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July 29, 2006


I'm glad that you've finally owned up to your culpability in the Iraq debacle, Hilzoy.

"Under this standard, DOMA is constitutional because the legislature was entitled to believe that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers procreation, essential to survival of the human race..." link = pdf file

I suppose the legislature was also entitled to believe that the moon is made of green cheese, that stars are silver cherries hanging from the World-Tree, and that every time a bell rings another angel gets its wings.

that every time a bell rings another angel gets its wings.

That's not true?

My world is over.

That's not true?

For given values of angel, it may be.

Open thread, you say?

I have a question for those inclined.

Background first:
Some twenty or so years ago, I took intro psych at UC Berkeley. The class was taught by a grad student I remember as being annoying not only because she was a poor teacher, but also because of various tics she had. In any case, at one point she commented that one could tell the race and sex of someone by means of their GRE scores (Vietnamese men at the time having the highest scores). I absorbed this item and mentioned it in conversation a few times over the years.

A couple of years ago I was in a conversation with a professor of linguistics and mentioned it. He kindly assumed that there was no way I could have said something as idiotic as that which I had just said, and simply replied that the department generally saw extremely high GRE scores from East Asian applicants. So, in the course of that conversation I realized that this factoid I had remembered all these years made no sense at all. (In retrospect, the psych grad student must have meant that there were distinguishable means by race and sex--I can only hope she didn't actually believe what she had told us.) The thing is, over the years I had taken graduate-level stats classes, among other things. Even at the time I was taking intro psych, I knew enough about my friends' SAT scores to realize that what she had said made no sense. A second's thought would have made me realize that this bit of information was nonsense. Yet I never did, until a moment of reflective embarassment.

So my question is, have you had a similar moment where you realized you believed something that was completely askew and furthermore realized that you should have recognized this years ago? (I'm not thinking of things like change in religious belief here, but simpler matters like the example above.)

The chief economist should diversify his job portfolio into something a little more productive.

On the other hand, eliminating the Death Tax will incentivize folks who inherit lots of money to hold two firefighting jobs. Then we can fire the first guy who held the jobs. This will incentivize him to pick fruit in southern California, unless global warming sets in and the coasts are inundated. Then he will be incentivized to move elsewhere, all even-tempered and so forth.

Unless it incentivizes him to engage in assymetrical warfare.

Yes: it's my fault that we're still bogged down in Iraq!


the usual suspects will cry appeasement and refer us to the example of Chamberlain. I cannot save such folks from their foolishness. Nor can I make them realize that they themselves bear part of the blame for the disaster

JakeB: all the time. The earliest I can remember is back when I was maybe 8, and I bet someone that the word 'literally' meant, basically, figuratively (I had gotten this idea based on how it was actually used.) I was mortified to realize I was wrong.

So my question is, have you had a similar moment where you realized you believed something that was completely askew and furthermore realized that you should have recognized this years ago?

I thought the word whore was pronounced wor. (This actually seems to me to be a fairly reasonable deduction - I undoubtedly read the word long before I heard it spoken.) What puzzles me is that while I was gently/kindly but firmly told otherwise many years ago (in the course of a literary discussion about a story a friend was writing, I feel I should add) in my head, the wrong pronounciation of "whore" has stuck to the extent that I have to remind myself, every time I say it out loud, that it's "hor".

Of course, "whore" isn't a word I find I have occasion to say out loud all that often, but still...

There was, of course, my realization that all my life I have been visualizing the right to left political spectrum as running from left to right... To this day I can't change that.

that reminds me of a story I was told by a woman who had grown up hearing Yiddish but not speaking it regularly. She thought the word for genius (goen, IIRC) actually meant idiot because it was only used in sarcastic expressions. I'm not sure how she learned the literal meaning, though.

