When the year fails to acquit itself well, it is my self-appointed duty to compensate with witticisms and clever observations. (Previously.)

  • Not everything in 2020 was bad.

    Not everything in 2021 will be good.

    Also, it's foolishness to assign credit or blame for events to the calendar.

    Still happy to have 2020 behind us. Happy new year!

  • [Friend posts appreciation for the movie Tenet.]

    100% – and yes, continually having to figure out WTH was going on was one of its pleasures, and it would have been considerably less watchable without captions turned on.

    Incidentally, the time mechanic in Tenet seemed to be Michel Gondry's mind-bending music video for Cibo Matto's “Sugar Water,” taken to its logical extreme. https://youtu.be/EN9auBn6Jys

    • [Several days later.]

      The more I think about it, the less satisfied I am with Tenet. There are just too many little false notes. Like, why not give the protagonist a name? That's a little precious and writerly. Why misappropriate the word “algorithm”? That was jarring. Why insert the business about inverted fire causing things to freeze? That made no difference to the story and doesn't jibe intuitively. And why not do more with the obvious use of the technology: namely, sending information back in time? Too many characters are surprised too many times but shouldn't be in a story like this.

  • [At a tough moment in the pandemic.]

    When do we need to start worrying about the health of the life insurance industry?

  • [Friend posts a “dad joke”: “What do you call it when a chicken loses its feathers while pecking at scratch, fighting with the other chickens and laying an egg? Moltitasking.”]

    My son told that joke to my dad. It elicited a grandfather cluck.

  • [Friend posts, “Wow, white supremacy gets really ugly when it feels its grip on power loosening.”]

    At other times, too.

  • [During the January 6th insurrection, friend posts, “TIME TO CLEAN THE SWAMP STAND STRONG.”]

    I take it this means you support the current attempt to overthrow the government.

    Apart from this being the textbook definition of treason, with what do you propose to replace our system of democratically electing our leaders?

    If the answer is simply, “Our guy or no one,” you will sooner or later run into problems with who “our” refers to. Eventually their “our guy” won't be your “our guy” and then you'll be forced to fight.

    This is the genius of democracy: it is a fair enough system that the losers can usually agree simply to try harder next time, and in the meantime everyone gets to enjoy peaceful government.

    So what system do you propose that will let your guy stay in power in a way that everyone can agree is fair so we're not forever fighting each other?

    [Friend replies, “I simply think that it was a riged [sic] election” and that we should “redue” the voting.]

    What makes you think so?

    [“Because it was there has been many revealing information and testimony to prove there was fraudulent things that what went on was eleagal”]

    But what, specifically? Every time Trump's lawyers have tried to argue this in court, a judge has thrown it out for lack of evidence. Sixty times now. Sixty.

    [“Because they themselves [i.e., the judges] are scared to make the right decision on the grounds they are sheep […] honestly do you really think that any of these lower courts were going to take this”]

    Not just lower courts, and not just namby-pamby liberal judges. Plenty of Trump-appointed judges, at every level up to and including the Supreme Court.

    But OK, let's say you're right. That means there is something specific you can point to, fraud on such a big scale that it threw the election to Biden, and now requires the violent overthrow of the government.

    So, what is it?

    [“The fact is all the mail in ballots is bull The fact that alot of the mail in votes were counted after the due date etc!!!! I could go on and on Also the fact that Biden previously attempted attempts at being president all of which he lost BECAUSE HE IS A LIAR AND CHEAT AND TIES TO FOREIGN COUNTRYS ‘CHIANA’ FOR EXAMPLE”]

    I get it. You don't like Biden. 74 million people felt the same way you do.

    But 81 million people didn't like Trump. You're in the minority. In a democracy, that's called losing.

    Honestly, that's not as bad as you're making it out to be. There have been losing candidates in every election for hundreds of years. You take your lumps, you regroup, and you move on. You don't throw a tantrum, flip over the table, and shred the Constitution.

    Believe me, I know how crummy it feels to be on the losing side of an election. You would like some last-minute plot twist to change the outcome. You seize on every theory. You get panicky and desperate as avenues for victory close off, and the logic for keeping your guy in office gets more twisted and far-fetched.

    “The mail-in ballots should not have been counted after election day.” But the law permits counting those ballots – indeed it requires it. What should govern whether they get counted, if not the law?

    Would you complain about counting those ballots if they favored Trump? Is the reason for not counting them simply that you didn't like the outcome?

    “He has ties to foreign countries.” Can you be more specific? What exactly is the complaint here? Everyone in the upper echelons of business and politics has ties to foreign countries. That's not a problem in itself.

    (It would be a problem if he were, say, protecting foreign criminals from U.S. law, or laundering their money through his various properties. But no one has suggested anything more than vague “ties.”)

    Let's say that you manage to keep Trump in office. Then what? Remember, you've got to convince the 81 million Biden voters that it is somehow legitimate for Trump to remain in office. How will you?

    Or will you suppress the will of the majority by force and turn America into a dictatorship? Do you really think that would be better?

    [Fellow Trump supporter posts a meme with a white couple holding three black babies and the caption, “Democrats be like: Where's your proof she cheated?”]

    You seem to be making fun of the idea of wanting proof, but at the same time the joke in this picture is that there is proof. So… 🤨

  • [After the Jan. 6th insurrection, friend posts photo of Hitler and several others, captioned, “Defendants in the trial of the instigators of the Beer Hall Putsch, a failed attempt to seize the government in 1923 by a small bunch of right-wing agitators, largely ridiculed by mainstream society.”]

    A warning from my smart friend. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

  • Amplifying a comment I made in a discussion thread where my congressman shared one of the more printable examples of the vitriol he regularly gets from Trump dead-enders:

    The threat to the republic will exist until these cultists are deprogrammed. But how?

    The best idea I've heard came from my wife. President Biden should revive FDR's fireside chats, updated for the 2020's: frequent, short YouTube videos, 3-5 minutes each. Daily would not be too often, IMO. Flood the zone. In them, he must preach the American civic religion “in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent”: justice, fairness, opportunity, equality, compassion, shared responsibility, evidence-based reasoning, checks and balances, the supremacy of law.

    Of course the right wing will ridicule and rail against these messages. Let them. These principles are unassailable.

    • [Friend objects, “The problems are 1) Biden isn't quite as charismatic as FDR; 2) radio was the first electronic mass medium, and everyone listened to it. Now we have a mass of mass media, and no one true mass of people listening.”]

      Oh I don't know, I thought he did a bang-up job in his acceptance speech this summer. I think a brief daily dose of Uncle Joe, pithy and well speechwritten, could become a welcome balm for these troubled times.

      As for the balkanized media landscape: that's why “flood the zone.” Some messages will surely percolate out widely.

    • [Friend writes, “Yes! Televised sit downs, esp with assorted right wing reps. Invite his harshest critics for a series of chats. (Start with some of the Capitol invaders?) Anytime we've seen that sort of thing (televised town halls with polar opposite political players) it's almost always de-fusing, even civilizing.”]

      For some really great examples of this, check out “Conversations With People Who Hate Me” https://www.dylanmarron.com/podcast

    • [A few weeks later, a friend writes, “Sometimes wishes do come true!” with a link to Biden Begins Weekly ‘FDR-Style Fireside Chats’ On Saturday.]

  • I have realized my DVD-streaming dreams

  • Just rewatched the original Fame, the 1980 film, and boy is it great. Funny, touching, and rousing – it really holds up.

    That's easy to forget in light of the tepid franchise it spawned.

  • [Friend posts about the importance of holding Trump accountable for the Jan. 6th insurrection. Commenter adds, “If you let him get away with it then anyone else could as well.”]

    What [commenter] said. I don't care (much) about the consequences to Trump himself. I care about safeguarding against the next Trump.

  • [Congressman Huffman shares detailed Washington Post timeline of the Jan. 6th insurrection, adds, “This was far more orchestrated and far more dangerous than many of us knew in the moment.”]

    In light of this ongoing threat, on top of the threat already posed by Covid, are there any prospects for changing the rules of Congress so that virtual sessions can be convened online instead of being physically colocated, at least for now?

  • [Friend shares Forbes.com editorial, A Truth Reckoning: Why We're Holding Those Who Lied For Trump Accountable.]

    21st century version of running them out of town on a rail.

  • Please let Donald Trump be the final echo of Roy Cohn in American public life.

  • Dear @Tropicana,

    I like your orange juice better than all the others. I've been drinking it since the 1970's.

    How do you get someone like me to abandon a brand like yours? By switching your containers from sustainable waxed cardboard to plastic.

  • In a single magical trip to Vegas many years ago, Andrea Glickstein and I saw Lance Burton's show and Penn & Teller's show and Siegfried & Roy's show.

    Lance Burton might have been the most skilled magician because he had to be. It was just him up there and his show lacked some of the flash that the others had.

    Penn & Teller were the funniest and most interesting, of course.

    But Siegfried & Roy were easily the top value for our entertainment dollar. 150% Vegas. Costumes, lights, girls, animals, music, special effects, a few truly mind-blowing illusions, and a Michael Jackson earworm on your way out of the theater (♫ Siegfried and Roy! ♫).

