Trying hard, and failing, not to make a 2020 hindsight joke

Seldom has a year been more unloved
Or with such relish on the trash-heap shoved.
(Previously.)

  • Achievement unlocked: roman candles IN ROME.

    • [Friend in Rome complains of not knowing I was there.]

      You and I appear to have the same policy of not telling Facebook we're out of town until after the fact.

      Anyway, we were there as part of the Varsity All-American Rome Tour (https://rome.varsity.com/) and their itinerary kept us pretty busy.

      Buon anno!

  • [In a Facebook group for fans of a defunct 1970s-era frozen-food product, pop-up toaster pizza.]

    May be of interest. Pizza Rolls aren't pop-up pizza, but tweaking this recipe might get you close.
    https://youtu.be/VKqC5w207O4

  • Strike one: Some months ago, having heard that Google Play Music would be turned down eventually, I decided to give YoutubeMusic a try. There was my thumbs-up playlist, imported from Google Play. Good! Shuffled it. First song was Code Monkey. YT Music chose this video for that song: Code Monkey Dance. It begins with seventeen seconds of silence. This is no way to listen to music! Survey says: ✗

    Strike two: It's 2020, better see how YT Music is coming along. Reinstalled it, shuffled my thumbs-up playlist. First song was… I have no idea what the first song was, since YT Music chose a video that errored because it is private. Survey says: ✗

    One more strike and Spotify comes up to bat.

  • [Friend posts astonished update on the Panama Papers story, including that a reporter was assassinated by car bomb and we never heard about it.]

    The story isn't over. The ongoing investigation has rocked the government of Maltese prime minister Muscat, who has announced his intention to step down a week from now. See: 2019 Malta political crisis

  • [Friend promotes his radio show containing “grain-up” music. It was a typo: he meant “grown-up.”]

    Darn, I thought I was gonna get exposed to some new kind of wholesome midwest amber-waves music.

  • [Friend posts a right-wing meme showing the twin towers: “It appears too many people are forgetting.”]

    Not me! I haven't forgotten how profiteers, and politicians in need of a popularity boost, used the pretext of a terrorist attack to launch an illegal war based on lies about who the enemy was, what threat they posed, and what capabilities they possessed.

    I also haven't forgotten how their war had unclear aims and no exit plan, and how that war has now lasted more than half your lifetime.

    And I have not forgotten the half million people killed in that war, nor the trillions of dollars we've all spent on it and are still spending.

    But I agree, it does seem that too many people are forgetting how easily they can make us line up behind evil, disastrous plans just by repeating scare phrases like “mushroom cloud” and “another 9/11.”

    Let's never forget.

  • [Friend posts video of burning their Christmas tree in the fireplace.]

    We used to do this too until we learned it is Bad To Do. Why You Shouldn't Burn Your Christmas Tree in Your Fireplace

  • [Right-wing friend defends Trump's assassination of Iranian general Soleimani, saying, “Don't ever forget there was no imminent threat September 10, 2001.”]

    Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US was the title of the President's Daily Brief prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency and given to U.S. President George W. Bush on Monday, August 6, 2001. The brief warned, 36 days before the September 11 attacks, of terrorism threats from Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, including “patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for a hijacking” of US aircraft. Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US

  • Philosophically I consider myself quite progressive. So I was surprised to take this quiz today and discover that I am more closely aligned policywise with Steyer, Bloomberg, and Buttigieg than I am with Warren or Sanders.

    Far from this being any sort of dilemma, I consider it an embarrassment of riches. I can be quite happy with most of these people as the nominee.
    Quiz: Which Candidate Agrees With Me?

    • Not ruling out the possibility that the quiz itself is biased in favor of establishment candidates, but whatevs.

  • [Friend solicits opinions on the “lamest comic strip,” offers Brenda Starr as one example.]

  • [Friend posts funny GIF of woman about to remove her top, then Jesus appearing, saying Nope.]

    “It's filth! It graphically portrays parts of the human body which, practical as they may be, are evil.” – Helen Lovejoy, The Simpsons

  • On this, the first day of debate in Trump's Senate trial, I'd like to amplify a comment I made in another Facebook thread, when someone I know reposted an angry, profane rant by a Trump supporter attacking the legitimacy of impeachment:

    This gentleman seems to believe that patriotism equals lining up behind the president. But that is exactly wrong, and we have one of our best presidents to tell us so:

    “Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president.” – Theodore Roosevelt

    I am a liberal and a Democrat. I am not a dumb-ass, I am not ignorant, and I am not a fucking bastard. I do not want to attack Trump or see him fail. I would be happy to endure his policies and behavior if they were at least consistent with the Constitution and the law. But they are not.

    The defining feature of Trump's entire career has been that he thinks the rules do not apply to him. I understand how that might make him attractive or heroic to some. The rules didn't apply to Robin Hood either. But the rules he's undermining now are the ones to which every politician and servicemember swears an oath, the ones to which we all pledged allegiance as schoolchildren, the ones in whose defense we've sent men and women to kill and die.

    When Trump complains about the constraints on his presidency, he connects with your own sense of struggle against the constraints in your life. But it's a con. He just wants you to cheer him in steamrolling Congress, the courts, and the Constitution. Don't fall for it, because the more he succeeds, the closer we come to dictatorship.

    Trump has made it a choice between him and the republic. I choose the republic, and so must you. It's our patriotic duty.

  • [During the Trump impeachment trial.]

    Dear Senator _____,

    THIS IS YOUR MOMENT.

    Yes, it'll be scary to go against Mitch McConnell and the party establishment. But courage is doing the right thing even when it's scary. Leadership is making a thing happen when everyone wants it to but no one wants to go first.

    Opportunities to brand yourself a courageous leader are few, and though there may be a political price to pay in the short term, that branding will stick to you long after the current unpleasantness has blown over.

    As an obedient non-entity keeping your head down and following McConnell's orders, you have one future. With one rousing speech and one courageous vote you can have a whole different one. Which do you imagine will be more rewarding?

    THIS IS YOUR MOMENT. Seize it, before someone else does.

  • [Friend asks for Netflix recommendations.]

    • If you'd like an accurate glimpse into Archer's sport, check out Cheer, the new six-part documentary. It's amazing.

    • Just looked through my “Watch It Again” list to get a few more suggestions for you:

      • The Good Place – If you haven't seen any of this yet, all I can say is don't give up on it until the end of season 1.
      • Star Trek (the original series) – There's a reason we're still talking about Star Trek 50+ years after it originally aired, and it's because when it was good, it was excellent.
      • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – Possibly the third-best movie ever made.
      • All of Breaking Bad + Better Call Saul
      • Set It Up – We used to get adorable romantic comedies like this one a couple of times a year, but for some reason a generation ago Hollywood stopped making them. Nice to see a new one show up.
      • The Natural – One of the three essential baseball movies.
      • Hell or High Water – A modern-day western about bank robbers and the law.
      • Inception – The brain-twistiest of Christopher Nolan's movies, which is secretly all about moviemaking.
      • Rounders – Terrific acting in a terrific story about the life of a poker hustler.

    • Bonus: When original Star Trek was bad, it was pretty bad. So a few years ago I wrote up a guide to its essential episodes. It's here: Essential Star Trek episodes

  • [Friend comments on the Senate's spinelessness in the Trump impeachment trial.]

    In better times, it's the truly accomplished Americans who rise to national office. But these are not America's best and brightest, these are the ones the party machinery has identified as pliant and serviceable. When that's the kind of person you are, the idea of achieving anything on your own must seem as outlandish as flapping your arms and flying to the moon.

  • Yes, yes, goddammit, yes.
    Restoring Integrity and Competence to Government After Trump

    • Swoon:

      “I will appoint:

      A Secretary of Education who has been a public school teacher.

      A Secretary of Labor who has been a labor leader, and appointees to the National Labor Relations Board who have a record of fighting for workers.

      A Secretary of Agriculture who has a demonstrated commitment to advocating for Black farmers.

      A Secretary of Homeland Security who is committed to undoing the damage caused by the Trump administration and who believes that immigration makes our country stronger, not weaker.

      Department of Justice officials who believe in voting rights and the rule of law – including for the president.

      Antitrust officials who will aggressively scrutinize mergers, bring challenges to vertical and horizontal mergers, and are not afraid to take on big tech, big ag, big pharma, and other consolidated industries.

      A Securities and Exchange Commission chair who will require corporate political spending disclosure, strictly enforce our securities laws, and use all existing tools to require robust disclosure of climate-related risks.

      A Federal Communications Commission chair who will restore the 2015 Net Neutrality rules, block monopolistic mergers by media and telecom corporations, and protect the Lifeline program that helps low-income Americans afford broadband Internet.

      An EPA head who believes in the urgency of addressing climate change and protecting our environment.

      Federal Reserve officials who believe in the agency’s full employment mandate, recognize that inflation fears have been overblown for years, and who are willing to let wages grow.”

  • Transcript traps transgressor: treason!
    Trial trouble. Trump truculent.
    Tribunal troops try “trust” trope.
    Traitors trash truth.
    Triumph? Tricky.

  • [John August tweets, “Just mistyped ‘fluxuate’ and I honestly prefer it.”]

    I'll help spread it if you'll help me get people pronouncing vacuum like continuum.

  • [In a discussion on the prevalence of “being run over by a bus” as a hypothetical.]

    We use the “bus number” of a piece of code to mean the number of people who, if buses ran them over, would leave no one understanding that code. A bus number of 1 is bad.

  • Had the labneh. Had the tempeh. Had the tabbouleh. Meh.

  • [Friend posts a photo of the linguini with white clam sauce.]

    Heard this in the voice of Mike Damone. https://getyarn.io/yarn-clip/bf2b6f1d-4e16-4934-9a43-4237139ce3b9

  • [Friend of a certain age posts meme, “My ability to remember song lyrics from the 80s far exceeds my ability to remember why I walked into the kitchen.]

    Record the reason you're walking into the kitchen, then listen to it a hundred times while smoking clove cigarettes after getting your heart broken when you see your crush holding hands with someone else. You'll remember why you walked into the kitchen.

  • [Right-wing friend reposts meme calling for impeachment of Schumer, Schiff, Pelosi, and Nadler for “conspiracy,” “treason,” and “dereliction of duty.”]

    Dereliction of duty applies only in the military. And there is no such thing as impeachment for members of Congress.

    If you're accused of conspiracy and treason, and your defense is to say that your accusers are treasonous conspirators, that's just “I'm rubber, you're glue,” with this difference: when schoolkids say it, we don't expect them to know better.

  • [Friend posts article, “Second black teen suspended for not cutting dreadlocks at Texas school,” comments, “Reason #2673 not to live in Texas.”]

    Or, a reason to live in Texas, because California already has all the broad-minded people it needs.

  • [Right-wing friend calls out liberals for hypocrisy when cheering John Bolton's truth-telling.]

    I think you have unwittingly put your finger on a key difference between left and right in today's politics.

    On the right we have loyalty and opposition to individuals. If you decide you like Trump, he can do no wrong. If you decide you hate Obama, he can do no right.

    On the left we have loyalty and opposition to principles. Obama sometimes upheld the principles we care about, and we loved him then. He sometimes didn't, and it angered us.

    Our opposition to Trump isn't because we don't like the guy, it's because he flouts the Constitution and the law. If he'd only stop doing that, you'd see much of his political opposition evaporate.

    We can absolutely support Bolton when he's acting in pursuit of transparency and accountability, whatever his personal motives and whatever his other actions. And we can despise him when he's beating the drum for a destructive war. In short we can have it both ways.

    Obviously I can't speak for all liberals, and I'm even less able to speak for conservatives. But this generalization rings pretty true for me, and I thank you for bringing it to my attention.

    (Incidentally, the left's opposition to Bolton was never about his truthfulness, which as far as I know has never seriously been called into question. It's about his belligerence in foreign policy.)

  • [Not a single Republican votes to impeach Trump.]

    Party of Lincoln my ass.

  • [Right-wing friend posts meme, “Official Bernie Sanders drinking game! Every time The Bernster mentions a free government program, chug somebody else's beer!”]

    Ok, that's funny.

  • [Billboard in Kentucky shows Mitch McConnell and Elaine Chao: “We're rich. How y'all doin?” Friend comments, “If their voters don't know it by now no billboards will help any.”]

    Respectfully disagree. Have you spent any time in a real news desert, where all the information coming from every TV all the time is subtly and not-so-subtly telling you how terrible the Democrats are and how lucky we are to have people like Trump and McConnell protecting us from them? In such places it is possible, even common, to despise “Obamacare” but be grateful for the “Affordable Care Act.” There is little to nothing to engage the voters’ critical-thinking faculties. A billboard like this is a ray of morning sunshine that might help wake them from their slumber.

  • [Preschool-teacher friend reposts meme, “The adult version of ‘head, shoulders, knees, and toes’ is ‘wallet, glasses, keys, and phone.’”]

    You know that I read that and immediately repeated ”…keys and phone” in my head, right?

  • [Friend posts about visiting O22, the small airfield in Columbia, California.]

    O22 was easily my favorite $100 hamburger when I was flying.

  • State of the Union drinking game:

    Each time Trump says a word, take a drink.

  • Tomorrow in San Rafael and everywhere.
    Reject the Cover-Up

  • [Friend reposts meme, “If smoking marijuana causes short-term memory loss, what does smoking marijuana do?”]

    I lol'd.

  • [Friend posts an article about the failure of a progressive political app in Iowa.]

    “the founder who was a Senior Software Engineer at Google”

    I've seen people get unduly impressed by that credential. >smdh<

  • [Right-wing friend posts, “Nancy Pelosi is a filthy individual, she should be ashamed of herself!”]

    • “Filthy”?

    • [Friend replies, “she’s really a terrible speaker and person for that matter”]

      I follow politics pretty closely, and I even live next door to Pelosi's home district, but I couldn't tell you the first thing about her as a person. What do you know about her that I don't?

      As a Speaker, she shepherded almost 400 bills through the House, very many of them on popular and important issues like protecting women against violence and keeping prescription drug prices low, and very many of them with bipartisan support, even in this era of deep partisan division. Do you not consider that remarkable?

      (Nearly every one of those bills is now on Mitch McConnell's desk, nicknamed “the graveyard” because he refuses to permit the Senate to vote on them.)

      Also as Speaker, from the moment Democrats took back the House in 2018 she resisted the calls to impeach Trump as long as she could, knowing how divisive it would be, until finally the offenses against the Constitution were numerous and severe enough that they could no longer be ignored, and she did her sworn duty.

      How do you think she should have acted instead?

    • [Another right-winger chimes in, “how has she helped keep perscription drug prices low? Insulen has raised in price every year lol. Signing a peice of paper and enforcing it are different”]

      As you surely know, a bill does not become law until it is passed by both the House and the Senate, and is then signed by the President. The House, under Pelosi's leadership, has passed H.R. 987, the “Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act,” with support from both Democrats and Republicans. If it became law, it absolutely would keep prescription drug prices low.

      Mitch McConnell has refused to permit the Senate to vote on it. Why? Because it's popular, and it might pass, and it came from the Democratic House of Representatives. If it passes, that means that sometimes Democrats do good things. That would destroy the narrative the GOP has worked hard to get you to believe: that Democrats aren't merely the political opposition, they are the literal enemy of America.

      Why do Republicans want you to think that? In the past, Republicans collaborated and compromised with Democrats for the good of the country. What changed?

      This changed: the Republican party represents a shrinking minority. The senators who just voted to acquit Trump, for instance, represent 18 million FEWER voters than the senators who voted to convict him. Privately, they are convinced that once they give up power, they're never getting it back.

      They wouldn't have this problem if they took popular positions on important issues, like lowering prescription drug prices. But most of the popular positions have been staked out by the Democratic Party, and since the GOP is committed to demonizing them (to convince people like you never, ever to cast a vote for them) rather than collaborating and compromising, they've backed themselves into the caging-children, suppressing-evidence, polluting-waterways policy corner.

      The Republican party knows its policies are unpopular. That's why they lie about what their priorities are. In Trump's State of the Union speech, he claimed, for example, to be working to protect health coverage for preexisting conditions. But he's not: the Trump administration is literally in court right now to eliminate health coverage for preexisting conditions. Protecting health coverage for preexisting conditions is a Democratic priority.

