have to initially judge based on the superficial (looks, perceived social status, school, money, etc.) rather than the other way 'round. There's an important caveat to dating here that I should mention, however. Sometimes we don't "need" anything from another person; we simply want them to puff up our egos, be available to us when we want them to be, and generally serve as emergency hook-up partners/people you can have mindless fun with. This is most often, but not always, seen in the wake of a break-up when a person goes on a spree of "dating" (however you define that) in order to validate to themselves that they are indeed still desirable to members of the opposite sex. This could be called trophy dating - "sit there, look good, and don't say something stupid".

Ok, enough for that extended aside. To get back to the unfocused musings of this post, I want to address the idea of who can make the first move in a relationship before I tackle a few loose ends in regards to wants vs. needs.

At least here in San Francisco, I don't think there's any question that either a girl or a guy can initiate something should they feel strongly enough about it. My general thought, though, is that most girls would still prefer to be asked out rather than do the asking themselves, but the notion that a woman can't make the first move is a remnant of courting days long since come and gone and, as such, it should be retired. If stereotypes are to be believed, men have no clue what's going on half the time anyway, so why wouldn't an attractive woman go ahead and make her intentions clear upfront, whatever they may be? Guys have to do this all the time and it has somehow become akin to accepted fact that men shouldn't have a problem with this stare of affairs. Again, this is antiquated thinking. Why people don't recognize how absolutely terrifying it can be to approach a woman you're interested is beyond me. Most of the guys I know don't indiscriminately hit on every single girl in a bar that catches their eye. Does that mean we're more discerning? I'm not sure. But I think a lot of guys have an innate sense about how they think their advances are going to be received, and if they think they're going to crash and burn, they save themselves the humiliation by doing nothing.

Now, I can anticipate the rejoinder that would come from a lot of self-confident, successful woman to the above. They'd all say the same thing in slightly different ways ("Man up" or "Grow a pair" for those who were being nice about it; "Stop being a pussy" would flow from the mouths of the more crass members of that cohort). Yes, you certainly can't win if you're not playing, but sometimes you have to be aware of the game that's being played before you try to get involved. This lines up somewhat with the hilarious complaint that I sometimes hear voiced from good looking women who say that no guys talk to them in bars. Note to attractive women: If you're out with a group of your friends, and you're not especially welcoming to advances by a guy here or there, other guys won't waste their time because they will assume (probably correctly) that they have less than a snowball's chance in hell of talking to you. If you're a guy that doesn't think of himself as especially good looking, it is beyond intimidating to go up to a gorgeous woman to attempt small talk. If you're a totally hilarious guy, or a guy that doesn't have a problem making a fool of himself, you can get past that, but otherwise, it's not easy (related: This is of course why the vast majority of social interactions take place in the presence of alcohol. It's not called "liquid courage" for nothing).

So, to wrap this back around to who makes the first move...ladies, if you see a guy that catches your eye, make a move. If we have to suffer the indignity of rejection, you should too. It's a world of equals, right? So, to answer the question in the title of this post, no, the rules do not in practice have to apply.

Back to wants and needs (via another passage of the article):
Stop living in a women's magazine version of the world," he would plead, trying to prod me into action. Start being real — and having needs. You won't have a satisfying relationship until you do.

First off, I think I need to find Botton's therapist. On a serious note, though, we're all guilty of living in our own little dreamworlds in regards to relationships. The highs and lows I can conjure up in my head are (generally) pretty far off from the reality of what is actually going on. To that end, forming a real view of yourself requires divorcing yourself from the fantasies that populate your mind and instead making yourself take a cold hard look at the facts of who you are. Turning inward to admit your own faults can be very difficult, but, therein, one can find a certain catharsis that is needed to move on to the next step, which is coming to terms with who you are...and who you are not. Finding that middle ground is what can lead you into a "real" relationship with well defined needs.

A semi-related point (or two). Despite the fact that I'm about to mention a few clichés nobody wants to hear, they are generally true and they should be heeded (however grudgingly). Most often, people find something during periods of self-discovery/improvement, which typically follows after swearing off dating due to some recent bad experience. Personally, I know I need to embrace this period of living and doing for myself, rather than wasting it by playing the "what if?" game. Every day is new, and it brings with it an opportunity to change your way of thinking. Additionally, it is counterproductive to try and assign blame for the untimely demise of a relationship. The central point has to be that the relationship is over and, try as you might, you can't fix it (at least not now, if you even want to).

