I don’t have anything else on my mind today, so I call your attention to two recent NYT stories with one thing in common — very cold water.

The first is about winter surfers on Lake Superior, people who greet the season with the infamous gales of November and spend the rest of the winter in dry suits and petroleum jelly, waiting for the Minnesota surf to come up and a singular experience to unfold:

By noon, a foot of snow was on the road, flakes blowing sideways in winds gusting up to 45 miles an hour. But a dozen surfers were suited up and in the water, paddling out with their heads down, over waves and into a whiteout, disappearing into an abyss.

The other story is about the scene at the Russian Orthodox Epiphany, when its members mark the end of the Christmas season by cutting cross-shaped holes in the ice of local rivers and ponds and then plunging in for a little new year’s baptism, described as:

…the trance-like preparation, the electric shock of the water and the 20- or 30-second wait for a feeling he described as “nirvana.”

In more proletarian parts of the country, this is sometimes called a polar-bear swim. I did it one year. Fort Wayne holds its official dunking in one of the filthy rivers, but my friend Mark the Shark started his own tradition at his lake house two counties away, and the idea of plunging into cleaner water finally convinced me to give it a try.

MtS is a somewhat disorganized person. The first year, he sent a notice to the local newspaper about the upcoming event, then forgot about it until New Year’s Day, when his wife looked out the window and said, “There are a whole bunch of cars pulling into the driveway. Do you know anything about that?” The first year’s swim attracted about five plungers, including Mark and his son, and many more spectators.

The following year was more organized, and the weather more dramatic — an early cold snap iced up the lake and laid several inches of snow everywhere. I called in the morning and asked what the plans were for making the hole. “Oh, I thought I might call the fire department, see if they could send over somebody with a chain saw,” Mark said. (This was two hours before the announced plunge.) Alan rolled his eyes and retrieved our Kubota from the basement, and he handled the chore. We learned how you cut a hole in ice big enough for a bunch of people to stand around while a bunch more people jump in — you saw grave-size pieces, then push them under the ice sheet with a pole. It made the fringe nice and stable. At one point Alan looked down and saw a very sleepy frog swimming near the surface; perhaps the noise of the saw awakened him from hibernation. A bunch of Amish people showed up to gape, and afterward we had mini quiches and mulled wine in the warm living room.

The following year was the one I finally got wet. It wasn’t as cold — the water was open — and I simply resolved not to think about it. Came to water’s edge wrapped in a towel, dropped it, thought BANZAI and dunked. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d feared. I once went into northern Lake Huron in October, and that was worse — I remember my limbs twitching as all the blood made a speedy exit for the core, a freaky feeling. But the New Year’s plunge was almost pleasant, and had that baptismal effect that leads to the nirvana the Russian guy was after. You emerge feeling not half-dead, but alive and awake in a whole new way. I didn’t even take the warm shower afterward, because I already felt as clean as virgin bride.

I sometimes wonder, as the population moves south, if our fear of cold doesn’t increase by the year. People who think nothing of driving 85 miles an hour on the freeway quiver at the thought of a “dangerous” Minnesota winter. We’re in the midst of a tough one here, and I have done my share of bitching about it. But I’ve also noticed I do most of my bitching from inside the warm house, and once I’ve resolved to do whatever task is out there, and dressed appropriately, and actually walked outside into the great frozen maw, it’s not so bad at all. Sometimes I even get sweaty.

Today’s high: 39 degrees. Tomorrow’s high: 15.

Back to the mangle. And the bloggage:

Roger Ebert writes about Steak & Shake with the glee of a (formerly) fat man:

My Steak ‘n Shake fetish is not unique. On an early visit to the Letterman Show, during a commercial break, I said to David:

“I hear you’re from Indianapolis, home of the head office of Steak ‘n Shake.”

“In Sight, It Must be Right,” he said. Our eyes locked in unspoken communion.

“Four Ways to Enjoy,” I said.

“Car, table, counter, or TakHomaSak,” he replied.

“Specializing in Selected Foods…”

“…with a Desire to Please the Most Discriminating.”

“Thanks for Your Liberal Patronage…”

David didn’t blink an eye or miss a beat. We had both obviously memorized the original menu. “…signed, A. H. (Gus) Belt, founder,” he said, and we shared a nod of great satisfaction.

I love S&S, too. I allow myself about one milkshake a year, and I never regret it.

The Prayer of the Mac User is basically the text of this story.

Science pokes its head out into the sunlight.

And I must edit a big wad of copy. So have a great day, and stay warm.

Posted at 10:14 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

109 responses to “Refreshing.”

  1. Gasman said on January 23, 2009 at 10:35 am

    In 22 years of using a Mac, I’ve never had a single virus. If the other reasons for using a Mac weren’t compelling enough, that one is.

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  2. Rana said on January 23, 2009 at 11:59 am

    I wonder if the fear of the Great Cold North is not unrelated to northerners’ assumption that warmer climes produce nothing but sweat and indolence. That is, you make assumptions based on your own region’s way of dealing with heat/cold and project them elsewhere.

    I’m thinking of two things specifically – the first was assuming that, when I moved to Minnesota, the snow and the cold would make life nearly impossible. I had visions of trying to drive my hatchback through banks of snow and bought lots and lots of long underwear. What I learned, once there, was that they take road clearing Very Seriously (unlike on the West Coast), and I never had any problems navigating the roads with the exception of one or two icy days. They also heat all buildings quite well, so dressing in layers is in fact counter-productive. You’re better off wearing one mildly warm layer and buying a giant coat for the moments when you dash between heated environs. If you dress in layers, you either end up a great sweaty mess or resign yourself to spending ten minutes adjusting each time you go in or out. (Which is substantially different than the case of winter in Oregon, where the expectation is that buildings will be cool, so all you take off is a waterproof outer layer and your hat, while remaining bundled in your wool, fleece, and polypro.)

    On the flip side, I’ve seen Minnesotans assuming that all Californians must skip off work and wear shorts every day, because that’s what they do when the weather gets above 65.

    Meanwhile, I also foolishly assumed that because I could stand 90+ heat in California and Arizona, I’d have no problem with the mere 80s in the Midwest. Nope!

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  3. brian stouder said on January 23, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    In 22 years of using a Mac, I’ve never had a single virus. If the other reasons for using a Mac weren’t compelling enough, that one is.


    MS Windows is like Coca-Cola or the Roman Catholic Church or New York City, or any other #1 entity in a field.

    If you set the standard, you also draw the slings and arrows.

    That article reads like a movie script – maybe another Dark Knight Batman movie (that will make lots of money but win few awards). It has punch, but also a certain staleness.

    Humanity builds great objects – great cities, grand ships, soaring towers, amazing worldwide computer networks; and some collective impulse within ultimately evokes carpet bombing some of the cities, sinking ships, smashing towers, and vandalizing the computer networks.

    By way of saying, Apple ain’t immune

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  4. Joe Kobiela said on January 23, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    I thought about writing about this late last night but thought I would wait and see what happened. If a rich Republican said she wanted a senate seat and then bowed out at midnight due to tax and nanny problems, can you all honestly tell me it would not be splashed in bold type all over the place. I don’t care about the Kennedy’s, if New York took her as a senator so be it. But you would think her dropping out would at least get a mention somewhere, after all the coverage of her wanting to get in.
    Pilot Joe

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  5. jcburns said on January 23, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    Brian, it’s simple: MSWindows had several core elements in its design that made it more vulnerable to viruses and malware from the day Windows 95 was introduced, and the history of that OS has been one of patching back those problems that, had they never been there in the first place, would have never made it “fun” for malfeasants to create the things. Windows folk love to say that “if the Mac had been as popular, it would have been as infested,” but it’s just a myth. There have always been core components of the Mac OS (actually, the classic one AND OS X) that have kept viruses from getting kicked off in the first place. And so far, Apple’s record has been great at keeping that concept of security without paranoia in place. Their upcoming release “snow leopard” has a staggering amount of behind the scenes stuff going that keeps every process in its own ‘sandbox’ AND does all this inherent protecting without putting a drag on your available processors and memory. Nice. Elegant.

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  6. nancy said on January 23, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    Are you not reading the papers, Joe? It has been covered everywhere. I bid her farewell and good riddance myself yesterday.

    Also, no one said Apple was immune to viruses. If paying extra to be in their small slice of the market makes us unattractive to hackers, then I consider it money well-spent.

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  7. Joe Kobiela said on January 23, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    I must have missed it, I looked on the Chicago Trib web sight and found nothing, also my yahoo news showed nothing, Like I said, Don’t really care just thought it was a wee bit bias.
    I’ll wave when I go over Detroit tonight around 7:30.
    Pilot Joe

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  8. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 23, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Confik isn’t even interested in sniffing at Mac OS’s, but their botnets could make real trouble for us One True OS adherents when it starts doing whatever it’s set to do to networks — which locally and regionally are often on PC/Windows platforms. It’s the “we don’t know what it’s setting itself up to do” part that’s creepy — as is the news that 40 al-Q guys in an Algerian cell all died while trying to play with bubonic plague.

    It’s harder to mess with bioterror than people think (the Anthrax Guy had to use Fort Detrick evenings to pull off even his little trick), but the news from Algeria worries me . . . as does this Confik deal. Back up, back up, back up.

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  9. Jen said on January 23, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    All I know is I love my Mac. I converted when I went to j-school, since that’s I’ll they used at IU, and I haven’t been back. They are user-friendly and look nice. Simple as that.

    I’ve never done a polar bear plunge, but some of my coworkers did this year. I just don’t think I have the cajones to jump in cold water like that. I hate the cold weather, too, and bitch about it often, but at the same time, I still go do my thing without worrying about the weather. I have no qualms with driving to WalMart in a snowstorm. I do have to say that, though, that I did not appreciate the -20 degree days, when my car would not start. My father-in-law, who grew up in the great white north of the Minnesota/Wisconsin border, had a seemingly simple solution to bring the car battery into house, but to get a battery out of a PT Cruiser, you have to jack it up and take off a wheel. Hours of charging (his idea) and a bottle of fuel line antifreeze (my dad’s idea) later, it finally started.

    Also, one of my very favorite things Roger Ebert ever wrote was how In-and-Out burger in California vs. Steak & Shake in the Midwest could also describe the way people have sex in those areas of the country.