      There is a pile of bills that have passed Pelosi's House and are sitting in McConnell's “graveyard,” all of which the public overwhelmingly wants. In a properly functioning democracy, what the public overwhelmingly wants, it gets. This is another sign that, in the Senate especially (where a Montana voter has 13x the influence of a Pennsylvania voter, for instance, and 37x the influence of a California voter), we have antidemocratic minority rule. Some popular bills stuck in the Senate are:

      • H.R. 1, the “For the People Act,” which would secure elections against errors and interference.
      • H.R. 6, the “American Dream and Promise Act,” providing a path to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants.
      • H.R. 7, the “Paycheck Fairness Act,” which would help ensure equal pay for equal work.
      • H.R. 8, the “Bipartisan Background Checks Act,” which would close the gun-show background-check loophole.
      • H.R. 9, the “Climate Action Now Act,” which would commit the U.S. to taking action on climate change.
      • H.R. 1585, the “Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act,” which would reauthorize an earlier, expired law providing various protections to victims of domestic abuse.
      • H.R. 1644, the “Save the Internet Act,” which would level the playing field among Internet providers and prohibit any of them blocking a competitor's content.

    • [Original friend clarifies, “I do not follow as close as you do an I can't sit here an say how bad of a person she is but you can not tell me that her shaking her head an making nasty facial gestures after our president spoke something she disagreed with. You can't feel that was ok.]

      If I'm understanding you correctly, showing disrespect for the President is “filthy,” but showing disrespect for the Constitution is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ?

      Literally bribing the jurors in your own trial: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
      Defying lawful subpoenas: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
      Witness tampering: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
      Ending the decades-old tradition of daily press briefings: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
      Selling off public lands to developers: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
      Children in cages: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
      Telling an average of 14 provable lies every day you've been in office: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
      Operating an international money-laundering scheme: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
      Sexually assaulting women and bragging about it: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
      Abruptly withdrawing troops from a region of vital national interest, permitting Russian troops to take over our military base and claim the oil fields that Vladimir Putin has been wanting access to for years: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
      Eliminating science from the White House and government agencies: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
      Provoking Iran to attack us, then lying about why, then claiming none of our troops were injured, then claiming that the 34 troops who suffered traumatic brain injuries were simply complaining of headaches: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
      Appropriating funds from your charitable foundation to pay off business debts, support your presidential campaign, and buy a portrait of yourself: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
      Permitting the National Archives to destroy evidence of ICE wrongdoing: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
      Seeking to expose the identity of a whistleblower in direct violation of a whistleblower-protection law: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
      Defrauding investors and tax collectors by supplying two different sets of estimates for the value of your properties: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
      Directing millions of taxpayer dollars into your own pockets by requiring official government business to be conducted on your personal property: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
      Insulting everyone, everywhere, using childish language the minute they disagree with you: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      That's all ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, but tearing up a copy of a speech, that's filthy???

      I don't think any of this would have been ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ to you five years ago. What changed?

      I think this changed: They flooded the zone with lies and distractions and made it next to impossible to follow the story. Even if you could separate what was true and relevant from everything that was false or unimportant, it was still too complicated to follow. And even if you could follow it, they made sure you felt none of it was as important as hating Democrats. And to help you hate Democrats, they singled out a few for your derision. It's sooo much simpler than following the real story.

      Why do I think that? Because you used the word “filthy.” That's not a you word. It's a Trump word.

    • [Yet another right-winger: “Our President needs to take the 4 Stooges to task and drag them down like they tried to do to him🇺🇸 “GOD Bless AMERICA🇺🇸”]

      If you will permit me, I have three questions for you:

      Do you believe the charges on which Trump was impeached?

      Whether or not you do, do you believe that the “4 stooges” (whoever those are) believe them?

      Last one: If you think they believe them, should they have overlooked them and let Trump off the hook, rather than impeach him?

    • [This one responds, “I believe our president has the unquestionable right to investigate whomever he feels is a danger to our country and her citizens.”]

      Thanks for responding.

      You may want Trump to be able to investigate whom he likes – he obviously does – but the law clearly disagrees. The president's authority stops when he crosses the line from serving the public interest to serving his own interest. It's OK when he's protecting the country. It's not OK when he's disadvantaging a political opponent to help his own re-election.

      This was one of the articles of impeachment: a textbook case of abuse of power. The other was obstruction of Congress, another thing that the law very clearly does not allow.

      No one has seriously contested that these things happened. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office concluded that Trump's actions in the Ukraine affair did break the law. And Trump's stonewalling of lawful Congressional subpoenas happened in the open, making a defense against the obstruction charge impossible. Even several of the senators who voted to acquit admitted that, yes, Trump did these things, but they don't warrant removal from office.

      So it's not a question of if he broke the law. He did. The question is: does it matter that he broke the law? Do you believe that Trump should be able to do what he likes regardless of what the law says? He clearly thinks so. If you think so too, and if enough others do, then we have a dictatorship.

      Dictatorships do three things well, and nothing else: they enrich the dictator and his cronies; they impoverish everyone else; and they eventually implode.

      If it's OK for Trump to break this law, is it OK for him to execute his political opponents? Is it OK for him to threaten people who don't vote Republican? Is it OK for him to shut down newspapers that criticize him?

      The power of the presidency is too great for us to allow anyone to exceed its legal limits. “No man is above the law” isn't just a saying. It's the very meaning of America. It is what you have asked God to bless.

  • [The Senate acquits Trump.]

    Trump shot the Constitution on Fifth Avenue.

    • [Friend objects, “Shot implies some finality.”]

      Only if he's out of ammo.

  • Back in the late 90's/early 00's a rumor circulated that there was a new invention coming that would alter the very fabric of American life. Cities would be redesigned around it, said those in the know. The rest of us waited breathlessly to find out what it was. And waited. And waited.

    It was the Segway.

    Waiting for Mitt Romney to find the opportune moment to stand up to Trump once and for all has felt a little like that reveal.

    • I mean, the Segway's fine and all, but my life isn't any different, is yours?

  • [Right-wing friend posts meme criticizing Pelosi for tearing up Trump's State of the Union speech.]

    Searching your Facebook feed for the outrage when Republican congressman Joe Wilson shouted “You lie!” in the middle of Obama's first State of the Union speech. Not finding it.

  • “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility, I welcome it.” – John F. Kennedy

  • [Liberal friend reposts conservative meme full of errors, makes fun of it.]

    Remember when I suggested that memes like this are intentionally designed to draw the ridicule of educated elites and thus widen the cultural divide? It's all true: That Uplifting Tweet You Just Shared? A Russian Troll Sent It

    “As good marketers, professional trolls manipulate our emotions subtly. In fall 2018, for example, a Russian account we identified called @PoliteMelanie re-crafted an old urban legend, tweeting: “My cousin is studying sociology in university. Last week she and her classmates polled over 1,000 conservative Christians. ‘What would you do if you discovered that your child was a homo sapiens?’ 55% said they would disown them and force them to leave their home.” This tweet, which suggested conservative Christians are not only homophobic but also ignorant […] didn’t seek to anger conservative Christians or to provoke Trump supporters. She wasn’t even talking to them. Melanie’s 20,000 followers, painstakingly built, weren’t from #MAGA America (Russia has other accounts targeting them). Rather, Melanie’s audience was made up of educated, urban, left-wing Americans harboring a touch of self-righteousness. She wasn’t selling her audience a candidate or a position — she was selling an emotion. Melanie was selling disgust. The Russians know that, in political warfare, disgust is a more powerful tool than anger. Anger drives people to the polls; disgust drives countries apart.”

  • [Friend writes grateful post about life and work.]

    It does me a lot of good to hear a wonderful person enjoying the happiness they deserve.

  • What in the world did anyone like about Parasite?

    • [Friend writes, “Saw it with your sister. Disturbing.”]

      The movie, or my sister?

  • [At the Oscars.]

    Knives Out was robbed.

  • How about that: the main titles for Fitzwilly (1967) use nearly the same idiosyncratic typeface as those of original Star Trek (1966).

  • The Presidency matters. Congress matters. But it's very possible that if we get through this crisis it'll be thanks to the states. Do not neglect politics at this level – the other side sure isn't.

  • I see a lot of concern trolling regarding Bernie's electability. He's never had to withstand really close scrutiny in a national election, etc.

    It wasn't that long ago we were all saying Trump's campaign would soon flame out because he could never withstand really close scrutiny.

  • [Friend writes, “Sometimes, when it’s cold out and I have gloves on, I will scroll up on my phone with my nose.”]

    In related news, when it's cold out my nose runs.

  • [Friend posts a resigned comment on news of the latest right-wing electoral shenanigans.]

    Your pessimism is their precise strategy. “Nothing matters, can't win, why try?” And then they win.

    Worth noting: they wouldn't be employing that strategy if they were sure they could win.

  • Of Ford v Ferrari's various pleasures, my favorite is watching “Jason Bourne” and “Batman” in a hilariously lame slap fight.

  • I agree with Rebecca Solnit (on this and so much else).
    My dream candidate exists – and her name is Elizabeth Warren

  • [Friend complains “journalism is broken” when mainstream news quotes a Drudge Report rumor.]

    I agree journalism is broken, but not that this is a symptom of that. Free speech is free speech; they can quote what sources they like. Others are also free to point out their journalistic failings.

  • I just realized that I know Washington was born in 1732 because 1.732 is the square root of 3, and I know that 1.732 is the square root of 3 because Washington was born in 1732.

  • [Michigander friend posts news of a new rocket-launch site in that state.]

    Don't launch sites generally want to be closer to the equator (for the boost that the earth's spin gives)?

  • [Debbie Goldstein asks folks for non-obvious things they and she share in common.]

    Our names both match the wildcard pattern *b*b* g*l*stein

  • [Friend asks folks for song lyrics that pop into their heads often.]

    This is a great prompt, thanks!

    No one in the world ever gets what they want
    And that is beautiful
    Everybody dies frustrated and sad
    And that is beautiful

    They Might Be Giants – Don’t Let's Start (official version)

  • [Former Danger co-worker reposts article, “Forget folding phones, bring back the Sidekick.”]

    Patents expire in what, 17 years? 20 years? Must be getting close…

  • This showed up right when I needed to see it. Maybe you need to too?
    Dan Rather post about battling through despair.

  • [Funny meme: photo in jetliner of lighted sign, “Toilet engaged.” Caption: “Wow, huge congrats to toilet!” Friend adds: “Wonder where they're registered?”]

    First anniversary gift is paper.

  • [Right-wing friend claims, “Elizabeth Warren hasn’t answered one question. Just I have a plan for that.”]

    Have you actually read her plans? They are numerous, detailed, and practical. If they don't constitute answers to questions, what does? Plans

  • [The fiftieth anniversary of Ernie singing Rubber Ducky.]

    <3

  • [Pull-quote from a repost of a Rebecca Solnit appreciation of Elizabeth Warren.]

    “Warren’s program is animated by earnest devotion to sturdy procedural ideals — fair elections, the rule of law, equitable and responsive political representation, and clean public administration — not left-wing ideology.”

  • [Friend posts link to article about two Oscar Meyer Wienermobiles for sale, suggests them as high school graduation gifts for our kids.]

    Screw the kids. Matching his-and-hers Wienermobiles just screams “anniversary gift.”

  • All about the coronavirus, from the excellent Important, Not Important newsletter: what it is, what it isn't, what you can do, what you can't do, what is and isn't likely to happen, all presented in their clear, just-the-facts style without the breathless anxious clickbaitiness of most other reporting.
    How to Survive the Coronavirus (With Your Sanity Intact)

  • [Friend (of Greek extraction) writes about an event that took place “myriad days ago” — October 16th, 1992, which was 10,000 days ago.]

    I see what you did there with “myriad.” Respect.

  • Casting a vote for Elizabeth Warren felt great! AAAAA++++ can definitely recommend.

    • Simultaneously voting for Congressman Jared Huffman was a nice bonus.

  • [Friend posts a meme picturing a giant steak: “This is simply why I'm not vegan…”]

    Same here. But I imagine a vegetarian might use the very same picture to explain why they're vegetarian.

  • Some movies can be enjoyed equally anywhere. Other movies have a definite best place to see them. This was definitely the right way to see this one.

    • The San Antonio audience did not disappoint, particularly when it came to this famous scene. Pee Wee's Big Adventure – Deep in the Heart of Texas

    • [Friend asks, “But did you go to the basement?”]

      As Paul Reubens explained in his talk after the film, the first time he returned to the Alamo after the movie came out, a curator tapped him on the shoulder and asked for a few minutes of his time. Reubens followed him to a different building in the Alamo complex. The curator hauled out a set of keys, unlocked a door, and showed Reubens: a basement.

      By way of excuse, Reubens said the only tool they had for research when writing the film was a 1952 edition of the World Book Encyclopedia he had picked up at a thrift shop.

    • BoingBoing on the Pee Wee's Big Adventure 35th anniversary tour: Pee-wee Herman fans are going all out for “Big Adventure” 35th anniversary tour

      Reporter Rusty Blazenhoff observes: “My face literally hurt from laughing so hard”

      This echoes what I've been telling people since I first saw the film in 1985: I started laughing from the very first note of music (the first anyone had ever heard of Danny Elfman's oompah style) and hardly stopped until the very end, by which point I literally ached from so much laughter. Not an exaggeration. [Friend] was there and can attest!

  • [Resharing What I think about COVID-19 this morning.]

    “I do want to remind everyone that when public health works, the result is the least newsworthy thing ever: nothing happens. If this all fizzles out and you start feeling like ‘Wah, all that fuss for nothing??’ Then send a thank-you note to your local department of public health for a job well done. Fingers crossed for that outcome.”

    also

    “I think there are some positives here. All this handwashing could stop flu season in its tracks! We have an opportunity to reduce our global carbon footprint by telecommuting more, flying less, and understanding where our stuff comes from. We can use this to think about the problems with our healthcare system. We can use this to reflect on our positions of privilege and implicit biases. We can start greeting each other using jazz hands.”

    Jazz hands!

  • [Friend asks, “who invented the topos ‘we must oppose to the pessimism of the intellect the optimism of the will’?”]

    “Hope for the best but plan for the worst.”

  • [Near the beginning of the pandemic, commenting on a lighthearted thread about disease-related movie recommendations.]

    Absolutely do not watch Contagion right now under any circumstances.

  • [Right-wing friend posts article: “How five members of Joe Biden's family got rich through his connections.” Liberal friend answers, “And the Trump children have not benefited from their father's presidency? Please.”]

    A fair point, but this is “what-aboutism,” a rhetorical technique used often by Trump supporters that the rest of us are usually quick to criticize. Two wrongs don't make a right.

    I would say instead, “To the extent that's true, it's not great. To the extent it's much much much much much more true for Trump's family, it's much much much much much worse.”

  • [Friend posts meme: a stick figure with the legend, “This is Bob. Bob is not panicking. Bob listens to scientists instead of news media. Bob is not buying items in bulk. Bob washes his hands all year long because he's not gross and knows basic hygeine. Be like Bob.”]

    I am Bob and I approve this message.

    • Except for the misspelling in hygiene.

  • [Friend posts meme about needing to have the TV volume be even, not odd, or a multiple of five.]

    Haha omg I thought it was only me. Except for some weird reason I have to have a multiple of four.

  • [Friend is donating to the Senate races with the best changes to flip from R to D.]

    Wouldn't it make better sense to donate to the candidates who have the closest fights, where any dollar could be the one that puts them over the top?

  • [Friend posts video of Jonathan Coulton's “Re: Your Brains” as their “current mood.” It features the lyric, “All we wanna do is eat your brains. We're not unreasonable. I mean no one's gonna eat your eyes.”]

    I don't know, I mean where does the brain end and where do the eyes begin? I think you're gonna get some eye.

  • [Friend asks for reading recommendations in quarantine.]

    In case we are in for a protracted crisis – or even if we're not – my go-to recommendation is The Baroque Cycle, by Neal Stephenson, which is a series of eight novels published as three volumes (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World). At 2,700 pages it is a massive reading commitment, but one that I’ve now undertaken three times, with plans to do it again if my wife and I ever return to our pre-child-rearing pastime of reading to one another.

