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Oct. 5th, 2005 @ 01:42 pm a fine day to be miscellanea
I keep numerous files with notes of varying detail about items I should write about in the future. Some will logically coalesce but at the moment there are way too many items that are not likely to mate with others, so let's see if we can't pare the list down. In order of nothing:

* I can remember a time when food servers would not silently add the tip to your bill and hope you naively added another 15-20% on top of it. It would have been considered shocking and grossly unethical. What does it say about society that I now expect this everywhere I go? At a hotel last weekend I ordered about $15 in food from room service. The bill added a $6 delivery charge as well as 15%, but there was a nice prominent line for some more tip, just in case. The guy didn't even take the cover off my food.

* In college I got my first speeding ticket doing 70 in a 65. That introduced me to the joys of traffic school, an eight hour circle jerk that masquerades as education. When it was over I swore I'd never return to traffic school no matter what it took. Ten years later I received my second speeding ticket doing 89 in a 65. If you're more than 25 mph over the speed limit you can't go to traffic school; I found myself wishing he'd clocked me at 91. Oh, but if you're out-of-state you can now go to traffic school online! I knew the Internet was invented for a reason. The ostensibly eight-hour course took me about half an hour despite some brutal brain-teasers like this one:

8. Which of the following is a tip for driving in wet weather?

1. Leave extra space to brake
2. Speed up through deep water
3. Make sudden, quick lane changes


There was another one that asked for the definition of "spirit of the law", offering as one of three options "the ghost manifested when chanting the law." If these questions are too tough for you, fear not: 80% correct will pass.

* I bought my first windows PC from dell and I promise it's also my last. I would rather not buy these things at all but there are still a few things I need windows around for and it's too much unnecessary hassle to try to avoid it. De-dellifying this thing is going on forever. Note to dell: I don't want to buy anything else from you or from any of your scummy partners-in-marketing. It came installed with little reminder programs that run at startup and bug you to buy their crap. The separation between useless dell garbage and vital dell-specific windows components is non-obvious in some cases, so I also get the joy of researching this completely uninteresting subject. FUCK YOU DELL.

* Could there be a more perfect study in contrasts than that between errol morris and michael moore? To simplify it, one of them is awesome and one of them is the opposite of awesome.

* And speaking of awesome, steven soderbergh. Already one of my favorite filmmakers, he has moved up two notches recently: first because I saw schizopolis and then shortly thereafter when I saw he is a man of principle and vision.

* I was taught how to diagram sentences every single year from roughly 3rd grade through 11th grade. I don't mean that each year's lesson was built on the previous year's. Every year they taught it with only minor variations as if nobody had ever seen it before; and, based on the reactions of most of the class, nobody had. I lived in the same town until I went to college so it's not like I was floating from school system to school system. Presumably the official curriculum was assembled on the theory that we needed to be taught this every year. Toward the end I remember almost earning a trip to the principal's office when I was sentenced to hearing about it yet again. There were a lot of examples of this kind of efficiency in my beloved public education but this is the one I remember the most vividly and with the most contempt.

I hear public schools are a lot worse now than they were then. That's encouraging. It always seemed as if the curriculum was designed to cater to people who were not only actively trying not to learn but who spent their summer vacations smoking PCP and freestyle boxing. That might be necessary with many students, the majority even; but I wonder if they care what effect it has on the people who carried more than 5% of their knowledge forward on a year-to-year basis. In my case the effect was a total and lasting disenfranchisement. It's not like I found diagramming sentences any more fascinating than anyone else, but we're in high school! How can you not know which part of the sentence is the predicate?

* I hate slashdot with a burning passion but no alternative ever gains any mindshare traction because it's too difficult to transplant a critical mass of worthwhile posters. Even reading the comments at +5 is not nearly aggressive enough; I need a scale up to about +15. I can't forsake it completely because there are still gems and nuggets of useful information among the prodigious quantity of noise. The site is so mind-bogglingly terribly run that most days it seems like parody, but instead of being ashamed they take perverse pride in the endless factual and typographical errors, ludicrous ham-handed bias and misrepresentation, duplicate stories, and overall complete stupidity. I think they've noticed that it doesn't matter how shoddy the product is because they have a de facto monopoly on the niche thanks solely to having entered it first. If that sounds like microsoft, that's because it is: an irony completely lost on the microsoft-hating I-use-the-term-painfully-loosely "editors" who in combination do not have the wit of a lugnut.

