Clancy had a really rough last week. During what is supposed to be her “down week*” but where she is having to attend a nursing home until they find someone, she was called on to man the psych ward in Millsburg. Clancy has an undergraduate degree in psychology, and has been to medical school, but has no specialized training. But either she did it or the entire ward would have to close for the day. So she did it. And because she was doing it for the first time, she was there very late doing it.

But this video helped a great deal:

If you’re not familiar with the story, two llamas escaped from a flatbed in Sun City, Arizona, and city officials chased it around. Hilarity ensued. The video above is set to “Yakety Sax” (a tune you’re familiar with, even if like me you didn’t know it’s name). Very well done.

Unfortunately, the next day she found out that she lost her next down week, and lost her weekend because the doc with the “on week” had to attend a funeral. So she lost her weekend, lost part of next week because she’s going to have to make up for the time she wasn’t at the nursing home this week (because she was at the psych ward), and that will be followed by 21 straight days of working.

And for the second straight evening, she didn’t get to to see Lain.

Unfortunately, I had no llama video for her to help her come to terms that, yet again, she seems to have taken a job that is not actually the job she signed up for.

* – Her job is structured that she works 7 on and 7 off. The 7 off is the “down week.”

Category: Home, Hospital

So it snowed a little bit today, but mostly it was cold and rainy. When I went to the store, I had to pull over because rain was falling on the windshield and immediately sticking, to the point that after a couple of miles, I couldn’t see anymore. I ended up turning on defrost to the maximum. By the time we got the store, Lain and I were both sweating and she was crying from the heat. But I could see!

That’s not actually the story that this post is about. The story is…

So Clancy is spending the night at a neighbor’s house. About one tenth of a mile from here. Worry not for the Truman-Himmelreich marriage. She’s there because she can’t get here. She drove up our street, which has an incline, and the car decided that it could go up no further and decided to go back down again.

This is the incline:


She can walk a bit, but for the most part is still on crutches. We decided that she should not tread up an incline that the car could not. So she’s down there.

After putting Lain to sleep, I needed to let the dog out. While the dog was out, I decided I would throw some salt on the driveway. After taking care of the area immediately in front of the house, I decided to see if I could make any progress on this part:


Given the level of ice, you might have some sort of idea what happened next. Sure enough, I lost my balance. No, wait, losing my balance isn’t quite right. What happened was that I started shifting. Surfing, as it were. Except without a board. And on ice and concrete instead of on water. Realizing what was happening, and that there was no stopping it, I decided that the best course of action was a controlled fall, and then laying flat on my back in case I got more traction and to make sure I wouldn’t lose my balance.


Above you see three arrows. The red arrow is was I was when I started. The blue arrow was where I ended up. The green arrow is where the incline was such that Clancy’s car couldn’t make it. In between the blue arrow and the green arrow is apparently a place sufficiently level and/or ice-free (I don’t remember, my mind being distracted by other things) that I didn’t slide all the way to the street below.

Here’s another view, a picture actually taken not far from where I ended up in fact:


When my hands heal, I’ll probably think it’s funny. Under different circumstances, it might have actually been fun. When I was going down, it made me think of those waterslides that you lay on your back and slide down with a gush of water. Except, once again, ice instead of water. And a driveway instead of a tube.

Category: Home

The McAdams controversy has reminded me about my own experiences as a TA and some of the mistakes I made when it came to imposing my own ideology in the classroom.

I used to believe otherwise. I used to believe that it was my responsibility to expose students to new ideas and that doing so force them to think about the foundations of their beliefs. There’s nothing wrong with that in the abstract. But I now believe otherwise. Those “new ideas” were not really all that new, and they meshed pretty closely to my political commitments. Worse, the way I “exposed” students to the new ideas resembled more something like a bully pulpit than any way to challenge them to think.

