Monthly Archives: February 2011

Toyota says plural of Prius is “Prii”:

The world can now rest easy. Toyota has officially embraced “Prii” as the plural of Prius. The Japanese automaker made the announcement over the weekend at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show after inviting the public at large to vote for the phrase that best fit the company’s new gaggle of hybrids. The voting kicked off on January 10th at the Detroit Auto Show, and while Priuses, Prius, Prium and Prien all surfaced as possibilities, Prii took home the majority of votes with 25 percent of the more than 1.8 million ballots cast.

Category: Road

I’ve loved to hate Lara Logan ever since CBS fired an older, more experienced female reporter to bring her on (here’s me and TL going at it back in 2005). Before she became the poster girl for sexual harassment in the Middle East (link is to a South African publication with more info than the press release – she wasn’t actually raped*), Logan was known for an unprofessionally sexual persona at least as well as she was known for her war reporting. It’s not that she was completely worthless as a reporter — at least she has a long reporting resume — but her behavior and personal presentation suggested, well, bimbo. Her low-cut tank tops, breast implants, and her groupielike attitude toward the military made her seem more appropriate for Fox News.

I could count on Logan for a good pissing-off at least every couple years. Last year, she sucked up to the military by publicly castigating another war reporter for scooping her daring to report disrespectful things soldiers said about the administration (see another Rolling Stone reporter’s response in Lara Logan, You Suck) ; in 2008, the still-married Logan got proudly pregnant with a married high-up military contractor’s baby (they are now married and have a second child). His then-wife and mother of his 3-year-old was so distraught she overdosed on tranquilizers. In response to the scandal, Logan told the Washington Post a poor-me story about how people just don’t understand how it is when you’re overseas on assignment, and she’d lost a fallopian tube to an ectopic pregnancy so, gee, she’d thought at the ripe old age of 37 she wouldn’t get pregnant. (Remember this example of how when her actions are in question, Logan tells a sad story about herself with graphic detail.**)

But last week I read this CBS press release, and my distaste for Logan went temporarily on ice. That’s how we women are; when we hear about a “brutal and sustained sexual assault,” we identify and empathize. We dislike it so much that even when it happens to someone we dislike, we still get really mad. And as I searched Google looking for more information, I felt even worse for Logan, because every site that linked to the story had male commenters sneering about how she deserved it, and using her misfortune to grind their axes against just about every type of woman who exists. They meant me, too.

So let’s review my political options: 1) Scheming bimbo TV reporter; 2) The pro-rape lobby. It’s not hard to pick my side.

But that’s in public; on the Internet, “Sheila Tone” can voice her nuanced suspicions without fear of getting her eyes clawed out. It’s ironic that my feminist views are why I dislike Logan, but now they’re why I have to support her (inasmuch as being a “feminist” means “I REALLY don’t want to be sexually assaulted.”) . Ironic, but perfect sense. And it’s ironic that the same sexism I think is responsible for Logan’s rise (if we have to have a woman doing this job, let’s pick a youngish hottie with fake boobs) is now directed against her due to her alleged mistreatment by men. As I was combing Google for more information, I got suspicious of the one-source story. I wrote a post about my suspicions, looking for clues or additional insight. You’d think at least her detractors would be interested in discrediting her, but I still got some of the same piggish treatment the bro-net gave Logan.

It seems there is no group of people interested in questioning Logan’s story. If she is lying, she’s picked the perfect lie. It’s got something for everyone. Let’s review how her story validates the feelings of some diverse groups:

1) Jewish people. Jewish people fear anti-Semitism, especially from Arabs. And although it wasn’t in CBS’s press release, some nameless source told the NY Post that Logan’s Arab attackers were yelling “Jew!” So even though Logan isn’t Jewish, now she’s got their unquestioning sympathy. Her story supports the view that even average Arabs are dangerously anti-Semitic. I’ve got a Facebook friend from the college paper, another feminist former reporter, who would usually smell bullshit in such an uncorroborated, convenient story. But she’s also really scared of Arabs. She says even if there were lots of witnesses and good Samaritans, no one would speak of it publicly because they’d be terrified of being identified as someone who “helped a Jew.” Even soldiers. Even though they were willing to actually help her publicly. A lot of feminists and reporters are Jewish, and those are the folks we’d normally count on to scrutinize Logan.