    The Baroque Cycle is historical fiction, set in the period between roughly 1650 and 1710, mostly in Europe. It’s all about the birth of modern science, money, commerce, and technology, told amidst a rollicking adventure that is literally full of fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, and miracles. Some find the first half of the first volume (i.e., the first “novel”) slow-going. I don’t, but if you do, my advice is to stick with it.

  • I do not want to die from COVID-19. But if I do, it will not be without an appreciation for the irony of being carried off by a virus that appeared almost simultaneously with the last Star Wars sequel, forty years after praying to live long enough to see the series completed.

    • Little did I realize then that I'd be much happier having lived to see the completion of MCU Phase 3.

    • [Friend writes, “the universe already played a cruel trick on you with that deal so no worries”]

      Karmic balance restored. You've given me… a new hope.

    • [Friend asks if COVID-19 is “something we should worry about”]

      I'm sorry to say that COVID-19 is destined to seriously mess up your life (and mine, and everyone's), if not through illness then through the economic effects that it's beginning to have.

      Because you're in a rural area, where the population density is a lot lower, it will take longer for the virus to reach you, and will spread more slowly once it's there. In cities and suburbs we're now practicing “social distancing” to limit spread of the disease. Schools are closing for the coming few weeks, as are offices and theaters and every type of place where people congregate. Events of all kinds are canceled, as are entire sports seasons (as you must have seen, if you're a basketball fan). Airlines are grounding planes for lack of passengers. Handshakes are a thing of the past – I had a guy bump elbows with me the other day instead – and frequent handwashing is all the rage. Everyone is stocking up on toilet paper, canned goods, and other necessities that would allow them and their families to ride out a month-long quarantine if needed. This may be you soon.

      The “novel coronavirus” that causes COVID-19 produces mild flu-like symptoms, or less, in a lot of people. It's possible that thousands or millions of folks have already had it and recovered without knowing it was anything out of the ordinary.

      But for others, especially those who are older or have existing health problems like asthma or diabetes, COVID-19 can attack the lungs. Some of those people will need hospitalization. Some of THOSE will need intensive care, breathing with the help of ventilator machines. And some of those people will die. How many? It's hard to know, and it also depends on how we act. Maybe everyone gets the virus sooner or later, but if we can keep the spread slow, like they did in South Korea, then there'll never be too many critical cases at one time, and the hospitals can handle the load, and a lot fewer people will die. If we fail to slow the spread, like they did in Italy, then everyone will have it at the same time, the hospitals will be overwhelmed, and they'll have to start turning away people they could otherwise have treated. In that case a lot more people will die – maybe millions more. And I'm sorry to say it looks right now like that's the path we're on.

      At any rate, all the closures and cancellations and quarantines and lockdowns are leading to lots and lots and lots of lost income for lots of people and lots of companies. The ripple effects will be spreading for a while. It's going to be rough. Pay off debts if you possibly can. Reduce expenses. Figure out childcare in case the schools close. Find ways to help the most vulnerable.

  • Seeing this unattended and out in the open this morning outside the supermarket was as surprising today as seeing a bar of gold would have been a week or two ago.

  • What was wrong with the phrase “based on” that made it necessary to invent “based off of”?

  • Amplifying. Tl;dr – Life is not going back to normal any time soon, and we must be committed to the fight. https://www.facebook.com/ejackson687/posts/994279050904

  • [Questions for historian Heather Cox Richardson's live video.]

    Q: What made quotes like “government is the problem” and “greed is good” catch on so widely that they became generational public policy?

  • [Friend has weevils in their home.]

    Master and Commander – Weevil

  • Looking for a creative outlet while you're stuck sheltering in place? Why not add a chapter to Kill Ralphie!
    Kill Ralphie!

    • [Friend asks what else we're all up to while sheltering in place.]

      Oh you know, reading, cooking, watching TV, walking the dog, playing videogames, cleaning the house, writing correspondence, building Lego models, designing decentralized Internet tools, not changing clothes quite enough, awaiting college admission decisions, deleting events from the Google calendar, upgrading our wifi, the usual. You?

  • Jonah: Do we have any brownie mix? I want to make brownies.
    Me: I don't know, check the pantry. But even if we don't have brownie mix, you can STILL make brownies.
    Jonah, astonished: Wha?!

    • [Friend writes, “This from the man who used to joke that vegetables were created at the supermarket.”]

      Hey, as a city boy and a responsible empiricist it was my duty to choose the least outrageous explanation that matched my (admittedly limited) observations. “The soil itself is reorganized at the subatomic level into delicious food” wasn't it.

    • [Friend writes, “Brownies are so easy. So starts a budding baker!”]

      Unfortunately, we did have brownie mix. (Fortunately, it resulted in brownies!!)

    • [Multiple comments along the lines of “Next show him how to do “Wireless television’” and “show him a dial phone.”]

      I'll have you know my kids can drop a phonograph needle in the groove between two songs like any old fogey.

  • [Resharing link to a post beginning, “Friends. I mean not to scare, but please take this Covid-19 seriously. More than anything you have never seen. Had an executive call with our adult Infectious Disease doctor, it was terrifying.” and also saying, “Difficult decisions will be made like never before.”]

    This plea, from an old high school classmate who grew up to be a doctor, is typical of the urging I've seen from my friends in the medical profession.

    “Difficult decisions” is a euphemism for “rationing life-saving medical care,” which is a euphemism for “choosing who lives and who dies.” Doctors desperately do not want to be in that position, but they can see it coming if we don't flatten the curve, and we're doing a terrible job at that.

    Covid-19 may still seem to be far away to many of us, but thanks to exponential math, we're just days away from everyone knowing someone, or several someones, affected by this disease. Picture them lying on cots in chaotic triage tents with color-coded wristbands indicating what level of care they'll get from doctors and nurses operating on too much coffee and too little sleep.

    Got the picture? Good. Now stay home for a few weeks. That is your job in this crisis.

    • Think the odds are in your favor for mild symptoms if you're infected? Well, it's not about you: it's about the 3.5 people you're likely to transmit it to, and the 12.25 people they're likely to transmit it to, and the 43 people after that, and the 150 after that…

      Are you going to play the odds for all of them?

  • Your pandemic viewing for Tuesday. Young John Travolta can teach us all a thing or two about living in isolation.
    The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (1976)

  • Marin friends, please enjoy one of your next meals from the Miracle Mile Cafe, which is open – for how much longer is kinda up to us – for breakfast and lunch takeout. They are a friend to SRHS Cheerleading, have great food, and are super nice to boot.
    Miracle Mile Café

  • [Friend posts that Trump's “approval ratings are up to 49% in a recent poll, with even 6% additional Democrats approving of his handling of the pandemic. WtaF?”]

    To disapprove, you have to know about Trump's culpability in hollowing out the CDC, understand the role that agency has played in containing past outbreaks, and at least appreciate the science of epidemiology. How many voters does that describe? (Everyone I know, for a start, but that's not America, that's just my bubble.)

  • [Friend posts link about the new baby Yoda doll. Lay him down, and he takes a “Force nap,” snoring and closing his eyes. Etc.]

    Dammit Disney, stop exploiting my every weakness!

  • [Dad posts, “Six Feet Apart or Six Feet Under! It's up to you!”]

    Unfortunately it's also up to all the people around us, too.

  • [Friend posts results of a poll concluding, “Evangelicals think Christians face more discrimination in the USA than Muslims, blacks, trans ppl, or immigrants”]

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

  • [Friend posts link to article, “Trump says Republicans would never be elected again if it was easier to vote” and calls it “a rare moment of candor.”]

    Rare? “Grab them by the pussy,” “I take no responsibility,” and “shithole countries” were pretty candid.

  • Not the apocalypse yet as long as I can keep making coffee.

    • [A couple of cousins agree. One says, “must be a Glickstein thing.”]

      I don't know, three billion coffee drinkers, they can't all be Glicksteins…

  • [Resharing Heather Cox Richardson's post.]

    Professor Richardson does a wonderful job here of illustrating how the Trump administration's response to the current crisis is a profound shitshow.

    Democrats are missing a golden opportunity right now to be telling an alternate-timeline narrative, reminding people of what effective government action can do.

    Of course, that narrative begins with “the CDC's pandemic response team was never dismantled so the outbreak never spread far beyond Wuhan,” so perhaps there isn't really much to tell.

  • All you people posting “March had 8,000 days” memes: do you not understand exponential curves? April is going to have us all wishing to be back in March.

    Stay strong.

  • Donald Trump is the King Midas of turning things to shit. It has happened to everything he has ever touched.

    The ones who put him in the White House didn't know that. They believed the very opposite.

    Those of us who did know wondered which would be stronger: America, or Trump's terrible superpower. Now we know.
    The Economy Is Ruined. It Didn't Have to Be This Way.

  • [Right-wing friend posts article deflecting blame for the pandemic, saying, “Its a long time failure of the system. Not one particular administration.”]

    The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We have it totally under control. I’m not concerned at all. It’s one person coming in from China. We pretty much shut it down. It will all work out well. We’re in great shape. Doesn’t spread widely at all in the United States because of the early actions that myself and my administration took. There’s a chance it won’t spread. It’s something that we have tremendous control over.

    Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away. One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear. Just stay calm. It will go away. The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. This is their new hoax.

    Whatever happens, we’re totally prepared. Totally ready. We’re rated number one for being prepared. We are so prepared like we never have been prepared. Taking early intense action, we have seen dramatically fewer cases of the virus in the United States. We’re very much ahead of everything.

    This is a flu. I didn’t know people died from the flu. Here, we’re talking about a much smaller range. It is very mild. Some people will have this at a very light level. Some of them go to work.

    The mortality rate is much, much better. In my opinion it’s way, way down. I think it’s substantially below 1 percent. A fraction of 1 percent. I think the numbers are going to get progressively better as we go along. This is just my hunch.

    We have very little problem in this country. We only have five people. We only have 11 cases. Out of billions of people, 15 people. They’re getting better, and soon they’re all going to be better, hopefully. We’re going very substantially down, not up.

    The United States, because of what I did and what the administration did with China, we have 32 deaths at this point. To this point, and because we have had a very strong border policy, we have had 40 deaths. As of this moment, we have 50 deaths. I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be.

    Frankly, the testing has been going very smooth. The tests are all perfect. Anybody that wants a test can get a test. The tests are beautiful. We have a tremendous testing setup.

    I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. We are very close to a vaccine. A matter of months. You take a solid flu vaccine, you don’t think that could have an impact? Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine. Based on very strong evidence.

    I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter. No way I’m going to cancel the convention. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!

    We’re the ones that gave the great response. I’d rate it a 10. We’ve done a fantastic job. I think they should be appreciative. Gallup just gave us the highest rating. The highest on record.

    I like this stuff. I really get it. Maybe I have a natural ability. We think it’s going to have a very good ending. We’re going to win faster than people think. I hope.

    This blindsided the world! Who could have ever predicted a thing like this? This was something that nobody has ever thought could happen to this country.

    I’ve always known this is a real, this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic. I always treated the Chinese Virus very seriously.

    If you’re talking about the virus, no, that’s not under control for anyplace in the world. I was talking about what we’re doing is under control, but I’m not talking about the virus. I didn’t say Easter. It was just an aspiration. I am giving consideration to a QUARANTINE.

    So you’re talking about 2.2 million deaths. If we could hold that down…between 100,000 and 200,000, and we all together have done a very good job. START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!! FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!! Invoke “P”. I want our life back again.

    It was nobody’s fault. No, just things that happened. I don’t take responsibility at all.

    [A Trump fireside chat – in his own (unfortunate) words]

  • [Resharing Industry Spent Millions Selling Recycling — To Sell More Plastic.]

    Mo. Ther. Fucker.

    “If the public thinks the recycling is working, then they're not going to be as concerned about the environment.”

  • [Resharing Heather Cox Richardson's post about voter suppression.]

    The 2020 election is being stolen RIGHT NOW.

    • [Friend explains how the court ruling is in fact sensible, in light of a technical error made much earlier.]

      That's… actually quite reasonable. Taken on its own.

      Unfortunately it is of a piece with many other modern insults to our electoral system, which systematically discourage and disenfranchise voters in disproportionately Democratic areas. Even if this one decision is reasonable on its own, it's dangerous and naive to take it out of context.

  • [Friend posts that their dog's tumor is benign.]

    b9 k9!

  • [Friend posts a learned tweet about science from Steak-Umm.]

    Was already favorably inclined towards the Steak-Umms brand because of this story: Can You Patent A Steak?

  • [Friend posts a link about Zoom, the 1970s kids' TV show.]

    Ah, Nancy, my first-ever crush! <3 4eva

  • [Friend posts a long impassioned plea about why it's important to vote.]

    Three words: Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

  • His age rhymes with his last name! One year only.

    • Unless next year he changes his name to Gleventein.

    • [Friend writes, “He might live another century, you never know.]

      If he spoke French, he'd only have to live another sixty years. (Er, and be named Gleize.)

  • [Friend solicits two-word rhyming coinages (like walkie-talkie) but related to quarantine.]

    Binge Cringe: When you abort your re-watch of a favorite old show because geez some of the attitudes back then sure seem problematic today.

  • My friend the ER doctor says this depiction of the front lines in this crisis is the most accurate she's seen.
    Life and Death in the “Hot Zone”

  • [Friend posts standard Facebook conversation starter, “Name a song that starts with the letter A.”]

    How about a song that ends with A? Moses supposes (from “Singin' in the Rain”)

  • [Friend posts results of online quiz, “Are you an asshole?”]

    Not only do I not believe you are an asshole, but also these silly online quizzes are actually evil: they are stealing your personal info for the purpose of scams and widening the political divide. Sorry to be a wet blanket… Did Police Warn That Facebook Quizzes Could Lead to Identity Theft?

  • Apparently it was National Siblings Day yesterday. I have a sibling!

  • [Friend posts National Review article saying Sweden's decision not to lock down is working out well.]

    Also National Review: Trickle-down economics

  • I am “livestreaming” the events of Apollo 13 exactly 50 years after they happened, over at Apollo 13 in Real Time. 50 years ago this hour (still more than a day before 13's big problem) Mission Control told the crew, “The updated plan of the day for you guys, the uniform will be service dress inflight coverall garments with swords and medals, and tonight's movie shown in the Lower Equipment Bay will be John Wayne, Lou Costello, and Shirley Temple in the ‘The Flight of Apollo 13.’ Over.” <3

  • [Discussion thread about Trump refusing to help the USPS, suffering from the pandemic.]

    “In 2006, the GOP Congress passed a bill that required the Postal Service to fully fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years and to accomplish this within a 10-year period. Republicans are always insisting that the USPS be run like a good capitalist enterprise, but few, if any, private businesses could bear the burden of funding three-quarters of a century of retired employees’ medical costs over just one decade.

    In truth, the Republicans who crafted the bill were not interested in turning the Postal Service into a better business; they were seeking to run the post office out of business. With all those unionized employees working for a quasi-governmental operation that competes with private sector enterprises, the Postal Service is an affront to those who hate government, hate unions and hate to think that there is anything that government can do better than the private sector. The post office may be mandated by the United States Constitution, as clearly as freedom of religion or the right to bear arms, but it does not fit with modern Republican dogma and, therefore, has been targeted for extinction.”

    Postal Service dying from 1,000 cuts and a GOP stab in the back

  • [Resharing Congressman Jared Huffman's plea about the “Main Street” lending program, which excluded non-profit colleges and universities.]

    I've commented as Congressman Huffman requested. Would you, too, please?

  • [Friend asks for advice on troubleshooting TV problems.]

    I don't know about modern flat-panel TVs, but back in the CRT days you had to beware of at least one very large capacitor that could remain charged long after the set was unplugged from the wall. Touching it or shorting it could injure or kill you! See How to Discharge a Capacitor

  • [Friend posts article, “Economic Recovery Will Require ‘Lessening Of The Wealth Gap,’ Says Hedge Fund Titan”]

    Tax the gap! The Sigma Tax

  • [Friend posts article about midwest governors banding together; says, “We now have three regional coalitions: Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast. What's left is the Confederacy and the Wild West.”]

    I speculated years ago about the need for an intermediate level of government now that our representation at the federal level has gotten so dilute. Homeopathic democracy

  • [Friend posts, “TV idea: Fall 2021: Principal Trump”]

    This is genius.

    • Gotta work in something about all the good teachers quitting one by one and being replaced by unqualified flunkies.