Speaking of bizarre quotes, apparently there's more to Mel Gibson's DUI arrest than originally reported:

TMZ has four pages of the original report prepared by the arresting officer in the case, L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy James Mee. According to the report, Gibson became agitated after he was stopped on Pacific Coast Highway and told he was to be detained for drunk driving Friday morning in Malibu. The actor began swearing uncontrollably. Gibson repeatedly said, "My life is f****d." Law enforcement sources say the deputy, worried that Gibson might become violent, told the actor that he was supposed to cuff him but would not, as long as Gibson cooperated. As the two stood next to the hood of the patrol car, the deputy asked Gibson to get inside. Deputy Mee then walked over to the passenger door and opened it. The report says Gibson then said, "I'm not going to get in your car," and bolted to his car. The deputy quickly subdued Gibson, cuffed him and put him inside the patrol car.

TMZ has learned that Deputy Mee audiotaped the entire exchange between himself and Gibson, from the time of the traffic stop to the time Gibson was put in the patrol car, and that the tape fully corroborates the written report.

Once inside the car, a source directly connected with the case says Gibson began banging himself against the seat. The report says Gibson told the deputy, "You mother f****r. I'm going to f*** you." The report also says "Gibson almost continually [sic] threatened me saying he 'owns Malibu' and will spend all of his money to 'get even' with me."

The report says Gibson then launched into a barrage of anti-Semitic statements: "F*****g Jews... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." Gibson then asked the deputy, "Are you a Jew?"

The deputy became alarmed as Gibson's tirade escalated, and called ahead for a sergeant to meet them when they arrived at the station. When they arrived, a sergeant began videotaping Gibson, who noticed the camera and then said, "What the f*** do you think you're doing?"

A law enforcement source says Gibson then noticed another female sergeant and yelled, "What do you think you're looking at, sugar tits?"

We're told Gibson took two blood alcohol tests, which were videotaped, and continued saying how "f****d" he was and how he was going to "f***" Deputy Mee.

Gibson was put in a cell with handcuffs on. He said he needed to urinate, and after a few minutes tried manipulating his hands to unzip his pants. Sources say Deputy Mee thought Gibson was going to urinate on the floor of the booking cell and asked someone to take Gibson to the bathroom.

After leaving the bathroom, Gibson then demanded to make a phone call. He was taken to a pay phone and, when he didn't get a dial tone, we're told Gibson threw the receiver against the phone. Deputy Mee then warned Gibson that if he damaged the phone he could be charged with felony vandalism. We're told Gibson was then asked, and refused, to sign the necessary paperwork and was thrown in a detox cell.

BTW, when did Andrew Sullivan become a 'lefty'?

Whoops, forgot the TMZ link

ok, can we focus on this for a moment: how can a trained economist working at the Federal Reserve Bank be quoted in the New York Times in a manner suggesting that he has no idea what his own words mean? My 5 minutes of fame in the NYT and I am quoted saying something which makes no sense whatsoever??

When he stopped supporting Bush, of course, matttbastard. What a silly question. But apparently he's not only a lefty but a Christian-basher, despite being Christian himself.

OK, if Sully is now considered a commie symp by the Hannity/Malkin set, can we give the right full custody of Alan Dershowitz?

Can't help but cringe every time he refers to himself (or is referred to as) a 'liberal Democrat'.

At the very least, can we have a recognition that certain people can in no way be considered to be speaking for liberals or Democrats? The list includes Joe Klein, Marshall Wittmann, Mickey Kaus, and Joe Lieberman. Hell, some of them don't even describe themselves as liberals or Democrats.

Yeah, I know. It'll never happen with the media we have.

"F*****g Jews... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." Gibson then asked the deputy, "Are you a Jew?"

well, that should help settle some doubts about perceived anti-Semitism in The Passion Of The Christ.

Once inside the car, a source directly connected with the case says Gibson began banging himself against the seat. The report says Gibson told the deputy, "You mother f****r. I'm going to f*** you." The report also says "Gibson almost continually [sic] threatened me saying he 'owns Malibu' and will spend all of his money to 'get even' with me."

Hell, at least Eddie Belfour only offered the cops a billion dollars to let him off.

Well not really a direct quote, but it is bizzare...

