Captain Inertia
Thursday, May 22, 2003
 
If you're the praying kind, please pray for me over the next two weeks.

Sebastian's leaving, and I'm moving into this new apartment in Williamsburg, and I'm feeling pretty swamped. I'm especially worried about this apartment situation: I don't know them, they don't know me, I don't particularly want to be there, and, um, yeah, my social anxiety spider-sense is going off the charts.

Thank you. You are all the best.
Wednesday, May 21, 2003
 
Canadian Prime Minister Eats Steak to Allay Mad Cow Concerns

Forget the story--what about the picture? Anyone else think a completely ordinary picture of Jean Chretien eating a steak is hilarious (like me)?
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
 
SportingNews.com - Baseball : Winds of change blowing in Chicago

(vibrating with excitement.)

 
Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia: goofy re-enactments of a bygone era. men in funny hats and women in funny dresses. NOT where I am moving this summer.
Hipster Williamsburg, Brooklyn: Hipsters in too-tight t-shirts. Tattoos and sunglasses. the big clock tower. Men in funny hats and women in funny dresses, albeit different kinds of hats and dresses than in Colonial Williamsburg. IS where I am moving this summer.

Just so everybody knows.
Friday, May 16, 2003
 
ESPN.com: MLB - Trailer bash

Rod Beck--the David Crosby look-alike with the 81-mph fastball--is playing with the AAA Iowa Cubs and living in a Winnebago he parks just on the other side of right field. Just thought you'd want to know that.

Best line: "People aren't quite sure what to think," Beck said. "I get some looks. Brady Anderson was in here not too long ago and he goes, 'I hear you're living in an RV out there.' And I'm like, 'Sure am.' And he sort of stood there, looked at me and after some awkward silence said, 'Well … that's cool.' " God bless baseball.
 
Minister's Suspension Over 9/11 Service Lifted (washingtonpost.com)

Yes!
 
So, apparently, yesterday Sebastian knocked my contact-lens case into our toilet bowl. Which was full. Of his pee-pee. And then, instead of retrieving it, he flushed it down the toilet.

Apparently, his thought process was, "Well, I can't reach in there and grab it, 'cause I'll get pee on my hands. But I bet if I flush the toilet, the contact-lens case will be too big to go down the hole. And then I can reach into the bowl and pluck the lens case out of pristine water instead of filthy urine." (Did I mention this happened first thing in the morning? [And when I say "first thing in the morning," that means 9 AM. Sebastian gets up late.]) So he flushes the toi-toi and my lens case goes away forever.
Thursday, May 15, 2003
 
Sigh. Blogger sucks; or, my intellectual limitations in understanding HTML are annoying.

In other news, I'm moving to Williamsburg in June, and will be sharing an apartment with two chicks (!), only one of whom I've met (!!), who are both fashion design students (!!!). Oh boy.
Monday, May 12, 2003
 
It's Tulia, not Tulee. Some relevant links: Ariana Huffington piece in Salon (annoying 15-second day pass registration required), and an even bigger piece right here, on the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund's site. Check it out.
 
Not at work today (God bless random personal days), so plenty of time to blog.

Last Thursday featured a really interesting argument between me and the two roomies. Sebastian mentioned the story of a bunch of drug arrests that took place in a small town in Texas called (I think) Tulee. Basically, 15-20 young African-American men were arrested, along with two white guys, for selling narcotics. The only evidence against them in court was the testimony of an undercover cop; there was no physical evidence or other witness testimony of any kind. Said undercover cop was white, and, it was later discovered, didn't exactly have a sterling personal history vis-a-vis his relationship with people of color. (Apparently, the two white people who were also arrested on the drug charges were known to have been dating blacks.) On the testimony of this one undercover cop, these 15 or so people get convicted of selling drugs. This, of course, means big trouble.

Now, later this conviction got picked up by a bunch of legal-action non-profit type places, it gets a fair bit of publicity in Texas, and the convictions were eventually overturned.
The historical record has basically vindicated all of these people--shown their innocence.

But here's the really interesting thing, and the substance of the argument between me and my two roomies. When each of these individuals was arrested, they faced a choice: they could plead guilty to felony narcotics trafficking, and face a light prison sentence or quite possibly no prison time at all, only probation. Or they could plead innocent, knowing they were innocent, and face 10-20 years in prison in the state of Texas. Seb mentioned in passing that he thought it was pretty stupid for anyone, having been unjustly convicted of a crime, to plead innocent, knowing that that'd result in their likely not getting out of prison until they could qualify for social security. I got a bit exercised about it, and argued that sentence or no sentence, pleading guilty to a crime for which you knew you were innocent was a serious compromise of your integrity as a person, and what's more, the truth was the truth, and you had to stick by it.

