Friday, February 24, 2012

Project Runway Random Recap

We were down to the final six designers last night on Project Runway: All-Stars, and for some reason I want to share my thoughts. Don't know why -- it's not like this episode was particularly wild or outrageous or something (that prize goes to Rami being sent home while Austin slid through with a look that would have been dated in 1967). But whatever -- it's my blog, I do what I want.

The theme of this challenge was that designers had to be inspired by the culture and colors of a foreign country: Chile (Kenley), India (Jerrell), Seychelles (Austin), Papua New Guinea (Mila), Greece (Michael), and Jamaica (Mondo). I really liked the concept in theory, but boy oh boy was it not the designer's best work.

Mondo: Mondo sent out a long but very tight black dress. From a judging perspective, it presented an interesting conundrum: 95% of the dress was great, but didn't read "Jamaica" at all. The 5% that did (green and gold chevrons down the otherwise open back) had all the subtlety of a sledgehammer and was hideous to boot. Mondo also came in for criticism for his styling and accessorizing, which I agree with -- I can see how the headband was meant to say "island" but to me it said "ninja". All these problems would have more serious had the competition been less dreadful, but that was not the situation.

Kenley: Kenley put out a short polka-dotted (surprise!) party dress with an asymmetrical flamingo trim. The good news is that I definitely saw "Chile" in it. The bad news is that I specifically saw "Chilean hooker" in it. For whatever reason, it just read skanky to me -- which is odd, because Kenley's problem is normally that her dresses seem too babyish to me, not too slutty. Still, it had some interesting elements and fit her country without being literal, which was much appreciated.

Austin: Eh. It was fine. It wasn't stellar. Austin made the mistake of picking the Seychelles because he knew nothing about it (always a bad call), and the Seychelles in particular has a flag that looks like a rainbow vomiting. That's tough to design around, and Austin really just played it safe -- a simple gown which only featured a few colors, which didn't offend the eye or anything, but hardly wowed.

Michael: "Greece frightening". "Ms. Greece 2012". This number had problems front to back (literally). The concept was decent enough if a bit obvious: a draped white gown with blue embellishments over the shoulder. The problem was that the blue embellishments look for all the world like a sash, which, coupled with the gown cut, really made it look like pageant entry. Meanwhile, the model turns to reveal a plunging back line -- so plunging, it reaches all the way down to her ass. Oops.

Jerrell: As you may be able to tell, I was hardly enamored with most of the offerings last night. But only one, er, "design" feels like it should have set off a civil rights march, and that's Jerell's. It was worse than a costume -- it was a stereotyped costume. It was a green fabric bunch over a highly embellished gold bustier dress, with a ton of accessorizing to complete that ever-stylish "Hindu barbie" look. Jerrell's problem is always editing, and this was not edited at all. Moreover, the shades of green and gold he used clashed horribly with each other, providing another layer of distraction to an already-overcomplicated look. And he kept talking about how "ethnic" India is. As opposed to? Ugh.

Mila: I actually really liked this dress. It was an asymmetrical black and red dress with gold trim (following Papua New Guinea's flag). The geometry was really cool, and the silhouette was interesting and unique. Isaac said the colors reminded him of communism. I say this is why I hate Isaac -- yes, red, black, and gold have a Communist vibe, but that's not all they say. If anything, the dress looks like a sexy play on communism (a Soviet analogue to the recent "sexy Haradi" photo-shoot in Israel). But the point is that Isaac is always completely absorbed in his own little world, and as a judge seems utterly unable to step outside of his personal aesthetic preferences. This show's enjoyability is directly proportional to the amount of time Joanna Coles spends talking and Isaac Mizrahi spends shutting up. Mila was sent home, and honestly, I would have had her win -- hers was the most unique, the most interesting profile, and did the best job of being fashionable while still representing her country.

My top: Mila (winner), Mondo, Austin.

My bottom: Michael, Kenley, Jerrell (goes home).

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Woohoo Maryland!

Maryland just passed a law legalizing same-sex marriage, the eighth state to legalize it. Kudos to all the legislators who voted in favor, but particularly Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), who really put himself out there as a key leader in this campaign and shepherded this bill to passage.

As is becoming custom, the law will soon hit the referendum process, as opponents seek to overturn the law and restore the prior state of inequality. Maryland is an interesting context because it is so Democratic, but also features a substantial African-American population which is skittish about marriage equality. It will be interesting to see if conservatives can draw enough cross-over votes to take this law down. But my instinct is that they won't be able to, and Maryland will see gay marriage approved not just be the legislature, but directly by the people as well.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Baby Rick Santorum Would Have Killed

GOP Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum made waves recently when he came out against requiring insurers to cover prenatal testing. He singled out amniocentesis as a procedure which, in his view, was being used as a precursor to abortion and which insurance companies should not be required (as they are under the ACA) to cover.

Rick Santorum's policy would have killed Sarah Fister Gale's daughter.

Gale was six months into an otherwise normal pregnancy when two successive blood tests turned up abnormal. "Rather than turning to my local politician for prenatal advice, I followed the guidance of my obstetrician, who sent me to a perinatologist, who recommended I have an amniocentesis."

And it's a good thing she did. Gale's daughter was diagnosed via amniocentesis with Rh negative disease, a disorder which occurs when the fetus' blood is positive type but the mother's is negative. The mothers' immune system attacks the baby's blood cells, preventing them from developing. Absent treatment, the baby is normally carried to term but then dies shortly after birth.