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  10. Gasman said on January 23, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    I didn’t say Macs were immune, I’ve just never, I repeat NEVER, had a virus. Can you say that? As for Microsoft setting the standard, PCs have become more Mac-like in the last 20 years, not the other way around. Twenty years ago PC users were restricted to line code DOS. I remember my deluded PC enslaved friends extolling the virtues of DOS. How many people today prefer line code to any graphic user interface? I know a few UNIX geeks, but they are übernerds. Most people want ease of use.

    Microsoft operating systems came to dominate the market not because of an a priori technological Darwinist superiority, but because of an extremely poor business decision by Jobs and Wozniak early in Apple’s history; they turned down IBM’s request to develop an operating system for the PC. Then, and only then were Gates and Allen given their break. Had Jobs & Woz accepted the offer, the history of personal computers might have been very different. You seem to be assuming that because it is #1 in the marketplace, it must be inherently better.

    To quote you, “poppycock.” Technologically speaking, Beta video recorders were far superior to VHS. VHS became the dominant format because of a greedy marketing strategy used by SONY in trying to dominate the market by refusing to license the Beta technology. Good technology and bad marketing led to the ascendency of VHS and the demise of Beta. JVC saw the potential of licensing their technology, Sony saw only the money to be made if they totally controlled Beta. JVC won, not because of technological superiority, but because of astute marketing. The same holds true with Microsoft vs. Apple.

    Also, for how many generations was Windows simply an amalgamation of added code that ran on top of DOS? Windows has been a rat’s nest of excess code. They typically never removed stuff from the program, just rendered it moot and inoperative. The result was kind of like grandma taking 37 different pills each day: lots of unintentional interactions and bad things waiting to happen. That is NOT superior programming, it’s just plain lazy. When was the last time a new version of Windows came out that wasn’t bug-ridden from start? Has there EVER been such a version?

    As a musician, I use computers for music notation and recording and editing digital audio. When I started doing those tasks on computer the Mac was the only platform available. While there often are PC versions for music notation and recording/editing software today, from my experience the Mac versions just tend to work better. The PC versions are 3 or 4 generations behind the Mac versions. These applications are essentially graphic in nature and the Mac has always been a graphic driven platform.

    If I am going to use a computer I want one that I don’t have to joust with. For my applications that is a Mac.

    When Confik renders all your PCs useless, Nancy, Jen, and I (and any other Mac users) will be all alone on this site . And, no, I won’t let you use my Mac to check in on us. So, don’t ask.

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  11. brian stouder said on January 23, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    You seem to be assuming that because it is #1 in the marketplace, it must be inherently better.

    strawman. I never said that, nor is that something with which I would agree.

    Their marketplace dominance may well be arbitrary (cheapness, for example, is a pretty powerful aid!) – but the “standard” is generally defined by Microsoft.

    btw – I have crashed my computer before; years ago, I learned the crushingly important difference between “delete” and “disinstall” – and I have had non-destructive viruses.

    A year ago, Pam wanted a laptop, and she got a very very very nice price on a very slim, very powerful pc. The lowest hanging Apple was 2.5X the price, and didn’t offer one scintilla more capability for her needs.

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  12. Jim in FL said on January 23, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Joe K.

    From the Chicago Trib website, under Politics/Elections

    Scroll down to the posting at Jan 22 – 7:30 AM

    Carolyn’s decision is also mentioned in this article:,0,1095000.story

    You’re welcome!

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  13. alex said on January 23, 2009 at 2:16 pm


    Speaking of burger joints that sound like sex, there was one that has evidently disappeared from northeast Indiana: Hot ‘n’ Now. Of course, that one also sounds kind of like the euphemistic “friends beatin’ on the back door.”

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  14. Rana said on January 23, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Only one virus here for this Mac owner, and that was back when I was in college and the Macs were those all-in-one boxes with a handle on the top. I was able to remove it by booting up on a separate disc and removing it from the code of the infected programs, too.

    That said, I’m glad that I don’t have to employ that level of geekitude for my daily photo and word processing work. Having spent a lot of doing clerical temp work, I’ve “enjoyed” the experience of working on a lot of programs and several platforms, and while none of them are perfect, I do find the Mac OS to be admirably robust and (for me at least) intuitive in a way that I don’t experience with Windows. That said, if you’d asked me to compare OS about five years ago, I would have had to admit that there were a number of things that Windows did better than Mac – the ability to move between programs and windows via the keyboard being the foremost of them.

    But now Apple’s added that into its OS, with the Dock and the expanded use of command key combinations, and I’m quite happy with the result. I am also impressed with the way that a number of the basic, no-big-deal aspects of my new MacBook Pro have moved from astonishing to things that I take for granted. Some are aesthetic – like the screen brightening and dimming in response to ambient light – and others make my work so much easier that I wonder how much time I wasted before, like two-finger zoom, rotate and scroll on the touch pad. Not such a big deal in the word processing end, but incredibly useful on the graphics side.

    I won’t say that Macs are perfect – there’s a bit too much fondness for in-house coy programs aimed at the newbies like iPhoto and iTunes – but for the things I need a computer for, it is not simply preferable, but superior to any PC I’ve ever worked on.

    Plus it looks great.

    All that said, I have in the past recommended cheap PCs to friends who can’t afford Macs, or who want a laptop to supplement their desktop Mac. One very nice – and often unacknowledged – advantage of Apple being a smaller segment of the market share is that their programs’ ability to translate cross-platform is unmatched. You can even run Windows on a partition of your Mac hard drive, for those times when you need a program like ARCView that doesn’t (yet) have a Mac equivalent.

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  15. Gasman said on January 23, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    The bigger=better analogy simply doesn’t wash. Microsoft is the 800 lb. gorilla but that does not by necessity mean better in any way. Yamaha makes lots of cheap classical guitars, millions of them probably. Does that make theirs superior in any way to my handmade classical? Nope. Does Yamaha “set the standard” for classical guitars? Not for quality of workmanship and sound, arguably the most important considerations for a guitar. They might for mass marketing and price, but those are probably the least important attributes for a serious user of this appliance.

    I also still haven’t had a virus.

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  16. Sue said on January 23, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Speaking of items that don’t make the news, anyone have any theories on why Rush Limbaugh’s “I hope Obama fails” speech (dated 1/16/09 on his website) wasn’t more than a blip on the press radar? A google search shows references in a few blogs and a couple of West Coast papers. I only heard about it yesterday. I know it’s easy to dismiss him these days as no longer a force, but that’s not true; he still speaks for a lot of people. If you agree that a failed presidency is measured by the state of its citizenry, and therefore hoping for failure at least in theory equates with hoping for more suffering for Americans, why didn’t this receive more coverage?

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  17. Dwight said on January 23, 2009 at 3:14 pm


    Still no Timothy S. Goeglein-esque investigative interest into the possibility that Bill Ayres wrote “Dreams of My Father.”


    Not a single blog nugget about the possibility that both the President and Vice President are a one-two punch of plagiarism.


    I’m sure you’re busy researching it. Lemme know when you present your findings to another press luncheon. I have some frequent flier miles to burn.

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  18. Peter said on January 23, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Hey let’s get back to the important issue – it’s not Mac vs. Apple, it’s Steak ‘n’ Shake versus Culver’s. As much as I like SNS, it doesn’t like me, so I have a softer spot for Culver’s. And the Culver’s Pot Roast Sandwich – easily the best outside of Detroit.

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  19. brian stouder said on January 23, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Sue – I think it was noted at about the right pitch; CNN batted it around, as did a few other biggies. Plus, Uncle Rush has confused his own listeners on the point, if what I heard today at lunch is any indication (he now takes to saying that he supports the president despite that he wants his policies to fail; and a caller said “yeah – I get that, and I agree” – and got run off the air by the drug-addled, deaf fatman! Rush said “I was illustrating an absurdity by being absurd” – drawing a parallel with those who DISagree with the war effort in Iraq, but who express support for the troops(???!!)

    Just when I crinkled my forehead trying to figure how the hell those things relate – and what that implies about what Uncle Rush really thinks he’s saying – I got to Subway and it was time to eat.

    edit: Peter: Culvers, baby!! All the good stuff, plus ice cream!

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  20. Julie Robinson said on January 23, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    In the last year or so the males in my house have binged on the Frisco Melt at S&S. It is your basic toasted cheese sandwich on sourdough (or, in the parlance of the Fort, a cheese toastie), with the addition of a hamburger patty. You can literally feel your arteries clog as you eat. Just looked it up on the website: 980 calories and 33 grams of fat.

    I printed out the Roger Ebert article and read it aloud to the family. Hilarious. And it also explains why he has carried such girth for so long.

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  21. Dexter said on January 23, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    The FWA Polar Bear Club plunged in at the Tennessee Avenue Bridge area. It always got lots of press coverage. Now every year it’s the Hamilton Lake swim that gets all the pub around here.
    I have lost my taste for all fast food beef, but the allure of a Chicago hot dog is still here…and now, venture with me to the Windy City for a lecture on Chicago hot dogs from the Mayor of Bucktown and Captain Chicago…this clip is about 6:45 in length:

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  22. Colleen said on January 23, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    I heard all about Caroline Kennedy on NPR.

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  23. alex said on January 23, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Oh Dwight, Dwight, Dwight…

    Jeff (tmmo), that was quite naughty of you to fill the troubled teen’s impressionable little head with that Bill Ayers malarkey. It’s already difficult enough to disabuse him of all that nonsense Uncle Rush has been teaching him. Have you no shame, Reverend?

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  24. brian stouder said on January 23, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    A non sequitur: today was Very Important Person day today at Chloe’s (our 4 1/2 year old) school, and even despite that I’m more of a Very Impotent Person, they allowed me in…What a hoot!!

    We spent a few hours taking things in, and watching the young folks and their teachers go through their routines; very impressive stuff.

    edit: and while I’m adding non sequitur links, here is one to a very sharp post by the Proprietress on the subject of the possible collapse of the New York Times….particularly good stuff, as she is answering back (and pretty much grinding to dust) the knee-jerk “Ding dong the witch is dead!” dunderheads who are applauding the possible demise of national print journalism

    Bravo, Nancy Nall Derringer!!

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  25. moe99 said on January 23, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    a catchy little number:

    Courtesy of Calculated Risk.