Oops, time's up for today. This isn't out by noon but I haven't finalized my guidelines yet, so I'm entitled.
About this Entry
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From:entrager
Date:October 5th, 2005 09:02 pm (UTC)
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The signal-to-noise ratio on Slashdot is getting worse and worse, both in comments and stories. At one point I stopped reading the comments altogether because it took way too long to filter out the good ones from the million +5 funnies that weren't even remotely funny. Not to mention the unbelievable number of memes that sprang up. Then about 6 months ago I decided the the quality of the stories has gotten such that it was no longer worth reading through them to find the good ones. I haven't read Slashdot in 6 months and I don't feel like I'm missing a thing.
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From:nibor
Date:October 5th, 2005 09:11 pm (UTC)
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Upon entering high school, I (foolishly) listened to the admonitions of the faculty who warned not to take more than 2 honors classes to avoid having too much workload, and took only 3. Biggest mistake of my high school years - and that's saying something. I took regular level english, since I wasn't all that interested in it anyway.
We spent several weeks on the parts of speech. Not sentence structure - just the difference between a noun and a verb and a preposition and all that. I guess if you don't know which words in the sentence are verbs, you don't stand much chance figuring out the predicate, either.
Not much consolation that my school was considered one of the best in the state, I guess. Maybe Texas really is dumb.
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From:hyacinthgirl
Date:October 5th, 2005 09:52 pm (UTC)
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maybe california is dumb, too, but the same thing happened to me my junior year. i was in mostly AP and honors courses, and i decided to take "regular" english that year to get a break. how different could it be? we also spent nearly a month on nouns and verbs, and other things that i felt were pretty unimportant at that point. if you were sixteen years old and couldn't say the difference between a noun and verb, you probably would never need to know it. our teacher also didn't assign us "the great gatsby" to read that year because she didn't think we could "handle it."

hey, my school was considered one of the best in the state, too. maybe they just tell students that no matter where they are.
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From:luckylefty
Date:October 5th, 2005 09:13 pm (UTC)
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Reading slashdot, may seem mandatory, but I've found it completely dispensable. I assume you read the blogs of a few technophilic friends who read slashdot, right? They'll point you to anything important that shows up. I never read slashdot, and occasionally I learn about something a couple of days later as a result. The slight delay in my geek news is amply repaid by the saved time.
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From:palecur
Date:October 5th, 2005 09:44 pm (UTC)
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I've cobbled together an agglomeration of techcentralstation, corante.com/pipeline, and futurepundit that wholly serves anything I ever saw in slashdot and more besides. Your Internet May Vary.
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From:hyacinthgirl
Date:October 5th, 2005 09:47 pm (UTC)
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the tip thing drives me crazy, too, and i'm a dealer. so it's not like i don't make my own living off of tips. however, i sometimes feel like i'm one of the only people alive who understands the idea of "gratuity," whether it's at the poker table or in a restaurant. i find it embarrassing when people expect their customers to just hand them free money for doing the bare minimum. i especially get embarrassed when i'm at work and i've just pushed someone a teeny tiny $2/4 pot, and they give me a fifty cent tip and apologize. what sort of horrible dealers have they had before that they feel like that have to say "i'm sorry" when they give me what actually amounts to a generous tip? fifty cents when the pot was $5.25 minus the house drop isn't too bad, considering i didn't work that hard. i believe my job is one that not everyone can do well, but that's why people tip. if you have a good dealer who's efficient and runs the game smoothly, doesn't chat too much and treats every player the same regardless of how much they did or didn't tip last pot you pushed them, then a tip is in order. same thing goes in a restaurant setting. last night i took an out-of-town guest to a place in the palms, and the service was awful. the server was polite but invisible. our drinks were left empty, we had to ask for things repeatedly, and parts of our orders were just plain left out. but i'm almost certain she looked at her bare minimum 15% and was irritated.

ah, sorry, you just hit on one of my sore spots, too. i know it's a little different from the silent addition of 15%, but it goes hand in hand with the expectation of a tip. you should expect them if you do a good job. that's the point.
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From:rotojeff
Date:October 6th, 2005 11:16 pm (UTC)

