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Archive for May, 2009

Sme has an interesting graphic previewing the Stanley Cup Finals that start tonight, with a predictable emphasis on the Slovak players on each side.

I didn’t pay much attention to it initially, until I realized that Marián Hossa’s head had been quite clearly Photoshopped onto the body of some Red Wing player who hoisted the Cup in the past. And that caused me to realize that the opposite image of Miroslav Šatan lifting the Cup for Pittsburgh was clearly doctored.

Also interesting are the keys to the series for each team.

What has to happen for Hossa and Kopecký to win the Stanley Cup?

  • Goalie Chris Osgood must have the best playoff of his career. The goaltender is the weakest link for Detroit. [It’s amazing that this cliché — Osgood has backstopped the Wings to three Cups, including last season’s — has found its way into the Slovak sports media, which are clearly following the lead of their North American counterparts.]
  • The defense must shut down Pittsburgh’s strongest weapons — Malkin and Crosby.
  • The injured players must return. If Detroit is missing Datsyuk, Draper and captain Lidstrom, it will make its mark on the series.
  • Hossa hasn’t been a very prominent figure in the playoffs, he must be more noticeable.

What has to happen for Šatan to win the Stanley Cup?

  • The defense must be more consistent. Detroit has no weak lines, each one knows how to score.
  • The fourth line with Miroslav Šatan should be a strong weapon, centered by Malkin and Crosby. [I have no idea either what they’re talking about; I think they just needed the obligatory “the Slovak player is an important contributor” point for their audience.”]
  • A lot of goals have been scored so far on the power play. The Penguins power play has enjoyed a 20 percent success rate.
  • So far goalie Fleury has only had weak play in the Washington series.

My pick is Pittsburgh, and I’ll say it goes six games. I just have a hunch that Sidney Crosby is going to take over a few more games this series and begin cementing his status as one of the game’s legends. He’s shown flashes of that already this postseason, but I think he’s primed to do it on the biggest stage, especially after the disappointing finish to last season.

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… miss offensive historical references.

The publisher of a newspaper in Warren, Pa., is scrambling to apologize after the paper’s advertising staff ran a classified ad calling for Barack Obama’s assassination.

The text of the ad:

May Obama follow in the steps of Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy!

According to the publisher, the ad staff didn’t realize that Obama’s four would-be predecessors were all, you know, assassinated.

Of course, C speculates that given the paper’s location in a rural, redneck area of northwest Pennsylvania, it’s plausible the advertising staff simply agreed with the sentiment.

I for one am just waiting for the cries of outrage and indignation from the “media personalities” who routinely decry the liberal media for hating on America.

(Crickets.)

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The NYT has an article about an apparently recent phenomenon taking root among the country’s teens: hugging?

Comforting as the hug may be, principals across the country have clamped down. “Touching and physical contact is very dangerous territory,” said Noreen Hajinlian, the principal of George G. White School, a junior high school in Hillsdale, N.J., who bannedhugging two years ago. “It was needless hugging — they are in the hallways before they go to class. It wasn’t a greeting. It was happening all day.”

Schools that have limited hugging invoked longstanding rules against public displays of affection, meant to maintain an atmosphere of academic seriousness and prevent unwanted touching, or even groping.

But pro-hugging students say it is not a romantic or sexual gesture, simply the “hello” of their generation. “We like to get cozy,” said Katie Dea, an eighth grader at Claire Lilienthal Alternative School in San Francisco. “The high-five is, like, boring.”

Like, totally.

This article and the alarmist note being struck at the prevalence of teen hugging cracked me up. Partly because hugging strikes me as hardly alarming. I mean, of all the behaviors teens can and do adopt, whether due to social pressure or sheer boredom, I think hugging is hardly worth getting all bent out of shape. Isn’t it a good thing that adolescents learn to express affection in a positive, dare I say, embracing way?

But the other reason this article amused me is because it seems like another way in which American norms of social behavior seems at odds with what I’ve encountered in other countries. For instance, I recall my Polish instructor a couple of years ago describing and demonstrating for us the Polish greeting of kissing each other on the cheek, and her comment that it seems really odd and practically scandalous to Americans, even though it’s a chaste kiss in which the lips barely contact the face. By contrast, she found it odd the way she sees students on campus hugging, since the hug is barely an embrace, similar to the hug in the picture illustrating the story.

Parents: have you talked to your teen about hugging?

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Well, I managed to finish writing lectures and other course preparation for my class this quarter, with about two weeks to spare. I still have to deliver the last four lectures, and hold office hours, and, most tragically, grade the second set of papers and the final. But, I consider all that fairly easy, even if grading tends to be tedious.