I remember in one class—I believe it was in spring 2006—I made some snarky comments about George Bush and his war on terror. These statements were of the “drive-by” quality. The discussion section would be about something else–say, the powers accorded to the presidency in the constitution of 1787, or Andrew Jackson’s (arguably) illegal actions as president–and I’d draw some comparison to Bush. Not that such comparisons are always or necessarily wrong, but here’s how I made them. One, I noted that (and these are pretty close to how I remember my exact words) “it’s easy after a terrorist attack to just give a speech and be praised for your bravery,” and I also once made some snide comment about waging war on “terrah.”

There were at least two things wrong with what I did. First, the class was on the history of the US from the “discovery” of the Americas to the Civil War. While it’s often appropriate to draw comparisons with the present-day in order to illustrate a point, my comments about the then-current president did little to advance that comparison. In short, what I said was actually irrelevant to the class. (If it had been, say, a course in the history of the US since 1968, what I said would have been wrong, too, but for slightly different reasons.)

Second, my comments represented my abuse of what I’ll call the instructor’s “bully-pulpit” position. As the leader of the discussion section and as the person with the de facto power to determine the students’ grades (most professors at USang-Onionswamp were hands off when it came to grading), there was little room for the students to be able to offer any dissent. If they had, they would have also had to face the fact that I controlled the debate in the classroom. Addressing the question of “whether or not it’s easy to simply give a speech after a terrorist attack and therefore be called brave” stacks the deck against anyone who wishes to argue otherwise.

There was at least one student in that class who was a Bush supporter. At least I think so, judging from his reactions to my comments. He probably felt put upon by my unflattering references to Bush. (Not that this necessarily matters, but he was also a pretty strong student, the kind whose aptitude might mean he’d a high B but who worked so hard and was so diligent and acquitted himself so well that he earned the A I gave him at the end of the semester.)

When I was an undergrad, I was much more conservative than I later became. I remember taking one course (history of the US since World War II) in which the professor was pretty obviously to my left on most of the cultural and political issues of the day. I remember her discussing the Roe v. Wade decision. Even though she obviously agreed with the decision, she was quite empathetic in summarizing why someone would have objections to it and why people felt affronted by the decision.

I wish I had followed her example.

Category: Elsewhere

againKyle Smith says that Scandanavia isn’t all that as they have high depression rates, but Scott Alexander says that depression is not a proxy for social dysfunction.

Sorry I missed this during the holiday, but apparently some single Japanese men were busy spending their Valentine’s week protesting Valentine’s Day.

I would love to take the advice of Joseph McCabe, and forego Disneyland in favor of a Hayao Miyzaki theme park.

Some of the proposed changes to the Japanese constitution seem disturbing. It would be helpful if they had more than one major political party.

Android watches have not taken off as Google might have hoped. I’m pondering getting a Pebble.

You might think of Batman as a superhero, but tell that to the ghost of Stephen Merrill, who was killed by an uppercut from this alleged hero. (It’s actually an article about obituaries requiring a cause of death, and so Merrill’s became that uppercut.)

As we continue to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall, photographer Stefan Koppelkamm presents the contrast between East German and eastern Germany.

Professor Tom Murphy (UCSD) argues that the oil boom has bought us a couple of decades to move away from oil, but there’s still reason to worry.

Daniel Gross looks at American Oil Production, and why it isn’t (yet) cratering like it should. Can it survive $10/oil?

The New York Times looks at prosthetic hands and Deep Stuff looks at nursing care robots.

It’s outrageous when Big Money boasts of its ability to buy influence. On wait, they’re talking about immigration! Nevermind, then.

Category: Newsroom

Tennessee’s high school athletics authority has suspended two teams for an unusual reason: They played in competition to lose.

The TSSAA removed Riverdale and Smyrna from the high school girls basketball postseason on Monday following a report from a high school referee in charge of their District 7-AAA consolation game held Saturday where he said that both schools “played to lose the game.”

