In which I can kinda fake Sorkin dialogue?

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(Previously, on Twitter)

OPEN ON Toby Ziegler and Josh Lyman, walking down a hallway in the West Wing.

Toby: Nominee’s out. Merrick—
Josh: Merrick?
Toby: Garland.
Josh: Merrick Garland?
Toby: Merrick Garland.
Josh: What, did Hermione Granger turn us down?
Toby: Is she on the D.C. Circuit, or the 5th?
Josh: Aw, you know what I mean. He just sounds really—
Toby: White?
Josh: I was going to say WASPy, but sure.
Toby: You work for a Josiah Bartlett.
Josh: …
Toby: Anyway, he’s a good judge. Great experience. Prosecuted Tim McVeigh.
Josh: I just thought we were going to be more, uh, creative.
Toby: It’s a bad time for creative.
Josh: Is it ever a good one?
Toby: The Judiciary Committee isn’t going to end the freezeout for creative
Josh: You think the Judiciary Committee is going to end the freezeout for Merrick Garland?
Toby: Well, they’ll look dumb if they don’t
Josh: They look dumb anyway!
Toby: Gotta heighten the contradictions. Freezing out a boring, obviously qualified nominee
Josh: You think they’ll crack?
Toby: If they do, we get Justice Merrick Garland. If they don’t, we try again after the election.
Josh: AFTER THE ELECTION?
Toby: It’s nuts, I agree.
Josh: It’s NUTS.
Toby: The Republicans are nuts.
Josh: You’d think people who talked so much about the Constitution would—
Toby: Follow it?
Josh: Yeah.
Toby: Are you new here?
Josh: So if they freeze out Merrick Garland, AND we win the election, we can get creative?
Toby: More creative, yeah. Not much, though — because we still might not get the Senate back.
Josh: Jeez. Maybe nominating Hermione Granger would be more realistic.
Toby: [shrugs]

FIN

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How to do chili

Not pretty, but it warms you right up. (jay)

Not pretty, but it’ll warm you right up. (jby)

We’re well into the time of year when, in Minneapolis, the air outdoors will freeze your nose hairs on the first breath, and snow has lost its charm. Here in Vancouver, the only substantial snow is on the mountains across the water, but there’s ice on the trails in Stanley Park, and the trees are lacy with frozen fog. In either city, it’s the time of year for soup: elaborately spiced pho, classic chicken-noodle, and chili.

I don’t so much have a recipe for chili as I have some rules of thumb. My preferred ratios of ingredients, and some of my spicing, are informed by the recipe in Mark Bittman’s magisterial How to Cook Everything, but really that one confirmed a lot of what I’d already arrived at through trial and error. This probably won’t win you a state-fair cook-off, but it’ll make a big pot of hot, hearty, fragrantly spiced chili of the sort that goes perfectly with some cornbread or over rice on a cold winter night.

Here’s what you do:

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Chronicle Vitae: Why the tenure track job hunt sucks — and why it maybe ought to?

(Flickr: Alison Curtis)

(Flickr: Alison Curtis)

In a new post for the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Vitae blog today, I let off a little of the steam accumulated over four years (and counting) of writing applications for tenure-track faculty jobs.

Do you really need to receive letters of reference with my application? Yes, of course, you want perspectives on candidates from people who have worked with us in the past. Will you use their letters in the very first round of sorting through dozens (or hundreds) of applicants? Probably not. I have met a few faculty members who tell me that they do read letters for that first-stage decision — but those professors are the rare, possibly superhuman, exceptions. For candidates, making sure letters get delivered means making sure that three-to-five usually very busy senior collaborators know the general description of the job opening in question, the idiosyncratic method by which letters should be submitted, and the deadline for submission — then following up to ensure they meet that deadline.

I’d like to think this column is both a (reasonable) extended complaint, and a #SlatePitch-y rebuttal to said complaint — because I kinda think, actually, that as maddening as tenure-track applications can be, they might be pretty good at identifying people who will do well as faculty. To find out why, go read the whole thing.

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Roman Holiday

As seen previously on Twitter.

Have yourself
A merry Saturnalia,
If the Fates allow—
And if Zeus
Does not turn you in-to a cow.

Have yourself
A merry Saturnalia
Let your heart be light!
The Alps will keep
Those elephants all out of sight.

Here we are as in olden days
Pre-Triumv’rate days of yore—
When Senators had no cause to spill
Caesar’s blood on the floor!