    We were crushed when Roy suffered his career-ending injury in 2003. I've only just learned that he succumbed to Covid a few months ago. And Siegfried has just lost a battle with cancer. Rest in peace and thanks for the magic.

  • Political jiu jitsu: Biden should offer Trump a presidential pardon.

    At a stroke this will defang some portion of the Fuck Biden wing of Trumpland. And it will solve the optics dilemma that would otherwise arise from using government resources against a vanquished political opponent (a precedent we don't want to set no matter how justified it may be in the present case).

    But most importantly Biden can demand, in return, the receipts from Trump on everyone who enabled him so their crimes can be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law – and so they won't form a fifth column when the next Trump comes along.

    • [Several comments from friends about what a bad idea this is.]

      OK, maybe not my best idea. I blame Rex Kramer thinking – when the obvious course of action seems TOO obvious. That's just what they'll be expecting us to do

    • [Friend writes, “I don't think Rex Kramer is the best person after whom to model your own behavior or reasoning! Looks like you picked a bad day to find a role model. 🤣”]

      You wouldn't say that to his face.

      [Friend replies, “Ah, now I see the jiu jitsu!”]

    • I do still think it's the enablers, and not Trump himself, who pose the greater threat to the republic in the coming months and years, and should therefore be the greater focus of investigation and structural reform. Trump himself is finished.

  • [Friend reshares post: “All I do is work, come home, blink, then I'm right back at work again.”]

    You gotta get the most you can out of that blink.

  • [Friend speculates Ivanka Trump might run in 2024 on a “girl-power” ticket with Nikki Haley.]

    If she does, that would mean that Trump had not managed to completely ruin the Trump brand, but if there's one thing we can 100% trust Trump to do, it's to ruin things.

  • [Friend posts, “It's good deed, good news Friday, please share your good news or good deed.”]

    Happy Friday! Found a big pile of undelivered mail (for a bunch of neighbors the next town over) in the dirt on the side of the road while walking my dog on Wednesday. Don't know how it got there. Hand-delivered it all later that day.

  • “I'm enjoying this on multiple levels!” – me, laughing, during the first episode of WandaVision.

  • [Friend tweets, “apropos of absolutely nothing, I really need to break the habit of framing things as questions when I already know the answer”]

    It worked for Socrates.

    [Friend replies, “Socrates was a white man 😉”]

    Great point. And much more effective than if you'd said, “Wasn't Socrates a white man?”

  • [His last day in office.]

    We are both from Queens
    Our kinship starts and ends there
    Goodbye Donald Trump

  • Con men con; that's what they do.

    Did you support Trump? If you haven't already figured out it was a con, you will, with all the shit that's about to come out.

    It's hard to admit to a mistake. We jump through mental hoops to convince ourselves we were right. Con men know this; it's how they keep you on their side, and even get you to con others for them.

    But we all make mistakes. There's no shame in it. The only shame is in refusing to admit your mistake, once you realize it.

    And then, shame on anyone who gloats or says I told you so.

    Let us welcome with compassion our friends and relatives who awaken from this trance.

  • John Roberts: “Congratulations, Mr. President.”


  • [Hours after Biden takes office.]

    I'm confused. What's this not-braced-every-moment-for-a-new-outrage sensation I'm feeling?

  • If I ever open a typeface-design shop, I'm calling it Glickstein's Glyphs Team.

    • [Friend writes, “My partner's last name is LaSalle, and we live in Los Altos. We name some of our home devices LaSalle Toes.”]

      Perhaps you should be selling ring-shaped dietetic snack chips called Low-Salt O's.

  • [Friend writes about receiving a gift of chocolate, which she cannot eat. “Who wants to come over and share in the largesse?”]

    No largesse for me, thanks, I'm already large enough.

  • Did James S.A. Corey name his hero “Jim” because George Lucas named his “Luke”?

    • Don't @ me, I know James S.A. Corey is the pseudonym for a pair of guys and isn't a “him.”

    • Related: James T. Cool

    • Why not just “Mary Sue”?

  • [For my friend Sara.]

    I didn't get you anything so I made you a birthday tongue twister!

    Sara saw a sour sea
    The sour sea saw Sara see
    Said the sea, “I see you stare.” “Ah,
    Sorry, sour sea,” said Sara.

    Happy birthday!!

  • Recently watched The Man Who Would Be King. Never thought of myself as a Christopher Plummer fan, but when I saw his name in the cast I realized I was excited to see him. Kept waiting for him to show up on screen, never realizing I'd been watching him from the very beginning of the movie, unrecognizable as “Rudyard Kipling.”

    He was much more clearly Christopher Plummer – but no less excellent – in a couple of obscure favorites: Silent Partner and Eyewitness.

    Turns out I've been a fan all along. RIP

  • “Family members should offer many small doses of evidence that can help sow doubt or disillusionment with Q. […] This process of de-cultification requires patience and suppressing justified anger, recriminations, and frustration.”

    Sad QAnon Followers Are at a Precarious Pivot Point

  • Andrea and I were there twenty years ago today: the opening of Disney's California Adventure.

    What a weird concept for a theme park: a miniature California in California.

    Unsurprisingly the concept did not catch fire, and bit by bit the park has been repurposed. I maintain it's because they were missing the one obvious thing that would have elevated it: in the middle of mini-California, a mini Disneyland and mini California Adventure. (Which you could perhaps enter after a swig from a bottle that says Drink Me.)

    It was a bit drizzly for the first part of the day, and attendance was surprisingly sparse for an event as big as a new Disney theme park.

    We had a blast.

    • [Friend writes, “Maybe some random earthquakes?”]

      They already have those, just not on any timetable that the Disney folks control. 🙂

    • [Andrea adds that this is the trip where we brought along a little plastic “Señor Misterioso” and photographed him everywhere, and that he is in fact a representation of a Venezuelan “saint.”]


  • In my dream last night, we hosted a party. As it wound down and guests were leaving, we thanked each one with a quick kiss on the lips. It wasn't weird, it was just the done thing.

    A vision of things to come, in defiance of the pandemic once we finally tame it?

  • [New-homeowner friend posts apprehensive questions about venturing into the attic.]

    Two words for when you have to venture into a spidery space: Tyvek Suit.

  • [Trump acquitted in second impeachment trial.]

    “If Obama had mustered an angry mob to storm the Capitol it would have been OK.”


    Senators Barrasso, Blackburn, Blunt, Boozman, Braun, Capito, Cornyn, Cotton, Cramer, Crapo, Cruz, Daines, Ernst, Fischer, Graham, Grassley, Hagerty, Hawley, Hoeven, Hyde-Smith, Inhofe, Johnson, Kennedy, Lankford, Lee, Lummis, Marshall, McConnell, Moran, Paul, Portman, Risch, Rounds, Rubio, Shelby, Sullivan, Thune, Tillis, Tuberville, and both Scotts.

  • In my dream, I had to be up all night. When the morning came I was finally able to get in bed. At that moment the alarm rang in real life.

    • Good thing too. I saw Inception. Who knows what could happen if you fall asleep in your dream?

  • [Friend who was raised in a cult explains QAnon and why you can't reason with cult members.]

    I resentfully accept that reason isn't the answer.

    But what about intellectual jiu-jitsu, using believers' own credulity against them?

    If they are eager to find conspiracies everywhere, shouldn't it be easy to make them suspect their own leaders are part of some conspiracy?

    • [Friend replies, “I call that ‘conspiracy for good.’ They spout some conspiracy, you reply, ‘Well, that's what they want you to believe.’ Let me know how that goes!”]

      Surely it can be done more artfully than that. AIUI a lot of the attraction of QAnon is that it's gamified – there are patterns to find, clues to follow, and so on. I think there's a huge opportunity for someone who knows what they're doing to turn these same techniques against the lot of them.

    • Timely: link to Twitter thread: “I wonder how those QAnon folks are gonna react when they realize that Q is Black? Wait… Y'all didn't know? Come on, man, just think about it.”

  • [Friend posts a challenge to write roses-are-red poems about how we're feeling.]

    Roses are red
    Violets are blue
    Work, TV, clean
    Each day I pick two

  • [Ruben Bolling publishes a Tom the Dancing Bug cartoon, “News of the times, September 12, 2001: GOP votes against prosecution of Osama Bin Laden.”]

    It's like shooting fish in a barrel.

  • [Congressman Jared Huffman posts an editorial cartoon: two boxers in a ring labeled Facebook, ready to beat each other to a pulp, with the announcer saying, “In this corner, one opinion, and in this corner, a slightly different opinion!”]


    Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don't do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

    He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

    He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”

    Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

    – Emo Philips

  • [Friend shares meme: “To those who put something in a closet, close the door, hear something crash inside, and walk away: You are my people.”]

    Pfft, that's future me's problem.

  • [Friend shares tweet: “Can't stop laughing at these early Jim Henson commercials where one guy just kills another for not liking Wilkins Coffee.”]

    That we no longer have Jim Henson explains much about the state of the world.

    • (Also Carl Sagan, Fred Rogers, Oliver Sacks. My modern pantheon.)

