[Cross-posted at https://medium.com/@bob.glickstein/rawr-22a7f54eeda3.]

Once upon a time, the National Rifle Association was a benign organization where hunters and sportsmen shared information about equipment and technique. It promoted best practices and responsible gun ownership and lobbied in favor of sensible gun regulation and preserving wilderness. Philosophically it was a sort of extension of the Boy Scouts.

That changed at the Cincinnati Revolt of 1977, where radical gun-rights maximalists took control. Over time they turned it into an organization for, more than anything else, fear. Fear of the government, so better arm yourself against its tyranny. Fear of crime, so better arm yourself against criminals. Fear of brown people, if you’re white. Fear of white people, if you’re brown. And if you’re a politician, fear of the NRA itself — if not of its political and fundraising might, then of what its own most-unhinged members, who were taught to fear the loss of their gun rights, might resort to.

The NRA changed, in short, from being about shooting targets and food to shooting people.

That means that we’ve been two generations with no moderate organization to protect sensible gun rights and promote virtues like marksmanship, self-sufficiency, and conservation without also spreading some fetishistic open-carry Wild-West apocalyptic cosplay fantasy.

I sense that’s the kind of organization to which most gun owners would prefer to belong, given the choice. So let’s give them the choice. I propose creating RAWR, Responsible Americans for a Well-Regulated militia. Primarily its purpose would be to fulfill the role of the old NRA: promote sport and hunting, safety and training, rights and regulations. It would exclude proliferation and militarism, which have no place in civilian life. Secondarily it would exist to siphon support from the NRA, whose mostly moderate members will finally have an alternative they can join without the slightest ambivalence.

I would never join the NRA. But I’d join RAWR in a heartbeat. How about you?


[Cross-posted at https://medium.com/@bob.glickstein/outcome-fcfbc8f16e58.]

A man went skydiving.
That’s good.
His parachute didn’t open!
That’s bad!
He had a reserve chute.
That’s good.
It didn’t open either!
That’s bad!
There was a haystack below him.
That’s good.
There was a pitchfork in the haystack!
That’s bad!
He missed the pitchfork.
That’s good.
He also missed the haystack!
That’s bad!
He died and went to Heaven.
That’s good, considering.
None of his friends or family were there!
That’s bad!
But only because they hadn’t died yet.
Oh, then that’s good.
So the man waited, but when they died, they all went to Hell!
That’s bad!
What kind of Heaven separates you from your loved ones for eternity?
I already said that’s bad.
There was one woman there whom the man loved.
That’s good.
But in life she never loved him back!
That’s bad!
But this was Heaven so she did.
That’s good.
Since she loved him, the man wondered if it could truly be her, or just a likeness conjured for the sake of his happiness in the afterlife, while elsewhere the real woman loved whomever she had in life.
That’s… bad, right?
This doubt gnawed at the man until he was so miserable he realized he must actually be in Hell and all his friends and family must have made it into Heaven.
That’s good for the others, at least.
Then the man wondered whether a likeness of he himself had been conjured for their sake, meaning somewhere a version of him was enjoying a heavenly afterlife with the ones he loved.
Whoa, what?
If there’s a copy of me in Heaven with my loved ones, the man thought, then why is my consciousness experiencing this afterlife and not that one?
You’re asking me?
So with an effort of will, the man forced his consciousness to jump out of the afterlife with the woman and into the afterlife with his friends and family.
That’s good, mostly!
But he was wracked with guilt about the other consciousness he had displaced (and possibly consigned to Hell) by doing so.
That’s bad!
The man concluded this must still be Hell, since crippling guilt surely would not exist in Heaven.
Makes sense.
Maybe there was no Heaven and Hell, the man thought. Maybe this was all a fevered fantasy invented by his mind in the instant of death, and an instant later would be oblivion.
Now I know that’s bad!
He realized that oblivion would be no different from the billions of years of non-existence before he was born, and was comforted.
That’s… surprisingly not bad.
The only question was how long his experience of this instant would last?

What’s your position on GPS?

[Cross-posted at https://medium.com/@bob.glickstein/whats-your-position-on-gps-bc98a5dff6db.]

How does GPS work?

If you’re like most people, you think it works something like this: there are satellites in orbit around the Earth. Your phone or other GPS device sends a signal to the nearest one of the satellites. Some math happens and the satellite responds with your location.

This is wrong. It’s wrong for reasons that should be obvious. Despite that, everyone believes some version of this, as near as I can tell.

This came up during the current high school mock trial season, in which my son is a mock prosecutor. In a mock trial season, all the schools in California study the same fictional case, and then the prosecution of one school meets the defense from another school in a “scrimmage” conducted like a jury trial. This year’s fictional case is a murder, and the trial begins with a defense motion to suppress some evidence: namely, GPS location data from the defendant’s car (which shows the defendant apparently stalking the victim in the days before the murder). The question argued by the kids, and that the judge must decide, is this: if a person’s car is continually transmitting its location to a third-party service provider (think Google) and the police search that third party’s records, does this infringe upon the person’s Fourth Amendment rights protecting against unreasonable searches?

I’ve sat in on several practices and scrimmages. The discussion of this motion centers on something called the Third Party Doctrine, which says that if you voluntarily give your information to a third party, you cannot reasonably expect that information to remain private, and the government can obtain that information without violating your Fourth Amendment rights. So what’s “voluntary” and what’s “giving” and what’s a “third party”? Drilling into these questions is where the universal misunderstanding of GPS often comes up. If your GPS device is already giving its location to a satellite (the debate goes), how is that different from giving it to a company that provides driving directions?

I’ve heard this now from the students arguing the case, and from their teacher, and from the volunteer attorneys coaching the team, and even from the Superior Court judge who presided over their first tournament meet yesterday. It’s disturbing not only because of the technological illiteracy it reveals, but also because it shows how accepting we’ve become of the idea that our private data is simply out of our control.

In fact a GPS device never sends anything to the satellites in orbit. The satellites are broadcast-only, like a radio station, which has no idea when you tune into it, or a clock tower, which doesn’t respond with the current time only when you ask for it. They are artificial stars that are always “visible” to the devices that know how to see them.

Each satellite continually broadcasts its own position in space, plus the current time according to its super-accurate atomic clock. Your GPS device receives this signal from several different satellites at once. Because of the speed-of-light delay, the signals from different satellites take different amounts of time to reach you. So though the satellite-A signal might say “it’s six o’clock and 33.227 seconds,” the satellite-B signal reaching you at the same instant might say “it’s six o’clock and 33.221 seconds,” which tells your GPS device that you’re closer to satellite B than to satellite A and by how much.1 With a couple more satellites’ signals it’s possible for your device to triangulate its position on Earth with high accuracy.

Why do people mistakenly believe that GPS satellites answer location queries from devices on Earth? In large part because of the way our smartphones work. They depend heavily on outsourcing work to computing resources in “the cloud,” continually sending requests and receiving responses, and we’ve grown accustomed to things working this way.

Why should it be obvious that, in the case of GPS, this is wrong? For one thing, our personal electronics have worked this way for not very long. We’ve forgotten that, before smartphones, standalone GPS receivers were sold as exactly that: receivers. Back then (just a decade or so ago) I don’t think anyone believed GPS devices ever sent signals anywhere, or in any other way leaked information about our whereabouts. With a court order, the police could seize your GPS receiver and inspect its memory of where it had been, but that information lived nowhere else, and it was largely outside anyone’s imagination that it even could.

Another reason this should be obvious: your smartphone is small. It has a small little battery and a small little antenna inside. They’re strong enough to send signals to the nearest wifi station, which is usually located within a few dozen feet, or the nearest cell tower, which is within a few dozen miles, but not to GPS satellites, which are over twelve thousand miles away.