I also managed to rework the epilogue to my dissertation last night, which was mainly  a question of chopping sections and adding about a paragraph at the end. It probably took me less time, it turns out, than I spent creating a section with all the illustrations and images in my dissertation. The pictures are getting relegated to a separate section at the end, mostly because I don’t know Word well enough to figure out how to insert images into the chapters in a way that doesn’t look awkward or leave ugly sections of white space at the bottom of pages. It’s inelegant, but at this juncture it should be sufficient for the purpose of giving a full draft to my committee.

Anyway, I’ve been trying to get the course prep and dissertation stuff out of the way so I can shift to other urgent tasks, chiefly writing the twenty lectures I have to give in my monthlong European survey that starts about a month from now.

I’ve been dreading having to produce enough content to fill five two-hour lectures a week. I’m making it a bit easier on myself by integrating regular discussions into the course, and there’s one film, plus the exams are both in class. But, even with all that, I’m still on the hook for about thirty-four hours of lecture. For comparison’s sake, I’m going to end up giving about sixteen lectures totaling twenty-three hours this quarter.

I’m at the point where I’m trying to start writing lectures for the summer, since I don’t want to have to write eight and a half hours of lecture a week during the summer, particularly since I’ll also have plenty of grading to do in a compressed period.

And really, that’s at the root of the challenge, trying to teach a course that would normally span eleven weeks in just four and a half.

It’s pretty daunting, I’ll admit, but I can’t allow myself to get overwhelmed since I’ll almost certainly have a similarly onerous teaching burden at my first job, where I can expect to be teaching three or four courses a term. At least by then I’ll have the advantage of having a few courses and several lectures in the can, but it’s similarly unattractive as a prospect.

Anyway, the other task I’d like to get done in the not-too-distant future is revising and polishing a paper I’ve been working on based on work I presented at a conference last fall. I had a request to submit it for possible publication, and it’s an open-ended thing without a firm deadline, but I did say I was hoping to have submitted it last month, and I’d really like to get it out of the way before long so I can actually take off the two months after my summer course and relax for a long while.

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It’s a little late, but I just came across this brilliant observation from a friend’s blog about the Mozart-Eurovision connection:

Past visits by Mozart (see above) appear to inoculate a country against selection to the Eurovision finals (Germany, France and England have automatic bids) and in some cases (Luxemburg, Italy, Austria), even from desire to enter.

Mozart’s cultural and musical influence remains strong a quarter-millennium later. Who knew?

Kudos to Kevin Deegan-Krause for this new insight, and also for the courage to brave the Eurovision Song Contest finals. You, sir, are a man of great fortitude!

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New international unemployment are forthcoming, and when the data are crunched, it’s expected to reveal U.S. unemployment has risen higher than the EU rate.

Sure, the U.S. rate, which reached 8.9 percent in April, isn’t higher than every EU member state. Things are quite a bit worse in Ireland and Spain (naturally, two European countries that had a nice, U.S.-style housing bubble that burst), and in other individual EU states, as you can see in the chart below.

 

But even allowing for the possibility that the U.S. unemployment rate isn’t the worst of all, it’s still pretty high. And more critically, we get to “enjoy” high unemployment without the benefit of an effective safety net that makes job loss less devastating.

One would hope that in the wake of the current economic meltdown, there might finally be the pressure needed for things like unemployment insurance that doesn’t run out after just a few months, or national health insurance that isn’t simply a “don’t get sick” plan.

Then again, it’d be nice if those folks fortunate enough to have jobs got some of the other perks that came with working in Europe. Things like four to six weeks paid vacation each year. Child allowances and generous parent leave policies that help to offset the startup costs of having children.

Sadly, there’s been far too little discussion of any of these sorts of measures, even though they’re sorely needed at the moment. Instead, we’re not getting anything more than the usual stopgaps and half-measures, the occasional bill to expand unemployment benefits slightly, or talk of health care reform that would cover more, but not all, of the uninsured.

But even though the political opportunity seems to be there, and the need hasn’t been more acute since the Great Depression, the will of the so-called “liberals” in office is sorely lacking when it comes time to expend political capital on measures that would make a huge difference in the lives of the most vulnerable.

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It’s true. (Sort of.)

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has created a model of what it would look like if the countries of the world had their own Facebook pages.

While the U.S.-Pakistan-Taliban “poke war” is amusing, my favorite part has to be “Russia and the United States are pretending to be friends.”

I so wish someone at RFE/RL set up a section of the web site to update this stuff daily, just to give me a more amusing way to waste time following “Facebook” updates.

(Tip of the hat to Amanda)

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