Thursday, January 29, 2009

Defriending People on Facebook; or, The Times Gets Bitchy

There's a fun article in today's Times about the etiquette and practice of "defriending" (or, as the paper asserts is the more accepted parlance, "unfriending") Facebook friends. The germ of the article came from a recent online promotion by Burger King that allowed you to "sacrifice" ten of your Facebook friends in exchange for a free Whopper. Until it was shut down by Facebook for violating a user agreement clause, Burger King claimed it had ended 234,000 friendships.

Nevertheless—That's not what I want to talk about. You can, and should, read the Times article, which is here. The part I want to show is this weird breaking of the Times' businesslike remove in this article. Here are the few paras—The last one is the best, but you have to read up:
Nor does Facebook care to be a party to what might be called punitive unfriending, banishing someone from your network for violating one or more of your personal rules of conduct. Perhaps someone annoys you by posting an obsessive number of status updates, or expresses himself in a way that you consider obnoxious?

Those were the excuses that Ehren S., a former co-worker of mine who apparently unfriended me sometime this past spring, offered up recently for giving me the digital heave-ho.

“I believe it was based on a passive-aggressive update of yours to which I sighed, kinda shook my head and pressed ‘delete from friends,’ ” she confessed by e-mail. “I find negativity a bit tiresome and don’t have the patience for it.”

Fine. Though forgive me for pointing out that Ehren, who asked that I not use her full name, initially tried to fib her way out of the awkwardness by saying she did it for a Whopper.
Ha! The writer basically just said, "Fuck you, Ehren" in the pages of the world's most widely-read newspaper. (I don't know if the Times is actually the world's most widely-read newspaper, but whatever.)

Things I Find Hilarious and/or Amazing

I don't know why, but I find this, from the front page of today's, hilarious:
There's just this weird desperation and panicky-ness to the headline, don't you think? You can easily imagine an explanation point after "aid": "Ford Has Its Worst Year Ever but Won't Ask for Aid! And You'll Never Meet a Nice Girl If You Don't Go Out!" Love it.

Item: I received the following email earlier this week from a good friend of mine. I laughed harder than I have in a long while. This friend writes:
I just glanced at the NY Times crossword puzzle. The clues for 21 and 23 across were "deface" and "into a pill bottle," respectively. When I merely glanced, my mind saw "defecate into a pill bottle." I thought to myself, "Wow, there is a single word or phrase for that other than the phrase itself."
Follow-up note: Clue 23 had actually been "info on a pill bottle." But nevertheless.

And finally, a great paragraph from a story in yesterday's Good Old Times, about a smoked bacon and sausage concoction called The Bacon Explosion:
He bought about $20 worth of bacon and Italian sausage from a local meat market. As it lay on the counter, he thought of weaving strips of raw bacon into a mat. The two spackled the bacon mat with a layer of sausage, covered that with a crunchy layer of cooked bacon, and rolled it up tight.
That is just an incredible handful of sentences: "The two spackled the bacon mat with a layer of sausage." That reminds me of the Simpsons wherein Homer, at the breakfast table, orders Bart for some reason to "butter his bacon"—and then, of course, to also "bacon his butter."

For the Bacon Explosion recipe (with amazing or, depending on how you feel about it, horrifying photos), go here.

For the full Times story about the Bacon Explosion, go here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

On the Closing of Guantanamo

In this op-ed piece published in The Daily News on Sunday, Michael Burke, the brother of an FDNY captain killed on 9/11, speaks out against the closing of Guantanamo. I sympathize with Burke, but what he advocates is wrong—and, thankfully, with the inauguration of President Obama, it looks like we are moving away from this being the dominant mode of thinking.

The whole op-ed piece is sort of insane, but here are a few highlights:
Obama and the Democrats have had a blind spot for 9/11 and have yet to show they have an ounce of understanding what happened that day.

Here is why we were attacked: Muslim extremists hate Americans and want us dead. Our policies in no way influenced the vitriol perpetuated on innocent Americans on Sept. 11, 2001.
Is that it? They “hate our freedom”? Why? What do they care about our freedom? In fact, what they—the largely Saudi highjackers—hated was U.S. support for the Saudi government, plus our backing of Israel vs. the Palestinians.