A final reason this should be obvious: there are very many GPS devices making very many location queries every minute of the day. Responding to that many requests in a centralized location would take massive computing resources, the kind that Google and Amazon and Facebook have built multiple gigantic data centers to handle. We can’t put gigantic data centers in space. The stuff we can put in space has to run on solar power and be light and simple as possible. It has to require no maintenance.

Now, to be fair, when you use a service like Google Maps to get driving directions, you do send your location to Google, which is then able to compute the best route for wherever it is you’re going. So the misconception isn’t total. But the location you send to Google came in the first place from old-fashioned GPS triangulation that, in itself, never needs to send anything anywhere. (Note that you can use Google Maps in “offline mode,” where maps are downloaded to your device before you start your trip, and while you’re en route, Google’s servers never get involved. Your device has everything it needs to show you your location and the route you should take. Not so long ago this was how all GPS devices worked!)

What does it say that so many of us believe the wrong thing about how GPS works, and are happy to use it anyway? It suggests to me one of two things: either we’re inattentive to encroachments on our privacy, the basis of our liberty; or we are attentive, we just put a low price on that privacy, trading it away for the convenience our smartphones offer. I’m not sure which is worse. I am sure that earlier generations would not have been nearly so willing to use technology that they understood so poorly.

  1. In this example, you’re 0.006 light-seconds closer to satellite B, which is about 1,118 miles. []

All is forgiven, 2016

2018, kill as many celebrities as you like, just please give us back some sane politics.

Then I can get back to writing mostly inane thoughts on social media as usual, instead of the mostly worried stuff I did write, which follows. (Previously.)

  • A lot of you are making New Year's resolutions to resist Trump.

    But it can't just be about hating Trump. Appealing to fear and hatred is how he won.

    It has to be about loving America. We oppose Trump when he threatens the things about America we love.

    It's worth reviewing: what is there to love about America?

    • Abundant natural beauty
    • Diversity of places and people
    • Equality of opportunity
    • Equality under the law
    • Dedication to peace and justice
    • Willingness to help those in need at home and abroad
    • Industrious and inventive spirit

    Too few of our leaders articulate these things, and too many of us take them for granted. As a result, many of these ideals were under threat even before Trump got elected, so there would have been work to do in any case.

    What other things are there to love about America? Add them in the comments below.

  • Was going through some old notebooks where I used to jot down random ideas. Like this exchange:

    Person 1: “You have to get up pretty early in the morning to fool me.”
    Person 2: “I got up at 10am.”
    Person 1: “See? You can't fool me.”
    Person 2: “Actually I fooled you. I got up at 5.”

  • Last night for dessert, Andrea and I shared a dish of soft serve. She sculpted it into Devil's Tower. I love her.
  • What if tweets like these aren't Trump being thin-skinned, but rather Trump modelling for his followers how they should react to news items critical of him, so they can rationalize continuing to follow him? Trump Just Responded to Meryl Streep’s Acceptance Speech With A Tantrum
  • Racing through confirmation hearings and major legislation at breakneck speed with minimal public discussion: are these the actions of a political party confident in its legitimacy and long-term prospects?
  • Ordinary kindness. Even just a little bit of it. A fragment. A scrap. Can it be found anywhere in Trump's biography?
  • I just became a supporter of Techdirt on Patreon because of its excellent and important reporting and because of a deep-pocketed baseless defamation claim that threatens unfairly to put it out of business. Techdirt’s First Amendment Fight For Its Life
  • TBT – Summer 1985 (and looking it)

  • Proud of my Congressman. Skipping the inauguration is an important symbolic act, but a small one. Using that time to engage citizens and actively make the world a better place is a much bigger one. [Facebook post]
  • [Before the inauguration.] If some band recorded a dirge-like, minor-key version of Hail To The Chief, then snuck that into wherever they keep the Hail To The Chief recording that they play at presidential events, they'd be my hero.
  • Sheer genius. “Oh he WANTS to…” Why the Emoluments Clause Does NOT Apply to Donald Trump…
  • It's said that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Adversity toughens us up.

    If you're a woman, you've probably endured many manifestations of our society's regrettable but widespread gender bias. If you're black or brown, you've probably endured racial bias in its many loathsome forms. If you're queer, disabled, or neurodivergent, or English is not your primary language, etc., you've probably endured other kinds of bias. For better or worse this has made you tougher.

    This means that healthy straight white American men are feebler and less well-adapted than anyone. Which sort of explains how, in a panic as their numerical majority disappears into the demographic sunset, they chose the feeblest of them all to be their king.

  • TBT: Grey Matter in Skibo! A place that no longer exists, but which was the center of the world for CMU undergrads of a certain vintage. Photos of this spot are all but impossible to find online.

    (Got this from the archivist at Carnegie Mellon University Alumni Association – thanks!)

  • A wall between the U.S. and Mexico was envisioned in Gareth Edwards' 2010 indie thriller Monsters. Spoiler alert: it wasn't a good thing. Who are the real monsters? | gee bobg
  • Obama: Thanks for everything, but I think your real work begins now.

    Trump: Prove us wrong.

  • A few seconds to subscribe and $4.68 per month is all it takes to support ALL Democratic candidates in 2018 and add back some checks and balances to our government. Subscribe to a better Congress for $5/month.
  • We've been trained to treat half of the country as our ideological enemy. It's time we learned the true enemies are the ones who've been turning us against each other. Engage | gee bobg
  • President Should’ve
  • That moment when a new six-hour Dan Carlin – Hardcore History episode pops up in your podcast feed.

    • To be clear, it’s a good moment.
    • Unfortunately the topic of this new episode, though interesting and important, is one I’m not emotionally equipped for at this moment in history: the question of how long we can keep the nuclear-weapon genie in the bottle.
  • I am interested to hear from my conservative friends, especially those who voted for Trump, how you feel about his actions, official and unofficial, in his first few days in office.

    For the purposes of this post I am NOT interested in argument, expressions of anxiety, or anything else from my liberal friends. Please give a respectful space for honest expression.

  • Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

    The best: Trump is such a moronic crybaby that he just can't move past his popular vote loss.

    The worst: It's part of a deliberate plan to delegitimize elections themselves.

  • My thoughts are dark today. I guess I didn't really expect us to lurch towards fascist dictatorship so quickly. Now I can easily imagine the Trump team hatching a plan to nuke troublesome San Francisco off the map, blame it on some brown people somewhere, and use that as a pretext to steal their oil. Two birds, one stone.
  • “When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

    This was one of the best signs I saw from last weekend's protests.

    Although no conservative friends saw fit to respond to my request for engagement here the other day, one of my coworkers was more successful with a similar request. In the respectful dialogue that resulted, it became clear that that slogan captures the motivations of at least those Trump voters. They are irritated by political correctness, by affirmative action, and by the Hamilton casting call excluding white actors.

    They are all wealthy white men. They all insisted they are not racist. They say they would just like our society to be color-blind already.

    When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

    • The good news is that the extent to which the privileged have been feeling oppressed – and it’s apparently large – is a measure of the progress we’ve been making towards equality. Go, long arc of history!
  • I confess, I am having hopeful flash-forwards in which we look back at our fear in early 2017 and laugh. Obama’s America Rises Again
  • “The administration is testing the extent to which […] executive agencies can act and ignore orders from the other branches of government. [All] of the arguments about whether order X or Y is unconstitutional mean nothing if elements of the government are executing them and the courts are being ignored.

    “Yesterday was the trial balloon for a coup d'état against the United States. It gave them useful information.” Trial Balloon for a Coup?