Bare Minimum 15%

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I haven't ever been a waiter, or worked in a vocation where tips were a part of the compensation package. When/how did the "bare minimum" threshhold move from 10% to 15%? Is that a proper level? Maybe I'm just channeling my father and his generation, but I remember when 10% was standard, 15% was good and 20% was exemplary. Or was my dad just a cheapass all along?
From:fmfundamentals
Date:October 5th, 2005 10:26 pm (UTC)
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Dell: I don't know how much annoying stuff is included from other manufacturers, but I do know that Dell is highly regarded among the circles I run in. Maybe a case of different priorities.

school: I may have been taught to diagram sentences at the beginning of 9th grade, but I'm pretty sure that I didn't know what a predicate was before that. Maybe I'm forgetting, but I recall elementary and middle school devoted to some other method of learning the language. I remember always being aware of the parts of speech though. I went to a public high school that had a magnet program (IB) along side normal public school. Virtually all of my high school English was devoted to reading novels and then writing essays about them. Practice for the AP test involved writing essays from prompts. Oh yeah, and poetry, too. It seems they've solved the "punishing smart kids" problem with honors and AP classes, as well as magnet programs.

Slasdot: I've never read slashdot as a habit, and the four times I've found myself on the site for whatever reason I found it not very interesting.
From:ignignokt
Date:October 5th, 2005 10:35 pm (UTC)
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I think pretty much all big name PC manufacturers are like this now. I got an IBM notebook from work, and it was loaded with a squillion IBM services, all automatically loaded on startup. Like you, I find the idea of researching all of this uninteresting, so I just started disabling them to see what happened. The performance picked up, but now I get an occasional crash which will reboot the machine if I click on the notification box about it.

Sadly, I've settled for just moving that message box to the side when it comes up and continuing to go about my business on that machine.
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From:jill_idle
Date:October 6th, 2005 01:42 am (UTC)
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First, I recommend you buy slashdot, fix it, sell it, then buy it back again when it sucks again, lather, rinse, repeat.

Although I'm an Apple fan (all the way back to the Mac 512, and I still have it), complaining about computers reminds me of this song ...http://download2.ampcast.com/AUD-72209-dld-6715410-0-0-0-DLDLFQOSJFQNREDL/Every_OS_Sucks.mp3
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From:gleamicus
Date:October 6th, 2005 01:52 am (UTC)
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I find I can generally stay between 12 and 48 hours ahead of Slashdot by reading:

http://kottke.org/
http://waxy.org/links/
http://www.boingboing.net

and Wired News.

Between these four, and IRC, there's little that Slashdot gets first that I find at all interesting. It's actually pretty interesting to watch the progression of a story as it starts at Waxy, heads to Boingboing, hits a few other blogs, and then finally makes it to slashdot.
From:tahoemph
Date:October 6th, 2005 02:03 am (UTC)

sentence structure?

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I had the semi-fortunate history of having been evaluated as MR early in my education career, reevaluated to dyslexic, and then promptly moved into the IQ based (MG) classes. I managed to somehow completely dodge the whole sentence structure thing.

I was incarcerated in traffic school once in redondo beach. It was a short bike ride to the nearest bar. At least I enjoyed the mind numbing of a lot of cheap alcohol. The next time I had the same online experience you did. I couldn't consume enough alcohol to be mind numbing in the time it took to get through the "training" (maybe I should have tried some pcp).

I would have thought that slashdot was the reason for filter blogs.

Every few years I fiddle with vmware (or the like) as a way to solve my windows needs. I'm currently going such a cycle and am a lot happier then I was in the past.

I've been stunned and amused by the food service/large party tip dance. Most seem to take the stance that since they are already guaranteed an amount that the large party isn't going to at the top of their service queue. If most people tend to be irritated at the "mandatory gratuity" and the customer isn't likely to be a repeat thats the rational response. But if they sometimes got something extra then the rational response should be to service you to a level relative to what they should expect. So maybe we shouldn't be irritated that they "hope" we add more.
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From:shunny
Date:October 6th, 2005 03:22 am (UTC)

High school

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I don't think I was ever in a high school class where we diagramed sentences (like, with arrows and underlines and all that stuff) for a long period of time. Most heavy English grammar work ended around middle school I think. Consequently, my English is probably worse then most educated students and I very much hate the way I write essays/my blog in relation to grammar. I'm not a word guy, and much prefer being called a math guy.