Both Rutherford County schools were placed on restrictive probation by the high school association for the rest of the school year and probation for the 2015-16 school year.

Both schools were fined a total of $1,500 apiece.

Over There, Sam Wilkinson objects:

Both coaches had instructed their players to do what they did because both coaches realized that winning that night’s game put themselves in a worse position in further tournament play. Because of an odd quirk in the Tennessee seeding mechanism, either team winning the game would have been punished by being put in a bracket that included Blackman High School, a regional powerhouse, a team ranked first in Tennessee basketball and fourth nationally. Blackman had beaten Smyrna by 23 points in January, and, a few days later, beat Riverdale by 8.

Both coaches rightfully recognized that being on Blackman’s side of the bracket would almost certainly involve getting beaten, and presumably thought that being on its opposite side might mean having a better chance to advance further in the tournament. There was no way to know this for certain of course but there is rarely a way to know anything for certain, so both coaches preceded make the strategic decision to encourage their players to understand that losing might be more beneficial than losing.

When I played football in middle school, we were playing a team, ahead 8-0. At the middle school level, place-kicking is non-existent. Even punting will only move you about 20 yards or so. That we were on their side of the field was a really, really big deal. We were on our own five yardline or so. Turning the ball over meant that they would get the ball right in scoring range. In order to avoid that, we gave the ball to our fastest running back and he was told to evade the defense for as long as he could in the endzone. It was essentially a self-inflicted safety. But it meant that we would be able to kick the ball off from the 20 instead of from the 5, and kicking from a tee meant that the kick would go further than a punt, with less possibility or error. It was a genius move, and we won 6-2.

The coach gave us a lecture after the game, though, about how you should always try your best, but “best” can mean different things under different circumstances. I knew exactly what he had done, and I thought it was awesome that he won us the game.

Despite that bit of strategery, though, I come down against the coaches in the TSSAA case. It’s one thing to sacrifice a play (or three) for strategic advantage in a game, but another thing entirely to throw a game for playoff positioning. I just can’t get on board with that, and would be embarrassed and angry if I went to watch my daughter (or future son) intentionally lose in order to avoid a tougher game next.

There is some flexibility here. Such a game, where you’re not worried about losing, is a great time to give kids that don’t get as much game time an opportunity to play more. I can also forgive missing free throw shots because you’re trying some fun things (underhanded, etc). These are things that can add fun to a game. Intentionally getting ten second penalties isn’t fun. It isn’t enriching. At best, it’s exploiting a loophole. At worst, it undermines the points of playing the game to begin with at that level: having fun, and learning teamwork and competition. Sam and others might argue that two teams trying to lose together are engaging in a competition, but it’s not a meaningful one.

It makes me think, just a bit, of how sometimes a part of me will actively wish that Southern Tech (or some other team I am rooting for) will lose out so that our coach might be fired and replaced with someone better. I have to actively tell myself that’s a bad mentality to have (there are debates on the message board). But I’m just a guy and if I hope we lose that makes me a bad fan. If players were to actually try to lose a game with the hopes of replacing a bad coach, I’d want the new coach to replace as many players as possible, such would be my embarrassment.

Play to win. If you’ve already effectively won, or don’t care about winning, play to have fun.

Category: Theater

I’ve been watching the Amazon Original TV show Bosch, which is based on Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch book series. I will tack on some thoughts on the show at the end. But for now, I am reminded of something that Connelly did that sort of left me rolling my eyes. It’s something that multiple authors do. It is an understandable temptation for each book to have a sense of finality behind it. But if you’re writing a series of books with a single protagonist, it… doesn’t work so well, often as not.

At the end of one of the books, Harry Bosch leaves the LAPD. Done! Finished! Finito! Except… Connelly still has books to write. There’s only so much you can do with Bosch working freelance, or as a private investigator. Connelly actually said as much himself in and afterword on the later book when Bosch rejoined the force. Well, duh Connelly.