2) People who don’t like Arabs. This one’s self-explanatory.

3 ) Sexist pigs. So why wouldn’t they challenge Logan’s story? Apparently because it’s more fun to think it actually did happen. Also, to challenge her truthfulness is basically admitting it is a big deal if it did happen, and a lot of these guys have the agenda that sexual assault is no big deal. Finally, many of these guys fall into category No. 2.

4) Women, especially female reporters. Apparently sexual harassment and assault of women in public, especially reporters, has been common in the Middle East and in war zones. Usually it consists of catcalls or groping, but there have been rapes and attempted rapes of foreign correspondents. Often it goes unreported because the women are embarrassed, or fear they’ll lose assignments. Logan’s story benefits them by drawing attention to their plight. And if we question her account, we’re criticizing her, and we’re siding with the sexist pigs and against all the real victims.

But here’s one of the suspicious things: While this may be true about war zones in general, it doesn’t appear this is how it was in Egypt during the protests. Here’s something by a female Slate reporter who was there: ).

What happened to Logan is every woman’s nightmare, but it’s also atypical. Most cases of sexual assault in Egypt are not as gruesome as Logan’s experience, they are instead much like what happens to Hussein—a near constant stream of verbal harassment and the odd groping.

But according to Hussein and from what I observed, Midan Tahrir during the 18-day Tahrir encampment was different. Logan’s assault is even more demoralizing for Egyptian women because it comes at a time when they truly believe things are changing for the better.

Harassment was at an all-time low during the protests. … Other women I spoke with inside Tahrir at the time remarked on the same thing. Many hope their role in the revolt that removed Mubarak’s 30-year regime has changed attitudes toward their gender.

And here’s a Jewish Journal commenter, “MLE,” who claims to be an actual Jewish woman who was also in the area that night, speaking as to the supposed anti-Semitism leading to Logan’s assault:

This is absolutely false. I am a Jewish female and I was in Midan Tahrir that evening and there were no problems. Everyone was celebrating and the xenophobic tones of the past few days were completely absent. I actually was surprised how safe I had felt because I had bad encounters in other massive crowds.

I didn’t cherry-pick this stuff. There just isn’t much out there. Which is, again, why I’m suspicious. Where are all the other women agreeing “Yeah, it was really creepy there that night?”

But why would Logan lie? Well, women lie about rape (or unspecified sexual assault) for the same reasons people lie about anything else. Usually it’s 1) for personal gain; or 2) to get out of a bind. The fact that fear of sexist pigs makes most women feel they have to believe the claimant makes it an especially effective lie.

As for personal gain, I conditionally agree with Chuck of “Piggy.” If you think Logan isn’t going to benefit from this, you’re either naive or stupid. It’s average women who don’t benefit from sexual assault. Average victims — average reporters — legitimately fear bad social effects from sexual assault. But not criminals ***– and not rich famous women. Lara Logan gets a phone call from Obama. Lara Logan, former tabloid-fodder bimbo, is now a bulletproof hero, a cause celebre. Only someone with a heart of … stone … would dare to bring up her weaknesses as a reporter and her questionable sexual past. Her critics only increase her public sympathy.

As for No. 2, getting out of a bind: A real possibility. Remember, Logan and her crew got tossed out of Egypt on their ears at the beginning of the protests. Meanwhile, the other networks were getting the story. I could see this causing some problems with CBS. Logan finally came back, and unrelated to any stories she reported became the most discussed reporter from the event. She accomplished little in Egypt, yet her name is now a household word.

Victim or not, she sucks. But you guys suck even more, because you’re the reason she’ll get away with it. She, of all people, gets to be compensated in spades for your misogyny.

* Her clothes were torn off her and she would have been raped, but for Egyptian female protesters throwing themselves across her body! So moving … yet so unsubstantiated.