Amniocentesis is very expensive. If it wasn't covered by insurance, Gale probably couldn't have gotten the test. And her baby would probably be dead. That, in turn, would be a direct result of Santorum deciding that his moral code takes precedence over doctor's practicing medicine.
If Rick Santorum had his way, I wouldn’t have been able to get that test, and she most likely would have died. Because according to him, tests that give parents vital information about the health of their unborn children are morally wrong. Though he has no medical training, and no business commenting on the medical decisions that women and their doctors make, he argues that such tests shouldn’t be provided, or that employers at least should be allowed to opt out of paying for them on “moral grounds.”
In the Catholic church where I was raised, pride, arrogance and an overinflated sense of oneself were considered sins. But in Rick Santorum’s world they are virtues, and they make up the foundation from which he proclaims how other people should live their lives.

In 2008, the Archbishop of Denver said that for a Catholic to justify a vote for a pro-choice politician, they must have a reason of the sort "we will be able to explain, with a clean heart, to the victims of abortion when we meet them face to face in the next life - which we most certainly will." One wonders if Mr. Santorum has a similar reason compelling enough for him to justify a campaign which would see children like Ms. Gale's dead.


Technology often does cool things. But it is particularly exciting when technology makes real a classic sci-fi trope. And while we're still waiting on flying cars, Google may be bringing us glasses fit with a heads-up display, able to stream information about one's surroundings in real-time.

Yes, it'd actually probably be really weird, and yes, there are serious privacy implications if people are wandering around with hidden, constantly-recording cameras built into to their eyeware. But come on! A heads-up display! Just like everyone has dreamed of since they played Halo (or Goldeneye, or Doom ... age yourself appropriately)! If it doesn't give me the option to have a red box bracket my conversation partner with "target acquired", I'll be sad.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

7 Days for 7 Journals

I submitted Sticky Slopes yesterday to about 60 of the nation's finest law journals (I'll push that number up closer to 75 as several late bloomers complete their turnover). I've already achieved the first critical milestone of any submission season -- the first rejection (here within less than 24 hours) -- so that's out of the way (and I must admire the speed at which the journal in question completed their review of my 29,000 word article. No, I won't mention who it was -- wouldn't want to embarrass them).

But I was thinking about the emergent trend we're seeing in some journals to abide by a 7-day expedite window, where they commit to giving authors at least 7 days to make a decision. The effect is to give authors a reasonable amount of time to gain expedited review from more prestigious journals. It's something authors have been clamoring for for some time as expedite windows have been shrinking to absurdly small time-frames (I've heard of 2 hour windows, and even rumors of demands to accept or reject on the phone), but one understands why the journals have been reticent.

1) It's basically giving authors greater opportunity leave them for greener pastures, and there is no clear benefit to the journals for playing nice. One could argue that it helps their reputation, but there is no real evidence that authors actually are putting their money where their mouth is and preferring journals which provide generous expedite windows.

2) Even if journals were inclined to be altruistic, there is a race to the bottom -- journals are afraid of being outcompeted by peers which play hardball.

For these reasons, most of the journals which have agreed to the 7-day window are relatively top-tier reviews that, frankly, don't see a lot of their pieces stolen by reviews higher up the chain.

One proposal I have for fixing this -- or at least partially solving the collective action portion of it, anyway -- is for journals to agree to a 7-day window, but only for expedites to journals which have themselves adopted the 7-day expedite window policy. So if the #50 ranked journal adopts this policy, it would say authors have 7 days to accept an offer from any higher ranked journal which itself provides 7 days to make a decision, so long as it agrees to withdraw from all journals which do not have that policy (or withdraw from those journals after, say, 2 days). This would encourage the journals higher up the ladder to sign on to 7-day policies, as they would be reaping concrete benefits.

Of course, these sorts of withdrawal demands may seem difficult to enforce. But it seems like deals like this happen with some regularity -- schools agree to extensions on offer windows on the condition that the author withdraw their submission from all but a few agreed-upon law reviews.

Anyway, all of this is getting ahead of myself with Sticky Slopes -- dealing with expedite chains is a problem I at the moment only dream of facing. But the policy idea seems sound to me. Thoughts?

State Rape

Trigger warning.

After a great deal of public outcry, Virginia legislators are delaying consideration of a bill that would mandate raping women who want an abortion. The bill specifically would require women seeking an abortion to obtain a medically unnecessary trans-vaginal ultrasound, thus revealing to them that what's growing in their uterus is a fetus and not, say, a basketball.

Since most definitions of rape run something along the lines of "oral, vaginal, or anal penetration of a foreign object without the party's consent", and since here "consent" is manufactured by force of statute (cf., the old spousal rape exemption, where by statute a married women automatically consented to sexual intercourse), Virginia's law is perfectly accurately characterized as a law requiring the rape of women.

But you know what? Everyone's so focused on the negative; but I think that this is really an effort by Virginia legislators to be more pro-choice than they were before. Recall that even most anti-choice lawmakers purport to except from this principle cases where the woman was raped. Virginia is just trying to make that exception cover every woman seeking an abortion, by requiring that they all be raped first! This way, abortions can still be done, and the "consciences" of the men who generally can't tolerate abortion are assuaged. Sure, some women probably object to being subjected to a state-sponsored rape campaign, but hey, omelets, eggs, and all that.

You see? It all works out in the end.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Nuh-Uh! Who Reads Comments?

Normally I think xkcd hits it out of the park, but today's contribution I think is way off target. The premise of the comic is that it costs far more money to run ads on every major political news site than it would to "pay five college students $20/hour to camp the site 24/7 and post the first few comments the moment a story goes up, giving you the last word on the subject and creating the illusion of consensus."

The alt-text proceeds to mock comment structures based on "voting" up good comments and down bad ones. But the real answer is "most commenters on major news sites are morons, and most readers of those sites have to be aware of that fact." If persistent internet trolling was enough to seriously change views, Ron Paul would be President-for-life.