  • It took barely a week for Trump to create a Constitutional crisis, and if we and our elected officials don't ACT NOW, the Constitution, our rights, and our nation will all wither away. [Facebook post]
  • Leakers in the White House say an executive order on LGBT rights is being prepared for later this week. This seems guaranteed to produce a new round of protests, and it's looking more and more like that's just what the Administration wants, the better to justify cracking down on dissenters in the name of preserving order or battling “economic terrorism.”

    When the next outrage comes, what's a better way to protest it that denies the White House the optics it's seeking? Rogue POTUS Staff on Twitter

  • “More sinister than what President Nixon did was what he planned to do after winning landslide re-election […] The files and tapes disclosed his plans to centralize power in a “super Cabinet” with White House agents like political commissars riding herd on the departments.” Conspirators into stumblebums
  • I know white supremacy is a thing, not to mention other kinds of racism and tribalism, but I fundamentally just don't get it. Judging another by “the content of their character” is the only thing that makes any sense – morally, sure, but also socially and economically. I'm white, and I'd rather associate with the decent non-white folks I know than the white assholes. All races have both. As a businessperson I'd rather hire effective people of any color than possibly someone lazy and shiftless just for the sake of sticking with my own race.

    Why is this hopelessly naive and idealistic?

  • [Before the Super Bowl.] I pledge $1,000 to whoever can arrange to replace Sunday's halftime show with a live reading of the U.S. Constitution.
  • There's more that unites us than divides us. Three Beautiful Human Minutes
  • We have not been idle at Chain since our October launch, oh no indeed. Hidden in Plain Sight: Transacting Privately on a Blockchain
  • Betsy DeVos crisitunity: California now has a great reason to get its public-school shit together at last.
  • Attention Republicans in Congress: You may not realize it yet, but you are in a race with each other. Which of you will be first to rediscover principles of fairness, justice, and courage? Which of you will stand up to the shameful hate-mongers setting Americans against one another and rushing to dismantle everything that made our country great?

    The one who wins this race will be a bona fide American hero, showered with glory and love, not to mention political power, by a grateful nation, left and right.

    The losers? When the rule of law inevitably returns, they will be left praying the country is in a forgiving mood after their treasonous subversion of the Constitution.

    I know what choice I would make if I were in your shoes.

  • Does anyone remember the throwaway joke in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, when the U.S. President introduces his obviously Russian National Security Adviser, “Smirnoff” (at the height of the Cold War)? [Twitter post]
  • [After Harrison Ford’s piloting mishap.] Oh man I would HATE to be the FAA guy who has to take away Han Solo's pilot license.
  • The latest blog post from Chain is cryptotastic. Blockchains in a Quantum Future
  • Dreamed last night that Archer decided to attend Indiana University based on proximity to Chicago and to Steve Volan.
  • Trump has said and done so many things so publicly for so long that are either vindictive or clueless or both that I no longer have patience for those who respond with SMH or WTAF or What Is Happening each time there's a new tweet or outburst or cabinet appointment or executive order. This is who he is; this is what is happening; get over your astonishment, stop reacting, and work on responding.

    And yet I can muster no response to this other than WTAF. Trump Answers Question About Anti-Semitism With Characteristic Eloquence and Insight

  • “It's all fake news. It's all fake news. […] I spoke to the president of Mexico; I had a good call. All of a sudden, it's out there for the world to see. It's supposed to be secret. […] Same thing with Australia. All of a sudden, people are finding out exactly what took place.”

    If it's exactly what took place, it's not fake news, is it?

  • In the space of 60 seconds, saw a Facebook post that misspelled baited as “bated,” and another that misspelled bated as “baited.”

    • I for one have mastered “bated.”
  • A lot of Trump haters are condemning Trump's remarks condemning anti-Semitism as too little, too late. I think it would be better to ask, how can we reinforce this behavior so we see more of it in the future?
  • Like most Trump opponents, I figured he was in violation of his oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution from the moment he swore it – because of emoluments, at first, and other things since then.

    But it just dawned on me that that's not the oath of office – the oath is to do those things “to the best of my ability.” Considering my low opinion of his various abilities, it's just possible that he is fulfilling his oath.

  • The most literate protest suggestion ever. Rogue POTUS Staff on Twitter
  • Apparently even a “failing” newspaper like the NY Times is such a threat to Trump that it needs to be banned from press conferences. Doesn't say much for Trump.
  • Morbidly curious to see whether they can update the In Memoriam video in time for tonight. RIP Bill Paxton. Game over, man. 🙁
  • [Bush criticizes Trump.] Thank you, George W. Bush.

    In other news, hell frozen over.

  • Holy mackerel, now THIS is reporting.

    It's one thing to have no doubt everything is a crooked tangle. It's quite another thing to be able to see the details of the crookery clear as day.

    Don't miss this video. Yes it's long, but stick with it. (Also, pro tip: use the gear icon to increase playback speed to 1.5x. Still perfectly intelligible, and you'll get through it in 2/3 the time.)Wilbur Ross At Nexus Of Donald Trump Russian Deal | Rachel Maddow | MSNBC

  • During the presidential campaign, Trump boasted that he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose any votes. I think he proved that at his address to Congress last night, when his responsibility for the senseless death of a U.S. serviceman earned him a full minute and a half of applause.

    It's going to get worse before it gets better.

  • If Sessions refuses to step down but does agree to recuse himself, it shouldn't be just from a Russia investigation but from any case that involves telling the truth under oath.
  • I have found the anti-Trump: serious, smart, centered, competent, cool under pressure, warm, human, patriotic, respectful, unselfish. If you need an antidote to having that guy in your head all the time, you could do a lot worse than listening to the impressive combat pilot Major Mary Jennings Hegar in her interview with Terry Gross. A Purple Heart Warrior Takes Aim At Military Inequality In ‘Shoot Like A Girl’
  • Sigh no more, ladies
    Sigh no more
    Men were deceivers ever
  • Reached over to turn off the alarm that woke me up this morning. Then reached back to pick up the thing I had just put down in my dream so I could turn off the alarm. It wasn't there.
  • A real man would have scooped the kids up onto his lap and kept on talking. When the Kids Crash Your BBC Interview
  • The black hole where Trump's heart should be is formed when his need for public adoration collides with his need to elevate himself by diminishing everyone else, annihilating each other in a burst of alienation.
  • An annotated list of my current podcast subscriptions. #trypod Trypod
  • This President must not be permitted to place a justice on the Supreme Court even if the GOP had not cynically and arbitrarily raised the bar last year for when presidents may nominate justices. Oppose Gorsuch
  • Good if he signs it, good too if enough of us call him out for not signing it. Tell Trump to Sign the Anti-Corruption Executive Order
  • “incapable of competently discharging the duties of President”

    Trump could render this petition moot by demonstrating actual performance of his job, but all that tweeting, golfing, watching Fox, and signing what Bannon puts in front of him leaves little time for anything else I guess? [Facebook post]

  • A question for you, if you know anything about Constitutional law.

    The United States has been flirting with electoral fraud for a while:

    • Egregious gerrymandering
    • Unconstitutional voting requirements
    • Systematic voter suppression
    • Voter purges
    • Supreme Court intercession in a disputed election
    • The Diebold scandal
    • Uneven standards for ensuring voting integrity
    • Wide disagreement between popular-vote and electoral-college outcomes
    • Arguable nonperformance by the electoral college of its duty to reject an unfit candidate

    (And that's just at the national level; who knows what shenanigans go on locally.)

    So far, mercifully, the country has managed to accept its election outcomes. But the rules for ensuring free and fair elections can be twisted only so far before they snap. If this kind of stuff continues, then sooner or later we're going to have an election outcome that is a clear subversion of the popular will – clear and serious enough that the voters won't accept it.