** After she and her crew got detained in Egypt and then kicked out for allegedly spying, and she felt she’d failed, she told a story of being cruelly interrogated, so sick she was vomiting in her cell and needed an IV. She’d been sick for days before, you see, and the poor brave dear didn’t tell anyone because she was so dedicated to her job. But yet again, our only witness to this extreme suffering is Logan herself.

***Because I talk to a lot of them in my job. “I disappeared for two months and couldn’t drug test … because I was RAPED! Yeah, that’s the ticket.” (Did you call the police?) “No, um, I was scared he’d come after me.” Most of the excuses I heard have nothing to do with rape, but the excuse is more frequent than I would have expected. Doesn’t work though.

Category: Elsewhere, Newsroom

There are two downsides to subbing, particularly in Redstone.

The first is that, since it is not an insignificant drive and school in Redstone starts on the early side, I typically have to get up at around 6am. So if they call me at 5:30am (when the machine starts its calling), there’s not enough time to go back to sleep. This means that I have to go to bed on the early side in anticipation of a possible call. And since I never know if a call is going to come, I need to go to bed pretty early every night.

The second side is, on account of the drive, the fuel efficiency of the Forester, and taxes, “peanuts” is almost an overstatement of what I make. The two half-days I worked, once you take out taxes and gas, netted me $7 each. Less than I spent on dinner. Full days are the jackpot… only a little under $30. I would make more working minimum wage here in town. I’m not really doing this for the money (obviously), but that still stings a little.

Maybe this semester of maybe over the summer I will start seriously applying in Callie so that I can at least keep the gas money and save the time from the commute. One of the reasons I applied in Redstone was so that if I made a hash of it, I wouldn’t be burning any bridges within the community. Also, because their school system is larger, I figure it would be a way to gain some experience before I inflict myself on the community.

Of course, even if I apply at Callie and am put on their roll, teaching jobs would be fewer and I may still end up going to Redstone anyway. And really, in some ways having an excuse to go to Redstone is a good thing. I was going up there two weeks out of every three anyway. Now I’m going there twice a week (or so it seems). On the other hand, having fewer substitute teaching gigs wouldn’t be a bad thing in itself. I half-dodged a call when I was driving back from my Monday assignment because I needed Tuesday off to take care of a few things. The other reason is that I was on the road at the time. But it’s a thin line because I don’t want to dodge too many calls or (I suspect) I will be moved further down the queue. Which wouldn’t be bad because there would be fewer jobs and that’s fine, but could be bad because I may get fewer of the jobs I want (basically, the ones that I have a couple days notice rather than the ones I am receiving calls at 5 in the morning).

Part of me feels like I should get paid just for making myself available, if I’m going to be punished whenever I am unavailable.

But the other part of me keeps reminding me “this isn’t about the money.” It’s more about having something to do with myself, getting an idea if teaching is something I want to do, the learning experience it provides for me, and lastly when I start subbing in Callie becoming more a part of our community through a type of (lightly paid) community service. I had previously tried to volunteer at a “community center” which apparently is a domestic violence hotline. Part of the reason I was going to do it was to get out of the house, so you can imagine my disappointment when they excitedly told me “and it’s something you can do completely from home!” (it turned out that I was out of town when they had their orientation, which was probably just as well.)

Maybe one of these days I will be fortunate enough to get called to Jury Duty…

Category: School

Supposedly a group of women and about 20 soldiers dragged her to safety from this public sexual assault of unspecified detail (some reports have called it “gang rape,” but I’ve seen no claim of that). This was six days ago.

The story is an international sensation. Yet we’ve heard absolutely no information except that contained in CBS’s press release (via Associated Press):

Separated from her crew in the crush of the violent pack, she suffered what CBS called “a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating.” She was saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers, the network said.

All these witnesses, all these heroes — not a single word out of any of them? Maybe they’re twittering and blogging in Egyptian and it just hasn’t hit the English-speaking world yet?

I’ve been scouring the Internet for days, and nothing. Does anyone have any links to help out?