  • [Friend shares webcomic: “I should Google that!” [picks up phone, looks puzzled] “Why am I holding my phone?”]

    If only you could Google “What was I going to Google?”

    • (I'm sure they're working on it.)

  • [Smart friend raises the alarm about the dangers of Bitcoin.]

    I don't disagree about the externalities of Bitcoin's consensus mechanism. But it's not true that Bitcoin's big benefit is anonymity. In fact Bitcoin is terrible for that. Basic transactions in Bitcoin are pretty easily traceable.

    Bitcoin's big benefit is its governance model. It can't lose its value because some desperate central bank needs to print more to pay off some debt.

    As for electricity use and anonymity: there are other blockchain designs that are better for each.

  • [Friend posts photo of person standing by the entrance to the “U.S. Naval Observatory,” lifting up their shirt and looking at their belly-button.]

    Midriffshipman first class

  • [Friend laments that the estate of Dr. Seuss will stop publishing some titles due to racist imagery, sending them down the same memory hole as Song of the South.]

    Karina Longworth's terrific podcast “You Must Remember This” (tag line: “the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood's first century”) did a six-part series on Song of the South, many times more entertaining than the movie itself (which is pretty forgettable except for one or two musical numbers, and of course the controversy surrounding it). Part 1 is here: Disney's most controversial film (Six degrees of Song of the South, episode 1)

  • The building is on fire. Firefighters are busy hosing it down. Yet people are rushing back in.

    Which will win: the fire? Or the water? I know what I hope. But I also know what history tells us.

  • [Friend shares meme: “Romeo and Juliet is not a love story. It's a three-day relationship between a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old that resulted in six deaths.”]

    “How could this happen? We started out like Romeo and Juliet but it ended up in tragedy.” -The Simpsons

  • [Friend shares image of newspaper clipping; an article includes the text: “…Tom McEldroon, who asked to remain anonymous…”]

    The reporter didn't specify which Tom McEldroon he was talking about.

  • It's Yegge-rant day!

    “There is no point in hating a hurricane. But you do need to prepare.”

    It's a long read (as usual), but a fun one (also as usual). Stick around to the end for the policy-prescription “punchline.”
    Hurricane China

  • [Friend recently moved to Florida, posts alarmingly close photo of “the biggest alligator we have ever seen.” One commenter adds, “They climb trees and fences too! Beware!”]


  • I know it's fashionable to be all worried about the personal data that companies like Google keep about us, but I confess I am sad that my Google history doesn't go back farther than it does. I love being able to reconstruct my movements on a particular day by looking at my Google Maps timeline and calendar entries, or to dredge up some old online conversations discussing events and containing witticisms I'd forgotten all about.

  • [Professor friend writes, “Reading my students' online discussions of Julius Caesar and Augustus makes me suspect that a fair percentage of Americans would be perfectly happy living under a benign dictatorship.”]

    A benevolent dictatorship is in fact the best form of government. The only problems are (1) who gets to define benevolent? and (2) keeping it that way.

  • RIP Norton Juster. In a world where too few people engage their brains too much of the time – which is to say, too many people engage their brains too little of the time – I credit you with teaching me to enjoy engaging mine.

    • Fun fact: when I briefly soured on my computer-science studies at Carnegie Mellon, I very nearly transferred to Hampshire College, which actually admitted me. Officially it would have been to join their undergraduate writing program, but unofficially I wanted to be where Norton Juster was a teacher.

  • How many plagues have there been in human history where the only hope was to let it burn itself out? And now here we are: at the clinic a short time ago I literally got to choose from among multiple safe, effective vaccines.

    It is an absolute motherfucking miracle.

    • [Friend posts about the surprisingly long history of vaccination after going down a research rabbit hole.]

      I first learned about variolation in the Paul Giamatti miniseries about John Adams, which includes a depiction of the practice.

  • Scene: the vaccination clinic, yesterday afternoon. Rows of folding chairs, six feet apart, are where the newly vaccinated wait for fifteen minutes in case of adverse reaction. The chairs are about two-thirds occupied, all with middle-aged adults.

    A nurse walks among the rows of chairs and says, “Who wants a sticker?”

    Every hand in the place goes up.

    • No one doesn't love stickers.

  • [Friend-and-mentor Nathaniel Borenstein shares recent email about how often his research is cited in open-access papers.]

    I'm going to start telling people my Borenstein number.

  • [Friend heard a WHUMP on the roof, went outside to see a turkey running around in his yard.]

    Dropped from the WKRP helicopter no doubt.

  • [Friend wonders, “Has enough time elapsed that significant numbers of people believe that the Space Shuttle was a hoax?”]

    To be fair, even the men and women who designed and flew the Space Shuttle admit it barely even flew, per se. (C.f. “flying brick.”)

  • [Friend wonders, “If there's a legal minimum age to run for Congress, why not a maximum?”]

    As in, “Don't trust anyone over thirty”?

  • I am wearing green, and I've got some corned beef and cabbage cooking for dinner. Later I'll kick back with a Guinness. But the cultural-appropriation aspects of this day are only surface fun. As [Irish friend] taught me a few years ago, deeper satisfaction comes from actually learning a little of the history of the Emerald Isle. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ireland

  • [Conservative friend reshares right-wing meme claiming Biden's many executive orders make him a dictator, asks for my thoughts.]

    What do I think? The same thing I think whenever I see this sort of post: is this disinformation?

    What do I mean by “this sort of post”? It's from a source I don't recognize; it is forwarded without comment; it makes a short, declarative statement; and it provokes strong positive and negative reactions from opposite sides of the partisan divide.

    What do I mean by “disinformation”? I mean a post designed to (a) get itself reposted and (b) drive the wedge between left and right deeper. This is how the enemies of America keep us weak. (So that Russia is free to invade Ukraine, for example, and China is free to massacre Uighurs.) They fear a united United States.

    So when I wonder, “Is this disinformation,” what do I do? First I check its veracity. The post makes two claims: Biden has issued 56 executive orders; and that this means he's a dictator.

    Has Biden issued 56 executive orders? No: according to the Federal Register, so far he has issued 37. https://www.federalregister.gov/presidential-documents/executive-orders/joe-biden/2021

    (Could the Federal Register be lying about this? There would be no point: it is the official record of executive orders, among other things. For an executive order to have any effect, the agencies it affects have to know about the order, and the Federal Register is the way they know about it.)

    Does 56, or 37, or some other number of orders, mean Biden is a dictator? No, this is ludicrous: executive orders are part of how a president does their job. The president oversees the executive branch, composed of dozens of agencies and thousands of people. To direct how they should operate, a president issues executive orders, just as the boss of a company issues a memo to his or her department heads.

    What would mean Biden is a dictator? If he used the apparatus of the government for his own benefit without regard for the law or the public interest. I don't see that in any of his executive orders so far, do you?

  • [Friend reshares article about movies that depict moviegoing.]

    How could they overlook Diner! That's the first movie-theater scene that came to mind when I saw this headline.

    • More:

      The Purple Rose of Cairo
      Silent Movie
      Inglourious Basterds
      The Player

  • Joss Whedon once was a hero who made great things. Now he's a villain who makes terrible things. Doesn't that feel a little like we're living in an episode of Buffy?

    • Giles: “According to the Codex, the Inversion Demon can turn all that's good into evil, and all evil into good.”

      [All eyes turn to Anya.]

  • [Smart friend posts long article making many important points about why the U.S. gives money and other aid to foreign countries.]

    Very well said! But I would just refer the curious to The Godfather, who does favors for others, sometimes at great expense to himself, knowing that gratitude and a sense of indebtedness gives him power and influence of far greater value.

  • [Friend posts about Biden's readiness to kill the filibuster, comments: “Only Nixon could go to China / Only old centrist white guy could do this?”]

    I was a Warren fan in the primaries. But Biden really is shaping up as the person for this moment. He's a white man, and so neutralizes the racist and sexist freak-out after Obama's presidency and Hillary's candidacy. And he's old, and so connects us with a time when American politics worked better than it does now.

  • [Friend posts photo of a pizza box labeled, “Open box before eating pizza.”]

    I would keep that box, then ritualistically open it before eating any pizza.

  • Why is sex sometimes referred to as “making the beast with two backs,” but hugging is not?

    • [Friend posts, “Blame Shakespeare.”]

      Him again!

  • [Old college friend posts a news update about a dorm building.]

    Mudge House. Mudge. Now that's a name I've not heard in a long time. A long time.

  • Care to participate in an experiment?

    I want to see more from all of you than just the typical kinds of update that we all put on Facebook. So I selected three random words from the dictionary: “crossroad,” “tame,” and “hustle.”

    If you are so inclined, please choose one of those words and send me three or so paragraphs on that topic. You can include it as a comment on this post if you don't mind others seeing it, or you can send it in e-mail. (DM's OK too but e-mail's better.)

    There are no other rules. You can write fiction or nonfiction, poetry or prose. How your writing relates to the chosen word is yours to define – and also yours to reveal or disguise or conceal entirely.

    Thanks friends! I can't wait to read what you write.