Now, people may disagree with me en masse, which is fine. But it was a really really interesting moment for me because of the questions it raised. Here are just a few of them:

1. Suppose you're willing to plead guilty to narcotics trafficking in order to spend less or no time in jail. Is there a crime to which you would not plead guilty in a similar situation?--is there a crime so heinous that you wouldn't say you committed it, even if it meant an extra 10 or 20 years of freedom? (Would you plead guilty to, say, murder? rape? child abuse? kidnapping? treason? and, if so, why would you plead guilty to drug trafficking, but draw the line somewhere else?)

2. Sebastian, who is turning into a wonderful debating foil in these matters, pointed out that several of these men from Tulee had wives and families, and if they were convicted and sent away for 20 years their ability to provide for them, protect them, and participate in their lives as a spouse and father would be radically diminished. Does this at all change your point of view?

3. Is this kind of disagreement emblematic of different ethical schools of thought? i.e, the difference between a more utilitarian point of view (you've been convicted, the point now is to minimize the time you spend in jail) and a more 'objective' one (i.e., the fact that you'll get 20 years if you plead innocent makes it all the more important to cling to the truth, because you are, in fact, innocent. the truth is the truth is the truth.). Is this a kind of ethical fault line?

4. I readily conceded that even though I felt pretty strongly that pleading innocent was the 'most right' thing to do in that situation, I was quite uncertain about what my own course of action in that situation might be. I said in all honesty I might have had the strength to plead innocent, or I might have caved and pleaded guilty. Does this make me a hypocrite or a realist?

5. My characterization of pleading innocent as the "most right" thing to do seems to suggest a kind of moral loophole--namely, that it would be very moral, exceptionally moral, to plead innocent under these circumstances, so exceptionally moral, in fact, that we could not hold everyone up to that standard. Pleading innocent would be going above and beyond the call of duty. It would be great if someone did it, but we could not look down or criticize the person who pleads guilty. Is that a correct parsing of the situation? Or does such a conception of morality lead to a kind of slippery slope, where we relegate self-sacrifice motivated by moral concerns to saints and martyrs and the lot, and the rest of us muddle self-interestedly along as best we can?

6. What does Jesus Christ have to do with all of this? (Hmm. I actually now wonder if any of these men were Christians at the time of their trials, and what effect, if any, their faith had on their decisions.)

Sorry for any pretensions here. At least I didn't mention Pelagianism, or Jay-Z.
Friday, May 09, 2003
 

Holy crap.

Every year, the University of Chicago runs an enormous, campus-wide scavenger hunt. It features all kinds of really (really!) bizarre activities and clues. (Ex: 20 points for bringing in a "Mobius Stripper." 155 points for an actual piece of a NASA space shuttle. Umpteen points for operating a rickshaw service to ferry students from dorms to libraries during the week; rickshaw service must be at least semi-hourly. 66 points for designing a computer game called "Wolfenstein [i.e., seminal first-person shoot-baddies-on-the-computer game] in the Regenstein [i.e., the big student library at the U of C].) It's a bit hard to understand--it's pretty much encoded in U of C nerdese--but worth looking at.

Approximate likelihood my cousin Jeb will spend too much time working on the scavenger hunt: 100%.
Thursday, May 08, 2003
 
This picture is now the wallpaper on my computer at work. Yeah, keep dreaming, Howie.
 
Mainline Protestants reeling

This reminds me of something Joy and I talked about Tuesday, which perfectly exemplifies the difference between a lot of 'mainline' churches and evangelical ones. Joy's church in Boston is one year old and has about 120 members; my church in New York is about 120 years old, but has about 40 people worshipping with us on (a good) Sunday.
Friday, May 02, 2003
 
ESPN.com - MLB - Recap - Cubs at Giants - 05/01/2003

Check out Mark Prior's comments about Barry Bonds. That's why I love the guy. Everybody now: "Well I woooon't back down, no I wooooon't back down. You can staaand me up at the gates of hell, but I wooooon't back down."

(Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I'll be here all week. Don't try the chicken!)
Thursday, May 01, 2003
 
and yes, Hannah, you should definitely start a blog. i think this counts as a definite consensus throughout the blogosphere. go hannah!
 
Subway Sighting:

This morning, a young man was boarding the F train with a surfboard. (Does it make any difference that he was going into Manhattan?)

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