The manosphere is full of the expected crap about how she deserved it (you know, because she’s a woman hanging around Muslims, a woman with a job, a woman with blond hair, a woman) but nothing else. My concerns are forensic. If my suspicious are at all founded, then and only then will I consider it fair to expound about how I think Lara Logan sucks as a reporter in ways completely unrelated to this. If my suspicions are unfounded, then please, please direct me to the relevant information.

And, no, I don’t consider the fact that she’s reportedly been in the hospital for four days proof she was sexually assaulted. She could have injuries from other sources (lots of reporters got clobbered over there). And if a person as famous and wealthy as Lara Logan wants to stay in the hospital for four days, I doubt doctors are going to kick her out.

Here’s an interesting tidbit further down in the AP story:

However, in the final days, and especially after the battles with pro-Mubarak gangs who attacked the protesters in Tahrir, women noticed sexual assault had returned to the square. On the day Mubarak fell, women reported being groped by the rowdy crowds. One witness saw a woman slap a man after he touched her. The man was then passed down a line of people who all slapped him and reprimanded him.

So it’s not as if people just stood by and accepted this. But maybe Logan just wasn’t as lucky.

Category: Elsewhere

State settles suit over 6 abused brothers for $6.6 million

According to the 2009 lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court, the abuse occurred while the boys were living with their mother in Seattle in a home where drugs and alcohol were rampant. Their mother, a drug addict, neglected the children and their biological father was physically abusive, according to Tamaki.

But it was a series of the mother’s boyfriends, he said, who potentially caused the most “horrific” damage to the younger children by sexually and physically abusing them for years.

The two older boys, who were not victims of sexual abuse, each received awards of $300,000, according to Tamaki’s co-counsel Bryan Smith. The four younger brothers were together awarded $5.95 million, Smith said.

Tamaki said most of the 33 complaints filed with the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) between 1992 and 2000 were made by the boys’ maternal grandmother, but there were several “serious incident” reports made by health professionals and counselors. A number of the complaints were found to have merit, Tamaki said, but no meaningful action was ever taken to protect the children.

Sherry Hill, a spokeswoman for the Children’s Administration, said the caseworker who failed to appropriately follow up on the complaints left the agency years ago for unrelated reasons.

She said better protective policies and procedures have been established in the years since.

It’s hard to read about what happened to these kids and not be sympathetic. I don’t begrudge them their awards. At the same time, though, this sort of thing makes me rather uncomfortable. Even though there are ways that the state could have put a stop to this and there were screw-ups, the kids were not in the care of the state and this kind of penalty for inaction would make me concerned that it could lead authorities to be too pro-active in removing children from their home.

Category: Courthouse, Newsroom

I’ve commented before that I get a kick out of Anime’s portrayal of America and Americans. Here’s a glimpse into China’s through the guy that always plays the American character in Chinese movies:

“I’m the American; I’m this rich guy who’s arrogant. And I come to China arrogantly, and I fall in love with an oriental beauty, and I pursue her for however long – 10, 12, 20 episodes. But in the end she makes the right choice and sticks with her Chinese boyfriend,” he says.

He even plays that role in the historical dramas so beloved of Chinese television viewers — for instance, in Princess Deling, where Kos-Read courts a Qing dynasty princess who works at the imperial court. Another of the roles he often plays can be summed up as the China ingenue, or as he puts it, “The fool, who comes to China, and is disdainful — ‘Man, China sucks’ — but then, through his exposure to the awesomeness that is China, he slowly realizes how wrong he was.”

As a veteran of 90 different Chinese showbiz projects, Kos-Read has drawn his own conclusions on the view of Americans in Chinese popular culture.

“Usually the Americans are stereotyped as the good guy,” he says. “I can’t think of an evil character that I’ve played who was American,” he says. “For the most part, the evil characters are French and English, and the dumb characters are German.”