  • [Friend posts article on the fiftieth anniversary of email.]

    “1996: The Rise of Webmail Clients”

    Also 1996: we founded an e-mail client startup. Oops.

    • [Friend replies, “True, but I blame Outlook Express for that ‘oops’ more than webmail clients.”]

      Ah yes, how could I forget

  • [Friend posts challenge to alter one word in a song title to make it a horror movie.]

    You've Lost That Livin' Feelin’

    I Won't Survive

    And She Wasn't

  • [Friend explores QAnon mythology, reports back: “Telegram group supposedly run by JFK Jr. says Princess Diana, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, and Jim Morrison are part of Q.”]

    QAnon: confounding-global-socio-politico-economic-system fanfic

  • [Friend posts article, “Alabama legislature upholds ban on yoga in schools because it might cause kids to convert to Hinduism”]

    Coming soon: Alabama legislature mandates eating of beef.

  • [Responding to an exchange from November, after I posted my “Snoopy dance” video upon Biden's victory: “Please floss.” “If we go two for two in the Georgia runoffs, it's a deal.”]

    This was supposed to be three months ago, my apologies. We had a little insurrection problem the very next day and that drove it straight out of mind.

  • [Friend posts about The Pee Mart, America's first discount urine store.]

    The Pee Mart: We’re Number One

  • Boston Globe, today: “Supersize the House: 435 representatives aren’t nearly enough. Let’s make it 1,500.”

    My blog, 2011: “If we had maintained that ratio, today the House would have 1,093 members. If we had maintained Washington’s ratio, today it would have 10,291 members. As it is we’re stuck with 435 — fewer than one congressperson for every 700,000 people.” Homeopathic democracy

  • Lay down in a dark, quiet room and close your eyes. Soon, consciousness is gone. Am I the only one slightly unnerved by how easy that is?

  • Where exactly does the mustache end and the beard begin?

  • [Friend shares the “entire” message sent to announce his school's vaccine clinic: “Agape Family Health is offering a pop-up Johnson”]]

    They left off, “…so come get injected.”

  • [Friend posts, “Here we are, waiting to find out if a jury in America will convict a cop of murdering a Black man, which we all saw on video.”]

    And if they do, it's “progress.”

  • Nineteen years ago this guy made me a dad, which immediately became, and has remained, my favorite thing by far ever to have been. Thank you Jonah and happy birthday!

  • [Friend shares tweet from BBC News saying “Whales are now vaccinating those aged 30 and over,” asks if they tweeted this “on porpoise.”]

    Must be a fluke.

  • [Friend posts graphic showing Biden slightly ahead of Trump in executive orders (and everyone far behind FDR).]

    Curious: how many of Biden's were simply reversing some of Trump's?

  • It is a truism that each generation wishes better things for its children, then harbors a little resentment when the next generation actually has things better.

    In my case, this is nowhere more true than with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which I've been rewatching with my family. As much as I'm enjoying it, my heart breaks a little that this wasn't how the Star Wars sequels were handled.

  • [Friend posts article about AI that dubs films into any language.]

    I won't be satisfied until it's possible to seamlessly replace the Frank Pentangeli storyline in The Godfather Part II with the Clemenza story it was supposed to be.

  • [Friend's “pet peeve du jour”: vendors and waiters who ask for an “autograph” on a credit-card slip.]

    Alternate take: it's a working-class camaraderie signal. “Let's you and me regular folks poke fun at the kind of gasbags whose autographs people actually do want.”

  • [Friend warns that fun online quizzes are actually fishing for your answers to website security questions.]

    That's why your security-question answers should be non sequiturs. Q: “Where did you go on your first airplane trip?” A: “Rutabaga.”

  • Today I had an actual Italian guy legitimately call after me reminding me to take the cannoli.

  • [Friend completes 180-degree mid-life career pivot to nursing.]

    You are my hero.

  • [Friend reshares joke dialog: Customer: “I'd like to buy a bagel with cream cheese.” Me: “We only take cash.” Manager: “Can I talk to you.”]

    Manager: “We need the cream cheese.”

  • [tweet]

    Last Friday morning: went down a Wikipedia rabbit hole about “dowsing,” learned about the ideomotor response.

    Last Friday evening: @Danwhitemagic's virtual magic show included a mindblowing demonstration of the ideomotor response.


  • Had a Moon-tourism dream so vivid that it now feels like a memory of having actually gone.

    • [Friend asks, “So you totally recalled all the details?”]

      I see what you did there.

  • [GOP congressional candidate, on having impregnated a 14-year-old, who later killed herself: “It was like Romeo and Juliet.”]

    It's not “like Romeo and Juliet” until he kills himself too.

  • [Wishing Linda Branagan a happy birthday.]

    _a___ Bir__da_

    I tried spelling Happy Birthday using only the letters in your name, but failed. Sorry!

  • [History-professor friend has had enough of clichés from his students, like “history is written by the winners.”]

    Those who do study history are condemned to repeat that those who do not are condemned to repeat it.

  • I did the math.

    Yes, the filibuster allowed Republican senators to kill the Jan 6th commission, despite the “yea” votes having a greater than 50% advantage. But that's not the whole story.

    The 35 senators voting “nay” represent 93.6 million Americans. The 54 senators voting “yea” represent 181.9 million Americans – a 94% advantage! And they still lost.

  • [Friend asks whether anyone wants to play-test a puzzle.]

    Waaiiit… [narrows eyes] …is this question part of the puzzle?

  • I am not a lawyer. But today's announcement from Facebook – that they would consider reinstating Donald Trump's account in 2023 only “if the threat to public safety has receded” – strikes me as the kind of inadvertent admission that gets lawyers all excited. Facebook, a private company, manages threats to public safety! In other parts of the economy, where public safety is in the hands of private industry, we insist on government oversight.

    Lawyer friends – am I right? Does this kind of thing make you salivate? Does today's statement make it more likely that we'll see some sort of regulation of social media?

  • When I launch my factory to replace single-use plastic by producing the aluminum-foil tubes we used to have for products like toothpaste and shampoo, I'm calling it Foiled Again.

  • Best fatherhood movies:
    – Chef
    – Field of Dreams
    – Parenthood
    – Sleepless In Seattle
    – Mary Poppins
    – The Godfather

    • Worst fatherhood movies:
      – Close Encounters of the Third Kind
      – The Empire Strikes Back

    • [Friend asks where “The Road” and “The Road to Perdition” land.]

      Oof to both. Although Road to Perdition does feature “America's Dad.”

    • [Friend writes, “Parenthood: ‘You must be very proud.’”]

      Forgive my pedantry but what kind of former-IMDb-quotes-guy would I be if I didn't point out it's “How proud you must be” (in response to “He likes to butt things with his head”).

  • We need more class traitors like Abigail Disney.

    Every part of this short read is excellent, but one thing especially stood out to me: the idea that the wealthy are taught never to “spend the corpus” (i.e., their main chunk of wealth). There are all kinds of ways to turn a big-enough chunk of wealth into spending money without ever actually dipping into it.

    This of course exposes the trickle-down theory of economics, already deeply discredited, as a simple lie. The very wealthy actively, and effectively, work against anything ever trickling down.
    I Was Taught From a Young Age to Protect My Dynastic Wealth

    • Even if it did work, “trickle-down” wouldn't suffice. It's time for “cascade down.”

  • [Friend shares meme: “Imagine if your dad was a minotaur and your mom was a mermaid and you got the human half of both and now you're just some guy.”]

    But you've got a furry, scaly fringe right around your middle.

  • Send greetings on the day
    Some people think they hafta
    And some on this depend

    But when that's Saturday
    One still can, one day afta
    Say “happy birthweekend!”


  • Happy 245th anniversary of a major progressive political victory!

  • I'm fully vaccinated, and so is everyone around me.

    The vaccine is nearly 100% effective at preventing serious disease. That is remarkable.

    But it's much less effective at preventing me from becoming a carrier. And there's no good way for me to know whether I am or not.

    There are plenty of unvaccinated and immunocompromised folks out there, none of whom I'm willing to sicken or kill.

    That's why you'll see me continuing to mask up in public indoor spaces.

    • And it's why you'll see my mask covering my mouth AND nose, both of which are connected to the same set of lungs.

  • Apparently growing your own apricots is a thing you can do???

  • Ugh, do I have to be on William Barr's side now?
    Barr shoots down former prosecutor's election-fraud claims

  • [Doctor friend posts a graph showing the beginning of what became the summer Covid surge.]


  • [Asked (but not answered) in the comment thread of a Heather Cox Richardson post.]

    Let's imagine a worst-case scenario: that the GOP achieves its goal of entrenching antidemocratic voting laws, effectively locking Democrats out of power and turning America into a one-party state.

    What then? What does history tell us about ways out of that predicament?

  • Serious question:

    Can the surviving family members of Covid victims who chose to forgo vaccination based on self-serving lies and misinformation sue the media personalities and politicians responsible?

    • [Lawyer friend writes, “Probably not,” citing United States v. Alvarez (2012) and New York Times v. Sullivan (1964).]