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  26. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 23, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    No shame! Sorry about that — i’m actually doubtful in sum that Ayers “wrote” it, but the point that Obama and Ayers were close friends in New York at Columbia/Bank St./Ed Said’s coterie will likely come out in the near future, and no one but Rush will pay much mind. At this point, Big Ten rules apply: no blood, no foul. Can’t, won’t, shouldn’t impact Obama’s standing, but i will ask for room to whisper a small “toldja.”

    Gasman’s point is why i could never shake my concern with Y2K until the next day ended, even though i knew, and tried to tell all i could the concern was overblown, but be ready and/or review your hard/software anyhow because it’s a good idea. The amount of twenty year old code still buried in most DOS apps in 1999 would amaze you, and there are lines buried deep in Vista that go back almost to the HP garage. Layered crap, artistically frosted, still isn’t a cupcake, but that’s what Microsoft is selling. Mac LC, iBook, MacBook — never had a virus. Not saying it can’t happen, but like Y2K, my Confik worries have to do with collateral damage, so i’d even say to an Apple lifer — “back up, twice.”

    There’s a sh**storm a’comin’ with this one.

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  27. caliban said on January 23, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    What’s the water temp criterion for polar bear swimming? When I lived in Boston, we took regular trips to the astounding Kancamagus Hwy. campgrounds along the Swift River around the Independence day (dry ice and Molson’s
    golden), and regularly swam in rushing streams and waterfalls where the agua never exceeded 45F. There’s a huge pool downstream from Lower Falls, shaped and dimensioned pretty much like a 50m pool, and the water probably reaches lower fifties. Best place to swim I’ve ever come across (aside from Lake Powell, but when Hayduke blows the Glen Canyon Dam, Lower Falls will move up to no. 1).

    The coldest water is inner city indoor pools without heaters. I went to UD High, now known as UD High and Jesuit and they let in girls and little kids. We were a competitive swimming dynasty in the 60s but we didn’t have our own pool. We used the downtown Y in Detroit, which must have been torn down since then. The pool was on some upper floor. There was a regulation 16 foot Duraflex board and my brother Chris and I were the divers. Diving there was an adventure, because the ceiling was about 10 ft. above the board. Reverse dives were mind-bogglingly frightening.

    Anyway, we practiced at St. Martin de Porres pool, where the water was very cold, but the broken windows and lack of any sort of heating system provided an arctic environment. Windows were all shattered into glass pinecones we had to avoid in bare feet and the only heat came from gas unit heater mounted on the pool deck. We all got horizontal burns on our thighs from huddling around that sucker in the Detroit winter.

    We also used to visit State O’ Maine beaches (named after John Irving’s bear, I hope and fervently believe). HighSummer water temperature at Ogunquit and Old Orchard, and etc. is probably around 54F. Swimming there is more problermatic, because currents and riptides are more obstinate than original Down Easters. I serially embarrassed my wife and friends, and amused my daughter with civil disobedience when lifeguards would try to cite some undertow rule and tell me I couldn’t swim outside some sort of Lake Ste. Claire wussy pontoon swimming area. My exceptionally logical argument was that the guards themselves would have to brave the undertow if some fool ventured out and I could swim better than they could.

    Chopping holes in ice to risk hypothermia seems like serious stupidity, if it’s not attributable to some specific defective gene, And I haven’t ever gone that berserk. But, damned if we don’t have Norwegian blood mixed with the Irish in my family. I’m the only brother with blonde hair and blue eyes, so maybe the frigid water compulsion gene is regressive. I suppose I prefer that evolutionary package to brown eyes.

    As there are people that rip presents open and those that unwrap, there are people that think they can accomplish gradual immersion and those that embrace the water as long as it’s still a fluid and not bruising you with chunks of solids.

    It was hilarious recently when Keith Olbermann made a risible error talking about some guys in wetsuits with SCUBA ironing underwater and said it was 5F. I think he meant C. Otherwise, the Heloise divers would have resembled oxygen-deprived, quite dead, wasps in amber.

    I’ve thought about all of this to a ridiculous extent. Probably, because I was born to run and was pretty good at it but I was born to swim and really good at it. Like an otter. If it’s a childhood experience shared universally to claim a superpower for your own, I wanted to be able to breathe underwater. Once you’re in and acclimated, any swimmer knows you swim faster in colder water. More to grab, so maybe it’s physics.

    The difference in the long run would be swimming with the fishes or attempting anaerobic existence. Then you’d wake up in methane soup with Ted Williams’ head as God, and my dad was born in Brooklyn, so I prefer some sort of Jackie Robinson paradigm. Really cold water swimming? Those fat people might have a lifestyle awakening, but sudden chill immersion can’t have a beneficial effect on cardio-pulmonary deficiencies. If you feel rather than think you were born to swim, water temperature is just a matter of millieu.

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  28. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 23, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    You might be surprised — not much has been torn down in Detroit. It may not hold water, but i’ll bet it’s still there.

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  29. moe99 said on January 23, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    I’d like a full factual basis for the assertion above that Ayers and Obama were anything more than acquaintances. I get so darn tired of all these Obama smear jobs that are kept going with an assertion that it will somehow be proven in the future. I want it proven now, dammit. Or shut up.

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  30. caliban said on January 23, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    Has Bill Ayres been hiding out? Is he a fugitive? Was he right about Cointelpro? Was he right about Vietnam? Has he served his community well in his second incarnation? Is his connection with the President astoundingly tenuous. Well, yes, in every case.

    Did W illegally avoid the draft and never get closer than Tierra del Fuego to honoring his coke-addled commitments to the Alabama and Tejas Air Guards?

    Did Reagan and BushI murder Archbishop Oscar Romero, or at least facilitate the killing? Was Henry the K complicit in the murder of Orlando Letelier and the death Salvador Allende?
    Did Kenneth Blackwell bury Cuyahoga and other County votes in Ohio to boost Shrub?

    Did Ollie North and Rummy and Cheney engineer Iran-Contra? (Well if you don’t think so, excuse me, you’re an idiot, and don’t burn yourself near the stove because you haven’t any ethical nerve-endings left.

    W/Dickless classified material at a spectacular rate. Hundreds of thousands of pages per fucking minute. In the FDA. In the USDA. What sort of monstrous things can these aholes make money off from to the detriment of Americans?

    It’s the current meme that Caroline Kennedy must have nanny issues. Yeah right you idiots. Aside from comparing a Constitutional scholar with a nitwit (and I mean Sarah Palin). She wasn’t qualified but this nominee is? Gov. Paterson has made an ass out of you and me.
    This is so much obstructionist GOP shit it’s amazing.

    Exhibit 1: Corporate connections. Well, Cheney had this blind trust. The cash into Cheney’s ‘blind trust’ for electrocuting soldiers and providing tainted water is fairly amazing.

    William Ayres has a nondescript job in which he clearly, clearly, does nothing but good.

    These people are so shameless, Bush let Zhiri go. He’s the Republican poster child. Why did they let him go? Now Republicans are ginning up some sort of crap to claim this is Obama’s fault. This business about these guys return to terrism is such horseshit it barely dignifies consideration. Under these considerations, HW should have gone straight to Guantanamo for selling out his crwmates.

    W is a victim of lobbyists? Of Cheney, who’s blaming

    If being at the same table or fundraiser makes you suspect?

    The whole thing about memes from Paterson where the shameless politician puts out idiotic memes, what qualifies you to be a senator? Intelligence, thoughtfulness, organizational ability, fund-raising ability. Noat being a dumbass obstructionist. How did John Cornyn get elected. How did Trent Lott? What’s wrong with people? Qualifies?

    Then there’s twinkletoes, Dick Morriss. He’s appalled about the already paid IRS doubt of T Geichnener, wheo’s already paid his debt. Morriss is into the IRS for millions, and if you think it has to do with professional sucking on his toes for cash.

    This is the sour grapes bullshit you get. Don Vitter? Excuse me, on the subject of bad ethics.

    On the subject of email. Let’s have all of Rove’s you assholes. Let’s have Cheney’s list from the energy luncheon. How could anybody claim that’s not public record unless he was breaking the law for his personal benefit?

    My approximation? The country has never seen a criminal of this sort. Subvert the Constitution while fucking over the economy for his own personal monetary benefit. It’s what he’s done.

    The truly most astounding thing about the pile of merde these little shits have buried everybody under is the absolute gact that the PNAC tried to talk Clinton into invading Iraq in 1998. They didn’t think W was even worth considering. They didn’t even ask him to sign. They thought he might go AWOL in Bummingham.

    Here’s the deal. Kerry said that the way to deal with a criminal group was by police work. That is proven true. W approach has arrested wackos, some would-be gangstas in Miami that wanted boots. That nut-job that was going to cut down the Brooklyb Bridge with an acetylene in broad daylight. W and whatever has Osama running free and he’s clamped down on journalists. If you think that kept you safe, you are just about exactly as stupid as W, and if a PDB came across your desk that said Osama wanted to target buildings with hijacked airplanes, you’d be an idiot too and read a kid’s book upside-down.

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  31. Catherine said on January 23, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    If we’re claiming superpowers, I call invisibility. Which I’ll use to fade out of any Windows vs. Mac argument.

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  32. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 23, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    So the balance of proof issues look on either side of the equation like this — ”

    Has Bill Ayres been hiding out? Is he a fugitive? Was he right about Cointelpro? Was he right about Vietnam? Has he served his community well in his second incarnation? Is his connection with the President astoundingly tenuous. Well, yes, in every case.

    Did W illegally avoid the draft and never get closer than Tierra del Fuego to honoring his coke-addled commitments to the Alabama and Tejas Air Guards? Did Reagan and BushI murder Archbishop Oscar Romero, or at least facilitate the killing?”

    I can’t measure up to that level of proof and certainty. It just looks reasonably credible that Obama knew Ayers well from Said’s classes at Columbia (we’re not allowed to see class lists for either, for any year – hmmm), and Ayers invited Obama to Chicago, where a few years later they claim they met for the first time. I don’t find it profoundly suspicious, just that Obama is smart enough to want to shroud the degree he was indebted to Ayers on all kinds of levels.

    Why did Obama decide to go to Chicago from New York? A job offer for a low level, low pay job, no matter how idealistically meaningful? Some other factor made Chicago make sense to a very smart young Barack — he’d never been there before. Ayers, on the other hand, was born and raised there, and still was closely tied to the power structure of the city (literally, his dad was chairman of Commonwealth Edison, which is how Ms. Dohrn got her legal job, which is a fascinating story in itself).