    What remedy will there be under the law in such a case? How would it play out, procedurally and politically?

  • It's a grey, dreary day today. Saw something bright outside from the corner of my eye. It wasn't something bright outside, it was just a reflection in the window… of the room light off my scalp. #thisis50
  • From the whiteboard in Archer's room.

  • It sounds like a lot of senators genuinely want to avoid the “nuclear option” on Gorsuch. So why can't they compromise and agree to postpone his confirmation until the scandals clouding Trump's presidency are resolved in one way or another? A “Nuclear” Senate Showdown Next Week Appears All But Inevitable
  • Did anyone else see this headline and think of Two Kirstie Alleys? 2 Christie Allies Are Sentenced in George Washington Bridge Scandal
  • As Trump supporters painfully, inevitably, and tragically wake up to what the rest of us have understood all along, it is CRITICAL that we refrain from saying told-you-so or be in any other way unwelcoming. Trump’s Internet Brigades Shocked To Realize The Government Just Sold Them Out On Privacy
  • Everyone of a certain age remembers the cola wars of the 1980s. Coke began and ended as the clear winner, but Pepsi gave Coke a real run for its money, battering and bruising it along the way. Coke's victory was never a sure thing.

    I'm much less clear on how the lemon-lime soda story developed. My recollection is that 7-Up was the leader in the 1970s but has since lost to Sprite, big-time. My intuition even says that people think of Sierra Mist and Slice before they think of 7-Up. Slice! How did this happen?

  • I am a sucker for vintage packaging… especially when that packaging appears to have been designed by Heinz Edelmann, the art director of Yellow Submarine!

  • Something interesting: We've been watching Lost on Netflix, and Jonah, who's 14 going on 15, keeps anticipating surprising plot developments that I didn't see coming when watching the show for the first time in my 40's. My hypothesis: apart from his simply being smarter and more perceptive than I was at his age, I think the mindless simplicity of the TV storytelling I grew up with places me at a disadvantage with respect to Jonah's generation, which enjoys shows of greater depth and complexity.
  • Presenting Earth's newest teen. Man oh man
  • How many times would Sean Spicer have been fired by now, if these were normal times?
  • “You are not the corporation. You are the human. It is okay for the corporation to lose a small portion of what it has in terrifying overabundance (money, time, efficiency) in order to preserve what a human has that cannot ever be replaced (dignity, humanity, conscience, life).” The Corporation Does Not Always Have To Win
  • Belatedly watching Mad Men and have spotted a few anachronisms, like RJ11 phone jacks, that the Internet already knew about. Here's one I haven't seen mentioned: when discussing the upcoming 1960 presidential election, someone says, of Kennedy, “America does not want some greasy kid with his finger on the button.” Since the nuclear arsenal did not yet consist of ICBMs, I doubt “finger on the button” meant then what it means now. Can anyone confirm or refute?
  • Ten years gone.

    That's a lot of great report cards, belt tests, piano recitals, art projects, Halloween costumes, Lego creations, trophies, medals, and certificates you've missed.

    We've missed sharing it all with you.

  • Craig Mazin is a Hollywood screenwriter, half of the excellent Scriptnotes podcast, and generally smart, compassionate, and human. Go read his amazing tweetstorm. [Twitter post]
  • Thrilled to announce the thing that some smart folks and I have been working on lately! Announcing Ivy Playground – Chain
  • Prediction: Nixon, the consummate political survivor, facing impeachment, had a lot more fight in him than Trump, the serial bankruptcy declarer, will.
  • [Robert Mueller appointed to investigate Russian interference in the election.] “Don't smile. Don't smile. Don't smile.” -Mike Pence, to himself
  • Just gonna leave this here. #tbt

  • In childhood, did you ever learn a singsong chant that begins:

    Marjorie Daw

    If so, what came after that (in the version you know)?

    If you answer, include where you grew up.

  • Graduation-season #tbt

  • Every now and then I read a surprising claim in a book or magazine which the author drives home by adding, “That's not a typo.” This drives me crazy. How does the author know what might happen between writing and publication?!
  • Vote buying is illegal.

    That is, no one may offer or accept a monetary reward in exchange for an individual voting a particular way.

    However, as far as I know there is nothing preventing a group of wealthy donors from offering a gift of $50 million, say, to the municipal governments in each congressional district that switches from Republican to Democratic in 2018.

  • A guy named Eli wrote a Scheme interpreter named Bob.

    There are a few of you who'll understand why that makes my head explode. Bob: a Scheme interpreter, compiler, and VM in Python – Eli Bendersky’s website

    • I wrote ELI (the Embedded Lisp Interpreter), which powered FLAMES (the Filtering Language for the Andrew MEssage System). I never quite finished ELI’s successor, ELSIE (the Embedded Lisp [Scheme] Interpreter, ELSIE).
  • The covfefe is worse than the crime.
  • Plenty of people are talking about impeachment. Plenty are talking about Article 25. I don't hear anyone talking about a recall election. Is one permitted under the Constitution? (There doesn't have to be a specific provision for it, just no prohibition against it.) How would it work?
  • Of COURSE Trump wants to torpedo the Paris climate agreement. It was someone else's achievement, not his. Just like Obamacare was. And NATO. And, you know, democracy.
  • This fundraising appeal came out of nowhere. I really don't know what it's all about, but the language of the appeal went straight to my red, white, and blue marrow, and squeezed a tear out of me. I immediately donated. I hope you will too.

    “…At our best, America has always thought big. That's why the negativity, the pettiness, the small-mindedness of our politics today drives me crazy. We're better than this.

    “It's time to reach deep into the soul of this country and once again give everyone — and I mean everyone — the opportunity to achieve the impossible. It's time to look beyond 24-hour news cycles and 140-character arguments. It's time to treat each other with dignity and respect. Not as opponents, but as fellow Americans.” American Possibilities

  • Today's legal musings: the role of the Executive branch is to execute the will of Congress. When Congress mandates something like environmental protection, and through willful neglect and other means the President allows the EPA to wither and fail at its job, can a legal case be made that the President is unlawfully subverting the will of Congress? If so, who has standing to bring such a suit?
  • Is this real? Forgive me, all I can think of is “cat juggling.” https://youtu.be/1bGVT4-1DBU Sign: Stop Horrific ‘Dog Spinning’ Ritual
  • “Creators of the button.” #tbt

  • On Monday I saw the trailer for the upcoming film Valerian. It invites you to experience a “universe beyond imagination.” The same day, I got the e-book edition of Neal Stephenson's new novel The Rise And Fall Of D.O.D.O. The marketing blurb says it will take you to places and times “beyond imagining.”

    Both things are the products of people's imagination. So if they mean “beyond anyone's imagination,” that's a lie, and if they mean “beyond your imagination,” that's an insult.

    • (“I don’t know, I can imagine quite a bit.”)
  • “it seems a bit retrograde to have the first big female-led superhero film end with the lesson that “only love can truly save the world”—especially given the abundant evidence that what actually saved the world was Gal Gadot kicking ass all over Belgium” (from https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/06/wonder-woman-review/528816/)

    That was my main complaint about the film. It clearly wanted to be about this (and I wanted it to be about that too), but it wasn't. It failed at “show, don't tell.”

  • Summer camp, 1978. #tbt

  • Imagine for a moment that all the allegations are true – Russia, emoluments, misappropriation, obstruction, racketeering, everything. Imagine further that the various investigations and lawsuits now pending are 100% effective in rooting out every guilty party presently in national government. How far down the line of succession do you suppose we'll have to go to get a new president?

    • Don’t say Kiefer Sutherland.
  • My kids decided to have a Father's Day conversation about how awesome I am.

    Archer: “He's so awesome, all his hair jumped off his head, saying I'm not worthy!”

