Monthly Archives: October 2005

Halloween Thread

Consider this a reader survey: what are you guys doing for Halloween? I am sufficiently tired from the weekend that I may not have much to contribute to the holiday; my one concession so far has been wearing my “Alas, poor Yorick” t-shirt which has a nice skull on it. I do have about half a pirate outfit from an unrelated party a week ago that I could recycle should I need a last-minute costume, but I will probably be too tired tonight to go to the Castro or anything like that.
Short version: For Halloween I am going as really lame.

Supreme Court, Oct. 31 edition

I was in Los Angeles the last three days and thus missed the opportunity to blog on Fitzmas. Instead I can blog on Halloween, with Bush’s appropriately scary choice of Samuel Alito as the new Supreme Court nominee. Apparently he has decided to appease the base rather than nominate another crony. Oh well, the Miers thing was funny while it lasted.
I’m still reading up on Alito but as usual Lawyers, Guns, and Money is a good source.

Miers back to proofreading memos

Just yesterday I told someone that Bush wouldn’t withdraw the Harriet Miers nomination, due to his inability to admit mistakes. Well, so much for that (although it was done in a way so that Bush didn’t have to admit a mistake). If that’s the way it’s going to work, I would also like to predict that Patrick Fitzgerald won’t bring indictments against high-ranking Bush administration officials, and that our lab will fail to produce a working qubit next week. Go ahead, universe: prove me wrong.
It’s a little sad to see Miers go, because I was really enjoying watching Republicans rend each other’s flesh. Now Bush worship is back in style. According to a couple of sources, it’s traditional at this point for the president to present a “fuck you” nomination. If he’s blaming the social conservative wing for stopping Miers, this presumably means nominating Alberto Gonzales. That could certainly be an amusing fight, but a little more distressing in light of Gonzales’ unusual legal theory that the president should have absolute power.
Or Bush might try to appease the James Dobsons and Ann Coulters, and nominate someone who would vote to overturn Roe and Griswold. (Side question: How long would the Republicans stay in power if they managed to overturn Griswold and started outlawing contraception? It seems to me that this position would be just slightly unpopular. Presumably the party strategists know this, and won’t let it happen.)

Bewitched [Open Thread]

Should I just move the open threads to Wednesday officially? Or would that cause me to start posting them on Friday?
I failed to post a report on the Iron & Wine/Calexico show, but it was excellent. I do still intend to post a bunch of music reviews, but I continue to be surprisingly busy and/or distracted. Meanwhile, here’s one I’ve been eager to review, and since Halloween is upon us the title is especially appropriate.
Ladytron: Witching Hour: It might seem strange for a dance rock/electronica band like Ladytron to use the folk-magicy title Witching Hour, but then you hear the music and it becomes clear: you can really feel in these songs a sense of mystery and otherworldliness, the sort that arises from the energy of a nighttime urban landscape. (I’m convinced that Ladytron is the perfect soundtrack to Takeshi Kovacs novels.) This album takes everything I loved about Light & Magic and makes it darker and more intense, resulting in an amazing record that I’ve been playing over and over again, at the expense of many other good CDs that have come out recently. The first three tracks—”High Rise”, “Destroy Everything You Touch”, and “International Dateline”—are all especially good, and set up an immersive atmosphere for the subsequent songs. In fact these three are so good that it’s tempting just to start the CD over when “International Dateline” ends, except then I’d never get to “The Last One Standing”, which is not only an awesome song but a shot of determination when I’m ready to give up on some difficult task. If I have one complaint about this album, it’s that the lyrics can be a bit dumb. (“Weekend” is pretty much inexcusable in this regard.) But in this sort of music, the lyrics don’t really matter—it’s all about the sound.


Over at Cosmic Variance, Sean Carroll has a great post on spontaneous symmetry breaking. It’s a nice treatment for those of us who never got around to taking a Standard Model course.
Carroll is actually in Berkeley today, giving the particle physics seminar, but the condensed matter seminar is at the same time so I won’t be able to catch it. I probably wouldn’t be able to follow his talk anyway, as it’s a bit far afield for me.

Intermission [Open Thread]

I saw The Hold Steady last night! It was a great show, although somehow they got away without playing “How a Resurrection Really Feels”. The actual Craig Finn took some getting used to, as he looked like some nerdy accountant who stumbled up on stage after a few drinks too many, but he ended up being pretty entertaining. Due to his arrhythmic singing style he was able to change up and improvise the lyrics in interesting ways, and he had elaborate hand gestures to go along with all the songs. At one point during “Charlemagne in Sweatpants” he delivered a long monologue on baseball while the band looped in the background. The Constantines also played at this show, decent indie-rock, and the opening band was Tim Fite, who was a musical personification of WTF.
And tonight I am seeing Iron & Wine and Calexico. Speaking of which,
Iron & Wine/Calexico: In the Reins:I don’t know what Calexico sounds like by itself, but when combined with Iron & Wine’s Americana/folk sound the result is a really excellent EP. The sound here is more varied than on Iron & Wine’s previous releases: the opening track has a southwestern feel, and then there’s a country-ish prison ballad, and then “History of Lovers” which is more like a pop song. The only downside is that there are only seven tracks. More, please!

Relay Follow-up

Here’s the part where I explain some of the more cryptic statements in Sunday’s posts.
improvised window
The Window: We rented two minivans on Friday to shuttle the runners around. Friday evening we loaded them up with various supplies. Sometime during Friday night, someone broke into Van 2 by smashing the front passenger side window, and stole Gatorade, Red Bull, and bananas. Fortunately they left most of our other supplies, so the biggest annoyance was driving around without a window, especially after sunset once it started to get cold. So we got some saran wrap from the restaurant where we ate dinner, and rigged the above window using the duct tape that we (of course) had on hand. This picture is from after crossing the Golden Gate, hence the big patch in the lower left corner where we repaired a hull breach.
Roadkill Tally: I meant to get a picture of this as well. It’s apparently a meme among relayers to tally the number of teams passed on the side of the van as “roadkill”. We ended up with about fifty I think (although we didn’t place particularly high), of which I could claim a few by the end.
Leg 11: This was my first leg, which started out in residential Petaluma (very suburban), moved into commercial Petaluma, and then suddenly became cow pastures with all the associated aromas. This was the least interesting leg of the three I ran, and I didn’t see any other runners except one guy who was way ahead of me. [map]
Leg 23: This was the nighttime leg, along Skyline Blvd near the intersection of highway 92 and I-280. The sky was clear and the full moon really beautiful; there was a lake or reservoir along the route that reflected the moonlight. Even better, the course was relatively short (3.7 miles) and had a nice downhill slope the whole way that made running very easy. [map]
Leg 35: I was dreading the hill at the start of my final leg, which rose 300 feet in one mile. What I didn’t know was that I’d be running through a dry, dusty quarry under a hot sun. I took the baton (actually a wristband) simultaneously with another runner, who sprinted out ahead of me… for about 200 yards, until he hit the hill. At that point I passed him easily, then another guy, and the desire to maintain my lead kept me going up the slope. All that hill training in Berkeley paid off! After one mile the terrain changed into a really nice redwood forest, and after two it started sloping downhill into Santa Cruz. This was a really steep downhill, and at one point the distinction between running and falling was not terribly clear. I remained upright somehow and was rewarded with a great view of Santa Cruz and the ocean once I came out of the forest. [map]
UPDATE: I had the Leg 35 stuff here earlier but a typo in the HTML prevented it from showing up.