    • [Friend writes, “In the pilot episode, Trump is hailed as a genius after the students trick him into creating gender-neutral restrooms.” Also adds, “S1E2: The Dress Code”]

      “When Principal Trump finds himself aroused by the uniforms of the Catholic girls’ school down the road, his impulse is to mandate the same dress code for his school. But the students have their own ideas…”

  • [A cousin and her husband are Covid-positive. (They both came through it OK.)]

    Oh crappe.

    May you both be asymptomatic and spread it no farther.

  • [Sharing Time Has Not Been Kind to Superman]

    A few things about this article:

    • It's right that the storytelling is sloppy and inconsistent. Maybe it should get a pass for that because it was the first comic-book movie that appeared to take its subject matter seriously, and in 1978 no one expected coherent storytelling from comic books.
    • It's right that the special effects are badly dated, and weren't even all that good for 1978. The article wants to give the movie a pass for that but shouldn't, mainly because the film's marketing tag line was, “You will believe a man can fly.”
    • It neglects to mention that in a decades-long career of unparalleled brilliance, John Williams wrote what is, for my money, his very best musical score.
    • For all the things the movie gets wrong, it gets the most important thing right: Superman's earnest goodness. “I'm here to fight for truth, justice, and the American way.”

    • [Friend agrees about the score and highlights the amazing opening title sequence.]

      I remember a mock “interview” with Yoda in some magazine in 1980, right after The Empire Strikes Back came out, where there was something about how he knew the planet Krypton, and made reference to the “flying letter storms” they used to have there. That's how big an impression Superman's title sequence made.

      And of course I think John Williams is much of the reason for that.

    • (Googling just now for “flying letter storms,” I discovered that I wrote about this once before, several years ago, when I remembered it slightly differently. Credits report. I didn't turn up anything else, but I promise I didn't make this up.)

  • “People who disagree on everything else and who would ordinarily refuse to be in a room together are working together on this… It's kind of miraculous.”

    The amazing Vi Hart describes the thoughtful, ambitious, and widely-agreed-upon plan to reopen the economy in four phases designed to prevent new COVID-19 outbreak spikes.

    It depends heavily on cheap, fast, accurate, and widespread testing. We're where we are right now only because, lacking any better information, we have to assume we are all transmitters of coronavirus. With testing and contact tracing we can be a lot more confident about who's at risk and who isn't; and we can do a better job of supporting the (much smaller number of) people who have to isolate.
    How We Reopen

    • The plan also depends on certain elements of the national government – elements that normally rely on partisan division for their political power – agreeing that a swift, coordinated, and unified national response to a crisis is actually a good thing.

  • [A get-well pun for my pun-loving Covid-positive cousin.]

    Q: What do you call a plant that has fallen off the shelf?
    A: Floora

  • Remembering an earlier graduation in lieu of the one he should be having this spring.

    • [Friend writes, “So sorry he has to miss his high school graduation.”]

      That's more sentiment than he himself has expressed about it, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  • [Friend posts a photo of the “Moses Supposes” scene from Singin' in the Rain with a comment beginning, “I cannot ever watch this scene without…”]

    Contained in that sentiment is the implication that you watch this often. Respect.

  • [Scrolling through streaming titles.]

    Jonah: There are a lot of James Bond movies I haven't seen.
    Me: A lot of them are… not great.
    Jonah: I'd like to see them all anyway.
    Me: Life's too short, seriously. This one for example: Octopussy. It has James Bond dressed as a sad clown.
    Jonah: What?! [Googles an image of “james bond sad clown,” is appalled.] Why??
    Me: I don't know! I guess they figured they'd already done everything else.
    Jonah: Well, just do it again!!

    • [Friend mentions showing Goldfinger recently to his 12.5-year-old son and says, “I tried to sneeze over the introduction of ‘Pussy Galore.’”]

      What a spoilsport! 12.5 is the exact target age for that “joke.”

  • Inspired by [friend's] million-dollar pandemic idea, here's mine, free to whoever wants to run with it:

    The Don't-Touch-Your-Face alarm. It's a necklace with a pendant. Only the necklace is a loop of wire that acts as a theremin antenna, and the pendant is the circuitry and battery. When you bring your hand close to your face: WEEEOOOEEE

    • Theremin

    • [Dad asks, “What happens when you eat or drink and your hand passes into the range of the antenna?”]

      WEEEOOOEEE

  • [Friend quotes smbc-comics.com: “The easiest way to ruin all time travel movies is to think about time travel for more than 3 seconds.”]

    Except for Primer

  • [Friend posts typo in public order requiring face coverings: “Homemade masks, scarfs, bananas.”]

    A slip-up

  • [Trump publicly speculated about injecting household disinfectants.]

    Open up or I cure him of COVID.

  • [Friend posts about the disappearance from the label of Land-O-Lakes butter of the kneeling Native American woman.]

    Before they removed the Native American from the design, they changed it to zoom in on her head and shoulders, simultaneously disappointing those with a mathematical bent who appreciated the infinite regress in the image of the box she's holding, and adolescent boys who could no longer cut out that box image and her knees and swap them for a quick thrill.

  • America's newest adult! He may have gotten old, but his smiles never do.
    https://youtu.be/3NmcsSqjx20

    • [Friend congratulates me and says I must have loved making that video.]

      Boy, did I! I'm still smiling.

  • [Friend posts news article: local college had 250 coronavirus cases and two deaths, won't reopen for the fall. Friend thinks this is an overreaction.]

    Do you mean that 2 deaths out of 250 cases is a low number? I agree (though there are two families that might not), but the number of deaths isn't the point. The number of cases is. 250 cases is 250 vectors, 250 virus cannons threatening the entire community, where the proportion of young healthy people is a lot smaller than on a college campus.

    We need everyone everywhere to stop amplifying this pathogen.

  • [Friend posts meme: a bunch of Star Trek “redshirts,” caption: “The first wave of people waiting to go back to social gatherings.”]

    This would be funny if the redshirts were only a danger to themselves, like in Star Trek, and not to all of us, by amplifying the virus.

  • [The friend whose birthday it was gets it.]

  • The pandemic made me do it.

    • [Dad asks, “What, no Jelly Belly?”]

      Hard-shell to soft-interior ratio is all wrong.

      Also all the right-wing jingoism you get in the Jelly Belly factory tour is a little off-putting.

    • You have a handful of Brachs jelly beans, one of each color. In what order do you eat them?

  • Goddammit, 2020.
    “Murder Hornets” in the U.S.: The Rush to Stop the Asian Giant Hornet

  • [Friend posts photo of heavily armed white terrorists taking over the Michigan state capitol.]

    At least they didn't kneel silently during the national anthem.

  • Prepare to have your brain broken.
    Wealth shown to scale

  • Our Mayo is Cinco'd.

  • [Friend posts Onion-type article, “‘I'm bored,’ Says Kid With More Luxuries Than Even Royalty Possessed Just 100 Years Ago.”]

    Kings of old

  • [Friend posts article about Justice Dept. dropping the case against Michael Flynn, says, “If this doesn't make you think then you are part of the problem.”]

    What makes me think Flynn is guilty: Flynn's own admission.

    What makes you think he's not?

    “On December 29, the same day the Obama administration announced retaliatory measures for Russian interference in the 2016 election, Flynn caught the attention of the FBI by making five phone calls to the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. FBI officials and Obama officials thought the conversations sounded like he and Moscow had made a secret deal.

    “The FBI interviewed Flynn on January 24; he lied about those calls, saying they did not talk about lifting Russian sanctions after Trump was elected. After the interview, acting attorney Sally Yates made an urgent visit to White House Counsel Don McGahn warning him that Flynn was “compromised” and vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians. On February 8, Flynn publicly denied he had spoken to Kislyak about sanctions, but when news broke the next day that he had, his spokesman said he could not “be certain that the topic never came up.” He resigned on February 13. (The next day, Trump met with FBI Director James Comey and asked him to let the Flynn case go. When Comey continued to investigate Russian connections to the Trump campaign, Trump fired him, and the outcry led to the appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to take over the investigation.)

    “Flynn offered to testify about the campaign’s connections to Russia in exchange for immunity from criminal prosecution, but was turned down. In November, after news broke that Mueller had enough evidence for criminal charges against Flynn and his son, he began to cooperate with the investigation.

    “In December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States…”

    (from May 7, 2020)

    • [Friend responds, “I never thought he was not guilty until the DOJ dropped the charges.”]

      Maybe the DOJ dropping charges is evidence of his innocence, and maybe it's a political decision to benefit Trump. How would you tell the difference?

  • “The newspapers are piling up; I am sleep deprived; my meals are helter skelter; the house is falling apart; dishes are piling up in the sink; haven't read my mail in days; no computer games; no TV; etc. But I am up to page 312 and loving every minute of it. The good part is that I won't have to wait two years before I can read about Harry's sixth year at Hogwarts. Yay.”

    – Mom, 2005

    RIP 💔

  • [Resharing Here's What Disaster Might Look Like.]

    “If this is what happens, it means that six weeks of lockdown have been wasted”

    The best we can hope for is that when we start climbing the next peak in the curve, the doubters will change their minds. But even that seems too much to expect.

  • [Friend posts meme, “Be teachable. You're not always right.”]

    Even when I set out to teach, I learn.

  • [Friend posts meme: “The glasses I need to get through the rest of 2020.” Pictured: frames with MST3K silhouettes in front of one eye.]

    Add earbuds so I always have Joel Hodgson commenting on things, and I'm sold.

  • The next time you see angry idiots protesting public safety measures in the name of freedom, remember: most of what you hear in the news is, by definition, out of the ordinary.
    Coronavirus Polling

    • Freedumb.

    • [Friend writes, “81% are okay with more damage to the economy, which likely means they’re not among the 30 million who lost their jobs..”]

      That, or they believe it's a false choice: that choosing “the economy” over “protect people” now will be worse for both in the long run.

      In reality there is no right choice. Take the Shutdown Skeptics Seriously

  • [Friend writes that she spoke to the “most bored customer service rep ever” and that her name was Charisma.]

    Nominative ANTI-determinism! (Related: Nominative Determinism: Yes, That's His Real Name)

  • [Friend posts link to quiz, “Are You 80s Enough To Name Every One Of These Movies By One Image?” Headline image is from Pretty Woman.]

    Ironically, the photo on this post is from a 1990 film.

  • This is superb; also, twelve-year-old me is very happy imagining the current situation as an urgent mission to space, with me as the captain.
    Lockdown Productivity: Spaceship You

  • [Friend remembers being little and winning a $20 bet that he couldn't jump and touch the ceiling.]

    Archer did exactly the same thing when he was little, and it only cost me $5.

  • A story:

    When there's a knock at the front door and her people go to answer it, sometimes our dog Pepper slinks into the kitchen where she knows no one will see her reaching up onto the counter or into the sink in search of a dirty plate to lick.

    She is also not above pulling yummy things (like used tissues) out of garbage cans when she feels like she needs a snack.

    But there's an open box of dog treats on a low shelf near the front door, right at head-height for her. We give her one every time we return from a walk, and other times when she's a good girl. Understanding, apparently, that those are special, she has never once tried to get into it.

    The end.

    • [Friend follows up with a story of her dogs, Max and Lou, stealing treats and sharing with each other.]

      That is awesome (sharing!), and also, Max and Lou are A-1 top-notch dog names.

  • Heather Cox Richardson, yesterday:

    “[T]he FBI served a search warrant on Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) for insider trading in stocks in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. A warrant for a senator would have had to be approved at the highest levels of the Department of Justice, where Barr holds sway. Burr is not the only senator who made exquisitely timed stock trades after hearing a private briefing for senators on the dangers of the coronavirus; Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) did, too, along with one or two others.

    “So why Burr? Remember I mentioned that the Senate Intelligence Committee agreed with the Mueller investigation, and that it was due to release the final volume of its report soon? Burr is the chairman of that key committee. If he is discredited enough to lose his chairmanship, McConnell will get to choose his replacement. And it’s a pretty safe bet the committee will no longer support the conclusions of the Mueller Report.”
    Richard Burr to step down as Intelligence Committee chairman

  • My family went to a few different bungalow colonies in the 70's; Schneider's was the last one, in 1979. I've found the others on a map of Monticello but for the life of me I cannot locate Schneider's. Can someone tell me where it was?

  • [Right-wing friend posts article about why never to believe another word from Adam Schiff.]

    The WSJ opinion piece cited in this article claims that Schiff tried to make Russia's interference on behalf of Trump in the 2016 election – which is not contested – into a little more than we can be sure it was.

    Meanwhile, numerous independent feats of journalism – not opinion – have documented and refuted over 18,000 lies told by Trump since he took office. That's an average of fifteen every single day.

    Why do we not see you urging Facebook friends never to believe another word from Trump?

  • [Tweet in reply to journalist Nicholas Barber promoting his article “Why The Empire Strikes Back is overrated.”]

    Thank you so much for this, from a fellow contrarian. Funny how those insisting on the conventional wisdom about Empire being the best one never seem ready to explain why they think so.

  • [Friend reposts meme about fixing the economic system if we have to accept pandemic deaths to keep it afloat; says it will never happen.]

    Plenty of unlikely things in history seemed beforehand like they would never happen.

  • [In a thread about conservatives downplaying the coronavirus. One comments snarkily that they should all congregate in a small room without masks.]

    The problem with suggestions like this is that they sound like poetic justice but in reality any increase in the amount of virus is a threat to everyone everywhere.

  • Jonah with his commencement speaker.

  • [Friend posts about going out for groceries and asks: “dress ‘up’ in jeans?”]

    I put on some nice clothes yesterday and it felt amazing, can recommend.

  • [A discussion thread about my remembrance of the Empire Strikes Back premiere.]

    • [One friend says, “That’s a deep dive into your oeuvre I just did.”]

      Usually I'd ask you to buy me dinner first, but with social distancing I'm just grateful to have my oeuvre dived deeply into.

    • [Another says, “I do enjoy your storytelling – like that story about the bullies and escaping to see Ffolkes.]

      Jiminy Cricket, that is a deep cut. I had forgotten that I ever wrote that story down. Searching my old e-mail I now see that that was 1994! I am flattered that you remember it, and also by your nice compliment. Thanks.

    • [Sarah, who is part of that story, adds, “I remember that day – as well as the conversation with my mom, convincing her to let me skip school, and your coaching me through the arguments which made that conversation so successful! I really should call you before I negotiate anything.”]

      All I remember is feeling astonished that it actually worked!

    • [One friend writes, “I choose to believe that your mother knew darned well what you were up to.”]

      We were good kids, not the type who would try to deceive our parents. It wasn't, “Please let us go observe Shavuot,” it was “It's Shavuot, which for these reasons means you should let us go see The Empire Strikes Back.”

      That I can no longer conjure what “these reasons” might have been tells me either that (a) they were really convincing but now I'm too much of a dad (and it takes a kid desperate for freedom to think of them), or (b) they were bullshit but Sarah's mom was fine with her spending a day near the end of the school year with her pleasant and harmless friend.

    • [Finally, Sarah writes, “I remember the reasoning: we made a deal at the outset, that if I could explain what the holiday was about, I could take the day off and go see Empire. The funny thing is that my mom, having been semi-raised a Catholic, would have had no clue if I was correct or not!! I think she admired our chutzpah (she knew what chutzpah was!).”]

      That does ring a bell. Thanks for remembering! And in case I didn't think to thank your mom then, I am raising a glass to her memory right now.

  • [Friend posts headline, “Half of Fox News viewers believe Bill Gates wants to use Covid-19 vaccines to track people; ridicules those viewers.]

    It's not only the other side that's the target of information warfare. If a news story makes you think, “Boy, those (Trump voters / Fox News viewers / other large group of your fellow citizens) are irredeemably stupid,” start questioning.

  • [Friend posts David Sedaris' comment, “The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. ‘Can I interest you in the chicken?’ she asks. ‘Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?’ To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.”]

    The real problem is that we can't agree on which one is the chicken and which one is the platter of shit. And anyone who doesn't see it your way is an idiot.

  • Last year I gave YoutubeMusic a try, having heard that it would eventually replace Google Play Music. It showed its deficiencies immediately, and I made a mental note: strike one.