Category: Theater

As long time Hit Coffeers know, I am a big fan of audiobooks. They’ve gotten me through some pretty horrendous commutes. It started with Harry Potter and Ender’s Game (and subsequent Ender/Bean novels). Most recently it has been Tom Clancy. One of the things that wouldn’t have really occurred to me, if I’d thought about it, is the difference the reader makes. I would have figured that a bad reader is better than a good reader, but there’s really more to it than that. A different reader can make the author sound different. Not just in voice (obviously), but in tone. It’s working through the Clancy series that has made this most apparent because of the three different readers, one of which is one of the readers from the Ender series (Scott Brick) and another (Michael Pritchard) sounds very similar to the reader from the Jason Bourne series (Darrin McGavin).

Clancy’s novels spend a lot of time explaining things, which makes the Ender-Bourne connection make sense, because Orson Scott Card and Robert Ludlum spend a lot of time explaining things, too. When read by Pritchard, it makes Clancy sound more like Ludlum in that the explanations are technical in nature. Ludlum explains, more or less, what it’s like being a spy, how it works, and the psychology of it. Clancy explains a lot of technical stuff*, but also the psychology of spy work. So it’s not surprising, in a sense, that I had actually thought, for a time, that they were read by the same person. There is quite a bit of overlap in author’s voice and all it takes is some similarity between the readers and they can easily sound like the same guy.

Except that when Brick is reading Clancy, it suddenly becomes very reminiscent of Ender. Not just because it’s the same voice, but because of the reader’s tone. Brick comes across as a bit condescending. Like he’s explaining something down to you. For Ender, this makes sense to some extent because you’re dealing with a story revolving around (in large part) pre-teens. So the smug certainty of what is being explained is the smug, certainty of youth. For Clancy, though, it’s a little off-putting. Because it feels like adult-to-adult but talking slowly to make sure that you get it. It’s the difference between talking to a 15 year old who thinks that he is the first person to discover that America is not flawless or that there is no God and talking to a 35 year old who thinks that he is the first person with these thoughts.

Now, he’s only reading what Clancy wrote, but it manages to put an entirely different spin on Clancy’s writing. It triple-underlines some of the flaws in his writing that I only barely noticed before. His tendency to repeat observations, using the same (originally clever) line over and over again. Some of it may be that Clancy’s writing itself has changed somewhat, becoming more righty-political (the American media is nothing but a bunch of communists, the British NHS is practically third-world, etc). Though that started a few novels earlier when Jack Ryan became president, and while it was noteworthy, it wasn’t quite as aggravating.

None of this is to say that I am not enjoying it. Almost all of the novels I’ve listened to are mixtures of good and bad. Nor is this a slight on Brick in particular, as he has an interesting voice and (unlike the reader of the first one) gets the southern accent right. I just found it interesting how much differently a different reader makes the author sound. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising, but I’d really only thought about readers in the good/bad sense rather than making the author sound like… a different author.

* – He goes out of his way to make it sound complicated, though. I realized this when he was explaining how modems worked.

Category: Theater
Easily the most honest love I have ever heard. Maybe ever written.

Category: Theater

This is about that former teacher. Specifically, one Melissa Petro – an ex-prostitute turned grade-school art teacher whose news coverage has been pretty extensive.

Oddly enough… as long as she isn’t in the classroom singing the praises of her former career, as long as she isn’t dressing inappropriately, I don’t see her former career as a big deal. If she’s a good teacher, then she’s a good teacher. Apparently, the school’s administration – despite Ms. Petro no longer working in the industry – have decided she is “insufficiently contrite” about her former career (as noted in her Huffington Post piece regarding the shuttering of that particular section of Craigslist) and that she violated some “morals clause”, aka “conduct unbecoming a teacher”… by exercising her first amendment rights.

Meanwhile, what amazes me is the sheer amount of vitriol directed at Ms. Petro. You’d think she was a real nasty criminal or spreading germs around or something. And of course half of the politicians (including Michael Bloomberg) who were calling for her ouster have, let’s face it, their own long laundry list of nasty sex scandals that make anything Ms. Petro may have done look pretty tame.

Ms. Petro has resigned rather than go through the kangaroo court hearings process. CNN Video reports indicate that there may have been some “plea deal” or monetary offer from the Dept of Education for her to resign, which involves a prohibition on her filing a civil rights lawsuit against them – probably because the Dept of Education saw the case as generating nasty, bad publicity for them.

