Ping pong reloaded

by Eszter Hargittai on March 2, 2006

I started playing ping pong again a few weeks ago so I may appreciate this more than most, but I don’t think you have to be a practitioner for it to be worth a look.

While we’re on the topic of ping pong, check out this massively multiplayer online pong game. It’s not so much that it’s hours of fun (it’s not), what’s intriguing is that people come up with and create these things.

If all this has gotten you in the mood for some pong then try king pong [requires Shockwave]. It’s a pretty good version of a game that probably has hundreds if not thousands of variants.

I guess at this point I should probably include this here: Time Sink!.

UPDATE: The world smallest pong game is also worthy of a link here (I forget how I first came upon it a few weeks ago).

Thanks to Geeked for the Ping pong link and Waxy for the MMOP link. I found King Pong all by myself (well, with a little help from a search engine).

OECD Economic Survey of Ireland

by Maria on March 2, 2006

Hot off the presses. No idea when I’ll have time to read it, on account of me being so ‘time poor’ that I may as well have a peptic ulcer.

Getting back on Track

by Kieran Healy on March 2, 2006

Via “Bitch Ph.D”: some advice on recovering from “going AWOL”:, i.e., catching back up again after becoming overcommitted and falling way behind on promised deadlines, etc. A much better name — and solution — for this problem, which alas I can’t claim credit for, is “Declaring Intellectual Bankruptcy.”

The Right Words at the Right Time

by Kieran Healy on March 2, 2006

Listening to the radio on an airport shuttle last night — some CBS news station, I think — I heard the presenter interview a correspondent about the new “videos and transcripts”: of the White House’s response to Hurricane Katrina. At one point she asked whether this would make any difference to President Bush, or whether it was all “just water under the bridge.” To be fair, she realized just before she said this that it might not sound quite right, but was trapped by the need to maintain the flow of talk. So she could only manage “I hate to use what may sound like an inappropriate metaphor, but …” by way of rescuing the situation. A little later she said it again, this time without comment. (It would have been better if she’d asked whether this controversy was now all blown over or a wash for the President, or something.)

This was a very mild version of the situations Erving Goffman analyzes in “Radio Talk”, an essay from his book “Forms of Talk”: The CBS announcer was unusual in that she flagged the problem with what she was saying. More often, as Goffman documents, the announcer ploughs on (often in deadly serious manner, to prevent the flow of talk from breaking down into giggles), as if daring the listener to think anything inappropriate has been said. Thus, “She’ll be performing selections from Bach’s Well-Tempered Caviar”, or “”Good evening, this is the Canadian Broad Corping Castration” are passed over in silence. It’s better to push on, as efforts to save the interaction may end up doing even more damage, as in “Tonight I am going to consider the films of Alfred Hitchcack … cock! CACK!”

Dress optional

by Eszter Hargittai on March 2, 2006

Women's restroom sign Men's restroom sign Girls Boys Women's restroom sign Men's restroom sign

A propos gender, I wanted to say a few words about some recent photo interests. A few months ago I decided to start taking pictures of gender signs. The most obvious location for these is restroom doors. I haven’t encountered any awkward situations yet running around public bathrooms snapping photos, but I can imagine eventually I may get some curious glances.

The purpose of this exercise is to see what are the core essential elements that the designers of such signs decide will be enough to distinguish between men and women. We are all used to the stick figures, with and without the skirt (or would that be a dress?). But how about the more innovative approaches? In the Hungarian Parliament, the emphasis on the signs seems to be on differences in hairdo while the signs in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences emphasize some facial feature variation (lips vs moustache) in addition to hairdo distinctions and some differences in clothing. (It would be interesting to know the date of these two pairs of signs, I guess I didn’t do adequate research.) In other cases, the focus is on how men vs women tend to go about their business. At times, the distinctions are not completely obvious (these tend to be some of the most intriguing cases).

I have compiled my photos on the topic into a set on Flickr. More interestingly, I also started a public group on Flickr, a pool of pictures to which any other Flickr member can contribute. This has led to some great additions by others, for example: this Ken and Barbie pair at the Shirn museum in Frankfurt.

The rule for the photo pool is simple: post images that have both the male and female symbol (either in one or two pictures) and give some description of where the signs are located in case others want to find them. I welcome contributions! Join the trend, don’t be shy to whip out your camera next time you spot a pair of gender signs.

Eventually, I could see this project leading to.. well, perhaps not a coffee table book, but maybe a bathroom book?

Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia

by John Q on March 2, 2006

When I first saw this Fox caption capture from Media Matters linked at Surfdom, I thought it was some sort of aberration. But the idea that civil war in Iraq would be a good thing has already made it into the opinion pages of The Australian , propounded by Daniel Pipes. The same from James Joyner and Vodkapundit, though Glenn Reynolds demurs mildly.

Meanwhile, as Tim D notes, doublethink is SOP at Fox. As far as I can tell, the official pro-war position now emerging is

* there is no civil war in Iraq
* there will be no civil war in Iraq
* if civil war comes, it won’t be our fault
* when civil war comes, it will be a good thing

Unfortunately, at this point there’s not much anyone can do. The US and Uk have long since lost control of the situation, and the dynamic has gone beyond the control of any individual or group in Iraq. We’ll just have to hope that the Iraqi leaders (Sistani and Sadr on the Shia side, and the various groups contending to represent the Sunni Arabs and Kurds, among others) can pull something out of the fire between them.

A boring post on codes of conduct

by Chris Bertram on March 2, 2006

The “Ken Livingstone”: affair and the “Jowell/Mills/Berlusconi”: business have both focused attention on various “codes of conduct” which set out what public officials may or may not do, when they should declare an interest, etc. These were all brought in after the “Nolan committee”: , which was UK central government’s response to scandals such as “cash for questions” (a scandal involving central government). I won’t go so far as to say that the various codes make interesting reading, but there are some notable differences between them, especially as concerns what constitutes a relevant “interest”. Basically, if you are a parish councillor, with the power to do just about nothing, then you should recuse yourself if your niece’s live-in boyfriend might be affected more by a decision than someone else in the parish. On the other hand, if you are a member of the Cabinet the circle of persons in whose interests you are taken to have an interest is drawn much more tightly.

The codes for local government are on the “Standards Board for England”: website, the ministerial code is at the “Cabinet Office”: site.

UPDATE: Specifically on Jowell/Mills/Berlusconi, this “Guardian profile of Mills”:,,1716785,00.html makes interesting reading.