But, I really hate when people complain about the public schools. Now, in Massachusetts we supposedly have one of the best public school systems in the country, so I may be biased. I think many students (and it's the students that go to school, not the parents) just simply don't care and do a horrible job with their schoolwork and therefore hate school which causes the teachers to try not as hard in those classes, and to tone classes down so that it suits the students ambition. Unfortunately, we're not China and Japan where all students seem to try really hard and are instilled that ambition early in their lives. There are many countries like them that have all their students at an honors level. We aren't one of them, and many students fall behind that level.

But at an honors level, I think public schools are great. Students get what they put in to the classes, and students who enjoy school at an honors level and work really hard are just going to do better and think their school is great. Whereas students who hate school, they come home to their parents and complain and the parents complain and say the schools aren't doing anything for their kids. It's not true and I know plenty of students who would say otherwise about public schools.
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From:divides_by_zero
Date:October 6th, 2005 05:28 am (UTC)

Re: High school

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I get the impression that Massachusetts' schools are better, too, after hanging out with several kids from there.

And I agree that generally, honors and AP classes are pretty good.

However, I can point to instance after instance of just plain bad teaching at my school. Especially in math. Don't even get me started there.

I just don't agree that the majority of students "just don't care" - and even if they did that some how that excuses the teachers for sucking. I have worked with many students who have been written off by the system, but when given just a bit of a chance and weren't constantly condescended to have had just as much drive as the honors students. In fact, they often work harder since they feel they have something to prove.

Also - I think it says something when some of the best teachers in the school are just as frustrated as the students and parents, if not more frustrated, with the system.
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From:polarbear
Date:October 6th, 2005 03:24 am (UTC)
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first because I saw schizopolis

Bwahahaha. Isn't that the best? I love the husband and wife's generic 'conversations.'

As for public schools however, having been educated privately since grade four, I lost all hope at college for the first year and listening to my classmates talk, and later write, at an eighth grade level. If I decide to have children, they'll be educated privately I've already decided.
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From:kebie
Date:October 6th, 2005 06:21 am (UTC)

Slashdot

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I read slashdot.org everyday. Not for the great news but more for the humor I find in saying "Ohhhhh Slashdot...". Basically I like to see what stupid comment they can add to any news article about Micro"$"oft as they like to put it, or try and guess what insane comments their users will come up then seeing if they hold true (they usually do).

Cowboy Neal should have sold out when he was worth $90mill, but how could he leave behind all his slashdot fans.
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From:badblood44
Date:October 6th, 2005 12:38 pm (UTC)
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On Dell: http://www.zdnetasia.com/news/hardware/0,39042972,39273933,00.htm

No OS installed. I have had to un-Toshiba my laptop for many of the same reasons. Luckily I have a winXP corporate disk - wiping clean and installing from scratch is what I've done to EVERY PC in my house.

On tips: One time in Aruba while vacationing with my parents, I mistakenly tipped another 15% on top of my bill at El Goucho. I was thanked profusely my the staff on the way out and didn't realize why until much later.

Slashdot: Still retains some comedy value for me. I'm one of those comedy-by-brute-force-type guys and still get a kick out of "In Soviet Russia" and "I for one welcome our new overlord" jokes.
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From:tapinyips
Date:October 6th, 2005 12:54 pm (UTC)

Sentence Diagramming

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The rant on sentence diagramming sounded vaguely familiar to me. I knew it wasn't from my childhood as we were only forced to diagram sentences every other year. In the alternate years, we learned how to conjugate verbs, starting with "be" each time.

Then I found it. You really seem to be scarred from all of that diagramming. And rightfully so.

I wonder, now that you've dropped the "hypothetical", if you would still choose rusty razor torture over public school English. I assume so, although I'm sure that it would be infinitely harder than previously imagined.
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From:extempore
Date:October 6th, 2005 03:11 pm (UTC)

Re: Sentence Diagramming

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Oh crap. My year-to-year carry forward is way down, I see.
From:zetack
Date:October 6th, 2005 01:00 pm (UTC)

Sentence diagraming

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For some reason I got sentence diagraming only once, in seventh grade. I didn't get it, because I didn't really know the parts of speech and quite frankly still don't. Predicate? Hunh?