    Months later, after another wave of reporting that Google Play Music would soon be headed for the great app store in the sky, I wondered whether the problems in YouTube Music's early preview version had yet been fixed. I don't know if they were, because when I tried it again I immediately ran into other big problems. Strike two. As I wrote at the time, after strike three I would give up on Google music services.

    Today I tried YouTube Music again. I was ready to be disappointed, fire off a goodbye-forever note, and start figuring out how and where to migrate my music, my playlists, and my taste profile.

    But I gotta hand it to them: YouTube Music has actually gotten good! Not only do they appear to have addressed the issues from my first couple of tries, they actually managed to delight me in spite of myself. The artists-you-like exploration UI is fun to use. The near-seamless switching between the audio of a song and its corresponding music video is cool. And the presence of song lyrics is such a must-have feature that Google Play Music, which doesn't have them, has never been fully in my good graces.

    I let YouTube Music choose some songs for my household-chores time today and they were good ones. There are still some rough edges of course, and probably always will be, but I no longer worry that I will be left high and dry when Google Play Music rides into the sunset.

  • [In a discussion thread about a beloved old English teacher whose flirtatious behavior with some of the female students no longer seems as harmless as it did then.]

    [Wading in with some trepidation but a sincere desire for better understanding.]

    Thinking about Mr. Baratta reminds me uncomfortably of some of my 1970's attitudes. I thought he was great, and I was probably aware of the chatter about him, and I probably thought that that's just the way it is, with probably no thought about how things could be different, or even whether they should be. I probably looked forward to being tempted myself by adolescent concupiscence in my future adult life. I think my cluelessness was probably the dominant attitude on this subject among those with the privilege to be unaffected by it.

    (The Donald Sutherland storyline in Animal House probably shaped some of this attitude.)

    Attitudes now are different, of course, but I still struggle with whether the pendulum has swung too far, or not far enough.

    Specifically, several commenters here point out that he married his student rather than merely creeping on her or taking advantage. Is that a happy outcome? Does that end justify the means? Is ephebophilia OK as long as the attraction's mutual, and no means no? Or is it the case that saying no to an authority figure is just too hard and therefore it's never OK? Is a happy outcome like this one just a case of Stockholm Syndrome? Can anyone other than the two people involved properly judge? Should anyone?

  • [Friend posts tweet saying, “it's surreal to have a patient accuse me of falsifying their COVID result – bc they don't believe the virus is real – as I'm actively trying to keep them from dying from multi organ failure from COVID”]

    How do we fight this kind of thing? As David Frum recently wrote (The System Failed the Test of Trump):

    “Have you ever known anyone swindled by a scam? It’s remarkable how determined they remain to defend the swindler, and for how long—and how they try to shift the blame to those who tried to warn them of the swindle. The pain of being seen as a fool hurts more than the loss of money; it’s more important to protect the ego against indignity than to visit justice upon the perpetrator.”

    (“More than the loss of money” apparently should be changed to read, “more than the threat of death.”)

    We need people who can model a face-saving way to wake up from the Trump trance for others who don't know how. A way that's socially acceptable, even cool.

    There are a few think pieces here and there by former Trump supporters who finally saw behind the curtain. That needs to be a movement. How does that happen?

  • [Resharing a David Gerrold post about the Trump cult.]

    Eloquent.

    The prominent and respected Trump supporter who finally manages to pull out of the ideology death spiral in a face-saving, socially acceptable, and attack-resistant way that others can emulate will be a national hero.

  • [Friend posts a dizzying photo of a workman atop the antenna atop the World Trade Center, says “damn that is high.”]

    The funny thing is that on the you-are-screwed scale there's no difference between twenty feet and two thousand feet.

  • Reasonable people can disagree about whether and how much Twitter has been complicit in Trump's lying to this point. But now that Twitter has fact-checked his tweets once, if they don't continue consistently to do so, they will be complicit and no reasonable person can disagree.

    • [Friend writes, “Agreed.”]

      Reasonable.

  • [Friend posts an adorable photo of toddler grandson sitting in the soil in a garden.]

    Do not overwater.

  • [Friend posts article about Trump questioning the science of mask-wearing; calls it a rejection of science.]

    Counterpoint: questioning science is science. You just have to be intellectually honest about it. Think a hypothesis is wrong? Prove it, via experimentation. Got a better hypothesis? Show how it succeeds in all the ways the old one did, plus some new ones where the old one doesn't.

  • [Friend posts article about Trump going after social media companies; comments, “Now the real war begins.”]

    Please don't say “now the real war begins,” because so far we've managed to avoid real war, and it sounds like you're tempting fate.

  • A. Arthur
    B. The Goodbye Girl
    C. Tootsie

    1. “All your life you've waited for love to come and stay.”
    2. “Time, I've been passing time watching trains go by all of my life.”
    3. “Once in your life you find her, someone that turns your heart around.”

    • Can you think of any other late-70s/ early-80s romcoms with a similar syrupy theme song that I missed?

    • [Friend suggests Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong from An Officer and a Gentleman.]

      Not a romcom, but the song is smack in the target zone, so 👍

  • [Right-wing friend posts scare headline: “28 Million Mail-In Ballots Went Missing in Last Four Elections.”]

    Good thing we're too smart to fall for the innuendo that this article tries to spin out of the simple fact of people receiving their ballots but not casting a vote.

    (Otherwise, we'd be unwitting accomplices in the GOP's plan to make people mistrust the vote, and therefore democracy itself.)

  • [Friend posts, “People are saying that police just confiscated 10,000 child porn videos from Mark Zuckerberg’s house.”]

    They were stored on servers that he “liberated” from Harvard.

  • [Friend posts about the original Star Wars soundtrack double-LP. Another chimes in to mention the Meco cover version.]

    Let me take you on a little journey to What The Hell. Meco – Star Wars Title Theme/Cantina Band (Ballet by Penney de Jager) • TopPop

  • Wait… were they called The Bangles because they all had bangs??

  • [Friend posts article, “Monkeys escape with Covid-19 samples after attacking lab assistant.”]

    I like to imagine these monkeys watching clumsy human attempts to create a vaccine until they just can't take any more stupid, so with a final eye-roll and a pointed, “Give me that,” they take it back to the Monkeyplex to show us how it's done, all the while muttering under their breath, “If you want something done right…”

  • Let's be honest: even the most comfortable and oblivious among us have known for a long, long time, in our heart of hearts, that American society was unsustainable. It worked well for too few of us, and the imbalances have only been growing.

    We prayed for things to remain stable long enough so we could leave roughly the same world to our kids, but secretly we knew we were skipping out on the bill, making it more likely to come due in their time.

    Well, it has come due in ours, and as painful as it is (and will be for a good while to come), I for one am grateful that we now have this chance to face up to our obligations and fix things before handing it all over to the next generation.

  • Dear Congressional Republicans With a Conscience,

    This would be a great time to caucus with the Democrats.

    • How about it, Senator Murkowski? Senator Grassley? Senator Collins?

  • This is all of us now. The Brady Bunch was fifty years ahead of its time.

  • [Friend posts photos of Washington Monument being struck by lightning.]

    DEMOCRACY POWERUP

  • High school:

    Half done by one. All done by the other. Well done by both.

    • Photo credit: Garrett Burdick

  • My colleague just built this. Please take a moment to visit, and reshare as widely as the spirit moves you to. I Stand In Solidarity.

  • Engineering: “We can call them Smelly Balls.”
    Marketing: “Actually…”

  • [Friend writes, “What my teen self didn't appreciate, my middle aged self does: my fellow HS classmates are a rather impressive, funny, thoughtful and compassionate group.”]

    I submit that it wasn't your teen self failing to appreciate anything, rather that it took a while for some of us to become impressive, funny, thoughtful, and compassionate.

  • [Friend posts a link to article, This Tiki Submarine Cocktail Class Is On A Virtual Voyage And We're All Aboard!.]

    🙋‍♂️

  • [Friend posts a link to article, Tick-borne illness similar to COVID makes resurgence. Comments, “Corona with Lyme?”]

    Groooooan

  • [Friend writes, “Note to self: never buy a phone charger from a convenience store. Never buy a phone charger from a convenience store. Never. Buy. A phone charger. From a convenience store.”]

    Captain Willard, narrating: “Never buy a phone charger from a convenience store.” Absolutely goddamn right. Unless you were going all the way.

  • [Friend reshares a post suggesting a next-level protest tactic.]

    Do not give them the optics they want. Protest by vacating Tulsa!

  • The virus outside is fright'ning
    And my hair looks struck by lightning
    But since I'm too scared to go
    Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow

  • [At Jonah's drive-in, socially distanced graduation.]

    Pomp, circumstance, Elgar
    They're playing his song
    So many times over
    Even he'd think it's wrong

  • [Friend posts photo of gigantic bowl of risen bread dough, asks, “Too much?”]

    “A good start”

  • This guy absolutely crushed it.

    But he didn't do it alone. Thank you to all the wonderful teachers he's had over the years (both in and out of school), and to all his friends and their wonderful families. It took a village, and we had one.

    • And if he knew I was posting this right now, he'd probably insist I also thank Marvel Studios and the Lego Company.

    • [Friend asks, “Jefferson?”]

      Jonah's his middle name. Took only a couple of weeks of living with him before deciding he was more of a Jonah than a Jeff.

  • “Help people”?

    Or “hell is other people”?

  • [A bunch of kale went bad before we managed to use it, and we had to throw it away.]

    Me: Quel dommage.
    Andrea: Pun intended?

  • L.A. friends, hello! I would like to ask your help.

    My son Jonah has just graduated from high school and will be attending UCLA in the fall – go Bruins! But thanks to Le Virus they cannot house all the incoming freshmen the way they normally do, and I regret to say that Jonah lost the first round of the housing lottery.

    So it's up to us to find some good near-campus housing for him (and possibly a few of his HS classmates who will also be attending UCLA and are in the same boat). Do you have any advice? Contacts? Rental properties? Thanks for any help you can provide.

  • Racially charged political rally in Tulsa amid accelerating coronavirus infections.

    Judge rules publication of Bolton's book can't be blocked.

    “Fired” US Attorney investigating Trump finances and associates refuses to go.

    This is going to be one hell of a news day.

    • Don't know whether to get my popcorn or my liquor. HOLD THE PHONE: liquor-infused popcorn!

    • [Friend writes, “You didn't even mention the poor people's campaign, which feels like something really special to me. I'm hypnotized.”]

      Holy shlamoley, hadn't heard about that. Name and photo added with enthusiasm 👍

  • My dad is swell
    He dads really well

    For him it's no bother
    He's just a good father

  • [Friend David posts article about upcoming TV production of Asimov's Foundation, says it might be good though the books have aged terribly. Another friend says, “Sacrilege!”]

    Sorry to say David's right. I also reread it recently. No shortage of interesting ideas, but interesting ideas are only the beginning of good writing.

  • [Joe Biden is polling well.]

    Remember this? Don't get cocky.

  • [In reply to former boss writing, “Sitting in 45 min of traffic to go to an office for 8 hours is insane. Working from home with your kids screaming in the next room is also insane. Post-covid solution is probably edge co-working: an office 5-10 min away where you can work quietly but ‘remotely’ with your team.”]

    100%. It is ironic that we are about to enter a golden age of coworking so soon after everyone gleefully piled on WeWork's business model.

    • [He adds, “I'm sorry about all your commuting!”]

      I'm not! You have no idea how far behind on podcasts I am now that I'm not commuting. Just terrible.

  • [Friend reshares meme, “I just dumped a pack of M&M's into my mask at work and am slowly eating them like a horse.”]

    I LLOL'd. (The first L's for literally.)

  • [Friend reshares tweet showing sketches used by USSR police to identify suspects based on “race.”]

    Honestly the “Jew” looks a lot like pictures of my dad when he was young.

  • After a life lived as long and as well as Carl Reiner's, it's hard to feel sad for anything except that Covid-19 has robbed him of the historic star-studded memorial, overflowing with hilarious and touching encomiums, that he deserved.

    • Would have loved to see Hollywood's comedy elite all wearing yarmulkes at the service.

  • [About the long-time anchor of the ABC News program 20/20.]

    Hugh Downs survived to 99 so that 2020 could carry him off.

    There's “you can't make this up,” and then there's “you can't make this up AND this doesn't happen by chance so the only remaining explanation is a mischievous god.”

  • [Right-wing friend reshares Tomi Lahren tweet saying “Either masks work or they don't” and insisting either they not be required, or they be required and businesses reopen. Friend comments, “Truth.”]

    Falsehood. It's possible for things to work partially, and to work better in combination with other things, like masks and distancing, or seatbelts and airbags, or peanut butter and jelly.

  • [Friend posts a taxonomy of wrong ways people wear masks, solicits further suggestions.]

    Haven't seen (yet) but can imagine:

    • The oral fixater, chewing nervously on the mask;
    • The rear-view, mask on the back of the head the way some people sometimes wear unused sunglasses;
    • The doily, with openings cut out for easier breathing;
    • The hermetic fanatic, tightly sealed all the way around.

  • [Right-wing friend reshares anti-mask meme.]

    Also: smash your smoke detectors! Sever your brake lines! Stupid “public safety” rules.

    • [Friend responds, “It should be a choice too every person.”]

      I'd agree with you if wearing a mask were about protecting yourself from the virus. But masks aren't actually very good at that. If you're wearing a mask in a place where there's a lot of virus in the air, you're going to get the virus.

      The main purpose of a mask is to keep you from transmitting the virus to others, if you have it. At that, a mask is very effective.

      Do you have the virus? Are you transmitting it? NO ONE KNOWS. That's the whole problem. You can be a carrier without showing any symptoms.

      So when you don't wear a mask, you place others at risk. You could be killing them, literally. I think most people don't understand this about mask-wearing: it's to protect others, not yourself. The people who do understand this and don't wear masks anyway: fuck them.

      I'd like to be done with this pandemic, wouldn't you? We could drive the infection rate to zero within two weeks, like they've done in other parts of the world, if everyone would just wear a mask. The flip side is that as long as we don't all wear masks, this is going to go on and on and on. For years. I am not kidding. (Go read about the 1918 flu pandemic.)

      Wearing masks and limiting our exposure to one another are the only ways we know to put out this fire. It is maddening that so many people have the attitude “Let it burn” if it means they have to be inconvenienced.

    • Help me spread this acronym I invented:

      WHY MOFO

      Wash Hands for Yourself
      Mask On For Others

  • [Right-wing friend posts another anti-mask meme saying only those with symptoms should wear them.]

    How will you know when you have the virus and are contagious?

    • [Friend: “I won't but the choice too or not too wear it”]

      I get it. You could be infecting people right now – you could be killing them (or the people they infect because of you) – but the chances of that are small.

      So you do a mental cost-benefit analysis. How many dead friends, neighbors, and relatives before the cost of putting on a mask is too high?

      For me, the number is 1. One is too many. So I wear a mask before it gets that high.

      But maybe you have a different limit on killing people. What's your number?

  • [Dad posts terrific painting of Marty Feldman.]

    Incredible.

    I recently learned some things about Marty Feldman I hadn't known before. I knew that he was part of At Last the 1948 Show, a pioneering British comedy show that paved the way for (and also featured some of the performers in) Monty Python, but what I didn't know was that he was a prolific comedy writer himself, and at least one of Monty Python's most famous sketches (the bookshop sketch) originated with Feldman.

    Here he is reprising that sketch in a 1970 TV special. Bookshop Sketch from Marty Amok! (originally At Last The 1948 Show)

  • You know how being the mom of several kids turns some women into super-charged all-around no-nonsense competence geniuses? That's my sister-in-law Denise. Happy birthday Denise, the SCAANNCG!

    • [Denise thanks me and says I’m the best brother-in-law; wants to know if she should add SCAANNCG to the end of her name or wait for official documentation.]

      Here you go. [Official-looking SCAANNCG certificate.]

    • [Denise is amazed I produced that so quickly.]

      See “best brother-in-law” above.

    • [Niece McKenna complains that I missed sending her a birthday greeting.]

      GASP 😱 I blame COVID. Time has lost all meaning. Good news is that until I do post a cool birthday greeting, you don't age!

  • [After niece McKenna complained I was late with a birthday greeting.]

    Happy birthday a little late, McKenna! I wrote you a poem in Scots English.

    McKenna cannae ken
    Whit her eme Bob be daein
    “Ilkie towmont gin
    Tae me he was scrievin
    But noo nae gettin nane.”