    I’m fascinated that this simple claim, which can neither be proved or disproved for no other reason than that Obama won’t allow it to be (the sealed Columbia records), arouses such agitation on the part of his supporters when folks like me poke at it. It’s part of why i think Obama is a politican, and so far, a very adept one, which is why i’m sardonic about his essence, but optimistic about his intentions. It reminds me not of dire conspiracy, but of simpler issues like John Kerry refusing to release his Yale records. Much was muttered about it, but when they finally came out in 2006, no one noticed or cared . . . the reason Kerry blocked them was that George Bush got better grades all four years and altogether than Kerry had.

    Does that speak volumes? Nope, but it says something, and something a politician wants to control. Obama is controlling his image, and sooner or later Moe will get her proof or disproof. If it is clear Obama never met Ayers until ’95 or even ’93, i owe her a bottle of whatever suits her fancy (please don’t make it Bushmills 40 year . . . i’m a poor freelance writer and community organizer).

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  33. del said on January 23, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    Jeff, it would be hard for moe to prove a negative — so no Bushmills will be forthcoming. Your wondering about why Obama would decide to go to Chicago from New York reminded me of that word you taught me, apophenia.

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  34. del said on January 23, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Naughtiest fast food sign: “Wendy’s hot ‘n’ juicy.”

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  35. joodyb said on January 23, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    as a loyal S&S fan, it was easy to become a culver convert. esp when i have only the one to patronize here on the prairie.

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  36. basset said on January 23, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    went to my first Culver’s while driving from Indiana back down to Michigan in November – needed a tenderloin fix, pulled off 69 on the northeast side of Indianapolis and that seemed to be the nearest option. wasn’t bad, actually, but I didn’t know about the Tenderloin Trail at the time.

    and I noticed they don’t appear to have Gay Dan’s hot dog stands in Indy any more, either – used to be one right behind center field in Bush Stadium.

    which is also gone now.

    I do feel old.

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  37. caliban said on January 23, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Well, Jeff, that was a long time ago. If it’s not torn down, I can’t imagine why, unless it was a National Register building. The pool was a dungeon. You’d have to have been a competitive diver to know how horrible the place was.

    My brother was barely 5’11”, and fairly compact. Dest diver I’ve ever seen. By Sophomore year, I was 6′-1″ and really skinny. He could throw tricks and I had to realize I was going to get hurt. Thing about diving nobody understands is that the water is unforgiving and it’s pretty much like hitting learn divesbut you know you have to mount up and do it again.

    One of the great things about swimming as a sport is that siblings almost never compete. Different strokes, different distances. Two of my brothers were exceptional freelstyle sprinters, but years apart. My brother Mark excelled at 800 and 1500. I could swim everything medium well, and the way swimming meets work, you have to get lots of seconds and thirds. I could do that in everything but backstroke. My back is poor, but I could score IM points anyway.

    But that’s a lot more than anybody cares about concerning how swimming meet strategy works. It’s all about cold water. What’s cold and what’s too cold? In 1978, about a month after the blizzard of ’78, I tried walking home from work, a mere six miles, because (and nobody remembers this) by Easter, we had another storm that dropped 28 in. of snow. I came upon a virtual lakespanning six lanes of a large road. I waded in. Miracle ny toes and feet are intact.

    I marched through some water that approximated 40F Really dirty bergs bruising my calves, freezing my extremities. Two things. Nobody ever had that sort of blizzaed in a civilized place at one time. And thhat was freezing. So what do y’all think is polar bear cold? You haven’t a clue.

    People think the 10 meter is scary, but if your spinning, the 3 is more painful. But no joke, what do y’all think is cold water?

    <bmoe99 says They never had anything other than tenueous crap to do with each other.

    But really, when you consider the years that have gone by, who’s a war criminal? Ayre’s or Ollie North? Or HW or Kissinger. Or Cheney? War criminals to go around and William Ayres isn’t one of them.

    How about my childhood friend Danny Casolaro and Bush-Reagan connections to the Octopus–second phase and Iran-Contra, which grew uncontrolled from Cointelpro into rejuvenation in the Defense Department stovepipe.

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  38. caliban said on January 23, 2009 at 10:59 pm


    Down here in South Carolina, we have the ‘Squat and Gobble” I realize this takes some salacious crap from staties pulling up, but salacious indicates intent.

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  39. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 23, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    Hitchens made, makes, is making an interesting case for Henry K as a war criminal — i’m not sure the fascination of Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermania with seeing Cheney in front of a war crimes tribunal really matches the same standard, though even Hitchens seems to think the idea that Kissinger can’t travel to Europe is punishment enough.

    Last time — i don’t think Obama and Ayers were up to something particularly nefarious, nor have i said so (evah). I just find it amusing that they want so much to insist that they never laid eyes on each other until ’95 (well, maybe ’93).

    If the Columbia and Bank Street class lists, let alone grades, were released, this would be over. OK, don’t release ’em. But we know EVERY frickin’ grade Bush and McCain and Palin got in every school they attended. May i reserve the right to a small amount of snark over who gets transparency props?

    So far, no FOCA signing, and Obama may skirt that level of commitment. We can debate stem cell fundamentalism on both sides on another day, but i’m thankful — unironically — for no FOCA authorization. We’ll see where the next month goes. As i keep saying, he turns out to be a very adept politician, and i count myself in that dwindling number of folks for whom the term politician is not a term of opprobrium.

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  40. Gasman said on January 23, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    The persistent allegations of the Obama/Ayers connection is facile and intellectually dishonest. Y’all are asking Obama to disprove a negative. You solemnly intone, “But has anybody proved that Obama is not chummy with Ayers?” as if it was a clever observation of liberal press bias and as if there were any evidence that would satisfy your conspiracy theory paranoia.

    It is the rhetorical equivalent of slinging turds over the transom and running. It is cowardly and requires about that same level of intellectual effort as the flying turds . Either cite some kind of evidence, any evidence at all will do, or STFU.

    It is the equivalent of perpetuating the ridiculous notion that Trig Palin is not Gov. Palin’s son. “She has never submitted to a DNA test. We don’t know the he is really her child.”

    This is really the basest sort of ridiculosity that occupies mental pygmies like Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Coulter, et al.

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  41. Dexter said on January 24, 2009 at 12:44 am

    Rally’s had 99 cent burgers..really good cheap food. I have been into Steak and Shake twice, very good but I don’t crave that kind of food anymore.

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  42. caliban said on January 24, 2009 at 1:27 am

    Obama knew Ayres. So does everybody in
    Cointelpro South and the rest of the right wing conspiracy to deny anybody with a brain from thinking the Oldtimer was anything byut a petrified President manipulated by Rummy and Cheney and the rest of the criminals that signed the PNAC letter to Clinton. They weren’t interested in W’s signature.

    And everybody else that ever had to do with education issues in the history of Illinois. If Ayres was some dangerous cell leader, why didn’t the wice Pwesidewnt kwieww the wabbit.? With his Mosburg with the widdow woman 18 gwain shot? That isn’t any good for anything but shooting lawyers in the face?

    People believe memes. Memes come from the internet. Memes must be true because, oh shit, they were on the internet. Holy fuck, if this is how stupid people are, they better chill abd read a newspaper. And pay for it.

    Everybody’d do better to go catch the scumbag making off with the cash in his wheel chair. But reality says the cash made off the shoddy construction responsible for the three electrocution deaths of uS troops will never get back to a senior administration official that was making money on tainted water and no armor.

    It’s astounding that there are people that are so bigoted or blind or stupid or all three they still want to apothosize these war criminals.

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  43. moe99 said on January 24, 2009 at 4:55 am

    This is so frackin’ stupid that we have to do someone else’s research for him.

    The wiki entry on Obama says he received his undergraduate degree from Columbia in 1983.

    Here is what it says about Ayers(please people it is Ayers not Ayres) and I am quoting verbatim just so we can get the time frames down:

    “He began his career in primary education while an undergraduate, teaching at the Children’s Community School (CCS), a project founded by a group of students and based on the Summerhill method of education. After leaving the underground, he earned an M.Ed from Bank Street College in Early Childhood Education (1984), an M.Ed from Teachers College, Columbia University in Early Childhood Education (1987) and an Ed.D from Teachers College, Columbia University in Curriculum and Instruction (1987).

    He has edited and written many books and articles on education”

    Ok, so Jeff tmmo would have us believe that somehow after Obama graduated from Columbia in 1983, he came into contact with Ayers while Ayers was at a completely DIFFERENT college because Ayers did not even enter Columbia until 1984.

    Nice try but >>honk<< you lose fella. I want a bottle of Macallan’s Amber liqueur. Thanks so much for playing.

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  44. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 24, 2009 at 7:50 am

    Bank St. is next door to Columbia, and Said’s classes were full of Bank St. students – Ayers started in late ’81, early ’82 on Morningside Heights. So i don’t have to concede the point based on grad dates . . . but seriously, i don’t care at this point, i’m just not willing to accept earlier comments that i’ve been proven silly and wrong just because Obama won. And it isn’t proving a negative – you can search all my comments on this: my beef has been that Bush, McCain, Palin have had their educational and medical records combed through and mocked in detail, while Kerry, Clinton, and Obama have kept theirs entirely or largely under wraps, and they get a pass on it.

    Gasman, it’s not proving a negative, it’s releasing the academic records from Columbia, which would either drive a stake through this discussion, or put it in a context. Y’all had a lot of fun with Palin’s academic record, which did indeed cover much ground and many schools. Fair enough, except fair strikes me as a two way street.

    Oh, and i’m happy to drop this right now, pending further data. If we debate it further, there’s nowhere to go other than getting snarky(er).

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  45. coozledad said on January 24, 2009 at 8:11 am

    An insight into MCain’s management of the economy, had he been elected. Looks to me like the plan was to funnel every last dime to his filthy arriviste cronies.

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  46. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 24, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Too many of those clowns around him are why McCain lost, too — what is a commode with legs, anyhow? (Insert obligatory Cheney joke here.) Aside from “filthy arriviste cronies” (arriviste? your point is that old money governs better? and when do Kennedys go from nouveau to ancien regime?), i agree. Thainiste cronies put McCain out of the race, and justly so.

    Gotta go race five ounce blocks of wood with two hundred screaming girls & boys . . . adios, amigos.