  • Technically true, but that's not really how you use the word “cooler.”

  • It isn't that computer security is hard – at least, not compared with other kinds of engineering challenges, such as building a bridge that won't fall down. Paradoxically, the problem is that programming is so easy. IT don’t come easy | gee bobg
  • Had no idea I was embarking on a lifelong career. #tbt

  • It’s 2017 and we’re still changing "\nFrom " to "\n>From " in e-mail.
  • This reminds me of a long, enjoyable rant from one my mentors early in my career about the differences between American contract law and German contract law. According to him, the same thing that takes 300 pages to express in America, where the whole idea is to leave no room for interpretation, took 35 in Germany, where the idea was that most people are reasonable and will interpret clear, simple contract terms similarly, and that when they don't, you can rely on the judge to be reasonable, and when you can't, you've got bigger problems anyway. One design firm’s jargon-free contract: “Time is money. More time is more money”

    • Should’ve said “West Germany,” because it was that long ago.
  • The next time you're about to say, “The rest, as they say, is history,” consider that “is history” isn't all they say: they also say “as they say.” So really you should say, “The rest, as they say, ‘as they say, is history.’”
  • How many rich people could handle it, do you think, if getting richer were as hard for them as it is for the poor?

    How many poor people would stay poor if getting richer were as easy for them as it is for the already-rich?

  • My kids, and millions like them, have now grown up with a smart, funny, cool, and compassionate black President, and an ignorant, vulgar, divisive, and dishonest white President.

    This will not achieve what the white supremacists are hoping.

  • He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good […] He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people […] He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws […He has abolished] our most valuable Laws and [altered] fundamentally the Forms of our Governments […] He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us […] He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts […] and destroyed the lives of our people […] He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us
  • [Baby Driver.] Oh Edgar Wright. When I want a Tarantino or Rodriguez movie I'll go see one, but last night I wanted an Edgar Wright movie.

    • On the plus side, it’s a very good Tarantino or Rodriguez movie.
  • 5 years ago.

  • Supposing this is true, and supposing further that some or even many Republicans secretly realize this: they need a way out of their dead-end governing philosophies. What more reasonable positions can they pivot to, and how can they pivot, in a way that lets them save face? It will never ever happen if they can't save face. [Facebook post]
  • Another salubrious Eric Garland tweetstorm. [Twitter post]

    • I will be so impressed with the Founding Fathers if the Constitution manages to hold together through to the end of this sordidness.
  • Making the rounds in social media right now: a new poll showing that a majority of Republicans think colleges are bad for the country.

    My immediate reaction was one of outrage – which I am increasingly learning is my cue to disregard the reporting that caused it. The reality behind this story, if there is any, is surely more nuanced than the headline designed to latch straight onto my hindbrain. By doing so, the news teaches that my political opponents are irredeemably unreasonable, cannot be compromised with, must be fought and defeated for the good of all. I imagine that, on the right, it's the same with stories about how everyone on the left wants to take away their guns and turn them gay, or whatever scare stories they circulate about us.

    The fact is that my political opponents are still my fellow citizens, that we all love justice and peace and prosperity, and that compromise – not triumph by one side or the other – is and always has been how democracy works best. And nothing works better than democracy as its best.

    I am proud that my Congressman, Jared Huffman, gets it. Marin Voice: “A more civil tone, and a search for consensus”

  • My letter in support of Net Neutrality, submitted to the FCC through battleforthenet.com:

    The tired old “information superhighway” analogy for describing the Internet to consumers in the 90's is surprisingly apt. A free and open Internet is as essential to our economy as are our roads, tunnels, and bridges. If you wouldn't dream of letting large corporations dictate how those are used, you cannot permit large corporations to control the Internet.

  • If I'm not mistaken, the doublespeaky phrase “at this point in time” was popularized by the Watergate hearings… to say nothing of the “-gate” suffix to denote political scandals of all kinds. What previously obscure phrases will be enduringly popularized by this period of history? “Lordy”? “Kompromat”? “Nothingburger”?

    • “Covfefe” goes without saying.
  • [Mounting disclosures about Trump officials.] In late January I said I found the phrase “conspirators into stumblebums” relevant. I should have waited. Hoo boy.
  • After Watergate, we got smiling, earnest boy scout Jimmy Carter. The watchword for all Democratic candidates for the next few years has to be “squeaky clean.”
  • Sripraphai, 2002, and several of the awesomest people I know. #tbt

  • Make America Grate Again Trump tells Brigitte Macron: “You're in such good shape”
  • Forest Hills friends: some Parker Towers news. Forest Hills Fountain To Be Replaced By A Park
  • Part of what makes air travel safe is that when you're going 500mph, everything you might collide with is quite far away. Why are people so excited about riding Hyperloop at 700mph separated from collision hazards (tube walls, structural supports, possible debris) by just inches?
  • Kermit the Frog is my spirit animal.
  • The GOP: we can't make you love giving more wealth and power to the wealthy and powerful, but we can make you irrationally hate those who oppose it.
  • I deplore the GOP efforts on healthcare.

    But I love this line from 1776 (in which Stephen Hopkins, congressional delegate, casts the deciding vote on whether to debate independence from England): “In all my years I never heard, seen, nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous that it couldn't be talked about. Hell yes, I'm for debatin' anything!”

    I'd be a hypocrite to jump on the condemn-McCain bandwagon for doing the same today in a procedural vote.

    I will not hesitate to condemn him if he votes the wrong way on actual legislation.

  • [Actor Sam Shepard dies.] Hey Ridley, ya got any Beeman's?
    Yeah, I got me a stick.
    Well loan me some, will ya? I'll pay ya back later.
    Fair enough.
  • ♫ I love to laugh! ♫ Sing Along Mary Poppins
  • Most days, I get a notice from Facebook saying “let so-and-so know you're thinking of them on their birthday.”

    What Facebook really means is “let so-and-so know we reminded you it's their birthday.”

    I used to be good about remembering people's birthdays on my own, and letting them know I was thinking about them. Now that “letting them know I'm thinking of them” is indistinguishable from “letting them know Facebook reminded me” I'm actually less inclined to acknowledge birthdays.

  • People are talking about the anti-diversity manifesto that circulated at Google, and leaked, as if it reveals something specific about Google rather than something general about humanity.

    Unless things have changed a lot since I left two years ago, overwhelmingly more people at Google agree with Yonatan Zunger's articulate refutation of the manifesto than with the manifesto itself. But assemble enough people anywhere and you'll find you've included some odious opinions.

    So why is there so much hand-wringing about how this screed reveals the toxic dudebro culture of tech specifically? It's the whole culture that's toxic, and it's arguably less so at places like Google, which are generally quite progressive, the current episode notwithstanding.

    I think the answer must be that we hold organizations like Google to a higher standard – which, given the scope of its power and influence, is only appropriate. And I find the fact that “a higher standard” includes intolerance for outdated gender stereotypes to be a hopeful sign for society at large.

    So, about this Googler’s manifesto.

  • I'm white.

    A few years ago a cop pulled me over for slow-rolling through a stop sign rather than coming to a full stop. Our interaction was brief and perfectly amiable. At no point did I worry about my safety or liberty. In the end he gave me a smile, warned me not to do it again, and let me go with no ticket.

    That's white privilege, and on behalf of my black and Muslim friends I am ashamed.

  • America is for everyone who believes America is for everyone.
  • Senator Harris gets it. <3 [Facebook post]
  • Wondering what must be going on in our Armed Forces these days. How are our men and women in uniform confronting the possibility that they will have to take orders to kill and die from President Nazis And Russian Gangsters Are The Good Guys?
  • Madras, OR did a terrific job welcoming tens of thousands to its little town for the eclipse. Thanks, Madras!
  • Only one of the amazing things the sun did during our time in Madras.