Contrary to what Burke says, our policies greatly influenced the “vitriol perpetuated … Sept. 11, 2001.”

Burke goes on:
And we do not enhance our Constitution by applying it to those it was never meant to serve. Rather, the move diminishes and threatens the foundation on which our laws are built.
It’s true, the Constitution may not have been intended to serve non-U.S. citizens, but that’s what’s called following the letter and not the spirit of the law. There is another founding American document that pretty clearly addresses how we should treat others, even those who have committed great crimes against us. It’s called the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Got that? All men. Not just Americans. In addition: If America is meant to be a “Beacon on a Hill,” as so many on the Right maintain, shouldn’t we treat all individuals according to the same Bill of Rights that we live under, namely the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth amendments?

More from Burke:
It is impossible to fight the war on terrorism, like every war, under the Constitution. Consequently, we cannot convict our enemies under it. They will get off. Once free, they will, despite having enjoyed the benevolence of our constitutional rights, strike us again. The Constitution then becomes a means of our destruction.
It's true, the Constitution will become the means of our destruction—but not in the way Burke is saying. Rather, if we erode the rights established by the Constitution in dealing with criminals or suspected criminals, we move one step closer to eroding the safety, security, and—most importantly—liberty of our own citizens. As Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Finally, Burke closes his op-ed with this:

With this order to close Guantanamo, the countdown to the next attack has begun.

That's just stupid, hysterical, and fear-mongering. I would say I expect more from The Daily News—but I don't.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Think Our Losing Streak Is Done

It's a been a good week.

On Tuesday, my officemates and I gathered in our company's boardroom to watch Obama take the oath of office. As you may know, Chief Justice Roberts and President Obama stumbled a bit over the oath, prompting a "re-do" (just to be on the constitutional safe side) of the oath on Wednesday.

I think, though, that Barack's reaction to the stumble on the part of Justice Roberts was telling. What did Obama do, at a mistake made during one of the most important points in his life thus far? He chuckled. Now that's the temperment I want in office.

Another exchange this week between Barack and Republican lawmakers, that I just read about in a New York Times story, is also telling:
Yet in a polite but pointed exchange with the No. 2 House Republican, Eric Cantor of Virginia, Mr. Obama took note of the parties’ fundamental differences on tax policy toward low-wage workers, and insisted that his view would prevail.

At issue is Mr. Obama’s proposal that his tax breaks for low- and middle-income workers, including his centerpiece “Making Work Pay” tax credit, be refundable — that is, that the benefits also go to workers who earn too little to pay income taxes but who pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. Republicans generally oppose giving such refunds to people who pay no income taxes.

“We just have a difference here, and I’m president,” Mr. Obama said to Mr. Cantor, according to Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, who was at the meeting. Mr. Emanuel said that Mr. Obama was being lighthearted and that lawmakers of both parties had laughed.

Mr. Cantor, in an interview later, had a similar recollection. He said the president had told him, “You’re correct, there’s a philosophical difference, but I won, so we’re going to prevail on that.”

“He was very straightforward,” Mr. Cantor added. “There was no disrespect, but it was very matter-of-fact.”

I like that. It demonstrates Obama's reasonableness and good humor—something that's been sorely missing from our past eight years of government. Here's to keeping up this tone.

Friday, January 16, 2009

My Blog Is in Great Abeyance

Yesterday a plane crash-landed on the Hudson River. Everybody lived, thanks in large part to the pilot, who sounds like an all-around stand-up, cool-headed fellow. Maybe we should elect him president? OH WAIT WE ALREADY DID AND HE GETS SWORN IN ON TUESDAY.

But so: Today, in one of the Times stories about the crash, I came across this paragraph. Usually you don't see such poetic language in Times news stories, so this was refreshing to read. It paints a perfect picture of the scene yesterday afternoon, in the middle of the cold, cold river:
Over the next hour, as a captivated city watched continuous television reports and the Hudson turned from gold to silver in the gathering winter twilight, all of the passengers, including at least one baby, and both pilots and all three flight attendants, were transferred to the rescue boats — a feat that unfolded as the white-and-blue jetliner continued to drift south.
Beautiful. More TK. I promise I haven't forgotten you all.