      Thanks. How cool to be able to answer a question like mine in this way. I occasionally regret not going to law school, and this is one of those times.

  • #tbt

    This is San Rafael City Hall. When Jonah was six or seven years old, he rode his bike to school for the first time, with me close behind. Our route took us past this building. Without any prior discussion or planning, when Jonah reached this spot he stopped his bike, got off, and saluted the flag.

    • It was almost painfully adorable.

    • [Conservative friend asks why “painfully” (probably thinking to trap me into an admission of flag hatred or something).]

      I don't know about you, but once in a while something is so perfect and amazing that it is just a tiny bit heartbreaking, knowing how rare and fleeting such things are.

  • [Friend posts atomic-physics joke, says he heard the base of the joke in the nineties and has embellished it.]

    “I heard the nucleus of this joke” FTFY

  • The left tries to persuade with reason and compassion. The right has weaponized STRONG EMOTION. Although Enlightenment fans like me wish it weren't so, strong emotion WINS against reason and compassion; hence the epistemological hell in which we presently find ourselves.

    But there is a window of opportunity right now. Right-wing leaders are pivoting from anti-mask, anti-vaccination messaging to the very opposite. It's happening so quickly that their followers can't help but notice – even those who've failed to notice other, slower 180's, like the ones away from Christian morality and democracy.

    Now's the time to take a page from the conservative playbook and MAKE PEOPLE MAD. But not for any ginned-up reason, like which people use which bathroom, or whether they're coming for your guns, or what some dreaded “caravan” will do when it reaches the border. No, we make them mad about being misled, lied to, KILLED by venality, incompetence, and disregard.

    I wish it were otherwise, but if that's the way to win hearts and minds, it'll do in a pinch.

    • [Friend thinks “the echo chamber is sealed.”]

      I think the people I want to reach ONLY listen to those who point out things to make them mad, and the echo chamber is permeable to anyone with a message of outrage.

    • [Friend asks, “How do you fight headlines like ‘Pelosi says her religion allows murdering poor people's babies’?”]

      “Breaking: Anti-Pelosi claims are for picking your pocket”

  • [Friend posts about enjoying their inflatable kayak.]

    You totally inspired me, and today I got out on the water in my new Challenger K1 for the first time. Been thinking about it for a long time but it took your post to finally get me off my butt. IT WAS AMAZING. Thank you!!!

  • X̅X̅

    One league under the sea for each day I've been alive.

    • When I was half this age, Linux reached version 1.0.0, China first got connected to the Internet, and both Nine Inch Nail's “Closer” and the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral were brand-new.

  • [Friend posts photo of himself in socks and sandals, writes “I think this makes me officially an old man now.”]

    I've got news for you: that's not the only thing.

  • [Friend shares tweet, “Another juggler gives up on his dreams.”]

    Looks to me like, “I don't have a life preserver, but here, try these ping-pong balls!”

  • What I think every time I hear someone on a call say, “You're breaking up.”

  • It is so easy to villainize Jeff Bezos, but it is wrong. It allows us to think that the problem is him, rather than the system that permitted him to get this wealthy. Whatever happened to “hate the game, not the player”?

    If you're not agitating for better antitrust enforcement, protections for organized labor, and progressive tax reform, you are part of the problem you're complaining about when you complain about Jeff Bezos.

  • I am at that point at the end of a long programming day when I keep spotting the cursor out of the corner of my eye and thinking it's a horrible insect. Time to call it a night.

  • “You can laugh and joke,” Gumby smiled as he spoke, “but don't you pick on my pony pal Pokey.”

  • Listening to a very catchy song just now, I couldn't help but tap my foot to the beat. My sock-clad foot thumping against the floor reminded me of our dog Pepper, when she wags her tail while laying down.

    That's when I had this thought: maybe when dogs wag their tails, they're doing it in time to some catchy dog tune they've got playing in their heads.

    As an empiricist I can't say there's enough evidence to believe this hypothesis. But as a dog lover I hereby declare it to be true.

    • For the record, it was “Two Tribes” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood

  • Don't be hysterical! It's not like someone with brown skin is roaming Florida and killing 50-100 people per day.
    DeSantis blames media for hysteria over Covid surge

  • [Friend relates story about seeing his dad on TV when he was little, and crying because he thought they'd shrunken him.]

    Haha, I had the same experience, but with my dad's friend Lenny, so it was not so emotional, more like, “I wonder what it'll be like seeing tiny Lenny from now on.”

    OTOH, I remember hearing that Nixon had to appoint a new vice president, and I didn't know what “appoint” meant. When my mom told me that Nixon could choose someone, I was convinced he would choose my dad and terrified that he would have to go live in DC.

  • [Conservative friend shares anti-vaccine-mandate meme.]

    Imagine a machine that kills thousands of people every month. Worse: it is only useful when taken out into public spaces. It is possible to operate it safely, but doing so requires continuous careful attention. The slightest distraction can easily mean injury and death.

    Few people object to requiring operators of those machines – cars – to be trained and licensed before being allowed to drive them on public roads. This is the main way in which we make the dangerous machine safer. Is this a restriction of our liberties? Yes, of course it is, but it's a tradeoff that almost all of us are willing to make. In legal terms, there is a compelling public interest in prohibiting unlicensed drivers.

    Now imagine that the deadly machine is not a car, but your own body. This is literally the case during a pandemic! Once again there is a compelling public interest in reducing the danger your deadly machine presents in public spaces.

    During the present emergency, just think of proof of vaccination (or a recent negative COVID test) as a driver's license for your body.

  • An enduring wonder of the age is the variety of vehicles that drivers will cram into parking-lot spaces marked “Compact.”

  • Just realized that 50% of the Lords of Flatbush are immortalized as bronze statues on public display in major American cities.

    • Perry King's gotta be next. The question is, which city?

    • [A moment of Googling later.] Gotta be his birthplace of Alliance, OH – not a major American city, but a place where I HAVE ACTUALLY BEEN.

  • Reevaluation of the consumer culture in which I've lived my whole life continues apace. I've just convinced myself that if they had marketed a toothpaste in the 50's with “secret ingredient U-235 for a smile that really shines!” it would have flown off the shelves.

  • [Conservative friend posts, “You people wearing a mask in your car with the windows up by yourself are fucking stupid.”]

    Have you ever smelled the cigarette smoke of the driver in front of you?

    Think about it…

  • The irony of throwing away moldy cheese is not lost on me.

  • I am no fan of the American occupation of Afghanistan that just ended, but I also think that the rush to condemn it as a complete waste of time, money, and lives is too simplistic and hasty.

    I cofounded a software startup in the 90's with the goal of changing the world. We didn't change the world, and in the end we were just barely able to sell off the company's assets. But – coincidentally like the Afghan war – that end came almost 20 years later, and in the meantime the business clicked along, consistently putting dinner on the table, and then some, for (at its height) a few dozen people. Is that a failure, or a success?

    We've just had a dramatic demonstration of what happens without American presence in Afghanistan: the Taliban takes over, imposes Sharia law, brutally suppresses dissent, and spreads fear among the people. For almost twenty years, those things didn't happen. Is that a failure, or a success?

  • This is not a recall election. This is a scheme to hijack our collective trauma about the pandemic to cement minority rule in California, and perhaps the United States, for a generation. You don't have to love Governor Newsom; you can always vote him out next year. THIS year it's about preserving democracy. Californians, vote NO today.
    California's Recall Election Could Be a National Disaster

  • [Friend describes coincidence relating to the singer Meat Loaf, “tags” me thinking I'll find it interesting.]

    Better still: the notification that you had tagged me in this post arrived while I was cleaning dishes to the tune of Paradise By The Dashboard Light.

  • Lies My Teacher Told Me was the first step for me in a long, continuing, eye-opening, and heartbreaking journey of realizing just how much our national story has been edited to be validating and congratulatory to mainstream society, at the expense of everyone else. RIP James Loewen.
    James Loewen ¡Presente!

  • [Friend can't understand how the same people who think vaccines aren't safe do things like take horse-dewormer.]

    How do you decide what to believe?

    If you're like me, you consider inputs on a given topic from multiple sources, assessing such things as the independence and reliability of each source, the degree to which they agree with each other, whether the idea introduces any logical inconsistencies, whether it is the simplest explanation fitting the known facts, whether anyone benefits from concealing, exaggerating, or misrepresenting information, and more.

    These Enlightenment habits of thought feel universal to you and me but actually are not, in part because they involve a lot of effort to apply consistently – so much effort, in fact, that even those of us who believe ourselves good at them manage to think this way only part of the time, on some topics and not others.

    And they are not taught widely, nor are they needed in places other than large, multicultural cities, where being able to see things from multiple perspectives is a survival strategy.

    Another way to decide what to believe is simply to agree with what everyone around you believes. That's a lot easier, and in many places it, too, is a survival strategy.

    Still another way is to believe only those things that aren't too complicated to understand, because who are you going to trust to explain them to you, those coastal elites? And another one is to disbelieve anything that threatens your way of life, because if driving a gas-guzzling SUV was good enough for Jesus it's good enough for me.