TEHRAN, Iran - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ordered government and cultural bodies to use modified Persian words to replace foreign words that have crept into the language, such as "pizzas" which will now be known as "elastic loaves," state media reported Saturday.

JakeB: What you did not realize was that anything involving the words SAT and GRE were nonsense. [I'm currently preparing for the MCAT in T-21 days... :( ]

my condolences! My father, perversely, likes to take the GRE every 5 years or so, to see how much his facilities have decayed. That strikes me as a remarkably miserable way of determining it.

When I took the GRE, I had had a severe attack of vertigo several months before. (I literally could not walk for three days, I was so dizzy. I was monstrously fortunate to have checked out audiobook versions of _Master & Commander_ and _Post Captain_ the day before I fell sick.) Anyways, by the time the fourth section of the GRE started, I had developed an uncontrollable twitch in my neck & head from staring at the paper for so long. It went on for the remaining two hours of the test. I am still amazed I scored well enough to get into school.

I advise you not to spend the day before the test riding rollercoasters, doing stunt flying, or other such activities.

So now Iran is France? That should sit well with the wingers.

When I was a little girl in Montana I wondered what the relationship was between cantalope and antelope.
I can remember being bemused by custard pie in Custer State park, too.

Mispronounced words: I read a lot, even as a kid, and often only knew words from reading them rather than from hearing them spoken. So when I was very young, in the car with my parent, we passed a church with an unusual name. I sounded it out and asked "What's an epi-scopal?," putting the accent on the "e," and giving "scopal" a long o.

Misunderstandings: Less funny, this one. I was maybe 6 years old when I saw a Life Magazine article about the thalidomide babies. It horrified me. My parents grabbed it away from me, yelled at me for reading it, and wouldn't answer a single question about it. So all my horror and confusion sank deep into my subconscious - and it wasn't until I was well into my 20s that I realized that, in the back of my mind, I'd always had this idea that the odds of having a severely deformed baby were about 50-50.

Well, not really on topic, but firefighter are not a good example. I used to work with a lot of firefighters when I was on call in the convention business, and firefighters unusually have have several weekdays off and do often work more than one job. There is not that much point to spending Tuesday and Wednesday home alone while the kids are at school and the spouse is at work.

in my head, the wrong pronounciation of "whore" has stuck to the extent that I have to remind myself, every time I say it out loud, that it's "hor".

This happens to me with the word "anxiety". It still seems much more logical that it should be pronounced "ank-shety", deriving from "anxious".

I used to think that there were two different words both spelled "misled". This came from my initial belief that the word "misled" was pronounced "my-zuld", the past tense of the verb "to misle". I figured that to misle somebody was to cheat on them or lie to them.

Then I heard people saying "mis-led", and I figured that that was a different word, coming from the word mislead which means to lead badly. It wasn't until I was 18 or so that I realized that "misle" isn't a word.

Like others, I can't think of an example of this that doesn't involve mispronunciation, although I know such things have existed. For example, yesterday I (age 24) was extremely surprised when my mother pointed out that female cats tend to be smaller than male cats. I assumed they were the same size.

Word mistakes: for a long time I thought "enmity" was spelled (and pronounced) "emnity". Realized my mistake about 10 years ago when I was unable to get the last couple of words in a cryptic crossword. When I gave up and looked at the solution, at first I assumed they had made a mistake; then it slowly dawned on me that I myself might actually have it wrong. I felt especially stupid after I recognized its relationship to the word "enemy". Even now I have to consciously keep myself from saying or writing it the other way, though fortunately it's not a word I use particularly frequently.

For some reason I always the word "fissure" was pronounced with a voiced "zh" in the middle instead of "sh". My correction came publicly in this case, in an Intro to Historical Linguistics class. The instructor was asking for examples of English minimal pairs for "sh" vs. "zh", and I offered "fisher" vs. "fissure". I got a quizzical look from the instructor, who said he thought it was pronounced with voiceless "sh"; a quick poll of the classroom decidedly defeated my pronunciation.