Maybe its because I've always been a voracious reader, or maybe its growing up in a house with a college professor and a writer for parents, but although I can't tell you what the heck a gerund is (I gather it has something to do with "ing") I'm pretty sure I can use one correctly in a sentence. (Spelling and punctuation, on the other hand, are completely beyond me).

I also remember an identify the infinitive exercize in 7th grade. I had no idea what an infinitive was, and I think when I raised that question with the teacher the answer I got was that it was a "to" word. I never could figure out why some words with "to' in front of them were infinitives and some were not. You think they might have thrown in at least that its a verb with a "to" in front of it. It wasn't until I took french that I finally understood what the heck they were talking about. Ah, school...good times.

From:es0terix
Date:October 6th, 2005 07:37 pm (UTC)

Re: Sentence diagraming

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I would say this is somewhat similar to great poker players who don't have a comprehensive understanding of the complex math of the game. Although you would be the first person I've come across to be both articulate and claim to be a dunce when it comes to grammar. Possibly just being around it (your parents) has conditioned you. Either way, that's mighty cool.

(...and yes, for those of you who care, my two week self-imposed-then-subsequently-paul-imposed ban is up today. Try to contain your excitement.)
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From:emagnetism
Date:October 6th, 2005 01:13 pm (UTC)

Game Theory and Tipping

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Wow, I finally feel I have something to add.

When I was waiting tables, the large-group autograt was most servers first introduction to game theory. It goes as follows:

You can choose to apply the automatic gratuity. If you do apply it, one of three things happens:

A) The person sees it, and decides you are taken care of.
B) The person sees it, and decides that you did better and adds a little.
C) The person doesn't see it, and tips 15-20% of the new total.

If you do apply it, your options are as follows:

E) The person assumes it there and you get nothing.
F) The person reads the check and tips appropriately.

Now, as a better-than-average server, I normally enjoyed tips in the 20-25% range (also, the restaurant was moderately upscale, so you had a lot of people "showing off" there). So, my payoff in case F) is higher than case A). Obviously, the payoff in C) was tremendously higher than all of the others, and B) was comparable to F). However, the probabilities of each of these cases was certainly not the same. For instance, case B) was HIGHLY unlikely, and case E) was also pretty low probability. So it was source of nonstop debate amongst the largely-under-educated serving crew as whether or not you would autograt. Most people would apply it and hope for the jackpot, which is not unlikely the mentality that had them buying lottery tickets.

Obviously, customer-reading skills are a boon, but I think EV calculations were way out of my co-workers' range.
From:facedownacesup
Date:October 6th, 2005 09:14 pm (UTC)

Re: Game Theory and Tipping

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Where is option G. You kindly mention to the person you hand the check to that a 15% tip is already added in, that way they don't overtip you by mistake ?
From:drizztdj
Date:October 6th, 2005 02:08 pm (UTC)

I'll Traffic School over...

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Learning to Cope without alcohol class anyday. I was the lucky winner of a minor in possesion ticket my second week of college and won an 8 hour seminar on "Having Fun Without Alcohol".

Thank god someone brough a flask of Hot 100 or that class would have been unbearable.
From:drizztdj
Date:October 6th, 2005 02:09 pm (UTC)

Re: I'll TAKE Traffic School over...

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I love my ability to forget words, its a blessing. Sigh.
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From:walterzuey
Date:October 6th, 2005 07:34 pm (UTC)

m&m's

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I thought the McNamara doc was one of the best treatments of a tough subject I've seen. Fair, subdued and rational. In the hands of the Moores, the definition of documentarian seems to have been absconded. And, sadly, I don't think most of America discerns the difference.
From:es0terix
Date:October 6th, 2005 07:43 pm (UTC)

Re: m&m's

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I hate Michael Moore as well but you have to admit, the guy is damn good at making people think what he wants them to think however unethically he may be doing so.

And yes, I went to film school and and even a large number of my fellow students couldn't see through his shennanigans - it's really quite sad.

I haven't seen any of Morris's work (which is a sad statement about Temple's film school) but I am definitely going to check some out.