    The Enlightenment way is the proven best way for predicting outcomes in the short- to medium-term, and for detecting and avoiding attempts at manipulation. But it's by no means perfect, and it's hard. For those without those skills, the other ways seem to work pretty well most of the time, and when they don't, once in a while Darwin steps in to reset the scales.

  • [Friend shares tweet exhibiting incoherent word salad being used by Jan 6th defendant Pauline Bauer.]

    I can recognize a simple Markov-chain text generator when I see one. (See e.g. https://ankiewicz.com/technology/markov-generator/)

  • I really wanted not to like these, because I wanted to be able to write “meh-oneggs,” but I am now a mayoneggs convert.
    I Tried Mayoneggs and They're My New Favorite Scrambled Eggs

  • [Congressman Jared Huffman touts work on the “Build Back Better” act.]

    Thank you for your dependable hard work on everything.

    I fear that a lot of it will be for naught, however, without a laser focus on protecting voting rights. Between voter-suppression and gerrymandering efforts in many states, and the California recall election, the GOP is on its way to cementing minority rule for a generation. If this happens, you can bet they will roll back every positive thing you're trying to do.

  • Happy National Dog Day!

    • Or is it National Happy Dog day?

  • [Friend tweets, “Tim Cook has been CEO of Apple for 10 years. Steve Jobs was CEO of Apple for 11 years. Time is fucking weird.”]

    Time is weird, but not as weird in this case as you think. Jobs may have been CEO for only 14 years, but he was Mr. Apple one way or another for 35. Tim Cook has a long way to go.

  • [Friend posts photo of herself and her four children in a line behind her.]

    Makes me think of…

    • All you need now is a tambourine and a bus painted by Mondrian.

  • How will historians of the future explain modern conservatives' embrace of literally suicidal behavior?

  • There's a plant growing in our front yard that I've just learned will transfer ants onto you if you happen to brush past it.

    I mentioned this to Jonah, who said he already knew about this. He calls it “pl-ant.”

  • I am going to want to…
    I'm going to want to…
    I'm gonna want to…
    I'm gonna wanna…
    I'mma wanna…
    I'wwa… (?)

    • “I'wwa seeya” kinda works…

  • If you observe Labor Day but vote Republican, you do not observe Labor Day.

  • [Friend posts article about the U.S. investigating the McDonald's broken-ice-cream-machine scam, says they must have “nothing better to do.”]

    Don't scoff. The FTC has been asleep at the trust-busting switch for years, and while this might be only a tempest in a teapot, it is at least a sign that they're waking up.

  • [Congressman Jared Huffman publicly wonders what the point of cryptocurrency is.]

    Blockchain researcher here. Crypto appeals to different people for different reasons. To some it's a libertarian fantasy. To the politically and economically oppressed it's a potential lifeline. To investors it's a baffling but exciting new way to gamble.

    To me and very many technologists, however, the appeal is that it feels just like the Internet did in the 80's. We had little inkling then of what the World Wide Web would become, and most of us would have scoffed at the idea of the Internet being used for commerce. But we did know it made new things possible, and that was enough to fire a lot of imaginations.

    When the Internet's big innovations arrived, they were because of the underlying technology's openness and ability to democratize publishing and communication, disintermediating the gatekeepers. The future innovations of cryptocurrency will be the same, but in finance.

    Yes, Bitcoin mining is wasteful and awful right now, as is much else in crypto. So was the early Internet. It'll get better. It's too interesting not to.

    • [Huffman replies with some skepticism.]

      “if you had told me about the internet in the 1980's, I would have instantly gotten it”

      No doubt. Well, some doubt, judging by the years I spent trying to make my mom understand what I did for a living… 🙂

      Of course what you would have “gotten” — e-mail, file sharing, bulletin boards — would barely have prefigured what came later: retail, streaming, publishing, and a lot of our essential infrastructure.

      Here's what there is to “get” about cryptocurrency right now (even if these turn out not to be the main use cases in the future): the ability to define tokens that are immune to runaway inflation; and a handful of transaction types, like escrow agreements and collateralized loans, not to mention simple payments, that can be performed without the need for a trusted third party.

      There are probably a couple of other examples but this should give you the flavor of what, at bottom, crypto is actually, legitimately good for today.

      Tomorrow is anyone's guess.

  • [Friend shares a Tom Tomorrow comic about a version of Earth where the right things reliably happen.]

    I wish I loved the human race
    I wish I loved its silly face
    I wish I loved the way it walks
    I wish I loved the way it talks
    And when I'm introduced to one
    I wish I thought “What jolly fun!”
    – Sir Walter Raleigh

  • [Friend wonders why those opposing abortion also oppose free birth control.]

    You are supposing that the goal of anti-abortion laws is to reduce abortions. I don't think that's a safe assumption.

  • [Friend living under a cardiac sword-of-Damocles is miraculously rejuvenated by a new wonder drug.]

    This was good for my heart, too!

  • I taught myself to tie a bowline knot. It's no big deal but it feels like a new superpower.

  • [Sci-fi writer David Gerrold likens Trump to a kaiju rampaging through the infrastructure of democracy.]

    “no one cheers for the damage that Godzilla causes”

    The fact that there is anyone cheering is part and parcel of the damage.

  • [Friend shares moving eulogy for her parents.]

    That was beautiful. They raised you in a house filled with love and it shows. Thank you for sharing this.

    You may mourn their passing, but thanks to your tribute we can all rejoice in their living. When your grief fades, that will remain. Peace.

  • Something I learned today:

    Humans have been making and using charcoal for thousands of years. But it wasn't until about a century ago that the charcoal briquette was invented – by none other than Henry Ford, who was looking for a way to profit from the sawdust and wood scraps in his factory.

    In a surprising example of a virtuous cycle, the invention of charcoal briquettes spurred the rise of recreational picnic outings, which in turn increased demand for Ford's automobiles.

    • [Neighbor asks if this was related to the Kingsford Charcoal photo shoot that had been going on in their backyard.]

      100% related! The wonderful smells coming from your backyard sent me down a fascinating research rabbit hole. I now know about the kiln and retort methods of producing charcoal, the colors of smoke produced at each stage of the manufacturing process, the role of charcoal in Bronze Age smelting – and that Kingsford is the same company once known as Ford Charcoal.

  • It me, as the sun sets on Jonah's last day living at home.

    • Having “Sunrise, Sunset” playing on repeat in my head is NOT helping.

    • [After various expressions of concern.]

      I don't want to give the impression that I've been all weepy about Jonah leaving the nest. This was exaggeration for comic effect.

      I've misted up now and then over the past few weeks, sure, but the overwhelming emotions are pride, excitement, satisfaction, and hope.

  • [Heather Cox Richardson observes two years of writing her news-politics-and-history posts.]

    If America survives the current historical moment in the form we all hope it will, it will be due in considerable measure to your dedicated communicating and contextualizing the news and our history. Thank you and good luck to all of us.

  • Jonah attended a preschool called Little Arrows, so named because our children are little arrows that we spend years carefully aiming before finally firing them out into the world.

    Our little arrow is now fired! We returned yesterday from dropping him off at UCLA – his second year as a student but (thanks to the pandemic) the first away from home.

    When I got dropped off at college by my family many years ago, I didn't know the city, I didn't know a soul, and (despite skating by in high school) I didn't really know yet how to do hard work. I struggled for a while before finding my footing.

    Jonah on the other hand has already spent time exploring L.A., has many social connections at college, and is a diligent and disciplined student.

    At Little Arrows we sometimes had separation issues at drop-off time, but when we left Jonah on Saturday, after setting him up in his dorm with his terrific new roommates, he endured hugs and last-minute parental advice before shooting off – like the arrow that springs from the bow – to meet his people and participate in his activities and start his adult life.

    We stood there for a moment as he disappeared into the move-in-weekend crowd on campus, feeling not a trace of apprehension and only a bit of wistfulness, eclipsed by pride and excitement.

    • [Friend quotes Kahlil Gibran's poem On Children, containing the line, “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”]

      Now that you mention it, I believe this poem was in fact the source of the preschool's name.

  • This is the Field of Lights at Sensorio in Paso Robles, CA, an art installation that I urge you to visit. Like an eclipse, photos fail utterly to capture the experience, the best word for which is “numinous.”

  • At some point they stop being “anniversaries” and start being “many-versaries”! Happy manyversary!

  • [On a climate-related post from Congressman Jared Huffman.]

    The public is clearly on the side of climate protection and other Democratic priorities, but structural problems in our democracy permit obstruction by an organized minority. Sacrifice everything now to level the field – kill the filibuster, gerrymandering, and voting restrictions – and everything else will become possible afterward.

  • [To my friend Nathaniel.]

    May ours be the path through the multiverse with the happiest of all possible birthdays for you.

    • Just realized that I've consigned uncountably many parallel-Nathaniels to less-happy birthdays. Oh well, that's the multiverse for ya!

  • [Friend shares article about anti-vaxxers pressuring critically ill patients to leave ICUs.]

    If I squint, I can sort of understand death cults, but not ones led by elected officials. Dead people don't vote.