  • I was kissing the top of my dog's head as she lay on the bed, and had literally just told her “your head is so soft” when she abruptly jumped up and gave me a fat lip with her skull.
  • Ran across this old comment from my summary of 1987's “The Living Daylights”:

    The PC police have caught up with the Bond series and conspicuously scrubbed it of smoking and (as the AIDS epidemic builds up a head of steam) womanizing. Phooey! That's not what I go to the movies for. Any time I want to see someone not womanize I can just watch myself.

  • So Trump pardoned Joe “Not As Bad As Hitler” Arpaio. Assuming the pardon sticks, it's a signal to others in his administration that they're above the law. If they do Trump's bidding, he'll insulate them from legal consequences.

    Maybe that's the whole point. But how stupid would Trump's agents have to be to trust his assurance of a get-out-of-jail-free card? I for one would hate to do something illegal for Trump and thereby give him the carrot-on-a-stick of a pardon to dangle just out of my reach, putting me unendingly in his mercurial power.

    • Not to mention all the doubts swirling around about how much longer he can remain in office to keep any such promises.
  • Cold comfort.

  • Saw a 40th-anniversary screening of Close Encounters of the Third Kind the other day with Andrea. It was a great way to get out of the heat for a while, and of course the film is a genuine classic. But it was not the original 1977 version, it was the 1998 “Collector's Edition” (which was itself a re-edit of the 1980 “Director's Cut”). So it wasn't really a 40th-anniversary screening.

    While I'm complaining:

    • Why is the glare so bright when looking at the hand-signing alien that we can't make it out clearly, but in the reverse angle Lacombe, standing just a few yards away, is normally lit?
    • Why does Jillian refuse to follow Roy down for a closer look one moment, leading to an emotional goodbye, and then come down anyway just a moment later?
    • Also, several things about the movie's happy ending have always bothered me.
      • It's happy that Roy leaves Earth in the midst of a major family crisis?
      • The film was conceived during Watergate and made in its immediate aftermath. It's happy that the giant government conspiracy is completely successful at keeping the country in the dark?
      • Jillian gets her abducted child back after just a few frantic days or possibly weeks. But what about all the other abductees returning long after their loved ones have given up on them, or died? Is that happy?
    • Speaking of which: we're supposed to be OK with aliens who abduct people and objects and then just leave them scattered across space and time?
  • It was going to be “film school in a box.” Requiem for Warhol | gee bobg
  • So let me get this straight: at a big rock concert, if the bass is so loud that you can feel it concussively tearing brain fibers, and so overdriven that it distorts and drowns out all the other dynamics of the music you came to hear, and if to distract you from that they flash super-high-intensity lights into your dark-adapted eyes at unpredictable intervals, people like that?

    • [In response to a suggestion about using earplugs.] I had earplugs. I didn’t have skeleton-plugs or internal-organ-plugs.
  • I'll bet most Senate Republicans are thinking, “Thank goodness Paul, Collins, and McCain came out against Graham-Cassidy so I don't have to.” Possibly including Graham and Cassidy.


  • Coming up with the word “aioli” was a major marketing coup for the mayonnaise industry.
  • When we say, “Let's have background checks to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous lunatics,” and the NRA says, “No, you want to take away our guns,” that's them admitting they're the dangerous lunatics.
  • NRA: “Second amendment means no regulations on our guns!”
    Second amendment: “…well-regulated…”
  • “Let's not politicize this” is politicizing it.
  • Fact: not a single man at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 was born in the United States. Supreme Court will rule on whether immigrants have constitutional rights
  • White folks: your majority is shrinking!

    Quick, deny other groups their rights and treat them cruelly in a desperate bid to hold onto power.

    Oh but wait. That just invites the same treatment when you're in the minority a few short years from now.

    Maybe try this: identify as an American, not as your skin color. Identify others as Americans, not as their skin color.

    Then you'll never be in the minority.

  • At the sandwich counter:

    Her: We're out of sweet rolls. We have ciabatta and sourdough.
    Me: I guess I'll have the sourdough please.
    Me, thinking: Grumble grumble I really don't want sourdough.

    At home, opening the sandwich. She used the ciabatta.

    Me, thinking: Where's my sourdough!

  • Confirms my bias that Americans are fundamentally progressive-minded. The word progressive may be poison in some places, but that doesn't mean the ideas behind it are. If the Democrats Don’t Learn This Lesson, They Deserve to Lose Forever
  • Never tell people why they're wrong. Show them a better way to feel right.
  • Made pasta aglio e olio as seen in Chef. It was a BIG hit. Chef scene – Food Seduction
  • Check out this excellent and accessible cryptocurrency demystifier written by Chain's CEO. A Letter to Jamie Dimon – Chain
  • Forgive me. I kind of assumed that the routine sexual harassment to which women are subjected (as opposed to assault, aggression, and discrimination) was the same part of the human condition that makes us all have to deal with insensitive idiots from time to time. The boilerplate #metoo posts, while shocking in their quantity even to this feminist ally, did little to change that assumption.

    But some of the #metoo posters are describing what really was and is routine for them, and it's nothing like what I thought. Turns out very, very many of my fellow men (and I use the term loosely – both “fellow” and “men”) are not simply insensitive idiots, but criminal creeps exploiting their power advantage in a consequence-free environment. My own ignorance helped to create that environment. To those #metoo posters who shared some detail and helped reduce my ignorance: thank you for your courage. To all women: I promise to do better.

  • [My birthday.] Squad 51

  • For the second year in a row, Chain gave me a nice birthday present: the opportunity to share with all of you what we've been working on. Introducing Sequence – Chain
  • The Meyerowitz Stories scratched the same itch for me as Chef: No assassins. No conspiracies. No dragons. No explosions. No adolescent man-boys. No “chosen one.” No hidden world right under our noses. Just a grown-up movie about grown-ups growing up.

    Name me some other terrifically acted movies about entertainingly broken people learning to unbreak themselves.

  • Who do you think the indictment will name? Kushner? Trump Jr.?

  • Vaccinations aren't only to protect your own health. When you get vaccinated you protect everyone else's health, too, through a statistical phenomenon called “herd immunity.” You may or may not be especially vulnerable to the latest strain of flu (for example), but some people certainly are, and by refusing to be vaccinated you place them at greater risk. It is your ethical obligation to get vaccinated.

    So what's herd immunity? Think of the recent California wildfires. They spread super-fast and super-hot because of how dry everything was. How might it have been different if it had rained a week earlier? There still would have been fires, but they would have spread more slowly, allowing firefighters to get control more easily and causing less destruction. Herd immunity is about slowing the spread.

    In other words, your vaccination does two things: it reduces your odds of catching a disease if you're exposed; and it reduces everyone's odds of being exposed in the first place.

    Visualize herd immunity here: Herd Immunity Simulator
    Some explanation: Have you herd

  • Goddamn. [Twitter post.]

    • But her emails
  • “Trump-Russia” is too tiny a description for the global conspiracy now being unmasked. [Twitter post]
  • I've been hard at work on the internals of this. [Twitter post]
  • A memory challenge for anyone who visited the Queens Center mall in the seventies:

    The coolest stores were the Brentano's on the lower level, and a shop two levels up that sold spacey knick-knacks – the kind of thing that, years later, you could find in any Spencer's Gifts, but this was before Spencer's Gifts. They had infinity mirrors, fiber-optic lamps, moire-pattern clocks, that kind of thing.

    What was that store's name?

    • [A friend responded. It was Fan Fan.]
  • [Archer does 15 pull-ups. I head to the pull-up bar for my turn.]

