Posted on September 29th, by matt_schiavenza in Personal. No Comments

So, beginning on Friday, I will be a substitute teacher at the Pacifica Language Center in Menlo Park.  I went there yesterday to observe three lessons: speaking & listening, reading & vocabulary, and grammar respectively.  The first two lessons were pretty casual and conversational and were comprised of the students asking me various questions about myself.  The third class was a grammar class and proceeded in a more conventional manner, with the teacher going through exercises with the students.

The students ranged in age from about 20 to 40, though I’d say most were a few years younger than me.  Quite a few were Asian and I’d guess the plurality of students were Japanese.  There were also Europeans, Latin Americans (including an Argentinian priest who doubles as a lawyer),  Chinese, Indonesians, and even a guy from the Ivory Coast.  All in all, a pretty good mix of people.

Then, yesterday afternoon, I went for my interview for The Buddy System at San Mateo’s Borders.  The interview didn’t get off to a good start because, well, the woman wasn’t there when I showed up at 4.  I asked the barista what the deal was, and she replied that they usually show up about "half the time".  Jesus Christ.

Anyway, she showed up at 4:15 and we had the interview on the Borders patio along with another woman who wanted the job.  Things went well and she assured us that we’d be getting tutoring offers in a week or two.  Good stuff- especially at $25 an hour.

So I’m pleased because I’ve gotten irregular, temporary, flexible work that’ll still pay enough to support my expensive weekend outings in San Francisco and the exorbitant cost of gas.  Not to mention I’ll still have time to look into grad programs and such during the days.


Alternate Newsweek Covers

Posted on September 29th, by matt_schiavenza in Media. No Comments

Compare and contrast the covers of Newsweek‘s US edition with its foreign editions.  Are Americans ignorant of foreign policy because our media doesn’t report it to us?  Or does our media not report it to us because we’re ignorant of foreign policy? 

In any event, Newsweek sucks; as does Time.  For a newsweekly, stick to The Economist.  …

7-1, Diamondbacks

Posted on September 27th, by matt_schiavenza in Baseball. 3 comments

So coming home didn’t exactly turn things around for the Giants.  They were routed again last night, 7 to 1, by the mediocre Arizona Diamondbacks.  With that, the Giants are officially eliminated from postseason contention and will no longer be able to finish with a winning record.

A couple of points about the Gi’nts:

- Pedro Feliz is a wonderful utility player due to his ability to play several defensive positions, stay healthy, and hit mistake pitches over the fence.  But as an every-day player, he just doesn’t cut it.
- The Giants have four players in their lineup that swing at everything: Hillenbrand, Feliz, Notgardo Alfonzo, and to a lesser extent Randy Winn.  All of these guys can hit, but when they’re slumping they just absolutely kill the team given their inability to get on base more than 30% of the time.
- Jason Schmidt still pitches like he’s a 22 year old rookie fresh from Double-A.  I hope the Giants don’t sign him.

- …

Chomsky Critique

Posted on September 27th, by matt_schiavenza in Ideas. No Comments

A few thoughts about Robert Scruton’s piece on Noam Chomsky in The Opinion Journal (via A&L Daily):

Scruton begins with a flattering assessment in Chomsky’s place in the history of linguistics yet before long begins to focus on the Professor’s political commentary.  Fair enough; just about all of Chomsky’s fame comes from his writing in politics, not linguistics.

Scruton gets to the bottom of Chomsky’s deep flaw as an analyst:

And it is surely undeniable that
his habit of excusing or passing over the faults of America’s enemies,
in order to pin all crime on his native country, suggests that he has
invested more in his posture of accusation than he has invested in the

Precisely.  I find Chomsky’s view arrogant in its assumption that all global problems are consequences of American actions, attributing little to local and organic sources in foreign countries.  He accepts America’s culpability as his premise and extrapolates from there rather than deriving America’s culpability from inductive analysis.

Then, Scruton’s analysis falls apart in his last paragraph.  He writes:

Success breeds resentment, and
resentment that has no safety valve becomes a desire to destroy. The
proof of that was offered on 9/11 and by just about every utterance
that has emerged from the Islamists since. But Americans don’t want to
believe it. They trust others to take the kind of pleasure in American
success that they, in turn, take in the success of others. But this
pleasure in others’ success, which is the great virtue of America, is
not to be witnessed in those who denounce her. They hate America not
for her faults, but for her virtues, which cast a humiliating light on
those who cannot adapt to the modern world or take advantage of its

This is merely an artfully-worded elaboration on President Bush’s utterance: "They hate us because they hate freedom".  Needless to say, it’s garbage.  Most foreigners have always admired America’s structure and ideals yet disliked our foreign policy.  Did Ho Chi Minh- whose Vietnamese Declaration of Independence and Constitution were modeled on ours- hate America for its sucess?  Or did he turn against us when we sent men to his country to fight his troops? 