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  47. alex said on January 24, 2009 at 9:17 am

    Anybody else affected by the credit card hackers? I was in my bank yesterday challenging the double posting of a major debit that I’d only authorized once (it had sent my balance into negative territory) and was told my VISA debit card had been compromised and to destroy it and that I’d be issued a new one. Then ran into other people who’d been called by their banks that very morning with the same news about their cards. Then last night on the national news it was reported this was happening to millions of people and that the credit/debit card data had been hacked as far back as last April. Homeland, the firm that serves as an intermediary between the banks and the retailers and handles the electronic transactions, reportedly has been sitting on this knowledge for quite some time without notifying anyone.

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  48. nancy said on January 24, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Alex: Courage.

    Everyone Else, Including Those of You Who Don’t Have an Antiquer in the Family: A commode is not a toilet. It’s a low cabinet that, at one time, may or may not have held your nightjar, hence the association. But it’s just a cabinet.

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  49. basset said on January 24, 2009 at 10:20 am

    maybe it is up north, but in the South a “commode” is a toilet.

    and a “tenderloin” is a pork roast.


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  50. coozledad said on January 24, 2009 at 11:06 am

    We have a commode that is part of a dining room suite ( I think it was the server) that we use for storing the case or so of wine we are likely to consume within the next week. When we first got it, I blasted it with methylene chloride to remove the odor of whatever someone had stuffed in it and let rot. It could have been their nightjar, or fragments of someone’s body they’d had a feud with.
    We have a lot of old furniture, and used to regularly attend auctions, but it started to remind me of the reason Bruce Chatwin gave for giving up his job as an appraiser: You’re constantly wading through and handling the effects of the dead. There’s a smell you begin to notice that is constant across every estate sale, aside from the cigarettes, heavy cologne and crackly permed hair.
    I even used to have a dream where a friend of mine who deals in antiques as well as junk convinced me to buy a coffin from her warehouse. It was a unique one, covered in a dense, embroidered fabric. It was very heavy. Once I got it home I set it up on sawhorses in the living room, and a coffee colored liquid began to seep out of it.
    My wife was displeased.

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  51. mark said on January 24, 2009 at 11:11 am


    thanks for the info. I can’t say that I have much occasion to drop “commode” into the conversation, but I won’t do so inappropriately thanks to you. Of course, if I become a big CEO, I’ll have to have one, assuming I can also find a $30,000 nightjar to go with it.


    I think you will get the answers to your questions sometime soon. Obama is now a significant part of our unfolding history, as well as a rock star. The large gaps in his story will be filled in by legitimate researchers. I suspect it will be fascinating, but not particularly damaging or remotely disqualifying.

    I’ll confess that while I haven’t sipped the kool-aid yet, I’m enjoying most all of what I have seen of the Obama years. The change in energy is refreshing. I was so tired of the indifference or paranoia (or who knows what) Bush brought to his public interactions the last few years. It was almost like he was intentionally unprepared as an act of belligerance.

    My favorite Obama monent: capping salaries. A lot of sophisticated people probably think it is silly for a new president to worry about 4 digit figures when the old president and Congress spent high 11 digits at the drop of a hat to fund an immediately abandoned solution to a suddenly discovered problem that few could even describe let aone explain. I think it sends a great message.

    I like his new approach to FOIA, though I wouldn’t want to be a lawyer charged with overseeing the responses. Boring work that illustrates how horribly expensive lawyers can be. I’ll admit that the times I was involved in such tasks I was happy if the person making the request made an error that just allowed us to say no, rather than asking 50 (or 500 or 5000) people to review files, copy documents, forward for further review, etc.

    Liked the lobbying rules, open-minded about the Gitmo/waterboarding stuff. Disagree on public funds for abortion (“Mexico City rule”) but I have long thought that issue should be resolved through politics not the courts. He won.

    Lots of reason for optimism. Stll hope he changes some of his plans or fails in trying to implement them (card check, his version of national health care, etc.) and abandons the Bush/Paulson borrow-our-way-to-prosperity approach to economic recovery. I listened to much of the Geithner hearing and found a little optimism on that front, too.

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  52. moe99 said on January 24, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    This is really getting ridiculous.

    Assuming that a master’s program takes two years, this means that out of their respective careers, there is only one possible year of overlap in NYC: 1982-83.

    Now Ayers was at Banks St School in a graduate program. There currently are 1,052 students enrolled at Banks Street. Columbia’s population is 23,000 students, of which 5,475 are undergrads. Banks Street may be physically located near Columbia, but there is no formal relationship between Columbia and Banks Street. Take a look at Columbia’s website, they list relationships with Barnard, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Teachers College and Union Theological Seminary. So Ayers would not have received credit for taking courses at Columbia. And he could not have been a Teaching Assistant in any course that Obama took (which I originally thought was possible until it was clear that neither attended Columbia together, and that Banks was not affiliated with Columbia)

    And wrt to the sheer speculation that they attended the same class together somehow, that is such a thin reed as to be nonexistent. Ayers was a graduate student, and Obama was an undergraduate student. It’s been awhile, but when I was in college there was a big difference in the course offerings between graduate and undergraduate. I can’t envision Ayers as a graduate student somehow sitting in on an undergraduate course offered by Said. There were/are undergrads who took graduate level courses, but those are students who have excellent academic records, something that the inference has always been, that Obama didn’t have at Columbia.

    So the idea is that out of a universe of 20,000+ students, they attended different schools and different programs in the same city together and somehow they sat next to each other or became acquainted in a class that one man may or may not have taught and which the graduate student would not have received credit for attending. Don’t think so.

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  53. Gasman said on January 24, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    jeff (tmmo),
    To further moe99’s point, your assertion reminds me of the reaction that I have heard from people when they find out my wife is Canadian. On more than one occasion I have heard, “Oh you’re from Canada. Our best friends Bob & Shirley McClean are from Canada. Maybe you know them.”

    Never mind that there are 35 million Canadians.

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  54. JPK said on January 24, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    But we know EVERY frickin’ grade Bush and McCain and Palin got in every school they attended. May i reserve the right to a small amount of snark over who gets transparency props?

    You forgot to include Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in your list of transparency role models.

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  55. alex said on January 24, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    A commode is not a toilet.

    And a mango isn’t a bell pepper either, but tell that to a southerner and it’s tantamount to an act of northern aggression.

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  56. mark said on January 24, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Based upon the billions of people in the world, hundreds of millions in the US, and millions in NYC and Chicago, the likelihood that Obama has ever met Ayers is statistically insignificant.

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  57. nancy said on January 24, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    The instigator for the Ayers/Obama ghostwriting rumors is one Jack Cashill. He seems to enjoy conspiracies. He’s also fond of some fairly big leaps, thrown out there with authorial integrity and little or no citation. Here’s one:

    What is more, when Ayers speaks, even off the cuff, he uses a cadence and vocabulary consistent with his memoir. One does not hear any of Dreams in Obama’s casual speech.

    Here’s another:

    If there is any one paragraph in Dreams that has convinced me of Ayers’ involvement it is this one, in which Obama describes the Black Nationalist message:

    “A steady attack on the white race… served as the ballast that could prevent the ideas of personal and communal responsibility from tipping into an ocean of despair.”

    As a writer, especially in the pre-Google era of Dreams, I would never have used a metaphor as specific as “ballast” unless I knew exactly what I was talking about. Seaman Ayers most surely did.

    And Obama wouldn’t? It’s not that obscure a reference. But I guess, when you’re a dumb nigger like the president, who was raised close to an ocean for most of his young life, you would have no idea what “ballast” is.

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  58. Dexter said on January 24, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    As my social world expanded as a child I was confused to hear people use the word commode to describe a toilet bowl. For us , as kids, the commode was the fancy cupboard, on ornate legs, with many drawers and a couple large compartments, which stood in the main room of the house, and was always kept covered with a clean lace-cover, like a giant doily.
    This word was also used to describe our dresser, as in “Boys! Put your socks away in your commode!”
    The short desk-like furniture with the giant mirror-back, where Mom kept her makeup and which she sat in front of to apply it, was her “vanity.”
    Another word we never heard or used was “condom.”
    I was a teenager,working in a factory and an old farmer was telling some ribald story and he used the word “condom” and I asked what it was…the old farmers at the break table howled at my ignorance. We had always called them rubbers or prophylactics —nobody ever used the word “condom.” Now , of course, it’s a common word tossed around everywhere.

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  59. Dexter said on January 24, 2009 at 2:25 pm

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  60. mark said on January 24, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Here’s to hoping that the guys at the NSA have either shut down all that electronic snooping or that they appreciate (and recognize) sarcasm.

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  61. Gasman said on January 24, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    The fact that some want to cling tenaciously to the Obama/Ayers connection rumors strikes me as exceedingly petty and rather pathetic. It sounds ever so much like very sour grapes from some very childish sore losers that have nothing more substantive in the way of criticism. Liberal that I am, I could come up with better dings on Obama.

    I’d be happy to entertain the possibility of a connection if you could cite but a single piece of credible evidence other than possible geographic proximity in city of 10 millionish people. By the same reasoning, it could be assumed that Laura Bush and I might have had a torrid, steamy, illicit sexual relationship last March. I was in D.C., and in point of fact, I was seen outside the White House after dark. Come to think of it, I never have offered any proof that we didn’t have an affair. And since D.C. has so many fewer people than NYC, it is at least statistically more probable that the Gasman/Laura B. connection happened. Hmmm.

    The right employs circular logic on this one; they create the rumor, then cite the rumor itself as evidence of lingering doubt. Perpetuating this baseless Ayers rumor seems to be a desperate attempt to tar and feather our new president without cause. Just wait a bit. I’m sure President Obama will give you plenty of things to complain about that you can actually hang your hat on. Until then, if you want anyone to take you seriously, you might want to drop the Ayers bit.

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  62. Gasman said on January 24, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    For those who decried us liberals as being paranoid and delusional when we expressed fear and outrage at Bush for his fondness for illegal wiretaps, take note. Former NSA analyst Russell Tice, who exposed Bush as a liar regarding wiretaps/spying on U.S. citizens revealed on Olbermann’s show Wed. that Bush’s domestic spying was worse, far worse than we previously knew.