Even with
The Goths upon our doorstep,
Rome may yet endure—
Or Justinian will say the fall’s deferred.
So have yourself a merry Saturnalia now!

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Proposed: A new gender-parity benchmark, you guys!

So Science, that lovable institutional behemoth of scientific publishing, has just produced a list of “top 50 science stars of Twitter” that manages to contain, by my count—I’ve triple-checked—four women. Eight percent.

Looking at the list, it hit me:

Seriously, though, I was in a gay bar this weekend with a better gender ratio than @sciencemagazine’s Twitter list: http://news.sciencemag.org/scientific-community/2014/09/top-50-science-stars-twitter#full-list
@JBYoder, 7:50 AM – 17 Sep 2014.

I hereby propose this as a new, painfully minimum standard for gender parity: If I passed more women on a trip between the dance floor and the bar at the Saloon last weekend than are present in your speaker roster, reviewer panel, or unasked-for list of notables, you’re doing it wrong. In the interest of establishing this as a rigorous benchmark, I plan to immediately embark on a systematic survey of gay bar gender ratios, starting Friday night; interested collaborators should contact me through the usual channels.

Meanwhile, see the totally meaningful list of awesome animals Tom Houslay offers in the spirit of Science, and the big special issue on diversity in science just released by that other beloved institutional behemoth of scientific publishing, Nature.

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Proposed new consumer information labels for food products

Energy in Bananas Photo by Robert Fornal.

Produced with genetic engineering.

Contents derived from organisms produced by millennia of only occasionally deliberate selective breeding, and which may be so freakishly modified from their ancestral state that they would not survive five days without constant care and attention.

Product may make your tongue appear to be purple in color, but this effect is not permanent.

Useful for, at most, temporary relief of emotional distress resulting from a breakup, firing, or other traumatic life experience.

Will not taste anything like what your mother used to make.

Processed in a facility that also sells to Republicans.

Can be habit-forming if consumed periodically in a regular place, at a set time of day, or in conjunction with routine activities.

Contains no material that is truly describable using the word “marshmallow.”

May produce sensory stimuli with strong associations to formative childhood experiences, which can trigger periods of abstraction, rumination, nostalgia, regret, and panic attacks.

Made in desperation.◼

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Minnesota winter as a series of cinematic genres

Image via.

(Update: Cross-posted.)

First snowfall: Romantic comedy. You meet cute when you feel the first flakes against your cheek. The fresh snow cover makes everything look new and crisp and innocent. You take a long evening walk through the park, watching the falling snow dance in the light of the street lamps. You stop to make snow angels. There is a snowball fight, but afterwards everyone is still friendly. Towards the end, adorable children come out to play.

The cold snap: Heist. Going outdoors requires careful planning, and if you don’t have the right equipment, things could go pear-shaped in an instant. You have many of your most important conversations over the phone—or via Skype, if you want to look particularly tech-savvy. If you’re going to take I-94, you’ll need a really good driver.

White Christmas: Disney animated musical. Fresh snow arrives just in time to accessorize the family photo on the front porch. Everything is covered in tinsel and blinking lights. Your trip to the drugstore to buy cough syrup has a twinkly soundtrack. People you meet on the street are jolly, but there is a sneaking sense that they’re just trying to fulfill expectations.

The blizzard: Mumblecore independent drama. The cold has numbed even your memories of summer. Everyone wears layers of flannel and threadbare sweaters, and many of your friends have taken up knitting just to make more insulation. You drink flat, tasteless Grain Belt because you can’t bear the thought of shoveling off the car again to go get something better. You have long, elliptical, monotone conversations with the houseguests who are trapped in your apartment after the sun goes down at 4:30.

The thaw: Film noir. Everything seems to change when a high-pressure system from the south waltzes in and asks if you know when it’ll be the right time to plant tomatoes. You prowl the slushy back alleys of the Warehouse District, searching for a glimpse of dry pavement. Two-story-tall piles of accumulated snow peppered with gravel and cigarette butts loom over empty, ice-covered parking lots. You think you see a crocus poking up through the snow—but forget it, Jake, it’s still only March.

The April snow storm: Adam Sandler farce. Ten inches of wet, heavy snow fall overnight with an almost audible thump. It looks shiny and new, but rapidly develops the familiar gray shading of slush. People get splashed in embarrassing ways. There is laughter, but it has a desperate, mean-spirited edge. It lasts about fifty percent longer than anyone really wants it to.◼

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