Factual stuff: A friend of mine in third grade told me that if you get a mosquito bite, you can make it go away faster by putting crosswise indentations in it with a thumbnail. I dutifully carried this fact around with me for thirty years, until a friend saw me do it on a hike and, after asking for and hearing the reason why, gently suggested that maybe this bit of information wasn't very reliable. But I continue to do it, just in case.

I once had a VietNamese neighbor who had misheard the word "hectic" as "headache". She would say her job was "very headache", for example. I have always liked that construction and I use it at school a lot when thinks are getting too headache for me.

So my question is, have you had a similar moment where you realized you believed something that was completely askew and furthermore realized that you should have recognized this years ago?

Fairly often. The first time I recall doing this was when I was really young (like 5 or so) and was wrapping my head around the concept of money. I somehow initially concluded that using exact change was "fair", but that getting change in return was not. Later I figured it out, and I still can't recall what reasoning chain led me to that conclusion, but I do recall that at the time, it was a reasoned belief.

Another, less silly shift happened when I was 25 or so, and became much more libertarian-ish that traditional liberal. I do recall more of the pre- and post causal reasoning that went in to that, and the arguments I had with myself. It wasn't a light-switch moment, but a drift over several months of thinking and reading.

Less interesting but more light-bulbish examples include (I'm a programmer) realizing that I've been subtly misusing or not fully exploiting a given algorithm or language capability. Also, I'm considering going to law school and thus reading a lot of law to make sure I want to, and the "getting it" moment for a given legal construct tends to make you rethink your understanding of a cascading series of other legal issues, frequently taking you in surprising shifts of opinion about things.

I always used to think that the house I grew up in, which was n the top of what it would be charitable to call a hill, was on the north pole (since the not really hill was more like the top of a large sphere.)

My best friend, by contrast, had somehow gotten the idea that if you shaved a doll's head, the hair would grow back in a different color. It took a bunch of bald dolls before she gave this idea up.

I used to think that there were two different words both spelled "misled".

Holy Moly. Me too, soul brother! Only I pronounced it with a short i (mizz-uld). And I didn't figure it out until I was well into my twenties, when for some reason I suddenly realized that I had never ever heard anyone (not even myself) ever use the verb "to misle" in speech, or seen it used in any tense other than past. Now I wonder how many of us are out there...

I guess the weirdest mistake I had (and didn't get the right answer to until college) was my conception of the universe. I had this idea that there was a background of stars scattered at random as well as clumps of stars in galaxies as well. Wasn't until freshman year in my astronomy class that I discovered no stars in intergalactic space!

I have to be very carefull with the difference betwee hover and hoover. Which is why I frequently have ideas hoovering the back of my head :)

My biggest early revelation was when I learned Greek at highschool. I first learned the alphabet and only than it dawned on me that that was not enough to actually understand what was written. I don't know WHY I had the idea that learning the letters was enough, since I allready had had years of English, German and French so the idea of foreign languages was well known.

The other revelation was when my spouse and I discovered that the English 'pantomime' and the Dutch one are very different from each other. Dutch 'pantomime' is what the Brits call 'mime' and I'd wondered for years why he longed to go to something boring like that with the kids around Christmas. Another lesson that words that seem to be similar in two languages might mean very different things (but less embarrassing than using 'panty' for 'panty hose' for that reason).

Not a verbal realization, but I can quite clearly remember being very interested in maps as a kid, yet being stunned to learn that the Nile ran North before emptying out into the Mediterranean. In my mind at that time, I quite reasonably believed that all rivers flowed the same direction, and that direction was apparently South.

Once again, Doonsebury demonstrates that good political comics are not about bouncy asses, locker room philosophy and bad puns.

(Comics rotate, so this link is valid for 7/30)

Personally, I'm of the opinion that Doonesbury dropped sharply in quality sometime in the late 1990s. That is a cute strip, but it's also a retread. He had a very similar strip the last time flag burning was a big issue.