    Tice revealed that the NSA effectively monitored all – as in ALL of our electronic communications. It didn’t matter if you didn’t have communications abroad, if you used a telephone, a computer, sent a text message, or any other form of electronic communication, the NSA under the direct orders of President Bush was monitoring your messages. Your rights were violated. They also spied extensively upon the press specifically – again,not just foreign communications, but on ALL members of the press, U.S. citizens included, who had the audacity to be members of that disloyal profession. Journalists out there take note: you were targeted. Some of you that regularly contribute to this very site may have a folder in an NSA file hidden at some undisclosed location.

    Back in the paranoid latter days of the Nixon administration, George Carlin assumed his phone was tapped and would answer the phone, “fuck Hoover.” He might have been on to something. How much more blatant do Bush’s wholesale violations of the Constitution need to be to outrage everyone?

    This willful violation of law is an assault upon the Constitution. It is not merely overreaching by a misguided but zealous president. No, it is clear indication that Bush & Co. felt consistently that our laws did not ever apply to them. They felt entitled to ignore any and all laws they found inconvenient or burdensome. They arrogantly did as they pleased and then lied their asses off to us.

    Let the prosecutions begin.

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  63. MaryRC said on January 24, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Nancy, I had just finished reading Ebert on the subject of Steak ‘n’ Shake two minutes before coming here. I try to avoid Roger’s reviews unless I don’t intend to see the movie because he gives away too much of the storyline (thanks, Rog, I guess I don’t need to see The Reader now). But I enjoy his Journal.

    I was amused to see that he compared his love for Steak ‘n’ Shake to a Canadian’s love for bran muffins, and started counting the number of Canucks who promptly wrote in to set the record straight. It’s Timbits, Roger.

    About Limbaugh, something that has occurred to me when I see a photo of him lately: he doesn’t look well. I know time marches on for all of us, but his face looks puffy and has that one-Scotch-away-from-a-heart-attack flush. He lost a lot of weight at one time but it looks to me as though he is gaining it back. Not a healthy look at all.

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  64. MichaelG said on January 24, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Jeff (tmmo), you repeatedly refer to Obama as “very adept politician”. Is that a compliment?

    Moe, when I was at the University of Illinois, there were any number of upper division classes and seminars that were attended for credit by both graduate and undergraduate students.

    There are many, many words that have or had different meanings in the South vs. the rest of the world. I encountered a lot of them when I was in the army. My guess would be their number is diminishing with the continuing years of mass communication and homogenization. Breakfast, dinner and supper vs. breakfast, lunch and dinner. I remember “commode” well and it was as stated elsewhere. I used to have a very funny book entitled “How to Speak Southren”. I wish I could find the damn thing. One example from the army: The word “cock” which most of us would agree refers to the male genitalia. In some parts of the South, it referred to the female genitalia. I have no idea how or why that was but the two different meanings for the word certainly engendered some confusion and hilarity in the barracks.

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  65. Ricardo said on January 24, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Being the birthplace for Big Boy, Southern California lost most of the restaurants over the years. Happily, they will be making a comeback soon. They’re building new stores including one b my house.

    Macdonalds has an anniversary special for the Big Mac, which is an inferior and complete rip-off of the Big Boy sandwich. Now, if we can only get Big Boy to go back to using fresh meat instead of frozen like the In-And-Out double double (they use fresh potatoes too), and get them to serve the Brawny Lad sandwich.

    In the Mac and Microsoft argument, I am pretty biased. For years, I have earned the big bucks supporting PCs running Microsoft products. Very few industries outside the music and graphic design industries run their business on Macs, and I couldn’t earn a living only supporting Mac.

    It is true that miscreants don’t write that much virus and spyware programs for non-Microsoft products, but anyone can have business continuity and reliability if their IS person knows what they are doing.

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  66. coozledad said on January 24, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    I grew up hearing “cock” for female genitalia, too. By the time I was in junior high, we’d reached a degree of cultural homogenization where it was properly understood to refer to the schlong.
    I worked construction during one summer break with some kids from DC. There was some old fart who kept grabbing himself and saying “I’m gonna get me some cock tonight, motherfucker!”
    We tried to suppress the laughter, because he’d have killed us.

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  67. moe99 said on January 24, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    “Moe, when I was at the University of Illinois, there were any number of upper division classes and seminars that were attended for credit by both graduate and undergraduate students.”

    And how many graduate students from other institutions ( I assume there are some near to the University of Illinois) attended undergraduate classes at Illinois?

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  68. mark said on January 24, 2009 at 4:42 pm


    If the NSA monitored ALL of the communications of ALL of the people, then how did they single out the press for “extensive” monitoring? Record their stuff twice?

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  69. Gasman said on January 24, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Tice did not say that they recorded all information, merely that it was screened. As a matter of fact he said specifically that even the NSA lacked the computer processing and hardware necessary to do so. I assume that they used some sort of data mining filter that would tag certain communications for analyst review. However, he did say that special attention was paid to communications of the press. It sounded to me like anything from the press was automatically tagged for review and quite possibly archival.

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  70. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 24, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    Gasman, do you know the Jorgensons from Kitchener?


    My son won a trophy today, folks — it’s the one you get for slowest cumulative time that still crosses the line (aka the turtle award), but he has the satisfaction of knowing that he made the darn thing . . . and seems quite pleased that out of five years of Cub Scout Pinewood Derby racing, he finally got a trophy.

    Plus i got to run in the “open” class (i.e., pre-teardown) the one my dad and i made in 1969, ‘zactly 40 years ago. In four heats, it . . . won the turtle award! We have a dynasty, just like the Kennedys and Bushes and Clintons.

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  71. MichaelG said on January 24, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Whoops! Got myself sucked in! U of I is out in the middle of a cornfield. Nobody there but me and Roger Ebert.

    I don’t know, Moe. Various institutions of higher learning have relationships with various other ones that do allow some, if you will, cross pollination. My daughter, for instance, attended College A for three and a half years. After she had to move when her service member husband was transferred she was allowed to take a combination of internet courses from College A and live courses from College B to qualify her for a degree from College A. I don’t want to get in the middle of any disputes here. I voted for Obama but I neither know nor care much about his relationship or lack thereof with Mr. Ayres. I merely wanted to point out that it is not implausible for a person who is registered at one school to take a course at a second place. People transfer from one U to another all the time dragging their credits behind them. No reason some sort of concurrent deal couldn’t be worked out. I feel especially stupid here because I seem to be taking mark and Jeff’s part against you when my natural place is by your side.

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  72. moe99 said on January 24, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    MichaelG–you raised some points that I thought were good and tried to address them. When I went to Macalester College in St. Paul MN lo these many years ago, one of the things they touted as a reason to go there was you could take courses, if you wanted at the other Twin Cities colleges like St. Kates, Hamline, Augsburg, St. Thomas, etc. Turns out we didn’t because it took too much time and we could generally get the courses we needed on campus. But the colleges had a formal arrangement to do so, just as Columbia has a formal arrangement with a number of other schools in the NYC area and they state that on their web site. Bank Street is not one of the schools listed that they have an arrangement with, so I would imagine that it would be far trickier to get into a Columbia course if you were a Banks St. grad student than if you were enrolled at one of the schools that had a formal arrangment with Columbia. Just pointing out additional problems of proof in this case that no one has really addressed, and certainly not thinking that you are raising your points in anything more than a manner of thinking out loud. Like I do sometimes.

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  73. Deborah said on January 24, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    Back in the day Bank St. College was a highly prestigious place to get your degree from. In my former life I was in education and hung on everything I read from there. I had no idea that’s where Ayers went. As a Chicagoan I can say that just because you live in the same city or reside a block or two away from each other means you are best buds. I think it’s just naive people from small towns who think this is the way it is in the world.

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  74. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 24, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    I’m still learning the ins and outs of this Facebook stuff — can non-users see this:

    or is it limited to “Friends”? (I’m not sure grammatically how i feel about “friending” someone, but i’m getting used to it.)

    Deborah, do you know the Keithleys on Delaware St. in Streeterville? 😉

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  75. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 24, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    You do have to check out this —

    and this —

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  76. moe99 said on January 25, 2009 at 12:22 am


    Is there a ‘not’ missing in your penultimate sentence? Thanks.

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  77. Dexter said on January 25, 2009 at 12:49 am

    Coozledad: My best friend from high school daze and I met at a party after we both returned home from Vietnam. After his tour, he was sent to Newburgh, NY , Stewart Army Subpost, to finish his few months of service. He asked me if I had ever heard guys saying they were going into town for a piece of cock, meaning fully they were going after women.
    I told him I had indeed heard that from soldiers who hailed from the eastern states, mostly. I never heard it again after my army time.
    My cold water plunge for all time was a swim in Lake Superior in late July, 1988. It was a family vacation, and we pulled off the road at Au Train Bay. The sand was fiercely hot, burning my feet so I had to don sandals to make it to water’s edge.
    The water was shockingly cold, but I went under and swam a hundred strokes on the surface, too. It was a once in a lifetime thing for me.

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  78. Gasman said on January 25, 2009 at 2:20 am

    Getting back to Nancy’s link to Jack Cashill’s feverish rant asserting William Ayers’ authorship of President Obama’s Dreams of My Father. In a particularly untenable paragraph, Cashill boldly proclaims:

    “The public is asked to believe Obama wrote Dreams From My Father on his own, almost as though he were some sort of literary idiot savant.  I do not buy this canard for a minute, not at all.  Writing is as much a craft as, say, golf.  To put this in perspective, imagine if a friend played a few rounds in the high 90s and then a few years later, without further practice, made the PGA Tour.  It doesn’t happen.”

    Cashill seems to be saying that it stretches the bounds of credulity for a young inexperienced author to write something significant right out of the blocks. I quickly thought of many writers whose first works were significant and created while very young. I followed it up with a very quick search on Wikipedia’s list of American Novelists. In a very cursory scan I came up with this list while only getting less than half way through the Wiki list. It is mostly first novels, mostly by American authors with a few exceptions. Here is a list of authors first or early works and the age they were when the work was published:

    Dylan Thomas: 18 Poems – 20
    Ernest Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises – 27
    Truman Capote Other Voices, Other Rooms – 24
    James Joyce: Giacomo Joyce – 24
    James Joyce: Dubliners – 33
    Isaac Asimov: I Robot – 30
    Louisa May Alcott: Flower Fables – 22
    Mark Twain: The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County – 32
    Michael Crichton, aka John Lange: Odds On – 24
    Michael Crichton, aka John Lange: Andromeda Strain – 27
    Stephan Crane: Maggie: A Girl of the Streets – 22
    Stephan Crane: The Red Badge of Courage – 24
    William Faulkner: Sodier’s Pay – 29
    Edna Ferber: Dawn O’Hara – 26
    F. Scott Fitzgerald: This Side of Paradise – 24
    William Goldman: The Temple of Gold – 26
    John Grisham: A Time To Kill – 34
    Nathaniel Hawthorne: Fawnshawe – 24
    Stephen Hunter: The Master Sniper – 34
    John Irving: Setting Free the Bears – 24
    Christopher Isherwood: All the Conspirators – 24
    Henry James: Watch and Ward – 28
    Erica Jong: Fear of Flying – 31
    Dean Koontz: Star Quest – 23

    My point? Cashill is a pompous ass and doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about with regards to young authors or the Ayers/Obama connection. Most of the authors above were far younger than Obama was when he wrote Dreams. But Cashill wouldn’t let facts get in the way of making a point.