For doc fans, I also recommend 'Comedian' which follows Jerry Seinfeld on his return to comedy after retiring every joke he ever told and starting completely over in NY's underground improv clubs. It also follows a comedian named Orny Adams who is both a train wreck of a bipolar annoyance and phenomenally entertaining at the same time.
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From:tiertender
Date:October 6th, 2005 07:47 pm (UTC)

MOORE

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Paul I respect you as a poker player I met you once you gave me some sound advice,I pray you dont dig michael moore
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From:tiertender
Date:October 6th, 2005 07:48 pm (UTC)

Re: MOORE

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I WISH WE CAN DEPORT HIM HE IS BAD FOR AMERICA
From:sleepycell
Date:October 6th, 2005 08:55 pm (UTC)
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Poor sentence structure is "bad for america".

now that i think about it I kinda like the phrase "bad for america".

Michael Moore makes documentary films. The bird flu will sweep across this country like the black plague. Now that's "bad for america".

Phil Hellmuth intolerance is "bad for america".



From:ruchie
Date:October 6th, 2005 09:13 pm (UTC)

docu-what?

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Saying Michael Moore makes documentaries is like saying Reefer Madness is a well researched treatise on the harmful effects of marijuana
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From:monkeyman13
Date:October 6th, 2005 09:05 pm (UTC)
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Regarding diagramming sentences:

I started off in French Immersion right from Kindergarten and stayed there until the fifth grade, when I moved to a small town with no available French Immersion option. Apparently, at the new school, everybody had already learned what they needed to know about parts of speech and diagramming sentences and whatnot, but given that my education had focused on learning a second language, I was left behind in that area. I never got the chance to learn any of that stuff, and muddled my way through high school English with only a basic understanding of what verbs, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs were. I'm an engineer now, and while I'd be the first to admit that my English skills are far from stellar, I like to think that I do better than many of my peers. Still, I often run into situations where I really wish I had a better understanding of the parts of speech. I have no idea what a predicate is, for example.

In any case, I do agree with your general point here -- my situation is rather unusual and I know that given a different educational history, I would have been as frustrated as you were by the repetition of topics that should have been well-understood.
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From:deaconblus
Date:October 6th, 2005 09:51 pm (UTC)

sentence diagramming

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Me loves me some sentence diagramming! The same thing inside my brain that makes me enjoy balancing chemical equations carries over to this odd portion of grammar school education. Perhaps I'd feel differently if I had to go through the process ad infinitum but that wasn't the case; rather, with each new year we learned where to put yet another part-of-speech and the whole rigamarole wrapped up nicely in about the 7th grade (diagram this sentence bee-yotch!). It all seemed like some sort of concession to the 'math' whizzes to make grammar seem less arbitrary by mapping it out.

Unfortunately, the same zeal for order and tidiness does not manifest itself in other areas of my life
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From:divides_by_zero
Date:October 6th, 2005 10:50 pm (UTC)

Re: sentence diagramming

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mmmmmmmm.....balancing equations....

Sorry - my nerd is showing.

I have to say - I do enjoy grammar. Precisely for the mathy-ness of it. But subject/predicate tests do get old. Oddly enough, we never seemed to get past subject/predicate. You really only learned the other parts of speech if you took a foreign language and I think that's a shame. Perhaps the pendulum swung in the other direction due to the outcries of those from Paul's generation...
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From:jill_idle
Date:October 7th, 2005 12:37 pm (UTC)
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I learned all of my predicate stuff from School House Rock.

"The predicate's the verb, that's the action word, that gets this subject up and out."

Poor Mr. Morton, too scared to ask a woman to marry him, just because they'd never actually spoken before.
From:honestiago
Date:October 7th, 2005 03:11 pm (UTC)

The Fog of War

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I'd just like to echo how brilliant this film is. I think what I love about it is that it works both as a study of the nature of political power and decision making in the 20th century and as a psychological study of an intelligent man at the end of his life whose rationalizations seem to be doing battle with his honesty.

I don't think The Fog of War is "objective" or "fair and balenced", which is an impossible standard that some people want "documentaries" or non-fiction filmaking (and Michael Moore) to live up to. I am perfectly happy with it being opinionated but intellectually honest.
From:fmfundamentals
Date:October 10th, 2005 04:21 am (UTC)

Re: The Fog of War

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I hope you're not implying that Michael Moore is intellectually honest.