    Me: I see your fifteen and I raise you…
    Archer: …negative fifteen?

  • I owe George Lazenby an apology, and Michael O'Connor my thanks. It was a much younger and very different Bob who formed a strongly negative opinion of On Her Majesty's Secret Service long, long ago; and it was O'Connor's thoughtful reconsideration of that film that made me give it another try in my turkey coma last night. Modern Bob says: it was good! Bond Night: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
  • OK GOP, we get it, monstrous cruelty is your thing, you've got no problem with it, you're weirdly proud of it.

    But if you kick millions off of healthcare, they will become a giant reservoir of infectious diseases, the kinds they have in Third World countries – you know, where people can't access good healthcare. Think plague, ebola, drug-resistant tuberculosis.

    Those people live close to you. You can't avoid them forever. You will get sick and die.

    So defeat the tax bill for purely selfish reasons.

  • The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 passed with 61% of the House and 92% of the Senate voting in favor.
  • The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 passed with 90% of the House and 92% of the Senate voting in favor.
  • The Tax Reform Act of 1986 passed with 68% of the House and 76% of the Senate voting in favor.
  • The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 passed with 89% of the Senate voting in favor.
  • Maybe just “National Agency.” NSA employee pleads guilty of taking classified info that was later stolen by hackers
  • I can't get there in time at a price I can afford. I beg those of you who can to sign up (see the link in “Details”) and go.

    In the past, major legislation that reaches into every area of American life has been preceded by debate, hearings, and at least some bipartisan compromise. This time the bill was written in secret and in haste, and not by our elected representatives. It passed along strict party lines after midnight Friday night.

    The majority denied motions to delay the vote, meant to give everyone a chance at least to read it. Instead they forced this multi-trillion-dollar bill through without analysis, without debate, without public comment, without anyone knowing quite what was in it. Why? Two reasons: the more details that become known, the more everyone hates it; and there is increasingly little time left before dominoes start falling as investigations catch up with and begin rooting out a giant traitorous conspiracy among our public officials.

    This is a desperate theft on behalf of the super-rich, the only constituency to which today's GOP feels any responsibility. It is not governing and it is not legitimate. It is our urgent duty to foil this plot before American life is blighted for a generation.

    Cancel plans. Miss work. Spend money. Risk jail. If you think about what patriots before you had to do to fight for our country, it's really the least you can do. KILL the BILL #TaxScam

  • In 2000 the Supreme Court ordered an emergency halt to the Florida recount. Though the recount followed processes laid out in law, it was so chaotic and rancorous that the Court decided the best way to uphold the Constitution was to hand the presidency to George Bush rather than complete the process.

    Now we have a monumental tax bill that passed the Senate without the senators knowing what was in it, let alone having the chance to debate it or hear from their constituents about it. A motion to delay the vote was denied and it was rammed through literally in the dead of night. It would seem to me there is precedent for the Supreme Court to put the brakes on this runaway process, with the goal simply of slowing it down to allow time for deliberation – a much less consequential “ask” than installing a whole new president by judicial fiat.

    This seems like a no-brainer. Law-savvy friends, can you say whether this can or should happen?

  • Who's in charge of the Congressional Record?

    It occurs to me that, given the haste with which yesterday's bill was drafted and voted on, we could put anything we wanted into the Congressional Record and say that's what passed, and no one could say for sure that it wasn't.

  • New York City circa 1960: Mad Men did it well; The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel does it better.
  • If there’s a continuum of sexual misconduct, @SenFranken seems to be near the less-harmful end of it. But at this moment in history, after so much injustice, it is better to overcorrect. He should resign.
  • Vladimir Putin is running for reelection as President of Russia.

    When I saw that headline the other day, I thought, of course he’s running for reelection. It’s literally life-and-death to him. His crimes against the people of Russia and elsewhere are so great that he risks prison or worse the moment he’s out of power.

    This thought led me to the band of cutthroats currently in charge of the U.S. government. They too have to keep dancing their lying, thieving dance because as soon as the music stops, they’re toast. Some of them are evil to the core, of course, but I have to believe that most are not. Those are the ones who are trapped, by their party, their past actions, and their cowardice, wishing for a better way out.

    I therefore propose the Goodbye To Faithless Officials Act. GTFO would grant amnesty, and a one-time tax-free payment of ten million dollars, to any member of Congress who agrees to resign immediately and never seek public office again.

    If it succeeds in weeding out the venal politicians from the true public servants, it’d be cheap at ten times the price.

  • Me: “Early reviews for The Last Jedi are over the moon!”
    Archer: “That's no moon…”
  • The week the Republicans expect to pass their disastrous tax bill LITERALLY began with a train wreck.
  • In this version, the “elves” are refugees and the reindeer are frankensteined to have wings. Santa Starts

Just got it, part 3

I’m fifty-one, and I’ve read A Visit From St. Nicholas nearly every Christmas Eve my whole life. But it’s only this year that I finally realized that “his droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow” refers to a smile, because that’s the shape of an archer’s bow, and does not refer to some sort of concentration pucker, looking like a bow you wrap gifts with. (Previously.)

Santa Starts

[Announcer voice.] In a world without gifts [percussion hit] one man… sees red.

Get ready to shout
Get ready to cry
Get ready to pout
I’m telling you why:
Santa Starts is coming to screens

The studio said,
“What can we reboot
Whose IP is free?
Don’t want a lawsuit.”
Santa Starts is coming to screens

The mood is dark and gritty
His face has got a scar
His realistic backstory:
Oscar gold and a hard R

They think they can get
A sequel or two
Before re-rebooting
With somebody new
Santa Starts is coming to screens


Requiem for Warhol

Once, in a Warhol team brainstorming meeting, I had a pretty good idea.

Warhol was the team responsible for the YouTube video editor, which was sometimes described as “iMovie in the cloud.” You could assemble new videos out of pieces of old ones, apply various special effects, add titles and transitions and so on, all in your web browser. It was pretty sweet.

There were some basic features we knew we needed to add to the editor. “Undo,” for example. Fast “scrubbing” through clips, and easy clip splitting and merging. Audio “ducking” and “pre-lap” and “post-lap.”

But in this meeting we were brainstorming ideas that could distinguish us from tools like iMovie, rather than merely achieve parity with them. What’s something that a YouTube-based video editor could do better than others?

To me the answer was clear: it could use YouTube’s unfathomably vast collection of videos as a stock-footage library, allowing users to create mashups from among billions of source clips.

There was one problem: nearly all those billions of videos had been uploaded under the terms of the standard YouTube license, which prohibited third parties from using videos in novel ways (ways that the original uploader might not approve of, after all). True, there was an option to upload your video under a Creative Commons license that did allow reuse by others. In fact I had personally worked on adding that option. But that option was not well-known, and hadn’t existed for long, and it required uploaders proactively to choose it, so only a tiny fraction of the videos on YouTube were licensed that way. The overwhelming majority were legally unavailable to would-be masher-uppers.

My idea for fixing this was called “reactive licensing.” You could create a video in the editor using whatever clips you wanted, pulled from all over YouTube no matter how they were licensed, but you couldn’t publish your video until getting approval from the clips’ owners. You’d click a “request approval” button and we’d send a message asking those owners to review your video project. They could respond with “Approve,” “Reject,” “Ignore,” “Block,” etc. If you got all the needed approvals, your edited video would become publicly playable.