    “Sairie, bonny Kenna!”
    Said eme Bob. “I dinna
    Ken it was bypassit.”
    In heest he wrat her this
    For he loves his cantie nece.

  • I was already several months behind in my podcast listening when the startup where I was working shut down near the end of January and I stopped commuting most days. I listened almost exclusively while commuting.

    I'm still hoping to catch up but I'm losing badly. I've only just made it to episodes recorded in early December of last year. They're starting to sound like they come from a whole different planet. One where they talk about sports, the latest movie releases, and traveling to big family gatherings for the holidays. They keep nattering on about their podcast topics like everything's going to stay as normal as it's always been. No one mentions masks, toilet paper, or flattening the curve.

    Those poor people have no idea what they're in for.

  • [In a discussion thread about whom to believe re: the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine vs. coronavirus.]

    The pro-HCQ narrative depends on believing that the establishment scientists warning against HCQ are more motivated by profit than by public health, and that stories of HCQ harming and killing people are lies (or at least exaggerations) meant to play upon your fear.

    That ticks all the boxes of a conspiracy theory, which makes it easy and attractive to believe. By itself, that doesn't mean it's wrong; some conspiracies are real.

    But the pro-HCQ story also implicitly depends on the reverse not seeming like a conspiracy theory. But it ticks all the same boxes. The motive in this version is a combination of profit (for the makers of HCQ) and rescuing the credibility of political leaders who bungled the response to this pandemic. The lies in this conspiracy appeal not to our fear, but to our wish for a quick and effective way out of this horror.

    In short, before you believe A's claim that B is lying because of evidence C, don't overlook evidence D that A is lying just because no one's talking about it.

    Personally, the more the C narrative feels like it's being pushed at me, the less likely I am to believe it. That, combined with the hucksterish appeal of “there's a cheap plentiful drug that can save us all!” gives the game away, IMO. And then there's this: “Dark money” groups pushed Trump to back unproven COVID-19 treatment

  • [Friend posts h4wt photo of Sports Illustrated's first transgender swimsuit model.]

    Cue thousands of cases of homosexual panic in 3… 2…

  • Dear Disney,

    I am a lifelong fan. I have consumed countless hundreds of hours of your programming. I have visited your parks numerous times. Wherever I look in my house I can see some of your merchandise. My wedding was atop Sunset Point at the Polynesian Resort.

    I am heartbroken that you have chosen to proceed with reopening your parks in the middle of this pandemic. I understand the enormous business pressures you must be under, and I'm aware of the extensive safety measures you are taking. But there is an active disinformation campaign under way in this country meant to minimize the seriousness of COVID-19, and its lies are sickening and killing people by the thousands.

    BY THE THOUSANDS. And by contributing to the perception that things can go on as normal, you are part of the problem. You are literally killing people, if not directly in your parks, then indirectly across the country and the world by failing to take the proper public position. You are giving cover to the denialists.

    Even if that makes business sense in the short term, it can only be self-defeating in the long run. Infections and deaths will mount. Disney's role in prolonging and worsening the outbreak will become permanently associated with the brand.

    It is not too late to change course, show some leadership, become part of the solution, help to bring this goddamn nightmare to an end, and earn back my trust and respect.

  • [Friend posts funny meme of man at hotel desk: “Hi, I've forgotten what room I'm in.” “No problem, sir. This is calleed ‘The Lobby.’”]

    “Haha, very funny. I mean I've forgotten what my room number is.”

    “Certainly sir. That's the little plaque on every door that lets people tell the rooms apart.”

  • Archer just completed a tax return for the first time. Dead-simple though his income was last year, it still produced five printed pages of TurboTax output. He put it in an envelope and handed it to me.

    Me: This is a little heavy. It might require extra postage. I'll put a second stamp on just to be safe.
    Archer: What does the number of stamps mean?
    Me: It just means you paid more to mail a heavier item.
    Archer: Stamps cost money???

    He is sixteen.

    • [Friend asks, “What did he think the stamps were for? Decoration?”]

      I think he did think they were for decoration. When he handed me the envelope he at first asked where we keep those pictures we put on envelopes.

      And while we're all chuckling at his expense, let's not forget who it was who neglected to teach him any of this stuff…

  • 20 years ago today. ❤️

    • To be clear, today is the 20th anniversary of the wedding party at the Madonna Inn. The actual wedding was eight months earlier, when we eloped to Walt Disney World!
  • Wish you were here to share a summer-evening mint julep. Clink.

  • [Right-wing friend reshares meme, “If you needed a reason to unfriend me, I am pro-Trump, pro-military, pro-law enforcement, pro-gun, and there's only two genders.]

    I don't think you can be pro-military and at the same time pro-Trump. Trump is the one who continued cozying up to Russia for months after learning they were paying bounties for dead American soldiers, and since the story broke last month he has still done nothing to punish or confront Russia about it.

    • [Friend responds, “by no means do I agree with everything president trump does. If it’s between him or joe I choose president Trump”]

      It's one thing to disagree with this or that policy, like being tough on immigration, or limiting the federal response to a deadly pandemic because of a belief in small government. But this is treason. And not just technically treason, not just a little bit of treason, not just barely crossing the line into treason. This is looking the other way while a country where you have business interests kills the troops you command. This is the worst treason I can imagine.

      If this had happened under Obama you'd be screaming for his head, and rightly so.

      Want to give Trump a pass on this anyway? I don't understand how a patriotic American could. But at least don't also call yourself pro-military.

    • [Different friend says, “maybe you aren’t a patriotic American”]

      I suppose that's possible. How would you tell a patriotic American apart from an unpatriotic one?

    • [Friend answers, a little incoherently, “why don’t you ask Andrew Cuomo that question, and if his answer doesn’t satisfy you, ask Obama and Biden, they should know, because that’s what they are!”]

      Sorry to be unclear. This is a sincere request for information. I'm interested to know whether I pass your test for patriotism, not Cuomo's or Obama's or Biden's.

      [crickets]

  • There's a famous brainteaser that goes something like this: There is a pond with a lilypad. The lilypad reproduces and the next day there are two lilypads. Each day the number of lilypads doubles. After fifty days, the entire pond is covered with lilypads. How long does it take for the lilypads to cover just half the pond?

    The answer is forty-nine days, because if you double each day when going forward in time, you divide in half each day when going backward in time.

    Now imagine that you live on the far shore of the pond, away from the first lilypad. For the first few days you know nothing about the lilypad situation. After a week, perhaps two, you notice something going on way far away on the other side.

    After forty-seven days, the lilypads still cover only one-eighth of the pond. You look across and think, “There are some lilypads far away from me.”

    Day forty-eight is the first time you realize that the lilypads are actually getting closer.

    And then on day fifty, WHAM, they're right at your feet.

    That is exponential growth. And that is COVID-19.

  • [Friend posts link to uncharacteristically hopeful op-ed from Nicholas Kristof about the future of the country.]

    Thanks, I needed this! And this was the cherry on top:

    Walter Mondale […] a classic liberal who at age 92 — “not too many more years, and I’ll be getting old,” he told me — said he feels “a lot of hope.”

  • [Friend posts link to article, White House Bars CDC From Testifying At School Reopening Hearings; comments, “I don’t see how Trump supporters can spin this as anything other than actively suppressing science.”]

    I do, sadly, based in part on this recent exchange [screencap of the “If you needed a reason to unfriend me” exchange mentioned above] and several others like it over the past few years.

    When I see such a thing – which I consider to be tribal signaling that bypasses rational thought – lodged in an otherwise thoughtful person's head, I try to worry it free, even if just a bit, by planting some Socratic doubt, using unrelenting patience and reasonableness. (And never, ever accusations of thoughtlessness, cruelty, or stupidity, understanding that if I lived in a Fox News bubble too I'd be no different.)

    Invariably these attempts to engage reach a point where the conservative rhetorical programming (the sum total of which seems to be “ATTACK!”) peters out, and I get ghosted, as in the example below. At that point I can only hope that I've achieved some slight weakening of the hold that the propaganda has on them. But along the way, the thinking, or rather the particular way of not thinking, is revealed.

    It seems to be all about siege mentality. If you're a Rust Belter resentful of the prosperity on the coasts, if the erosion of your white privilege feels like oppression, if the gobbledygook spouted by the experts who run the country and your life make you feel ignorant and powerless, then maybe you turned to Trump in 2016. Having bound up your identity with him (demonstrating your susceptibility to siege-mentality thinking in the first place), the nonstop attacks against Trump are attacks against you, and everyone doing the attacking – Democrats, judges, experts, minorities – is your enemy, a direct threat to your sense of self. That the attacks are all justified by principles of justice, decency, and common sense is completely irrelevant.

    So putting on my Trump supporter hat, I welcome the blocking of CDC testimony as a way to prevent still more attacks against Trump and me.

    Taking that hat off (whew! it fits terribly) I see it as our job to get into our affected friends’ heads and separate Trump from their identity. Step one: do nothing to cause them to throw up their defenses. Step two: find something they want to believe about themselves (supporting the military in this case, or more simply, patriotism) and question whether they can also believe it about Trump.

    I'm aware this makes me an amateur cult deprogrammer, and that there's very much more to it than that. But we do what we can.

  • [Sharing link to A Constitutional Crisis in Portland.]

    Emergency extra donation made to the ACLU. Please do the same if you're able.

    There is only one small step remaining on the path to full dictatorship, and that is the targeting by these stormtroopers of legitimate elected leaders. After that it is truly game over for democracy. We cannot let it reach that point.

    (We should never have let it get this far.)

  • [Right-wing friend reshares anti-BLM meme, “Lives matter. If you need a color in front of those two words, you&aopos;re a racist.”]

    If this were true, we would see the same response, from the same people, with the same vehemence whenever someone posts “Blue Lives Matter.” Yet strangely we do not.

  • [Sharing link to Oregon Sues Federal Agencies For Grabbing Up Protesters Off The Streets.]

    Every state attorney general needs to file an amicus brief in this case.

  • [Friend posts link to article, Blowing out candles is basically spitting on your friends' cake. Will we ever do it again?]

    I've seen scientific speculation to the effect that we kiss in order to share germs and hasten the building of immunities that partners will need in common if they are to cohabitate successfully. Maybe this is a weaker form of the same thing?

  • When Joe Biden (rightly) says that Russia's interference in our electoral process is a “violation of our sovereignty,” from a legal and foreign policy standpoint how different is that from saying it's an act of war?

  • [Friend posts photo of delicious-looking homemade zucchini fries.]

    I was at the supermarket just a short time ago, saw some nice-looking zucchini, thought, “Hmm, zucchini fries!” then thought, “Eh, next time.” Now I'm sorry I didn't stick with the first thought!

  • [Trump's paramilitary suppression of protests in Portland.]

    It is against the law to impersonate a law enforcement officer.

    But if the officers are wearing only camo and body armor, with no identifying badges or insignia, it's not impersonating them to wear camo and body armor too.

    Then maybe they'll think twice about who they're firing tear gas at.

  • [Friend complains about having to click through a Twitter discussion sentence-by-sentence, saying computers can handle quite lengthy documents.]

    Computers yes. People no.

  • A deepfake I'd like to see: the denouement we needed between Katniss and Plutarch that Philip Seymour Hoffman did not survive to film.

  • [Screenwriter friend Joelle Sellner is credited as “Joëlle Sellner” on a French show.]

    ”Çellner” est meilleur, n'est-ce pas?

  • [Friend posts cartoon: Families on beach, a shark fin in the water, and a man saying, “It's time to get the kids back in the water. Only 1% of them will be eaten.”]

    ”… and none of them will be mine.”

  • [Friend posts scary article about escalating tensions between federal and local forces.]

    The one thing that might save us is that the actual military has made it clear it wants no part of this, which is why CBP officers are being used as paramilitary.

  • [Friend posts link to article, “Cruelty of the Occupation Knows No Bounds”: Israel Demolishes Covid-19 Clinic in Epicenter of West Bank Outbreak, comments, “Ben Gurion and the other founders of Israel are surely turning over in their graves.”]

    “Us vs. them” is a terrible basis for building a nation, even when the “us” started out as someone else's “them.”

  • [After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls out Ted Yoho for his misogynistic verbal assault on the Capitol steps.]

    Dear Rep. Yoho, you have a historic opportunity to be a hero. All you have to do is acknowledge the truth in AOC's speech calling out your abusive behavior.

    In one fell swoop you can demonstrate how to handle constructive criticism with grace and honor, ally yourself with an underclass in need of a standard bearer, model how to improve oneself, and make your name synonymous with class (instead of crass).

    To seize this opportunity it will be necessary to look past your wounded pride. Can you do it? Can you?

    You're gonna blow this opportunity, aren't you?

  • [Friend reshares meme accusing Nancy Pelosi of failing to provide stimulus payments during the pandemic.]

    House Democrats passed a huge stimulus bill back in May. Senate Republicans won't consider it. The House just passed its latest $3 trillion coronavirus stimulus package

    Beware of disinformation. We are all targets, and mistrust of our officials, institutions, and fellow citizens is the goal.

  • What if the impoverished philosophy under which the GOP has governed for forty years is simply wrong, and all the strategies they use to pretend it's right no longer work?

    The moronic wing of the party will nevertheless ride that philosophy straight into the ground, maybe taking us all with them.

    The smarter wing will ask, “When was the party last right?” And they'll end up thinking of Eisenhower in the 1950s.

    But retreating to a 1950s posture isn't available to the Republican Party – because that territory has been staked out by the modern Democratic Party.

    The only place left for them to go is the very progressive left, assuming the likes of AOC and Sanders don't get their party there first.

    Imagine the major parties both squabbling over who is more pro-labor, pro-safety-net, and pro-regulation.

    Wouldn't it be remarkable if this were the way in which Trump actually finally does make America great again?

  • [Friend posts article, The Trump campaign is a cesspool of mismanagement, nepotism, grift, and idiocy; comments, “It’s weirdly encouraging to see how incompetent they are.”]

    “The nation was saved […] by whatever providence it is that makes conspirators into stumblebums”

    Conspirators into stumblebums

  • What are the mystery seeds from China?

  • [Right-wing friend reshares meme, “We stand in line at Target, Walmart, Lowe's, etc. We can stand in line in November. Say NO to mail-in voting.”]

    By that same reasoning I guess we should shut down target.com and walmart.com and lowes.com?

    I mean, there's one of those stores close enough to every person, right? And every person is able-bodied, right? And every person has the means to get themselves to the store, right? And no person will be traveling or working or caring for small children or elderly parents when they need something from the store, right? And weather will never make it difficult to get to the store, right?

    Honestly, if you want to vote in person, vote in person. But why does it matter to you whether others vote by mail?

    • [Different friend adds, “did Andrew Como sit in front of you and Bill deBlasio sit behind you in school, just saying, Ha! Ha!”]

      I'm not sure what you mean. Do you mean that, because I'm in favor of people being able to use the post office, I must have been influenced when I was younger by two men who grew up to be mediocre politicians?

      Are you opposed to people being able to use the post office? If so, for how long have you felt that way, and why? Is it because of who sat near you in school?

  • It just occurred to me that 2020 is like one of those bloated superhero sequels where lazy screenwriters, desperate to “raise the stakes,” toss in every villain from the past: Nazis! Russians! Mobsters! Plagues! Gilded age oligarchs! Confederate racists! Jackbooted riot thugs!

    • [Screenwriter friend says, “Those are studio notes. Don’t blame the writers!”]

      Faster. More intense.

    • [Friend adds, “Murder Hornets! Hurricanes!”]

      I said villains from the past, not villains from Irwin Allen movies.

  • The original Iron Man was great, right? You haven't seen it in years but I'll bet you can still recall every beat of that story. Cynical, womanizing, entitled arms dealer Tony Stark, wounded and captured in the desert; his desperate escape plan; his literal and figurative change of heart; obsessively perfecting his new tech while finally coming to properly appreciate both the amazingness of his loyal assistant and the greed of the man running his father's company, etc.

    What do you remember about Iron Man 2? Mickey Rourke's electric whips, and the suitcase suit, and that's about it, right? Try harder. Nothing? Same here.