    Like far too many conservatives, he makes sweeping pronouncements with grand authority that are easily disproved with but a few minutes on the web. I’ve begun to believe that such conservatives are so arrogant that they believe their own hype. They are oracles of THE TRUTH, and as such are above reproach.

    Cashill is just another conservative lying sack of shit.

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  79. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 25, 2009 at 7:51 am

    A little late, but an ecumenical Sunday morning thought for everyone — this is where it is:

    (For anyone who feels like the Bibles in the bags at the end of the story were a bit much, i’d say that it might have all meant as much without ’em, but for their time and place, it would have been odder if they hadn’t done it.)

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  80. mark said on January 25, 2009 at 8:39 am


    Your research supports Cashill’s point, not your rant about lying sacks of shit. I am glad you were able to vent before church, though.

    Nancy’s criticisms were spot on. You, on the other hand, have to ignore the point Cashill makes in order to attack it. Every writer on your list worked for years at their writing before producing the particular work you cite. They all left behind significant evidence of their efforts. They (variously) worked for newspapers, came from literary families, published early works in literary journals and periodicals, maintained journals, studied literature, taught literature, were mentored by accomplished writers and, as Cashill assets, treated their writing as a craft.

    Obama is a man of pretty extraordinary talents. But if you put him with the others on your list, he is unique for having left no evidence of any significant attempt at writing well before actually writing well. Thus far, he would also be unique in having failed, or at least not attempted, to repeat the achievement.

    Cashill’s attempt to link the book to Ayers is weak and poorly argued. The suggestion that Obama had some help with the book from a skilled writer is a reasonable one, and it does not exclude the possibility that Obama is the rare person capable of brilliance without significant effort.

    BTW, you do know that your asertion that the NSA activity alleged by Tice was “under the direct orders of President Bush” is something you just made up, right? I watched the link you gave, and Tice specifically says he has no idea what Bush did or didn’t know. When do you think NBC will give enough credibility to what Tice claims to run the story on network news rather than a cable talk show?

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  81. coozledad said on January 25, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Gasman: Also implicit in Cahill’s little screed is the suggestion that blacks can’t write.
    Mark:James Joyce didn’t come from a literary background, just a bunch of liberal agitators. And if he left a trail indicating that he would write something on the order of Dubliners, it’s one that’s baffled most critics. Aside from some pretty verse, he just kept repeating loudly and drunkenly that he was going to write some kickass shit, if someone would only lend him a few quid.
    I suspect if anyone discovered letters from Barack to Michelle where he referred to her as his “brown-arsed fuckbird”, the discussion would rapidly swerve from literary antecedents to “Why the Irish love the nasty so much.” Or something like that.
    And Arundhati Roy was a practicing architect when she wrote “The God of Small Things”.

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  82. mark said on January 25, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Thank you coozledad.

    Your commentary on the actual writings of Joyce and the imagined correspondence of Obama made my morning. You have a great talent, sir.

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  83. moe99 said on January 25, 2009 at 11:25 am

    What mark seems to forget, despite being an attorney, is that the life of an attorney is writing. Not very good writing, to be sure for the most part, but writing. It is worth noting that Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review. This, in other schools, is the editor in chief. In my law school career, the person with the highest grades was supposed to be appointed to editor in chief (in my class of ’76, this did not happen because the school faculty had reservations about appointing the woman who had the highest grades). And how did you receive your good grades in law school one might ask? Well, by writing essays to your final exams. And, if I am correct, Obama not only had to have extremely high grades, he had to go beyond that and write for the position. Given the august company he was keeping at the time, Obama could not have been a slouch in the writing department unless mark wants to suggest that the Harvard faculty prostituted the hell out of themselves to appoint the man to the position.

    I have had several law school and attorney acquaintances whose writing has made me sit up and say, “Damn they’re good.” And these are just legal briefs for the most part, mind you. It should also be noted that one of the authors on the list posted by the Gman is and was an attorney with no ‘authorial’ background at all: John Grisham. So yeah, maybe if Obama was an auto mechanic, his facility with words might be as astonishing as mark and Cahill try to make it out to be.

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  84. jcburns said on January 25, 2009 at 11:45 am

    One more southernism, for y’all: what Ohioans call shopping carts, in Atlanta they’re buggies.

    And on other subjects: Obama is a heck of a writer, and I admire him, full stop. And it’s clear to me that the guy who wrote “Dreams of my Father” wrote darn near every damned word of the Inaugural Address, so unless Ayers is lurking on the White House grounds, I’d give it a rest. A long, long, long rest.

    Enjoy a Steak and Shake cheeseburger while plopping into the near-freezing pool of water of your choice and let it go. (There, did I tie up all the loose ends?) Uh, with your iPhone and MacBook safely on dry land.

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  85. Gasman said on January 25, 2009 at 11:54 am

    If you read the bios of the authors, not all were spending years perfecting their crafts. Some had a well developed sense of the written word at a very young age. Dylan Thomas worked years before having success? Not many, because he was 18 when 18 Poems was published and it was released to great critical success.

    In other field prodigies abound: Mozart composed symphonies at 8, Mendelsohn did so in his teens, and Franz Schubert wrote the majority of his most famous lieder in the summer he was 18. Why should the notion of young success in literature be so foreign. And is 33 really that young for success? That was my point.

    Cashill makes it sound as if Obama was unacquainted with writing at all. For God’s sake the man was editor of the Harvard Law Review. He knew his way around the English language. I think cooz hit on a point with the observation that it was veiled racism that fueled Cashill. If a white editor of the Harvard Law Review published a successful work of literature it is hard to imagine Cashill being surprised.

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  86. Julie Robinson said on January 25, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Tim Goeglein has landed predictably as a lobbyist for Focus on the Family, according to this morning’s Journal Gazette:

    “Fort Wayne native Tim Goeglein has been named the top Washington lobbyist and spokesman for Focus on the Family Action, the lobbying arm of Focus on the Family.

    Goeglein worked in the Bush White House as the administration’s chief liaison to conservative religious groups until he resigned a year ago after admitting he plagiarized numerous columns that appeared in The News-Sentinel.

    The Colorado-based organization said Goeglein will be its “eyes and ears in Washington” as the group lobbies on issues such as blocking marriage of gay couples and banning abortion.”

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  87. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 25, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Focus on the Family continues to work diligently at creating its own magical sphere of irrelevance, which just got a bit wider. Too bad, because there’s nothing wrong with having a lobbying group for the issues and concerns of Christian families (hey, we’re a definable group like any other DC cause), but apparently someone will need to start one, because this crowd ain’t it.

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  88. Deborah said on January 25, 2009 at 2:47 pm


    Yes there is a missing “not”. What I meant to say is that in Chicago it is very unlikely that you will know someone simply because they live in your neighborhood. Oprah lives on the next block from me, we do not know each other.

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  89. moe99 said on January 25, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    You know, I would say that I am a Christian. But I am certainly not a “Focus on the Family Christian.” That’s a subsect. And I rather hate the manner in which they appropriate the term as if they are the only Christians out there. In fact it raises some unchristian ire on my part as I think they ignore the fundamental lessons of the gospel in their supercilious, self satisfied weltangschaung.

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  90. Deborah said on January 25, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    If you read Malcome Gladwell’s new book “Outliers”, he says that it usually takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a master at something, usually that’s roughly 10 years but can be compressed into a shorter number of years if the effort is intense (his example, the Beatles in Hamburg). If Obama went to Harvard in 1988 and wrote the book published in 1995, he could easily have had at least 10,000 hours of writing experience during that time (and of course before that too). And, as someone already said here, he may have had some help but why should we believe it was Ayers?

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  91. Julie Robinson said on January 25, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    As another Christian, possibly my only area of agreement with FoF would be that building strong families is important. Otherwise, what moe said. I think Goeglein will fit in well.

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  92. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 25, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    My point on Ayers’ involvement in the book is not that he wrote the whole darn thing, but that the possibility of his involvement is in keeping with my larger point, which is that Ayers likely is why Obama went to Chicago in the first place. Why did Obama go there, of all places, out of NYC? And then end up a key board member of a major program so quickly? Yes, the man is brilliant — if only that was how people got board slots for NFPs (he said to his sorrow). It usually has much more to do with who you know, and whom they call for you.

    Does it matter? Again, at this point, probably not at all. If/when it comes out more clearly that the Ayers family encouraged and supported Barack Obama to come to Chicago and work in their orbit, it will not have any bearing on his policies and programs at that point. It’s the idea that he sprang, Athena-like, from the brow of progressive idealism, that i can’t help poking at: like Sarah Palin, he has an arc, a history, a series of patrons, some acknowledged, some disavowed, some kept hidden. That full arc, from Columbia to Chicago to Harvard, back to Chicago and up through Springfield to the ’04 convention and the nomination and election in ’08 will ultimately all be part of Obama’s story.

    So my question is — could he have presented his ties to Ayers earlier and still made it to where he is now? Given that Ayers (if this is all the case) is key to how he got to where he is now? And is Bill Ayers (let alone his wife) able to keep quiet indefinitely? That’s why i think we’ll know one way or another sooner or later. Ayers — no irony! — has reason to feel proud of his role, one he could never have taken on after the 70’s. He and Dohrn have done good work by their lights as well.

    And maybe Obama just took a chance on a virtually volunteer position hundreds of miles away where he knew no one, and went to Chicago on a sense of “divine leading” that his destiny lay there, somehow. I don’t rule that out, but it doesn’t strike me as the most likely hypothesis.