Reactive Licensing generated some excitement. Here was something that YouTube, and only YouTube, was perfectly suited for. I whipped together a working prototype and we were just about to staff the project when the Legal department quashed it. Turns out a prospective use of someone’s video in a mashup—even one visible to no one but the creator and the owner—still violates the terms of service.1

Some time much later, Legal pushed through a change to the standard YouTube license (for unrelated reasons), and now Reactive Licensing became feasible! A couple of us on the Warhol team got excited again, and I started gearing up a development effort. But things had changed since I’d first conceived of Reactive Licensing. For one thing, both management chains—engineering and product—had been entirely replaced, from my boss all the way up to and including the CEO of Google. There were a couple of departmental reorgs thrown in to boot. For another, Google had become fixated on mobile computing, determined not to miss the boat on that trend as it felt it had with social networking. Everything that wasn’t a mobile app or couldn’t be turned into one became a red-headed stepchild, and the video editor was fatally desktop-bound. Finally, the creator and chief evangelist of the Warhol project had left to go work at Facebook. With his leadership, YouTube had harbored an institutional belief in the importance of balancing video-watching features with features for video creators and curators. Now, despite my efforts to keep it alive, that belief seemed to have departed along with him and the other managers who had supported it. The priorities that came down to the Warhol team now amounted to building toy apps that barely qualified as video-creation tools, such as the Vine workalike, or the thing for adding fun “stickers” to a video. (“Wow!”)

By that point my days at YouTube were numbered. This stuff simply wasn’t interesting—not to me, nor (I was sure) to our users. There were many interesting things we could have been doing, and that we knew our users wanted, but my strenuous efforts to make any of those happen were all denied.

My days at YouTube had seemed numbered once before, years earlier, after a frankly undistinguished tenure on two other teams that held little interest for me.

Back in those days, it was Google’s policy not to hire engineers for any specific role, but to hire “generalists” whom they felt could learn whatever they needed to know for wherever Google most needed them. I knew this when they hired me, but I still expected they’d put me on their new Android team (because I’d just finished 5+ years at Andy Rubin’s previous smartphone startup, Danger) or on their Gmail team (because I’d spent most of the preceding two decades as an e-mail technologist). I was surprised and a little disappointed when they put me at YouTube instead. I had no particular interest in or knowledge of streaming video. But more than that: YouTube was and is designed to keep you in a passive, semi-addicted state of couch potatohood, for which I was philosophically misaligned. I wanted to produce tools people could use. I wanted to empower the little guy and disintermediate the gatekeepers. Working on e-mail all those years, I’d been able to tell myself I was improving the world by making it easier for people to communicate with each other. Helping YouTube reach a milestone like a billion hours of watched video per day failed to move me.

On the other hand, Google was the Cadillac of software engineering jobs, and in those days it was still doing pretty well at living up to its “don’t be evil” motto. That, and the proximity of the YouTube office—half an hour closer to home than the main Google campus—was enough to energize me for a while… but only for a while.

If I hadn’t learned of the Warhol project, or if I’d been unable to transfer onto that team, my time at Google would have been over after two mostly forgettable years instead of seven mostly exciting ones. I hadn’t dreamed it was possible to build a working video editor in a web browser, but once I knew it was, I was hooked on the idea of delivering an ever more powerful creative tool to aspiring moviemakers who lacked the fancy computers and software they would otherwise need. To me it was the early days of desktop publishing all over again, but for video. Here at last was a niche at YouTube that wasn’t about driving increased “watch time.” It was about nurturing artistic expression.

We had big plans. We had working prototypes of a variety of special effects. We would build “wizards” that could make suggestions about shot sequences and pacing. We would give guidance on composition and color. We would commission educational materials from professional filmmakers. It would be “film school in a box.”

But even at its height, the Warhol project never quite got the resources or the marketing it needed, and certainly not enough executive leadership. Only seldom did we get to add one of the essential missing features we needed (like “undo”), to say nothing of the ones on our blue-sky wishlist. The rest of the time we were diverted onto other corporate priorities, such as specialized video-editing support for the short-lived Life In a Day tie-in, or addressing some complex copyright issue, or fixing bugs and performance problems.

Still, the YouTube video editor was well-loved and well-used by a small, dedicated group of users in the know. I myself relied on it while my kids were growing up for sharing well-edited videos of them to the families back east. But given its declining importance to YouTube’s management, it was just a matter of time before they killed it, like so many other beloved but neglected projects at Google. And now that inevitable day has come: the YouTube video editor will be discontinued on September 20th.

  1. For you copyright nerds: This was due to “synchronization rights,” an aspect of copyright that prohibited us from combining two videos in a way that could be construed as synchronizing one to the other. The design of the Warhol service was such that the edited video was created on our servers, and the result streamed to the user’s computer. If we could have arranged for the actual edits to happen on the user’s computer—ironically, the way iMovie works—we would have sidestepped the sync-rights issue. While not impossible, that would have been a cumbersome experience that defeated the purpose of a cloud-based video editor.

    Sync rights doomed another feature I’d hoped to create: “serendipitous multicam.” I was at a school play at my kids’ elementary school when I realized that nearly all the parents were shooting the same video. Several of them would later upload their videos to YouTube. If it weren’t for sync rights, YouTube could identify clusters of videos all recording the same event (using Content ID, the same audiovisual matching system used for detecting illicit uploads of copyrighted material), arrange them on a common timeline, and present them as different “camera angles” in a video-editing project, allowing everyone to stitch together their own best-possible movie from them. []

IT don’t come easy

Currently in the news, as I write this: the personal data of nearly all American voters was accidentally leaked by Deep Root Analytics, a conservative marketing firm employed by the Republican party, specializing in targeting political ads.

It is only the latest (and largest) in a seemingly endless stream of stories about accidental leaks of sensitive data online.

It isn’t that computer security is hard – at least, not compared with other kinds of engineering challenges, such as building a bridge that won’t fall down. Paradoxically, the problem is that programming is so easy.

Never mind that programmers often get called “wizard” and “genius” – that’s only occasionally true. The fact is that most programming is dead easy. Indeed the ease of creating working software is the very reason for the technology revolution we’ve been living through these past few decades. Remember when HTML was new and suddenly everyone and their dog had a web page because it was so easy? Programming is like that, but for making machines do useful work.

Not all programming is easy of course. Some of it is quite tricky – like computer security. But because so much of the rest of programming is so easy, most software engineers never develop the habits of rigor and precision that in other fields are simply the price of admission. The result: incompletely tested code full of exploits, best practices not followed and oftentimes not even known about, and your personal data and mine secured by the digital equivalent of Barney Fife.

Man oh man

When it comes to man-making, we are now two for two.

This particular man showed up thirteen years ago today. He has used that time to become an athlete, a dancer, and a multi-instrumental musician. As a student he’s curious, eager, and attentive. He’s a dutiful son and a loyal friend. He is full of intelligence, wit, and compassion. He makes it all look effortless, but we know the hard work that he cheerfully puts into it all.

The secret of our success in raising such a praiseworthy person? Set a good example. But Archer has far exceeded any example we could set. We now strive to live up to his example.

Oppose Gorsuch

[My letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.]

Dear Senator Feinstein,

As a longtime constituent of yours, I urge you to block and oppose the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court with all means in your power.

In just two short months, the Trump administration has become more scandal-plagued than any other in this country’s history. Multiple Trump appointees or nominees are under clouds of suspicion or investigation. Trump himself has been openly flouting at least one constitutional law since the moment he swore his oath of office, and his executive orders are repeatedly found to be unconstitutional themselves. In short he exhibits contempt for the Constitution, not to mention the people and institutions of this great nation.

Gorsuch’s qualifications are irrelevant to this point: this President must not be permitted to place a justice on the Supreme Court. This would be true even if the GOP had not cynically and arbitrarily raised the bar last year for when presidents may nominate justices. Whether a lame duck president should be permitted to or not, surely an impeachable one, of demonstrably poor judgment in people, and plainly inimical to most of what America is about, mustn’t.