In another series (which I won’t name because it is spoilerish, but I will call S2), the sense of finality was the main character Finding Love at Last. The end result is that his wives kept having to die.

There is actually some crossing between the two of these. Bosch fell in love in one book and then out in the next a few times. And at the end of the first S2 book, the character Quit The Police Force to require peacefully at a shrimp hut. In the second book, he joined another force, which he quit by the end. Finality! He was back in the next book, and the author didn’t have him quit again after that.

There are actually more I can name, but you get the idea.

As far as I have read, Stephen Cannell has kept his Shane Scully character faithful to the Love Of This Life from the first book, and she hasn’t died yet. It can be done! It does require a fair amount of discipline, though.

Another series (S3) had the woman from the first book throughout until the second-to-last book, where she died, and her shadow hung over the last book. Very well done. Especially since it was sort of a Match Made In Hell. In the last book, when dealing with the rubble of the Love Of His Life that had been unfaithful to him twice in the last few books, literally said “{$%@ you, [wife]” at a point in which it was warranted. And he meant it.

The Jason Bourne series also did this right, at least when Robert Ludlum was writing it. That was only three books, though, but the Love Of His Life from the first book was there throughout, and they made it work. When Ludlum died, though, another writer took over. Killing her off was the first thing he did. He didn’t even bother killing her off. He just announced that she had died. (The same character died at the very beginning of the second movie.)

You can have characters quit, or fall in love. That’s no problem. But seriously, you have to have a plan for what to do next. There’s only so much dramatic finality you can have in a book that is part one of a series.


Some thoughts on the Bosch TV series:

The TV show is okay, intersecting a couple of plots from a couple of books. Which is a good move, because those of us who have read the books get both familiarity and the uncertainty of not knowing how they are going to intersect.

Titus Welliver is an awkward age for the role. Being a Vietnam vet is a significant part of the Bosch character, but he’s too young to have served in that war (and the budget doesn’t support fitting it 20 years back when the books were written). Rewriting it to Afghanistan, which they did, doesn’t particularly work… but there’s also the fact that he’s too old for Afghanistan.

Apart from that, my only real complaint is minor: too much exposition. It’s like the writers felt the need to try to tell us everything about the character as quick as possible. I don’t think we need to know everything about him right away.

But I like that it’s a mystery over a season. Which something like Amazon (or Netflix) is perfect for, since all of the episodes are released at once. It’s my dream that someday there will be a Kindle County TV series, wherein each season will have a different court case or investigation (and a largely different cast). I thought of that before Netflix and company started making TV shows, but it’s actually perfect for it.

Category: Theater

peecolaPolitical scientists and reporters rank states by corruption. New Jersey came out as the most corrupt, though Louisiana didn’t participate.

Ben Domenech (I assume, with caution) wrote a piece in The Federalist arguing that feminists should get some of the credit for the falling abortion rates.

Britain is expanding the definition of child abuse. Widely. As skeptical as I sometimes am of our own system, I can always say “At least we’re not Britain.”

Clickhole tells the inspiring story of young Alex Lambert, who overcame bullying by changing those aspects of his personality that were causing other kids to pick on him.

Even as we experience the Golden Age of Television, we’re also experiencing a sitcom recession. Josef Adalian considers what can be done about it.

Nuclear power is making a comeback in China, and an Airbnb-type company is making a splash.

Randal Olson looks at unique American baby names, and wonders what caused the upsurge in the 1970’s.

Can text messages be used to increase med compliance?

With budgets being tight and crime being low, it’s no surprise that states are re-evaluating expensive incarceration options. It is a bit of a surprise that Texas is one of the states leading the way. Perhaps they hate taxes even more than they hate criminals!

Biblical literalism doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it means.

Kevin Drum explains that yes, in fact, some people do love Facebook (and Walmart!), and it speaks questionably of the person who doesn’t recognize this.

Why dogs kick when you scratch their belly.