    This genius video lays out why that movie failed, and the relatively small change that would have made it EPIC. It is a tragedy that this is not the movie that got made. But this is now the only version I remember (replacing… basically nothing), so that's something.
    https://youtu.be/v3JCdchkNSY

    • Wait, the Unisphere was in Iron Man 2? That's how forgettable Iron Man 2 was: I didn't even remember seeing this beloved landmark that's within walking distance of where I grew up.

  • Confession time:

    Long ago, during my first few years as a dog owner, I was the kind who'd look around and, if no one was watching, not clean up after her, because it's gross.

    There was a tiny stab of shame each time I did this. It slowly dawned on me that there was someone watching and judging, and always would be: me.

    Now I never fail to clean up after my dog. Occasionally, to earn back some of the karma I frittered away in those early years, I pick up after other dogs, too. It's still gross. But not as gross as being thoughtless and irresponsible.

    The end.

  • In the first episode of Better Call Saul, we're introduced to a number of characters one by one as they're encountered by our hero, Jimmy McGill. (He hasn't yet taken on the name Saul Goodman.) In one scene he confronts high-powered attorney Howard Hamlin at Hamlin's offices, where he (Hamlin) is flanked by a number of junior associates, including a young blond woman.

    A few moments later, leaving that office, Jimmy arrives in an underground parking level, where the blond woman is leaning against a wall and smoking a cigarette. Jimmy doesn't see her as he takes out his frustrations by kicking the shit out of a garbage can. She remains impassive. Then Jimmy sees her and, without a word, takes the wall space right next to her, appropriates her cigarette, takes a drag, and hands it back. Referring to the conversation with Hamlin from moments earlier, he says, “Couldn't you just–” and she says, “You know I can't.” That's the whole scene.

    In this way we are introduced to Kim Wexler, a major character (and arguably the driver of the whole show's central mystery, to the extent it has one), with such an economy of writing that it breaks my heart. Her waiting out his tantrum, surrendering her cigarette, cutting him off, and shutting him down, tells us everything we need to know about their relationship. A lesser writer would have taken thirty minutes for that much exposition. Better Call Saul did it in thirty seconds. I am in awe – enough awe, happily, to drown out my considerable writing envy.

    • [Friends ask if I'm all caught up, or just starting?]

      All caught up; in fact I've just started over because my wife came in at season 2.5 and now we have to backfill.

  • [Sharing How the Pandemic Defeated America]

    “Normal led to this. Normal was a world ever more prone to a pandemic but ever less ready for one. To avert another catastrophe, the U.S. needs to grapple with all the ways normal failed us.”

  • [Friend writes, “I remember going to my grandparents' house and the only soda they had was Diet Shasta Black Cherry.]

  • [Friend writes, “2 deals closed today and it is time for 🍷 😴 🍷 😴”]

    Drink, sleep, wake up and drink some more, then go back to sleep? Just want to make sure I'm reading your emojis right.

  • Can't wait to have 2020 hindsight.

  • A timely repost: Once, the NRA was about responsible gun ownership and good stewardship of the outdoors, a philosophical extension of the Boy Scouts. That changed one night in Cincinnati in 1977. We need it back.
    RAWR

  • [Baffled friend posts Facebook friend request from unknown and suggestively posed young lady.]

    Incel flypaper.

  • Conservatives are right: too much regulation harms business.

    Progressives are right: too little regulation harms everyone else.

    Somewhere in between there is a happy medium, and we are nowhere near it.

  • [Friend laments deeply irreligious Trump accusing Biden of “opposing” God.]

    It has been the work of at least a quarter century to consolidate media to such an extent that large swaths of the country now live in bubbles of unadulterated Republican propaganda, whose main project in turn has been to wholly de-legitimize the Democratic party. If you lived in such a place, where every television, radio station, newspaper, friend, and coworker is espousing the same opinions, I suspect you too would find a way to overlook everything terrible about Trump, because at least he's “on your side”!

  • I'm not crying you're crying.

    (OK, OK, I'm crying. But you're still crying too.)
    https://youtu.be/d9uTH0iprVQ

    • A message from the future with Bob Glickstein.

      Grandson: “Grandpa! Grandpa! We learned about 2020 in school today!”
      Me: “Oy! 2020. What a year. Do you have any questions?”
      Grandson: “Yeah: What the fuck, Grandpa?”

    • [Friend writes that we already have the technology to beam unlimited solar power down from orbiting satellites.]

      What could possibly go wrong! https://youtu.be/xMxVBY70dPU

  • [Friend posts a selfie wearing a pandemic mask that says, “Oh, hello.”]

    I read your mask in Squiggy's voice. https://youtu.be/0AcBqfMH4fU

  • [Friend posts photo of their broken electric meter, whose face fell off when it filled with rainwater, exposing the wiring inside. “This looks dangerous, no? I think I shouldn’t lick those top two contacts.”]

    Maybe think about ways to keep members of the public away, too.

    • [Later, friend posts, “We have power!”]

  • Please sign the petition linked below. From Heather Cox Richardson's latest update:

    Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump loyalist, has recently created new rules for the agency that have dramatically slowed the delivery of mail just as mail-in voting for 2020 has begun. Today, DeJoy overhauled the USPS, releasing a new organizational chart that displaces postal executives with decades of experience and concentrates power in DeJoy himself. Twenty-three executives have been reassigned or fired; five have been moved in from other roles. The seven regions of the nation will become four, and the USPS will have a hiring freeze. DeJoy says the new organization will create “clear lines of authority and accountability.”

    There is reason to be suspicious of DeJoy’s motives. Not only have his new regulations slowed mail delivery, but also under him the USPS has told states that ballots will have to carry first-class 55-cent postage rather than the normal 20-cent bulk rate, almost tripling the cost of mailing ballots. This seems to speak to Trump’s wish to make mail-in ballots problematic for states. And DeJoy and his wife, Aldona Wos, whom Trump has nominated to become ambassador to Canada, own between $30.1 million and $75.3 million of assets in competitors to the USPS.
    Board of Governors of the United States Postal Service: Remove Louis DeJoy

    • [Friend comments, “If they were as good at public health as they are at ratfucking we’d have zero covid at this point”]

      Well maybe, but as [another friend in a separate post] points out, they're not even that good at ratfucking.

  • [Friend describes visiting Disneyland often when growing up, casually mentions that they'd “watch the fireworks during Christmas time from Club 33.”]

    Gasp!

  • [Friend posts article about Apple suing a meal-planner app whose logo, an outline of a pear, might be confused for Apple's apple-silhouette-with-a-bite-taken-out.]

    Problem is, trademark law requires them to sue infringers. If they don't, they can lose their trademark. This pear pretty clearly isn't infringing, but when you're as rich as Apple you probably don't think twice about erring on the side of caution.

  • Kamala Kamala Kamala Kamala…

  • [Friend posts cine experimental / Koyaanisqatsi / (1982), which is the movie Koyaanisqatsi, but in reverse.]

    omg

  • [Friend reshares meme depicting “Data, Information, Knowledge, Insight, Wisdom, Conspiracy Theory.”]

    Genius.

  • BIDEN-HARRIS

    Hired Brains
    Brandish Ire

    • Also Radish Brine. (Something else America needs more of?)

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

    Sometimes I don't have a rag or something handy with which to handle the pump at the gas station, so after I gas up I wear my mask the rest of the way home because I absolutely can't not touch my face.

  • [Right-wing friend (in coal country) reshares meme showing support for Trump.]

    Please, will you help me understand why you support Donald Trump?

    • [Friend answers: “because he had a huge part in getting the economy fired back up and he is pro coal.”]

      Thanks for answering. But this is what I don't understand. I know Trump says he's done a lot for the economy and for coal jobs, but can you point to anything he's actually done? I cannot.

      The economy coasted along on exactly the same trajectory it had when Trump took office, and is now cratering. We are headed for another Great Depression, while Trump golfs and complains about shower pressure. This is going to be worse than anything any of us have ever experienced, and it was mostly avoidable.

      As for coal jobs, they are disappearing by the thousands. (Oil jobs too.)

      He's a showman; he'll say anything for applause. But he's hardly ever said anything that he didn't also contradict at some other time, for some other audience. There is little reason to believe anything he says.

      But even if he had done something for the economy or coal jobs, would that be enough to overlook things like looting the Treasury, crippling the post office, and claiming he's handling the pandemic well when the death rate is 1,000 Americans per day and accelerating?

  • Someone I know – someone thoughtful and caring – reshared an alarming post containing a list of celebrity names and a hazy insinuation that they are all involved in child sex trafficking. Here is a copy of the comment I added to that post.

    Whoa, hang on there. This is the QAnon conspiracy theory. Don't let it suck you in. It's not about protecting abuse victims and exposing the perpetrators. It's about destroying America.

    Wait, what?

    Suppose you were a rising economic superpower (like China) and wanted to weaken the competition.

    Or suppose you were a failed former empire (like Russia) and wanted to expand once again, but were being hemmed in by NATO.

    Or suppose you were an unpopular dictator (like Duterte in the Philippines) whose rule is threatened by democracy.

    In all cases you'd like to weaken the United States. But how? Our armed forces can mop the floor with anyone who tries anything. Well, anything military.

    So a non-military attack is needed. What does that look like? Psy-ops.

    You realize that America's strength is not, ultimately, in its tanks and ships and planes and so on. It's in the determination of its people to fight in its defense.

    So you attack that determination. How? By whittling away at Americans’ belief that any institution or public figure can be trusted at all.

    And you can do that with something like the QAnon stories. Sexual exploitation of children is the hook: everyone finds it horrifying, and when you hear about it, your first thought is to raise the alarm. You reshare the post.

    But your horror makes it easier to slip vague allegations past your defenses. When everyone's saying, “Gasp! Tom Hanks too???” it's really, really hard to be the one saying, “Show me some proof.” Like you don't care about the poor kids.

    This is especially true when accused rapists like Brett Kavanaugh and Donald Trump skate by consequence-free, producing outraged chants of “believe the accuser.”

    But there's a difference between a credible accusation, with a specific victim and date and place, and a list of public figures, forwarded a hundred times by people you don't know, suggesting those figures all have something to do with sex trafficking.

    This fog of confusion and mistrust is a weapon of war, being used against us. It literally makes us believe nothing's worth fighting for. And then we and our nation are easy pickin's.

    We have a patriotic duty to resist. That doesn't mean to blindly trust every public figure and institution. Healthy skepticism is healthy. But that cuts both ways. Shadowy anonymous Internet figures who would tear everything down deserve a fair bit of skepticism too, wouldn't you say?

    • [Friend wants to know if the person whose post I commented on responded.]

      They did, and gave me reason to be hopeful.

      A comment like this, though, on a post like that, has a wider audience than just the person who reshared it. Some of that audience will be too programmed to reach; others will not. For the latter group it's important that those able to articulate some sense do so, modeling a less hindbrain way of thinking. As Heather Cox Richardson wrote the other day (in one of the few posts I ever reshare), “Countering their false narrative is precisely why I write here on Facebook. Taking up oxygen and making yourself heard matters.”

    • [Friend says people are unlikely to read past the first few lines of my reply.]

      I respectfully disagree. I think a lot of intelligent people legitimately cannot pay close attention to current events, and a lot live in news deserts dominated by Fox and Sinclair. (These phenomena are not unrelated.) There but for the grace of some luck-of-the-draw cosmopolitanism go you and I.

      It confirms the biases of people like you and me to paint everyone who gives these stories some credence with the same slack-jawed-yokel brush. But if we propagate that idea without challenging it, just because it feels like it could be true, how are we any different from the ones who amplify the QAnon stories?

    • Besides, to the extent that some of these folks are critical-thinking-challenged, and thus susceptible to every fractionally plausible conspiracy theory that comes their way, this actual conspiracy must be like a steak dinner with all the trimmings.

    • [Friend asks if there are really places where you can only get Fox/Sinclair programming.]

      Well, everything on the Internet is only a click away, and maybe there's some choice on TV and radio too – maybe – but that's a little bit beside the point. You'd have to approach the information you're receiving skeptically, and go searching for alternative content, and that's a habit of mind that I expect very many folks have simply never developed. Instead, they're subjected passively to whatever news bumpers come on during the commercial breaks in Live PD, and to whatever talk radio is chattering away at the gas-station/food-mart, and to the telescreens all (and I mean ALL) showing Fox at the airport and the shopping mall, all drip-drip-dripping the idea, day in and day out, year after year, that even an obvious dullard like Trump, with his many flaws that everyone acknowledges (with a “I don't agree with everything he does, but…”), is preferable to rule by traitorous, baby-killing, America-hating Democrats.

  • [Friend reshares other friend's post, “ketchup on eggs is gross,” responds, “Love me some ketchup on my eggs.”]

    I am literally eating eggs with ketchup as I read this

  • [Friend posts graph showing the number of Fortune 500 companies in China exceeded the number in the U.S. for the first time.]

    For as long as I can remember, there's been a scary idea that could usually shut down debate on the topic of increasing taxes: the idea that our biggest companies and wealthiest individuals might relocate overseas.

    The response to that scary idea ought to be: overseas is welcome to them.

    Beyond a certain, modest point needed for the sake of a profit motive – the “how many yachts can you waterski behind” point – concentration of wealth does nothing good for our nation, and plenty that's bad.

    China now has more Fortune 500 companies than America? Haha, suckers.

  • [Friend reshares photo of a catering tray mislabeled, “Meet Lasagna.”]

    You have me at a disadvantage.

  • [Joe Biden accepts the Democratic nomination.]

    It's not just the speech of his life. It's the speech of all our lives.

    • No pressure…

    • [Later.]

      It was damn good.

  • [Friend posts photo of geese in the back of a squad car and hilarious ensuing Twitter thread: “There were signs of fowl play,” etc.]

    Honk if you love the police

    • A couple of flatfoots

  • [Yet another friend posts yet another lament about Trump supporters ignoring mountains of evidence.]

    Only a very small number of humans have the ability to listen objectively to evidence contradicting their views and then change their views. Even scientists, who are explicitly trained in this, often can't do it. So telling people that they're wrong is doomed to fail, no matter how much data you can produce.

    On the other hand, asking people to elaborate on why they believe the wrong things they believe, if done with patience and respect, can sometimes lead to a contradiction or absurdity that makes them reevaluate their position. I've seen it happen.

    The main thing that Fox News consumers learn is how to raise their rhetorical shields against liberal attack. So, just like in Inception, a change of mind has to come from within.

  • [Friend posts amazing photo of owl blending into tree.]

    You must understand, young Hobbit, it takes a long time to say anything in Old Entish. And we never say anything unless it is worth taking a long time to say.

  • [Friend posts an update with a lot of depressing Covid statistics. Right-wing commenter says, “Your trust in numbers is just so touching.”]

    I was taught not to complain about something without being able to suggest an alternative.

    So what do you think is an alternative we can trust more?

    [crickets]

  • [Friend posts Amazon.com buying options for home security cameras: 1 for $19.99, 2 for $44.99, 4 for $89.00.]

    You've heard the expression, “Greater than the sum of its parts”?

  • [Resharing Heather Cox Richardson's recap of the RNC.]

    “We have been here before.”

    An even-better-than-usual article from Dr. Richardson recapping the final night of the RNC, and three earlier times in U.S. history when frightened white men were ready to throw democracy under the bus rather than face the future. It didn't work then and won't work now.

    (Also: “It looked like a Biff Tannen fantasy” 😂)

  • When I was a kid and I saw a beer ad, all golden yellow in a frosty glass with a big head of foam on top, I imagined that it was like an even-more-amazing adult version of cream soda, and I couldn't wait to try it someday when I was big enough.

    Nowadays I enjoy a glass of beer from time to time, but part of me is still disappointed that beer is nothing like what I imagined back then.

    • I have a hunch that J.K. Rowling had the same experience, and that's why she dreamed up butterbeer.

    • [After several friends tell me I just haven's had the right beer yet.]

      I am retroactively declaring this post to be my clever secret plan to get cool new beer recommendations.

  • [Trump holds a political rally at the White House. NY Times headline: “Trump bolstered by party he's transformed.” Friend shares a posts showing commentary scrawled over the NY Times front page.]

    “Defeating the Nazis was in the same category as changing a flat tire: an untidy business that men were expected to know how to do.”
    – Neal Stephenson

  • [Friend posts article, Hurricane Laura topples Confederate monument town had voted to keep.]