A few weeks ago, a friend encouraged me to draw up my own list of things that I was looking for in a relationship. I can't say for sure that this is a complete list (nor can I say it's a permanent one), but it represents what I'm feeling now:

  • I need to be involved with someone who recognizes that I will not be a supremely confident person every day of my life. Some days I will question my abilities, and, perhaps, my own self-worth. I want someone who can understand that growth can come from introspection and critical observation of self and that I will, from time to time, need them to be strong enough to accept that and realize that from this I can become a better person for not just me, but for her as well.
  • I need to be with a person who wants to be with me.
  • I need to be with a person who can be completely and totally honest with me about everything. There's nothing worse than being fed a line or harboring the feeling that what's said to you as truth is not what's said to others as the same. It's patronizing, and frankly, it shows a lack of character. Have the courage of your convictions and say what you mean.
  • I need someone who is able to understand and appreciate who they are.
  • I need someone who is going to make an attempt to meet me halfway and who is going to be present emotionally in the relationship. Being emotionally distant is oh so very outré.
  • I need someone who has a certain sense of adventure (traveling to Asia, yes; base jumping, probably not so much), a dash of cynicism, and an ability to find beauty in gestures, both grand and subtle.
  • I need someone who will, at the bare minimum, tolerate my obsessions with music, books, sports and politics. I know fantasy football is fucking stupid, but I enjoy it.
  • I need someone who is willing to let me try to act like the gentleman I was raised to be. I may not be the most handsome man you'll ever lay eyes on, or the wittiest, the richest (this I will certainly never be), or the most funny, but I will certainly always try to treat you with respect and I will always endeavor to be what it is you need me to be.
  • I need someone to understand that while I may not be overly religious, I am indeed spiritual.
  • I need someone who can encourage me to follow my dreams...and who is willing to help me achieve them.
  • A simple, but crucial point: Don't equate being a nice guy with being a pushover. There's a line there, and while I certainly have a higher tolerance for bullshit than a lot of people do, that's not an open invitation to try to take advantage of my easy going nature. Laid back doesn't mean stupid.
  • I need someone who won't go running at the first sign of trouble. We will frustrate each other. We're going to fight. Sometimes, we may not even like each other very much. But, if we still believe in what brought us together in the first place, then that person needs to be willing to stick it out. Anything worth wanting is something that's worth fighting for. This is a cheesy way to illustrate the idea, but it works (and besides, who doesn't like New Edition?).
  • Related to above, I am cheesy sometimes. Deal with it.
  • I need someone who is willing to be truly be themselves around me.
  • I need a person who is passionate about life and what it means to be alive.

Ok...so that's the start of my work in progress. I will revisit this from time to time to see how my feelings on these things evolve. It should be an interesting journey.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Why no buzz about the MLB All-Star Game?

Mahini, blogging over at the Sabre, the main fan board/discussion site for my alma mater, wonders why there's no to do about the All-Star game landing in S.F. next Tuesday:

Some sports-related observations about here. San Fran is hosting the MLB All-Star game next week. If my buddy’s wedding had been a week later, maybe I’d be observing a different atmosphere - but as of one week out, doesn’t seem like many people here care. In fact, the amount of billboards and other marketing related to the biggest week in baseball between opening day and the World Series is shockingly low. Even the big sporting products companies don’t seem too energized. Surprising.

As an S.F. resident for 7 1/2 years, I have to say I'm not all that surprised at the general apathy about this game. For my money, the biggest sports story in the Bay Area since I've been here was the Warriors run in the 2007 NBA playoffs. Though they flamed out in the 2nd round, the entire city was on a collective high during the series against the Mavs. Part of that is due to the fact that the Golden State had not been in the playoffs in 15 years, but the team was also a lovable motley crue, which boosted the appeal. As I was here for both the Giants run to the World Series and for the Raiders Super Bowl crash and burn, my feeling is that people were kind of "eh" about both of those things, too.

I think part of this is just the nature of the place...it's not that big (it's one of the smaller American cities, though it expands quite quickly if you include the rest of the Bay Area), and people are into so many different things that the All-Star game may just not be on the radar. S.F. has tons of events, conferences and festivals (not to mention movie shoots and the like) all year long, so while it's not L.A. or NYC, this isn't a city that drops what it's doing at the first celeb sighting.

Additionally....and this is strictly my opinion, the All-Star game sucks. It's just a walk through exhibition, just like the Pro Bowl or the NBA All-Star game. I'd much rather watch the Home Run Derby (it will be great to see how many balls go screaming into McCovey Cove) but past that, there's little exciting about watching A Rod play third for two and half innings. It's just a boring exercise (despite MLB's efforts to inject some importance into it by giving the winning league home field advantage during the World Series).

Sunday, July 01, 2007


Just got back from checking out the newest Pixar flick and I have to say it's probably my favorite entry to date. Very funny (some of the sight gags are spectacular...the "gym" rat tenderizing the steak was classic) it's a beautifully rendered movie. Paris actually comes alive. And, of course, there's a great message about finding your true calling in life.

Well worth the money to see.

Here's A.O. Scott review from the New York Times.