Category: Elsewhere, School

It went pretty well in the overall. The teacher, Mrs. Dawson, was apparently a sub for several years before becoming a regular teacher and so was conscientious. Unfortunately, the instructions were hand-written and her hand-writing was hard to read.

A while back Nanani and I (and Brandon Berg) had a conversation about what elementary school students call their teacher (whether they say Mrs. even if they’re not married). Apparently, some actually say Mrs even if you’re a man. I was never called Mrs Truman, though I was called Mrs. Dawson repeatedly. Others called me Mr Truman while others split the difference and went with Mr Dawson. Incidentally, there is a regular teacher by the name of Truman (this would be more surprising if you knew how much less common my actual last name is), so they were familiar with the name. One of the first graders in the other class was the son of the teacher. So when I met the other first grade class, I got a wave of “Hi, Mr Truman!” greetings. They were better with my name than my class actually was.

In other ways, though, I think being a man worked for me. With a couple of notable exceptions, the boys were better behaved than the girls. The boys seemed particularly eager to please. Even a couple that, when I first looked at them, immediately thought “these are going to be trouble.” The two trouble-making boys involved one boy that was… slow. Depending on who you believe, he either behaved very immaturely towards this other student or this other student was picking on him. The other student was pre-identified as something of a troublemaker. The slow kid was pre-identified as slow. Those were the only two pre-identifications I got.

Both the boys and the girls, but particularly the boys, felt the need to point out how very tall I am. One pointed out my huge feet. She later (I think it was her) rode on my feet by hugging me and stepping on them. She got a real kick out of it when I started to walk. I got a few hugs over the course of the (overall short) day. And those that were in afterschool daycare all yelled “Hi Mr Truman!” (outside of the classroom they were all able to remember my name?) whenever I walked past.

There were two girls that immediately set themselves up as my special helper. One was particularly smart (the only one not to miss a single item on either the reading or the math papers I corrected) and came across as something of a goody-goody. Ordinarily, I kind of look at kids like that with skepticism, but boy did I need the help. The second struck me as being kind of manipulative. Very socially aware. She taught me the magic action that makes the entire class be quiet and look at me (for some reason, the Dawson didn’t put this in her notes). Dawson gave me this magic blue card to give to the best student. I think I am more or less obligated to give it to the goody-goody. Another girl, not in my class, was also really helpful during reading (they track readers, so I got the best readers of both first grade classes for reading).

The other girls, though, were loud. And far more rambunctious than the boys. I had to spend more time telling the girls than the boys to settle down. Another girl was constantly telling me “I’m gonna be sick” and was just gloomy. I thought she was sick, but the other teacher warned me off of indulging her on this. She apparently gets sick whenever anything stressful happens, which a substitute teacher constitutes. Both boys and girls abused bathroom privileges, but when I told them to be quick about it they were. I wasn’t going to risk an accident, and as long as they weren’t roaming the halls, it was a failing I could live with.

Relatedly, first graders think it’s awesome if you say, in lieu of “be quiet”, “everybody, be cool.”

I didn’t get everything done that I was supposed to. I couldn’t find a book that I needed and a little got lost in the information overload. Most unfortunate because there were times when I was struggling to come up with something for these kids to do. They finished their arts & crafts project in record time. Unfortunately, everybody started looking at me and it’s hard to get first graders to be quiet long enough to decipher long-winded, quasi-legible handwriting. That was the downside to the fullproof “everybody be quiet” word and motion. They all go really quiet, and they all look at you. You only get a few seconds before you lose them again. However, once I started reading them stories, though, it was all good.

Tomorrow is a full day. Fortunately for me, it includes an assembly and a Valentine’s Day Party. Unfortunately for me, three kids can’t go to the assembly and so I am not going to get that time to read up on the lesson plan for tomorrow (which I meant to bring home and type up, but forgot). The Valentine’s Day Party will have a local parent coming to help out. Because I forgot to bring the lesson plan home, however, I am going to have to get into work earlier than planned. I’m probably going to need to get up at 5:30am.

But on the whole, it was a surprisingly good day.

Category: School