  • Keep on responding to those harmless-seeming Facebook quizzes and prompts if you must. I'll just be over here lacing up my sneakers in an “I don't need to outrun the bear, I only need to outrun you” way.

  • [Congressman Jared Huffman shares article about “Stop the Steal” followers.]

    What I don't understand is, if these folks are so eager to embrace conspiracy theories, why aren't they all over the actual conspiracy to disunite and plunder the republic?

    Maybe the actual news needs to be reported as sensationally and with as much bombast as the stuff they get from Fox and Newsmax.

  • “Facebook is a lie-disseminating instrument of civilizational collapse.”

    Let's see you promote this post, News Feed algorithm.
    The Largest Autocracy on Earth

  • There's no I in “teamwork.”

    But there is an I in “There's no I in teamwork.”

  • A medical mystery:

    I have always liked scrambled eggs. But starting some time in my thirties, eating them would sometimes – perhaps one time in three – make me feel immediately nauseated. I couldn't get more than one or two bites in before needing to push the plate away.

    Same thing went for watermelon, of all things; and nothing else.

    This lasted for some years, and then went away. It hasn't recurred for a decade or more.

    What was going on?

  • Christ, just get penis-enlargement surgery already.
    Musk says he's sending Bezos silver medal after retaking world's richest person designation

  • [Friend realizes that one episode of Ted Lasso was totally an homage to Scorsese's After Hours, advises against seeing the original.]

    After Hours has been one of my favorites since it came out, and in the course of loving that film I've discovered that it's incredibly polarizing – lots of people hate it. It's rare to find someone who's seen it and is neutral on the subject.

    Same goes for Fight Club.

  • [Nephew in Trump country asks for my thoughts on article entitled, “Infrastructure Package Includes Vehicle Mileage Tax Program” under a photo of President Biden.]

    Did you read the article, or just the headline?

    The job of a headline is to make you click it. Headline writers know that the best way to do this is to provoke you. Sex is one way to do that. Outrage is another, and unfortunately it is the more reliable.

    If you had read the article, I doubt you'd be asking your liberal uncle for comment. It's interesting, but it's nothing like what the headline suggests.

    The bill, which was passed by both Democratic and Republican members of Congress working together (which, believe it or not, was the way most things got done in Washington for generations), does include a pay-per-mile tax – but as a pilot program, on a volunteer basis. Did you volunteer for this experiment? No? Then you won't pay the tax.

    Why are they even running the experiment? There are some good reasons, but also some big problems to solve. One good reason is that gasoline-tax revenue is declining, thanks to the rise of electric vehicles, which use the same roads and bridges but pay less of that tax to help maintain them. A per-mileage tax might replace the gasoline tax and keep things fair.

    One big problem is that a per-mile tax is unfair to those who live in rural areas, who generally drive more miles. Another is that (no matter what conservative propaganda would like you to believe) there is approximately no one on the progressive side who wants the government to be in the business of tracking people's movements. For these reasons I think this experiment is DOA, but who knows, maybe there really is a good idea buried in there.

    I see plenty of clickbait headlines that provoke strong reactions from me. I've trained myself to have a second strong reaction right after that: indignation at the attempt to manipulate me. I hate that they get a reaction out of me, and I hate the way that constantly stoking everyone's sense of outrage is tearing the country apart.

    Fuck you, I think, I'm not clicking your link, and I scroll on by.

  • [Friend posts, “TFW you're trying to decide whether to do something, do nothing, or just start screaming into the void.”]

    You can scream into the void and do something or nothing.

  • Me: This weekend it's Fleet Week, plus the Giants are in the playoffs. They're predicting a traffic apocalypse. I plan to be safely ensconced at home.
    Archer: Hm, where have I heard that word before?
    Me: “Ensconced”? It's just a word.
    Archer: Yeah, but not one normal people use.

    • [Friend writes, “Did you impress upon him the sheer blind luck he had had, to be born of a person who does use words like that?”]

      The rest of the conversation was:

      Me (mock indignation): What does that say about me!
      Archer: You're awesome.

    • [After much riffing on “ensconce” by others.]

      A poem:

      Once, in a sconce
      In Aix-en-Provence
      The sum of my wants
      Was to have your response

      I'd taken a chance
      And asked you to dance
      You regarded askance
      My absence of pants

  • [Friend posts stunning photos of autum in the Adirondacks.]


    In California, we have reds and yellows and oranges in fall too. But it's because our vegetation is on fire.

  • Scariest Halloween decoration ever.

  • From: Bob Glickstein
    To: AT&T

    Thank you for claiming that my security is your top priority.

    But if my security were really your top priority, you would not be funding OAN, a propaganda network that has taken us far down the road toward dismantling American democracy. If they take us much farther, any security promises you can make will be worthless.

    Is my security your top priority? Withdraw funding from OAN immediately, and maybe I'll believe you. Until and unless you do, fuck you.

    – Bob

  • With William Shatner in the news this week for a completely different reason, I was surprised to discover this gem completely by coincidence: an episode of Insight from 1965, the year before he became Captain Kirk.

    It's a low-budget, unsubtle half-hour morality play about standing up for your principles. Shatner is terrific in it, and even better is the thought that this sort of thing used to be on TV.

    I had never heard of Insight, but apparently it has a cult following even today. It was a dramatic anthology series framed as religious instruction but really communicating secular-humanist principles.

  • Big Oil can buy Manchin. Big Pharma can buy Sinema. Why can't we?

  • [Friend posts photo of self-storage facility labeled “Pringle Storage,” says, “I eat them so fast I never need to store them.”]

    Raises the question: is each one a “Pringle”?

  • [Congressman Jared Huffman “compliments” Donald Trump: “Trump does Orwell better than Orwell himself! I mean, the Ministry of Truth in 1984 has nothing on Trump's new ‘Truth’ social media platform.”]

    “Truth” is just English for “Pravda”

  • [Fifty-fifth birthday.]

    I can't drive[*]. Fifty-five.

    [*] – Because my son borrowed the car.

  • Overheard: one college-age kid explaining to another how a vinyl record works, which was once understood by every five-year-old.

  • My baby sister's a year older! Here's the perfect game for this birthday.

  • [After promising my sister last year that I would be with her this year for her birthday.]

    Still not certain whether
    I am ready for air travel
    So in lieu of a day together
    Here's a picture of Henry Cavill

    • Wish I was there
      We'd have fun times
      But since I'm not:
      Some birthday rhymes!

  • I had a weird realization recently.

    I've been thinking about my role in the climate crisis. My typical-middle-class-American-of-the-late-20th-century role, heedlessly consuming and disposing, disposing and consuming, as if the Earth's ability to supply resources and absorb waste was unlimited.

    Of course I knew this wasn't really the case but, like most other typical middle-class Americans of the late 20th century, I imagined it was a problem that would have to be solved by some far-future generation, not mine. Obviously I was wrong about that. Just as obviously, it was pretty selfish of me – of us – to knowingly make that future generation's job harder. It's a hell of a karmic boomerang having to confront this crisis now.

    But none of that is the weird realization.

    The weird realization is that, by punting environmental solutions to a future generation, I was literally hoping to die before any of that became a problem.

    I don't expect to live forever, and I'm OK with that. But that's very different from hoping to die, which I very much don't. Needless to say, that goes double for my kids.

    What the hell were we thinking?

  • [Congressman Jared Huffman explains the “slow, ugly process” that led to President Biden's infrastructure bill making it through Congress: “No Congress has ever tried to do more (because we have to) with such a razor-thin majority” and “Getting big things done takes non-stop behind the scenes work and leadership the public will never see.”]

    Our side's good at governing. Theirs is good at messaging. How do we keep this accomplishment (and everything else) from getting buried under right-wing propaganda?

  • [Friend posts evocative autobiographical story surrounding an old Budweiser carton and the things it has held over the years.]

    I loved this. Good writing can make even a cardboard box interesting.

  • [Senator Ted Cruz freaks out about Big Bird getting the Covid vaccine.]

    I can remember being very upset about Big Bird too. No one would believe him about his friend Snuffleupagus! I was six.

  • 33 years together, 22 years of marriage, AAAAA++++++ would marry again.

  • Seems to me we toast stale bread to spare its feelings. Like, “You're no longer moist and chewy, but that's just the way I want you.”

  • [Kyle Rittenhouse acquitted.]

    “In fascism, there is an in-group whom the law protects but does not constrain, and an out-group whom the law constrains but does not protect.”

    (See also: Cliven Bundy; Brock Turner.)

  • Is it possible to cease but not desist?

    • [Friends point out that “cease” means stop and “desist” means “stay stopped.”]

      But like the smoker who quits every night before bed, if you don't stay stopped, did you ever really stop?

  • [Conservative nephew reshares meme celebrating Rittenhouse's acquittal.]

    Regarding Rittenhouse:

    First I confess not knowing many of the details of that case. Some of what I'm about to write might be invalidated by details that I don't know. Where that's the case, I hope you'll fill me in. But anyway, this is less about the case itself and more about the national discussion surrounding it.

    Yes, I completely agree it should be legal to defend oneself against a violent mob, up to and including the use of deadly force.