Scruton’s piece annoys me because in critiquing Chomsky’s tunnel-vision approach to foreign policy, he endorses an equally shortsighted version of his own.  …


Posted on September 26th, by matt_schiavenza in Sports. No Comments

Also watched nearly the whole Niners game yesterday……and they’ve still got a long ways to go.  Their offense is much improved, especially their second-year quarterback Alex Smith who may turn out to be OK after all.  I like Frank Gore’s hard running style but he has to learn how to hold onto the football.  The fumble at the 2 yard line was an absolute killer.  The defense still doesn’t put enough pass rush on the quarterback, and they’re too susceptible to big plays, such as the flea flicker that the Eagles utilized on the first play from scrimmage that netted them 50 yards.

But they’re playing harder, they’re scoring some points, and they’re a lot more fun to watch than last season’s club.  …

Giant Blues

Posted on September 26th, by matt_schiavenza in Baseball. 1 Comment

Now that was a bad road trip- probably the worst I can remember in nearly 20 years of watching Giants baseball.  One win, eight losses, one rainout.  The players admitting to the press that they were happy the game got rained out.  The complete collapse of the starting rotation.  Dozens of first-inning runs.  Being swept in a four-game series by a team nearly fifteen games below .500.  And on, and on.

So that’s that for your 2006 Giants.  The only thing we have to look forward to now is spoiling the Dodgers’ chances when LA comes into town this upcoming weekend.  Or, as the paper noted this morning, some "personal milestones" such as Pedro Feliz attaining 100 RBIs.  I’m sure we’ll all bake cakes in Pete Happy’s honor for that one.

This offseason will be interesting.  Who should go?  I vote for Bonds, Schmidt, Feliz, both Alou’s, Righetti, Durham, Finley, Matheny, and Benitez.  For starters.  Yes, that would gut the team….but they have to rebuild.  …

Feisty Bill

Posted on September 25th, by matt_schiavenza in Politics. 3 comments

Former President Clinton agreed to an interview hatchet job with Fox News, and bristles at the suggestion that he didn’t do enough against Bin Laden.  Video here.

UPDATE:  Doug in the comments believes Clinton emerges as the winner, citing on his own blog an article written by William Kristol in The Weekly Standard.  Others disagree, saying Clinton’s reaction will probably "backfire".  Arianna Huffington just wishes he unleashed his fury on the right-wing sooner.

With a politician like Clinton, it’s easy to imagine that everything he says or does in public is politically calculated.  Perhaps I’m being naive, but it certainly seemed to me that he was genuinely upset.  Jonah Goldberg of NRO publishes an e-mail that appears to corroborate my thesis.…

Skype Experiments

Posted on September 25th, by matt_schiavenza in Technology. No Comments

Downloaded Skype finally as a cheap free way to keep in touch with friends in China.  Experiment one: telephone call with Ben.  Things were fine for about twenty minutes but then the audio would go out for awhile or there was a weird delay.

Experiment two: called Alan.  Conversation failed: he could see me via video and I could hear him, but he couldn’t hear me. 

Experiment three: talked to Todd.  Complete success.  Loud, clear, uninterrupted for twenty minutes.

The jury is still out.…

As For Mahmoud…

Posted on September 25th, by matt_schiavenza in Current Affairs. No Comments

What of the other anti-American gadfly at the UN conference, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?  Should we be worried?  Dan Drezner says no.  I agree.…

Hugo’s Book Club

Posted on September 25th, by matt_schiavenza in Current Affairs. No Comments

One wonders if Noam Chomsky felt the slightest twinge of embarrassment when Hugo Chavez, Latin America’s latest wannabe Bolivar, waved his book whilst denouncing Chomsky’s own country.  I doubt it.  Chomsky has built his career (aside from linguistics, of course) out of comitting Chavez-like diatribes to print and polishing them with his pseudo-intellectual sophistry.  I did, however, find it amusing that Chavez assumed Chomsky was dead. 

There are serious questions to be asked regarding US hegemony, but neither Chomsky nor Chavez are capable of asking them.  They are two men who deserve each other.…