Thursday, January 26, 2006

Open letter to the members of Stars.

Dear Stars,

I hereby withdraw those comments I made on this blog about your album no longer being my favorite album of 2005, and I hereby reaffirm the previous comments I made on this blog about your album being by far and away the best album of 2005. I had my head momentarily turned by the Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah album, which though very enjoyable, and most especially The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth, which is really a phenomenal track, nevertheless lacks the staying power of your most excellent Set Yourself on Fire. I am sorry for giving in to my thirst for novelty, however briefly. I promise not to exercise this kind of infidelity in the future. Will you take me back?



P.S. The Asobi Seksu is also quite good. Just saying.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

On Saturdays.

Every Saturday from now until we find a house we're going to be looking at houses. Every Saturday from now until March 4 the basketball team that I am coaching has a game. That means that every Saturday from now into the foreseeable future is going to be pretty busy. The over/under on finding a house is the end of our basketball season. Would you take that bet?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Bring, brang, brung.

Yesterday I heard someone non-ironically say the word thunk. As in think, thank, thunk.

Now granted he wasn't a native speaker, and it's an easy mistake to overgeneralize your way right into if you're not a native speaker. But I'm definitely adding it to my list of non-native speakerisms. I'm starting to track patterns from non-native speakers of different linguistic backgrounds and I'm noticing some interesting stuff that surely has ramifications for ESL curricula and software. I'm undertaking a project of documenting what I'm finding right now, since I have some ideas for applications of the work.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Squid and the Whale.

We finally saw The Squid and the Whale tonight. It was just what I wanted Me and You and Everyone We Know to be but wasn't. I loved it.

I don't know if it's because I'm a child of divorce with two parents who think of themselves as being hyper-academic. I don't know if it's because if I ever become a parent, I run a very high risk of turning into one or the other of those parent characters myself. I don't know if it's because the two preceding statements are causally connected in a way that is painfully transparent. Either way, this movie was great. I need to wait a while and then see it again. There was a lot I felt myself missing, lots about how the movie was shot, because I was so invested in other things.

I hope this gets picked up by more theaters after it gets nominated for some Academy Awards. As it surely must -- and I wouldn't be surprised to see one or the other or both of Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels win.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

And it isn't a zero sum game, either.

I have been thinking lately about the notion of accountability. Formal and implicit, at work or at home or in your social life or in politics. I think there is a sense that accountability mainly arises from a formal agreement between two parties whereby one of the parties agrees to perform some action for some reward and agrees to take on consequences if the action is not completed. But let's examine this.

I guess this is close to how it's supposed to work in most people's workplaces. Without accountability, there is no way to measure performance (whatever that means). An accountability is a contract between employer and employee that the employee is willing to be responsible (and paid for) a certain kind and quality of work. Deliver on your accountabilities and keep getting paid; surpass them and you get a raise; fail to deliver and you get fired. Except ask anyone who's ever had a job how often it really works this way. Have you ever surpassed your accountabilities and not been promoted? Have you ever had slacker co-workers who miss all their accountabilities but somehow still show up for work every day? Have you ever been held accountable for things you never (thought you) agreed to do? Chances are most people can answer yes to at least one of the above questions (especially if you work for the current presidential administration).

But leave the professional domain and things get worse, not better. Have you ever known a couple to break up (or been breaker up, or breakee) because someone didn't send flowers / forgot to call last night / checked out one too many people walking by / was a terrible cook / failed to convert to SO's religion / voted for the wrong candidate / said thanks, but they'd rather hang out with their friends tonight? In these cases the accountability isn't formal, and it apparently isn't agreed upon very much of the time either, and yet in these cases especially, people get their feelings hurt.

Try to make a list of all the things you're accountable for. Even if you've never agreed to anything, you might be crushed by the weight of the list.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Yet another edition of Kieran's Ways of Taxonifying the People She Knows.

There may be no surer way to gauge the fiber of a person than to discern the answer to the following: is she a first track on the album kind of person or a last track of the album kind of person? If you've ever listened to more than three albums straight through, you know exactly what I mean.

Me, I'm a first track on the album kind of girl. Notwithstanding the title of the post below this one and my feeling that the first track of the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah album is the wrinkle in what is otherwise a near-perfect listening experience. As a rule, I'm first tracks all the way, although I have to hand it to Rollercoaster and Judy and the Dream of Horses. If I ever write an album, I'm writing an album of all first tracks.

Admit it, you know what I'm saying here is true.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Except for the stupid first track, but even that has a place.

No, seriously. Forget everything I ever wrote about Set Yourself on Fire being my favorite album of the year. With all props to Stars, whose album I continue to love, I finally acquired Clap Your Hands Say Yeah by the eponymously named band and holy shit!

I don't know why I waited so long to get it. It's blowing me away it's so good.

On the topic of unexpected good things, we started watching Battlestar Galactica last night. We've just finished the three-hour intro-y miniseries, but it is really way better than I expected. And now as a result I am here at work on four and a half hours of sleep. But hey, I had a good album to listen to on the way in this morning. That's got to count for something.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Lest old superlatives be forgot.

Even though it's 2006, let's talk about 2005.

Best album: Set Yourself on Fire, Stars. Really really really. Of all the new music that I acquired this year, and really it has been kind of a bumper year in this regard, this is the album that I never get tired of listening to. I am mightily depressed that I have missed both of their trips into Seattle in the last year, but no matter, I will find them eventually. I love this album. I love every track on this album.

Best movie: Syriana. Now granted I still have several 2005 movies to see, including Brokeback Mountain and The Squid and the Whale, and I can't really make a top whatever list yet. But I liked Syriana in the same way that and to an even greater extent than I liked Traffic. It turns out that I heart Steven Gaghan.

Best book: Assassination Vacation, Sarah Vowell. I can't read fast enough to have already read everything from 2005 that I want to read, and this past year I spent a lot of time reading really old stuff that I had been meaning to get to for a while. But I found this book a perfect amalgam of Sarah-Vowell-snotty-humor and pieces of history that I didn't know very much about.

Best TV: Arrested Development and The Office (tie). I didn't expect to like the American version of The Office, and yet it is wonderful. Steve Carrell is en fuego right now. And someone better pick up Arrested Development, is all I can say. I hate FOX. I also kind of hate HBO, even though I love HBO, because although they make so many wonderful shows, they are cancelling The Comeback, which is right up there on my best-of list.

I have runners-up for all of the above, and maybe I'll work on more extensive lists into the new year, because we know how I love making the lists.

Any favorites from anyone else?

Science for the new year.

The other night we were at a dinner party and people got to talking about evolution and intelligent design in school curricula. I ended up in the same place I usually find myself in and after such discussions: feeling like they kind of miss the point. The goal of a science education isn't to teach kids how stuff works or to teach them that the state of our scientific knowledge represents The Way Things Are, even though that's how the usual pedagogy goes. The goal of a science education is to teach people how to figure out how stuff works and to teach them to discern the ways in which the current state of our knowledge just isn't accurate.

The issue isn't evolution versus intelligent design versus anything else; the issue is to teach kids what a falsifiable theory looks like (hint: intelligent design isn't it), what good empirical coverage looks like and what better empirical coverage should look like (hint: the theory of evolution as currently stated has better empirical coverage than anything anyone else has come up with in this area, but that doesn't mean there aren't gaps in explanation), and how to use these factors to discern natural from supernatural explanations for phenomena in the world around us.

A good science education doesn't teach facts; it teaches theories, and the process by which we can make those theories better.