Category: Newsroom

CaptainPowerJetFor those of you who may recall, Captain Power was a TV show slash game back i the 80’s. Depending on who you asked, it either rocked or sucked. I can’t speak to how good the TV show was because I never saw it. I did have the game, however, along with a VHS cassette.

The game primarily consisted of pointing at a screen and trying to hit bright red parts of the opposing fighter planes. There was also yellow, and if you didn’t “dodge” it by turning your plane-gun away, you’d get hit. Get hit enough times, and the plane ejects.

I didn’t know what to expect when I asked for it, but I should have expected what I got even if I was young. Of course you wouldn’t be able to maneuver. it was a VHS tape! and whether you were doing anything or not, the game would go on and (on the VHS anyway) you would win. Your participation wasn’t actually necessary.

Dora_and_BootsI have a bit of a flashback with that when Lain watches Dora the Explorer. I give myself two episodes of “Dora time” a day, where she watches the show while I get various things done in absolute piece.

For those unfamiliar, the formula for Dora episodes is that Dora and Boots have to go somewhere. They consult a map, avoid Swipey the Squirrel who wants to steal something, and so on. Dora is always asking “you” (the viewer) for help. It’s interactive as far as that goes. Lain participates sometimes. It’s pretty great.

At some point, though, Lain is going to figure out that her participation is not necessary. Dora will get where she wants to go with or without her help.

Category: Theater

In light of my post about a “usable past” and what the study of history can tell us, I want to consider on an essay by John d’Emilio, who is a historian of sexuality.

In “Some Lessons from Lawrence,”* d’Emilio offers several, err, lessons that the Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which invalidated state-level anti-sodomy laws, can teach us. D’Emilio is not writing about a “usable past” per se. He never mentions the term and I’m not entirely certain what his views on “usable past” are. The essay itself, the first version of which was written shortly after the decision in 2003, is as much about the prospects for gay rights in light of the decision and the limitations of courts as instruments for social change as it is about the study of history.

But among other things he does include a claim that history as a discipline, and especially the history of sexuality that d’Emilio pioneered, helped the Supreme Court reach its decision. He notes that historical studies of sexuality found that while social and legal norms had long been oppressive to gays and lesbians, the shape and form of those norms changed over time.  It was only relatively recently that gays and lesbians had been singled out.  Before the 20th century, laws targeted their behavior as “immoral” or “perverted,” but they did not identify same-sex people as a clearly recognized class whose members shared a common identity.**

Those findings–along with an amicus brief d’Emilio helped write–gave Justice Kennedy a hook to countermand and overturn Bowers v. Hardwick, which had in part rested on the assumption that the sodomy laws in question reflected a long and mostly unvaried history of government targeting same-sex practices. For d’Emilio, the decision means “that intellectual work does matter, that ideas can be a force for change.” [p. 202]

I was originally going to link d’Emilio’s claim to the idea of a “usable past” and I was going to challenge his claim. I was going to say something like, “that’s all well and good, but what if the studies of sexuality history had found a claim closer to that the majority in Hardwick relied on?” Or, “those findings work for invalidating anti-sodomy laws, but they might falter when it comes to sustaining anti-discrimination laws inasmuch as such laws rely on a history of systematic discrimination.” Or, “the courts are a bounded arena in which certain words or facts are given power and some are not, and the past is ‘usable’ there only because the courts recognize it as such.”

But while I think those are good objections, they don’t do justice to d’Emilio’s point, which is subtle enough and careful enough to account for them. He doesn’t say the history of sexuality or his amicus brief caused Kennedy or the rest of the majority to look sodomy laws differently. He doesn’t say those studies changed their minds. Rather, they provided a hook for Kennedy and the majority to make the argument. D’Emilio attributes Lawrence more to changes in society and the law regarding private conduct and he claims, probably correctly, that the decision was more a reflection and validation of those changes than an engine for them.

Long story short, what d’Emilio describes is one datum that weakens my “usable past” argument.