My best mispronunciation was Nietzsche. I started reading philosophy after reading about a cat named for Nietzsche in _Stranger in a Strange Land_. I read several of his works (in translation). Later I was talking to a friend, where I referred to him as Nietschke (perhaps analogizing from the name of the great Green Bay Packers linebacker Ray Nietschke). My friend mentioned the idea to one of his teachers, who looked puzzled before saying, "Do you mean Nietzsche?"

There is a town in Massachusetts named Worcester, which I dutifully learned to pronounce correctly (Wooster) when I was very small. There is also a part of Boston named Dorchester, pronounced the way it looks, and I could not understand why it wasn't pronounced 'Dooster', or to not pronounce it that way, for quite a while.

I think the 'misled' mispronunciation is also in 'How Green Was My Valley'. If memory serves, a poor kid gets a scholarship to a rich private school, and pronounces it 'mizzled', since it's a word he has never heard spoken. Everyone laughs at him, which I always thought was horribly unfair, since his mispronunciation only showed that unlike the other kids at school, he had actually had to earn that word, for which he should be respected.

(A lot of my responses as a kid are very obviously the responses of someone who was pretty consistently laughed at.)

I grew up in the Worcester area, and Massachusetts pronunciations are often like that. How would you pronounce Billerica? If you said bill-rika, you're right. I remember hearing about a bad storm, possibly a tornado, hitting there and being utterly unable to find Billrika on a map of Massachusetts.

Dorchester is, of course, pronounced Doah-chestah.

Fishbane, I love the law, but it's really not for everyone. You might find this http://www.unfogged.com/archives/week_2006_07_23.html#005228>Unfogged thread useful.

Andrew: did you really? Me: Belmont.


I did. I lived in Northboro from 1978-1988, went to college right there in Worcester at Clark University and did ROTC down the street at WPI. So many memories...even a few good ones.

My brother and his wife still live in Massachusetts. The rest of us escaped.

Of three siblings and a bunch of friends all of whom had no plans whatsoever to end up in Boston, I am the only one who made it out for good.

I likely would have stayed as well, were it not for being in the Army. It's a great way to see the world, as they say.

I recall thinking that Shakespeare was perverse to spell 'Gloster' as 'Gloucester' in Richard III.

hilzoy: wow, really? If we've made it into literature it suggests that there are a lot of us...

Re rivers I remember being told as a yoot that rivers always Flow to The Sea, and being mildly irked to discover later that I had been, er, misled and that there are actually quite a lot of minor watersheds and a few major ones where that doesn't happen...

Also, a propos Gloucester etc, Featherstonehaugh is a good one.


I'm apparently having a slow day, as I just realized that my brother and his wife live in Watertown; I drove through Belmont last Sunday to get to their house. Small world, as they say.

From the top--W. Michael Cox, chief economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, actually said that? This is funny as heck. Apparently, the man is too stupid to realize that, if a city expects a firefighter to work one or two additional jobs to make ends meet, that would probably very well reduce the size of the pool of people who might otherwise want to become a firefighter for that city. Meaning that the city would need to increase wages that they would have to offer to hire the numbers of firefighters that they would need.

Are FRB economists really that dumb?

For a long time I thought Baltimore was northwest of Washington, DC. This may not seem so silly, but I grew up in Pittsburgh and would often think things like, "It takes almost exactly as long to drive to Baltimore as to Washington. Isn't that odd, since Baltimore is northwest of Washington and Pittsburgh is northwest of both?" I also managed not to take into account the fact that Baltimore has a harbor and Washington doesn't. This lasted into my twenties, when I looked at a map and said, "Oh."

Being a volunteer fire fighter on an expensive island, I can tell you that it has disastrous effects when the volunteers leave because they can't live whewre they serve. The real victim is the public.

This drives home the point that the wealth gap in America needs to close quickly. Otherwise places like where I live will end up having to fork out taxes a hundred times what they pay now to have a paid department. And if they can't afford to, then services get centralized at a distance away.

Imagine if YOU needed an ambulance or had a fire, and the closest department was 25 miles away.

Shout-out to other escapees from Massachusetts: how 'bout Haverhill? (That's Hay-vrill, and yes, it's the home of the Hillies.)

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