    Why do i go out on this somewhat unsupported limb? Well, given that all this is well-verified fact, i don’t see where my ruminations go that much further afield —,0,5953909.story

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  93. nancy said on January 25, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Jeff, Chicago is hardly Licking County. As I recall, Obama was an intern in a law firm (the same one that employed Michelle, which is where they met). Is it so hard to believe that a Chicago law firm would recruit at Harvard? And we know Obama, as a rootless young man, wouldn’t necessarily be tied to one city over another — and if he wanted to do community service, even in some vague way, you could do it as easily in Chicago as New York. Easier, if you factor in cost of living.

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  94. Dexter said on January 25, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Sidley Austin, Chicago. My sister-in-law works there. It’s a huge firm in The Loop…recently moved into new digs .
    It’s a global outfit…

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  95. Deborah said on January 25, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Yes, thank you Nancy. Chicago is after all the SECOND city. I have more than a few friends who lived in NY and moved here because, it’s full of culture (especially great architecture) and it has the added benefit of being clean. And one of my friends came here from Columbia University no less. My own husband went to Harvard and ended up here (a circuitous route I admit).

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  96. Rana said on January 25, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    I have to say, even if Obama did know Ayers since he was in college, and knew him intimately (two unproved suppositions), I honestly do not see why this matters so much.

    If it’s a way to assert that Obama has radical terrorist tendencies, it seems like there are far more efficient ways of demonstrating that. As it is, this focus on Ayers seems like a way of saying that Obama’s either (a) incompetent, (b) a liar, or (c) a covert terrorist without having to face what comes with making such assertions openly.

    Either Obama’s fit for the job to which we elected him, or he’s not. All this finger-to-the-mouth, wide-eyed innocent musing about “Hmm, maybe we should look into this Ayers thing” as if one’s simply curious, as opposed to making spurious allegations in a way that makes it difficult for people to call out, is getting a bit silly.

    I don’t think the man’s perfect, and he has made – like all of us – questionable decisions in his past. It just seems that if you dislike him or disagree with his policies or philosophies, you might as well just come out and say so directly.

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  97. moe99 said on January 25, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Obama ended up in Chicago TWICE. The first was right after college where he worked in the non profit sector. He then, after this seasoning, went to BOSTON and law school at Harvard and then, upon graduation, WENT BACK to Chicago to work in a law firm and teach at the University of Chicago.

    Now if you are trying to tie Obama to Ayers, would it not make sense to do it the first time around since after he’s established himself in Chi-town, there is a reasonable rationale for going back there after graduation from law school. But, that won’t fly, because Ayers was going to graduate school in NYC during the same time period Obama was first working as a volunteer in Chicago. And frankly, in my current situation, having oldest son currently a senior in college and getting ready to graduate in May, he’s going to go where he can find a job, thank you very much. I would bet the same applied to Obama. So please, show me where Ayers got Obama his first job as a community organizer in Chicago? The record is simply not there.

    I would just give it up, Jeff. You keep digging bigger and bigger holes for yourself. Your tin hat is showing a little too much.

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  98. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 25, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    (Posted before i saw Moe’s note, but i’m still saying, my question is what motivated the *first* move, which i think i was clear on. Others got confused because they don’t know there are two stages to that journey, but not Moe! Your question is almost the same as mine: why/how did he take the first community organizer job in Chicago? The record does not say, but surely there is a reason. It may not be my surmise, but there is no reason given on the record to dispute or confirm.)

    No, no — the first trip to Chicago. After Columbia and the Business Info firm he wrote economic news briefs for. You’re talking about his return to Chicago from Harvard, which of course makes perfect sense for all concerned. But i mean the Gamaliel Foundation/Industrial Areas job. It was, at the least, a real leap into the dark for him, and if there was a story as to why he made that choice, it didn’t make it into either book.

    I don’t think he’s a radical terrorist, or even that Ayers wishes he was today (i happily argue with fellow conservatives who play the “we should have done more” card as meaning he meant bombs — it’s self evident he doesn’t mean that). But the regular turn from and elision of mentors from Obama’s personal narrative is a fascinating theme, as is McCain’s search for parental validation or Palin’s cultivated outsider persona doing her harm and good, sometimes at the same time.

    There’s a little Jean Valjean here, and hey, who didn’t root for Jean? Or Oliver Twist, or Stephen Daedalus. What does it mean to pursue success in America this century? It ain’t no corporate ladder anymore, that’s for certain — but even on my most theological day i’m averse to putting too much weight on serendipity as a career plan.

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  99. brian stouder said on January 25, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Jeff, thanks for that link to the newspaper story – it was quite interesting.

    Early in the article, we see this passage, including a quote from Mayor Daley, regarding Ayers:

    “I don’t condone what he did 40 years ago, but I remember that period well,” Daley said. “It was a difficult time, but those days are long over.” Ayers, 63, was less charitable about Daley’s father, who was mayor in 1968 when Vietnam War activists tried to disrupt the Democratic National Convention. “White and fleshy, he reeked with the stench of evil,” Ayers wrote of Richard J. Daley in his 2001 memoir, “Fugitive Days.”

    The article goes on to delineate Ayers very-white bread upbringing and family ties, including this (with emphasis added by me):

    Ayers’ father moved in philanthropic circles with Howard Trienens, an attorney with the powerhouse firm of Sidley Austin. The two served together on Northwestern University’s Board of Trustees. Ayers was chairman of that group, then handed the post off to Trienens in 1986.

    I think Jeff has it backwards; if anyone was looking for redemption or advancement in this fairy tale, it’s Ayers and not Obama! He was going to rise from wherever he chose to go. As Nance points out, he met Michelle at that law firm, and I think Michelle is and always has been the key to why Obama stayed in Chicago.

    Oh, and by the way – leaving aside Focus on the Family, I think the center of gravity within Christianity is the idea that we’re all imperfect, and we all need forgiveness, and forgiveness is on offer to all of us. I have never read anything that made me think Ayers is all that terrible, and in fact he strikes me as more than a little contrite.

    And, not for nothing – unless we are advocating for mob-law and lynching, the charges against Ayers were dropped. Even if you consider him “guilty” of all the worst acts ascribed to him, he is infinitely more tame than other American rebels that some lionize, such as the butcher Robert E Lee, or the slave-holding hypocrite Thomas Jefferson.

    Paraphrasing Mayor Daley -Ayers was an idiot 40 years ago…but 40 years ago we had LOTS and LOTS of idiots running around – and doing exponentially more harm than him.

    Just sayin’

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  100. moe99 said on January 25, 2009 at 5:30 pm


    Show me where there is an Ayers tie to Obama’s first job as a volunteer. If you can’t then you have less than nothing.

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  101. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 25, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    That’s just it, there’s no explanation for why and how a guy in a job he disliked in NYC writing econ news summaries went to a near-volunteer job in Chicago. There’s no Ayers tie because there’s nothing – it just happened.


    And with that, even if any troubled teenager brings it up again, i promise to say nothing pro- or con- on the subject again until there’s something for us to dispute. We can talk about saucepan surfaces — we have that flat stovetop here, and i can’t use my cast iron skillets unless it’s over a fire out back, but i’m not liking stainless steel that my LW got when we went with this (which she loves because it’s easy to clean, and it has to look just so for her, so i can’t sneak a gas range in on her).

    Ideas? (Yes, i’m changing the subject.)

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  102. moe99 said on January 25, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    Hey, you caught me just as I am making my world famous Belgian/Canadian curry on my gas range. I adore gas ranges. It’s an industrial strength Garland cast iron amd stainless steel one that hides the grease well, so I am well satisfied. Especially after 19 years with an electric range in an all electric mid century modern house. Was delighted to downsize 3 years ago.

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  103. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 25, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Whimper. I want a gas range. But . . .

    Can’t have one, so what do i cook with atop the beast i’ve got?

    (Wasn’t clear – LW wants the stovetop to look just so; i get to clean the pans i cook with, which also makes me cast a jaundiced eye on SS Farberware i’ve got now.)

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  104. basset said on January 25, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    We’re all-electric here with one of those flat glass stovetops, which I have never liked because a) it’s not gas and b) I’m afraid of setting something on it when it’s hot and c) not supposed to use my favorite black iron frying pan, might scratch.

    right now our 1981 wedding present harvest gold slow cooker is on top of it, simmering away. never have had one quite so convenient, there is a nearly new and fancy one up in the attic as I type.

    and I use the iron pan anyway.

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  105. moe99 said on January 25, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Pretty fun to watch the 44 presidents shift into the next one.

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  106. beb said on January 25, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    I was watching This Week with Geo S. this morning. During their roundtable discussion they had Paul Krugman on to explain the Depression. Opposed to him were George Will, a couple right-leaning correspondants (Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts, maybe) and the former CEO of H-P, Carly F. She was going on how President Obama’s economic plan wasn’t good enough because ours is a nation of small businesses. As she was talking Krugman had the most dumbfounded expression on his face. Now I could be wrong because Krugman’s face is kind of hard to read. But I think he was astonished by C. F.’s comments because as the former CEO of H-P she certainly knows that the world is made up of mega-corps and is run for their benefit.

    Friday on the NBC news a woman was reporting from the White House and called the President “Mr. Obama.” Maybe it was a simple gaff, but really, he’s the president now. Get used to it.

    I predicted the Honeymoon would be over by Thursday. By Friday the meme was that Obama wasn’t listening enough to the Republicans. As if the Republicans have any ideas aside from cutting taxes on the rich.

    Where do they find such people?

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  107. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 25, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Isn’t NYT stylebook to say “President Obama” or “Reverend Warren” on first usage and “Mr. Whatsis” each repeat thru the story? That may have been the whole deal.

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  108. Catherine said on January 25, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    Carly Fiorina gets on my last nerve. However, she’s right about the small businesses. Also completely disingenuous. I wonder what she’s running for, that she’s suddenly the champion of small business?

    And can I just say, that if the Republicans give a crap about small business, they coulda fooled me. Let’s follow the money, shall we? Halliburton, Wall St., commercial banks and now the formerly-Big 3. A pox on all their houses.

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  109. LA Mary said on January 26, 2009 at 10:51 am

    I remember Paul Krugman making that face while listening to Jesse Venture completely misinterpreting milk price supports on Real Time with Bill Maher a few years ago. Jesse had it backwards and Paul Krugman looked like he was about to explode.

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