    But imagine some hateful lunatic with murder in his heart hears there's going to be a target-rich opportunity for bagging a few liberals under cover of “self-defense.” He takes his rifle, heads far from home, and goes trophy hunting.

    Hopefully we can agree that this should not be legal.

    I am not saying that this is what Rittenhouse did. But what facts are there to distinguish him from this hypothetical maniac?

    This is one of the problems I have with the verdict. Can we ever prosecute such a maniac with this verdict as a precedent?

    Here's another: no one can honestly argue that if Rittenhouse were black, and the protesters were conservative anti-maskers, and the circumstances were otherwise exactly identical, we would have anything like the situation we have now. Even if he survived the night – which he would not have – no one would have turned him into a poster child for armed self-defense.

    Which makes me doubt that any of this is about the right to self-defense at all. Just look at Lieutenant Michael Byrd of the Capitol Police. During the January 6th insurrection he shot and killed Ashli Babbitt, a member of a violent mob. And unlike Rittenhouse, defending against violent mobs is actually his job and sworn duty. Is he celebrated by conservatives? No: he is the villain, and Babbitt is a hero and martyr.

    So: It is not about the right to self-defense. Then what is it about?

    The Republican party has no popular policies. In fact it barely has any policies at all, apart from helping the rich get richer. All the popular ideas are on the Democratic side. So they have only one way to stay in power: demonize Democrats. Make them the enemy – so much so that voting for them is unthinkable. But for some, it's a slippery slope from there to “letting them live” is unthinkable.

    While the left is trying to make sure everyone has clean water, fast Internet, a living wage, and health care, the right is now falling all over itself offering government positions to a man whose one and only qualification is that he once killed some liberals and got away with it.

    And that brings me to the biggest problem I have with this verdict: the message that it, and the right's celebration of it, sends to those not-so-hypothetical lunatics who have been whipped into a liberal-hating frenzy for the past quarter century. The message is: “open season.”

    We've seen where this kind of thing leads and it's not good… for anyone.

    • (Hope you recognize that engaging on difficult topics in the form of long wordy comments is my love language. Happy Thanksgiving!)

    • [Nephew reponds.]

      Thank you so much for engaging with me on this. I am grateful to have the extra details you added, which I didn't know. As I thought they might, they definitely add some shades of grey.

      In response to your question: “What would you have done if this was you with the same circumstances?” the only sensible answer is “exactly the same thing”: try to get away, and shoot when I couldn't. (I think you misread me, by the way, when you wrote, “Where I will disagree is I believe that includes the use of deadly force.” I believe that too, and said so up front.)

      It's interesting that I didn't know some of those details despite being someone who pays (what I believe is) a greater-than-average amount of attention to current events. That shows the power of a media narrative. The parts of a news story that get the strongest reaction from an audience are cherrypicked. The complexities and nuance are omitted.

      On the left, the narrative is “Trigger-happy Dem hater goes scot-free.”

      On the right, it's “Your rights defended by proud 2A champion.”

      Neither story is true. What is true is that a lot of people believe one of those stories, and a lot of people believe the other one. In both cases, this is harmful, but in its potential for inspiring those who are trigger-happy Dem haters, the second story is worse by far – especially coming on the heels of the cheers that greeted “when do we get to use the guns [against Democrats]?” at a recent right-wing rally, and the deafening silence from conservatives in Congress when Rep. Paul Gosar tweeted a video in which he murders Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

      Rittenhouse's acquittal may have been legally correct, but, at this moment at least, it was politically wrong. It added momentum to the normalization of political violence.

      “I enjoy our long talks and maybe even mild arguments LOL”

      Me too! I know it's a stereotype that Jews love to argue, but the reason we have stereotypes is that there's some truth in them. I prefer to think of it not as arguing but as playing with ideas.

  • Happy Hanukka!
    Chappy Chanukka!
    Happyh Hanukkah!
    Chappyh Chanukkah!

    Hapy Hanuka!
    Chapy Chanuka!
    Hapyh Hanukah!
    Chapyh Chanukah!

  • Each night at bedtime I think: “I am just hours away from coffee!”

    • [Friend warns, “Hope your doctor never tells you to get off caffeine.”]

      I actually had a doctor tell me the opposite once. I showed up for an FAA medical exam with a Starbucks cup in hand. The doc said, “Don't drink coffee before a medical, it elevates your blood pressure.” He took my blood pressure and said, “OK: you can drink coffee before a medical.”

  • [Friend posts ad for off-brand Hulk toy labeled, “Angry Green Man.”]

    Angry Green Man BREAK

  • [Friend turns twenty-one.]

    Now you can drink!
    It makes you think
    About what you could do before

    Two days ago
    The answer was no
    The bartender would show you the door

    You're not an antique
    You're the same as last week
    So what can explain the change?

    How else to define
    The drink/no-drink line?
    No idea. I just think it's strange.

  • [Wil Wheaton – Star Trek's “Wesley Crusher” – posts photo of himself and wife in costume next to a London police call box. Fan says they'd love to see him as Doctor Who. Wheaton responds, “In my headcanon, Wesley is the Star Trek Universe equivalent of a Time Lord.”]

    *cough* Gary Seven *cough*

  • Here's an unhappy thought: maybe America cannot succeed, and never could.

    I mean this in the sense of realizing the ideals in our founding documents: liberty, self-determination, the supremacy of the rule of law, equal justice and opportunity. We have long said that America is not perfect at embodying these ideals but is always striving to become “more perfect.”

    We've been able to make things pretty great for some groups, notably white men and corporations. Maybe that's OK, in a gotta-start-somewhere sense: you can't make everything perfect for everyone at the same time.

    But once things are great for one group, trying to make things great for a different group runs into this truism: “When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” And then you get backlashes like the “moral majority” of the 1980's and the MAGAs of today, dedicated to preserving existing power structures, making progress impossible, and unwinding the progress that had been made.

    Will we ever be able to exit that cycle? I don't know, but I do know one thing: it would be immoral not to keep trying.

  • Hello West Virginia!

    Your state has ranked last in the Gallup Economic Index for the past four years. You contain the bottom two cities on the Gallup Well-Being Index. (One of them is Charleston, your state capital.) Several of your counties have the lowest life expectancies in the nation, and you have the worst outcomes for cancer, diabetes, overdoses, senior care, and other medical situations.

    Luckily you have Senator Manchin, who had once-in-a-generation leverage to get everything your state could dream of passed through Congress and the White House. Unluckily, today he looked at that opportunity and said, “nah.”

    Be sure to let him know how you feel about that.

  • While we're all (rightly) directing our ire at Joe Manchin, let's not forget that a single vote from the GOP – the party that is happy to take credit for Democratic achievements they uniformly voted against – would work just as well.

  • My wife visits a particular bank branch often, an errand that is part of her job. Once in a while, if I happen to be going that way, she'll send me in her place.

    Recently when she was there, a new teller asked her if the man who'd come in a few days earlier, transacting business for her company, was her husband. She said yes, it was.

    The teller effusively praised me for my kindness and patience, and told my wife how lucky she was to have me.

    I told my wife that I remembered that visit, and that teller. I had given her a stack of handwritten checks to deposit. Running each check individually through a scanner, then verifying the scan and supplying corrections when needed, took a little while. There was no other way.

    All I did was greet the teller politely, then wait with an understanding smile on my face until she was done, then thank her and wish her a pleasant afternoon.

    So, as much as I'd like this to be a story about how nice I am to people, really it's a story of how nice others aren't, that my baseline courtesy was enough to make such an impression.

    Everyone: please do better.

  • [Friend posts survey showing 57% oppose the teaching of “Arabic numerals” in American schools.]

    I'll bet a large proportion of that 57% would still say no out of stubbornness once their error is pointed out to them.

  • Just realized that the name “Agent 99,” from Get Smart, had to have been Mel Brooks' and Buck Henry's second choice, a poor approximation of their first choice which they knew they'd never get past Standards and Practices.

    Don't know why that didn't occur to me when I was, like, fourteen.

    • Probably just as well. It's a Beavis-level joke that would have robbed the character of some of the feminist power she ended up having.

      (Feels weird writing that about a silly show like Get Smart, but it's true.)

    • [One friend suggests it was the third choice after “Agent 96.” Another recalls the joke behind the main character's designation, “Agent 86.”]

      Yep, “Agent 86” is the better and more important joke – and also the reason the unexpectedly assonant “Agent 96” could not have worked alongside it.

  • When I watch a vintage Warner Bros. cartoon, I expect to see characters temporarily blackened and discombobulated by being shot or blown up, then to shake it off and be 100% back to normal.

    The same thing happening – multiple times – in a James Bond movie is very unwelcome.

    • [Friend writes, “more realistic than the bad guys always being the worst marksmen in history.”]

      Oh there is plenty of that in the new movie, too. Plenty.

  • [Friend writes, “History shall align the end of this dark period with the death of Betty White. She gave herself to usher in a rebirth of health, joy, and kindness.”]

    From your lips to angel-Betty-White's ears.

  • We're warning you, 2022.

Leave a Reply