*d’Emilio, John. “Some Lessons from Lawrence.” In John D’Emilio, In a New Century: Essays on Queer History, Politics, and Community Life. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2014. Pages 196-209. The original version was written in 2003 as a conference presentation. I have no idea how much, if at all, the version published in this collection has been revised from that earlier version. To my knowledge, there’s not a version available online, but some libraries may have the larger work available as an e-book.

**This is one of those arguments that people sometimes find hard to understand or if they understand it, resist acknowledging.  I did for a long time and am still a bit on the fence.  I suspect that it would be possible to see something like the formation of a shared identity among gays pre-20th century, or to show that anti-sodomy laws, which facially regulated opposite sex practices, too, might have been earlier targeted against gays.  That said, I’m not a historian of sexuality and d’Emilio is probably correct to suggest that gays were more explicitly identified and targeted as a class.

Category: Elsewhere


Over There, I posted about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s college career, and whether or not it should be considered in his run for the presidency:

There are a lot of professional positions that do not require a college degree. Ultimately, most don’t, because if they did, they would go unfilled. There is also an argument to be made that a lot of jobs that do require college degrees probably shouldn’t, though no doubt Okeem would disagree with that.

To be sure, there are jobs where college degrees matter a great deal. If I’m going under a scalpel, I probably want the scalpel-wielder to have either an MD or a DO or its equivalent. Engineers should demonstrate formal training in engineering. With rare except, teachers and professors should have their appropriate degrees. There is nothing elitist or snobbish about saying so.

It is perhaps ironic that executive positions are not always among that. He mentions, but dismisses the Bill Gates example. But after becoming an entrepreneur, Bill Gates did represent a gargantuan enterprise. Nobody thought that Microsoft’s Board ought to have replaced him so that their company could be represented by someone with a degree. And if Bill Gates were to want to get back into the business world, he would be (and should be) judged entirely on what he accomplished in business. As far as hiring goes, the importance of a college degree is that it gives employers a greater degree of confidence that you can achieve. If you have already achieved, then it’s beside the point.

I’m honestly a little bit (but only a little bit) surprised by the number of people who really stick to “it matters” and believe that a college degree confers something in accord with experience.

I think it can matter as a brick in the wall of a larger argument, that he is intellectually dim, lacks knowledge really important to the presidency, or doesn’t follow through. To date, I don’t find any such arguments convincing. In large part because of what he has accomplished since college. That’s not an endorsement. You can look at what he’s accomplished and say “There is no way I am ever voting for the guy!” but he’s not a mayor of Wasilla and a governor who has barely gotten their feet wet. There’s a record to look at that, in my view, has to be far more illuminating than the decisions he made twenty years ago with regard to his college education.

There also seem to be people who really believe that Obama’s life and experience equipped him to be president more than Walker, including the part about Obama’s BA and JD but also because the Senate is a better launching pad to the presidency. We’ve had a strong bias towards governors for quite some time, and I think it’s quite possible that the pendulum has swung. I think the argument is actually quite solid that we’ve put too much stock in governorships. But I think four years as governor of a mid-size state is always going to trump two years as a senator, and there is little else in their background to strongly distinguish between the two.

Though this is not an endorsement of Hillary Clinton, I do think we overloop cabinet appointees too often, particularly Secretaries of State and Defense, and maybe Attorney General. I’d add Treasury, but it would probably do a disservice to the position for it to be considered a launching pad to the presidency.

Anyway, lots of comments over there. Feel free to leave your thoughts here.

Category: School, Statehouse


Greetings from Stonebridge a fictitious city in a fictitious state located in a tri-state area in the interior Mid-Atlantic region. We're in western Queenland, which is really a state unto itself, and not to be confused with Queensland in Australia.

Nothing written on this site should be taken as strictly true, though if the author were making it all up rest assured the main character and his life would be a lot less unremarkable.

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