    Yet somehow if a mudslide happens anywhere in California, it's “God hates the gays.”

  • Just how undemocratic is the Electoral College? I did a little math.

    Assumptions: full voter participation; and (for simplicity's sake) a candidate who wins a state's popular vote wins all that state's electoral votes.

    If a candidate wins by a 1-vote margin in the 40 smallest states and the District of Columbia, and gets no votes at all in the remaining 10 states, then they can win 282 electoral votes, and the presidency, with just 24% of the popular vote.

    • Actually, it's worse than that, if you make an even more outlandish assumption: that only a single voter casts a ballot in each of the 40 smallest states, plus D.C. In that case a candidate can become president with a grand total of 41, count ‘em, 41 popular votes, beating the opposing candidate who may have as many as 79.3 million votes.

  • Lifelong dream realized: today I made a Ritz Mock Apple Pie!

    The verdict: it is surprisingly like apple pie.

    This says a lot more about the sugariness and cinnamoniness of apple pie than it does about the appleiness of Ritz crackers.

  • [In reply to Michael McKean's tweet about rewatching North by Northwest]

    The zeroth James Bond movie.

  • [Resharing My thoughts on the cancellation of “The Pee-wee's Big Adventure 35th Anniversary Tour”]

    Going to San Antonio, Texas for this event with Andrea was a little bit ridiculous and extremely awesome and a wonderful last-travel-hurrah before lockdown began.

    For the record, Paul Reubens did not entirely succeed at concealing how choked up he was.

  • [Friend reshares a post from Emo Philips: “Some days, it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps.”]

    I actually saw him recently, and was moved to write down the intro he got before coming on stage. “Emo Philips is, without a doubt, one of America's comedians. He is considered by many. Please welcome Emo Philips!”

  • [Friend reshares funny video parodying complex school-reopening rules.]

    This is hilarious and all, but I'm uncomfortably reminded of how, early in my career as a software engineer, before I learned that I had it exactly backwards, I thought that the more complex my solutions, the better I was doing at my job.

  • [Resharing another Heather Cox Richardson post.]

    “We should definitely worry. But should we despair? Absolutely not. Convincing people the game is over is one of the key ways dictators take power. […] If democracy were already gone, there would be no need for Trump and his people to lie and cheat and try to steal this election.”

  • [Resharing Defeat By Tweet.]

    Signed up to donate a dime to swing-state campaigns each time Trump tweets. Please consider doing the same! You can contribute as little as a penny per tweet, and you can set a monthly cap.

    (I actually started to create a fundraising tool like this myself a couple of years ago. It was going to be called SwearJar. But my project stalled. Very pleased to see someone else had the same idea and executed it better than I would have.)

  • [Friend reposts Reddit question, How many “chuggas” are you supposed to say before “choo choo”?]

    Four is the right answer. But my kids say three. Where did I go wrong???

  • [Friend posts photo taken from his house: everything is orange, thanks to wildfire smoke.]

    Great shot. Walking my dog this morning, a neighbor said to me, “Welcome to Mars.”

  • [Wildfire smoke combined with temperature inversion.]

    For those still refusing to acknowledge who's responsible for the accelerating apocalypse, the sky is now the color of Trump's face.

  • There's a viral post that some people are copying and pasting today. It begins, “Beautifully said from an ER NURSE” and goes on to argue in favor of surrendering in our fight against COVID and just learning to accept the risk of death and disability it brings.

    Undoubtedly this post began life in a Russian troll farm, but it is experiencing success because it appeals to our growing desperation for a return to normality.

    I won't repeat the post here, of course, but I do want to share the response I wrote when I first encountered it earlier today. It includes some excerpts from the original post, for context.

    “What is the magic formula that is going to allow us to sound the all clear?”

    According to epidemiology experts, it's when testing produces a 3% true-positive rate or better, which we can do by decreasing the numerator (the number of cases) or increasing the denominator (the number of tests performed); ideally both.

    At 3%, we know from experience that the number of people who will responsibly self-isolate is high enough that our public health infrastructure can deal with those who won't, and with those who are positive but don't know it, in order to contain any local outbreaks.

    Some states, and most countries, are already there. Which U.S. States Meet WHO Recommended Testing Criteria?

    “I understand Covid can be deadly or very dangerous for SOME people, but so are strawberries and so is shellfish.”

    If I die from eating strawberries or shellfish, I do not take anyone with me. The problem here isn't the risk of death, per se. It's the risk of killing many others downstream from you, whether or not you die; it's the risk of long-term disability, if you have a bad case but survive; and it's the risk of overwhelming our medical and public-health infrastructure, so that doctors, nurses, medicines, beds, and equipment aren't there when you or others need them – if, for example, you eat some bad shellfish.

    “We know driving a car can be dangerous, we don't leave it in the garage.”

    When one or two or three or ten people are involved in a traffic accident, they don't cause the rate of accidents to increase for anyone else.

    In 2018, about 36,000 people died on U.S. roads. We are on track to more than 10x that this year with COVID. COVID-19 Projections

    Maybe that number's acceptable to you, but surely there's some threshold where it wouldn't be. Ask yourself: how many 9/11's per week are worth your being able to hug grandma? We're currently at 2, and growing.

    “When God decides it's your time”

    Is that the same God who helps those who help themselves?

  • [Resharing America Is Trapped in a Pandemic Spiral.]

    “The Comfort of Theatricality” … “The Normality Trap” … “Magical Thinking” … “The Habituation of Horror”

    “Army ants will sometimes walk in circles until they die. The workers navigate by smelling the pheromone trails of workers in front of them, while laying down pheromones for others to follow. If these trails accidentally loop back on themselves, the ants are trapped.”

  • “This is deadly stuff.” – Trump, to Bob Woodward in February.

    “The fifteen within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.” – Trump publicly, around the same time.

    “I didn't lie.” – Trump today.

    I guess it depends on what the definition of “is” is.

    • It depends on what the definition of “it is what it is” is.

    • [Friend writes, “Grab em by the…” didn't do it 4 years ago; this won't either.”]

      I have a story to tell. It's a bit long and a bit TMI, but stick with me.

      Many years ago, I brought a girl home. We had made specific plans to get intimate for the first time. I was very eager, and so was she, or so it seemed. But we didn't go through with it, for a health-related reason. I learned soon after that she lied to me about that reason, and faint echoes of the betrayal and indignation I felt lasted for decades.

      During those decades, I prided myself on being unequivocally one of the good guys: an ally of women who uses his male privilege to help ensure his female friends and colleagues are heard and valued, and one who has never put a woman in a compromising position, least of all in an intimate setting.

      It was only after the #MeToo movement started to unfold that it dawned on me: if she embellished the truth that night, she might have felt it necessary because of a lack of (in present-day jargon) a safe space to say no. She might simply have changed her mind, but having created an expectation in me, she couldn't just come out and say that. Actually, I'd like to think she could have, but it's hard for me to be sure that I would have reacted decorously, and harder still for her, all but trapped in my bedroom, to have relied on that. In hindsight, I realized I might have done the same thing in her position.

      Why do I bring this up? Because, as a supposedly enlightened thinker, I should have had this realization long before I was in my 50's. Instead it had become woven into the fabric of my personality: a story about me and my sense of grievance. It was unexamined for so long that it took months of repetitious #MeToo testimony in the media before I finally made the connection to the story about me and thought: maybe it was also a story about her.

      So yes, the odds are small that any particular criticism of Trump will change a Trump supporter's mind. But for those who are not entirely close-minded – those who simply concluded some time ago that they liked Trump and haven't seriously examined that decision since – sooner or later something in the unending stream of unflattering revelations about him will dislodge the belief “I like Trump” and subject it to a reevaluation. Repetition works.

    • [Friend writes, “How can this be real?”]

      With all due respect, I think the time for feeble expressions of disbelief is long past.

      I propose that whenever you feel yourself wanting to say something like this, you donate some money instead, or volunteer some time.

  • [Friend writes, “Remember when 3,000 American deaths could unite a nation? 200,000 American deaths… meh.]

    It's almost as if it was never about the 3,000 victims, only the 19 mean brown people.

  • [Discussing registering for classes. Couldn't remember the name “Fiat Lux,” UCLA's single-unit pass-fail seminars.]

    Me: For your first quarter as a freshman they recommend signing up for just three, with an optional… I forget the term…
    Jonah: “Fourth”?

    • I've said it before, but if I ever open a hair salon, I'm calling it Fiat Locks.

  • [Right-wing friend reposts clickbait link: “Resurfaced Video is DEVASTATING to Joe Biden's Campaign, Exposes How Much of a LIAR He Is.”]

    Trump: “Hold my beer.” President Trump has made more than 20,000 false or misleading claims

  • [Friend posts funny Twitter exchange: “Feel like 85% of editing is shortening your sentences” “85% of editing is shortening sentences.” “i’ll get you for this you son of a bitch”]

    “Brevity is… wit.”

    [Friend correctly recognizes quote is from the Simpsons episode “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington”

  • [Resharing a reality check on the danger of this moment from Congressman Jared Huffman.]

    “You can be afraid and hopeful and energized and focused on what you need to do all at the same time.”

  • Some time next year, if the election goes the wrong way.

  • [Comment on a friend's post.]

    Confession: each time I see your name, some cross-wiring fires in my brain, activating the high-school-Spanish memory that deber is the verb meaning “should,” so Debbie Goldstein reads to me like, “You should Goldstein.”

  • [Friend reshares appreciation of The Streets of San Francisco on the 48th anniversary of its premiere.]

    Stentorian voice: “A Quinn Martin production.”

  • Your mounting anxiety about the upcoming election is being engineered.

    Don't give the trolls a return on their investment.

    • Check this out (and see if you can beat my score of 6/8): Spot the Troll

    • (h/t to Chuck Fry, whose own score of 6/8 I thought I could beat)

  • [High-school friend asks for memories of Social Studies class.]

    Does it have to be SS-relevant?

    The first thing that came to mind was drawing one of my cartoons during class to get a laugh out of Benson Gee, but it worked too well and he laughed out loud, and we were busted. Mr. Ross came over to see what was so funny, and then the cartoon made him crack up.

  • [Rosh Hashanah.]

    May we all be inscribed for a sweet year.

  • [Friend reshares meme, “We isolate now / So when we gather again / No one is missing.” Labels it, “For Bob Glickstein, the Haiku master.”]

    Me, haiku master?
    Reputation precedes me
    Must not disappoint

  • [Friend shares a ten-year-old memory of a time we got together.]

    You mean there was a time when people went places and met each other?

  • [Resharing Rebecca Solnit's When the Hero is the Problem.]

    This captures some of the same sense I had as soon as people started writing “RIP RBG + USA” posts. As if she was the one thing standing between us and the abyss. If that were the case, there'd be nothing left of the US worth saving. But the fact is there are millions upon millions of us dedicated to democracy, equality, fairness, and the rule of law.

  • Only natural for those in power to protect what they have. That is at odds with democracy and even with capitalism, both of which depend crucially on competition – the enemy of safe incumbency. #OurVoteIsPower

  • Ouch.

  • [Resharing a Rebecca Solnit post.]

    “fear is as contagious as hope, and spreading it is optional”

    If we all act, we cannot lose. You can count on me. Can I count on you?

    Bonus: the wake-up-Nov-4th-with-no-regrets guide to action, from the comments on Rebecca Solnit's original post

  • A new Atlantic article details the ways in which Trump plans to steal the election, suppressing the vote if possible, subverting it in state legislatures and the courts otherwise. In a term full of challenges to the Constitution, it is his most direct and dangerous one.

    Time for a chorus of condemnation from patriotic Republicans of good conscience who put country above party!

  • [Resharing a Heather Cox Richardson post.]

    ”[T]here are two significant tells in Trump’s statement. First of all, his signature act is to grab headlines away from stories he does not want us to read. Two new polls today put Biden up by ten points nationally. Fifty-eight percent of Americans do not approve of the way Trump is doing his job. Only 38% approve of how he is handling the coronavirus. […]

    ”[Biden] has released detailed and clear plans for a Biden presidency. Focusing on four areas, Biden has called for returning critical supply chains to America and rebuilding union jobs in manufacturing and technology; investing in infrastructure and clean energy; […] increasing training and pay for those workers who care for children, elderly Americans, and people with disabilities; [and] leveling the playing field between Black and Brown people and whites, beginning by focusing on economic opportunity […]

    “The president’s antics also overshadow the reality that many prominent Republicans are abandoning him […]

    “And, of course, Trump’s declaration has taken the focus off the Republican senators’ abrupt about-face on confirming a Supreme Court justice in an election year. [It] is not popular. Sixty-two percent of Americans, including 50% of Republicans, think the next president should name Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement.

    “The second tell in Trump’s statement is that Trump’s lawyers confirmed […] their strategy is to leverage their power in the system to steal the election. Surely, they would want to keep that plan quiet… unless they are hoping to convince voters that the game is so fully rigged there is no point in showing up to vote.”

  • This is the weekend we were going to take Jonah to college, before college was relocated to his bedroom for the foreseeable future.

    That's a lot of money we're saving on hotels, meals out, dorm room furnishing, etc. So I sent a bunch of that money via ActBlue.com to some competitive congressional races that need it more than I do.

    Felt great, can recommend.

  • [Sharing an Eli Parisier post.]

    “There's an authoritarian playbook that Trump is using. There's also an anti-authorarian playbook that we can use [that] starts with believing in our power, collectively, to hold on to democracy. […]

    “Ultimately what determines whether autocrats maintain a hold on power is the behavior of a bunch of feckless bureaucrats, who are constantly assessing which way the wind is blowing. The more it looks and feels like they're on the wrong side of history, the more likely they are to support the rule of law. […]

    “So: Confidence. Sure, he may try some shenanigans. It's in his nature to do so. But we're not going to let him get away with it.”

    • “When the odds are saying you'll never win, that's when the grin should start.”

  • [Friend reshares meme asking if you would rehire a contractor who did to your house what Trump has done to the country. Other friend claims Trump supporters would prefer to blame others “that don't look like me” for problems rather than acknowledge their mistake.]

    I think it's more like, “Look, I don't agree with everything the guy does, because at least I wouldn't be hiring a freedom-hating liberal.”

  • I've just been approved by VoteFwd.org and will write letters to voters for an hour a day starting tomorrow.

  • [Friend observes that no one covers Talking Heads songs, because what could anyone add to them?]

    Not a cover, but a dead-on style parody. The song The Talking Heads would have written if they had written one more song. Dog Eat Dog

  • If Judge Barrett has the integrity that her supporters claim, there is only one choice for her and that is to withdraw from consideration.

  • [Sharing my project OK With That, which asks users to agree or disagree with numerous specific actions from the Trump administration.]

    So, you're a Trump supporter.

    Are you sure?

  • On the one hand, the air is thick with wildfire smoke. That's bad.

    On the other hand, it made me have a vivid smoking dream the other night. Though I quit cigarettes more than thirty years ago, the craving never entirely went away, and that dream was almost as good as the real thing.

    • See? Every cloud has a silver lining. Even a cloud of wildfire smoke.

  • I pity the history students of the future who will have to learn the Trump administration.

    • [Friend writes, “Don't worry, all the evidence will be deleted or shredded.”]

      Then I also pity the historians who will have to produce all the textbooks those poor students will have to study.

    • [Friend says his brother has written just such a book, and had to add a hasty chapter about the pandemic.]

      I am astonished that he hasn't felt the need to update it every single day since whenever he (thought he) was done! At any rate: super cool.

  • [Doctor friend warns us not to be too reassured by a single negative Covid test for Mike Pence (because of the high rate of false negatives).]

    “Reassured”?

  • I have been adding items to OK With That by hand, one by one by one, based on information scraped from a few different sites. I've been going in reverse chronological order and am up to 250 separate items, each one its own little outrage, and have only gotten as far as May of this year.

    • Or not so little, in many cases.

  • [Friend posts, “Kremlin-watchers update: the fact that Trump just skipped a phone call with governors, and has Tweeted very little, suggests that his symptoms are less ‘mild’ than they claim.”]

    “Kremlin-watchers update”

    Ouch. This is where we are now.

  • [High school friend posts photos of teachers from our yearbook.]

    If you had asked me to conjure Mr. Guarracino's face from memory I couldn't have told you a single detail. Yet I recognized him in an instant.

  • A few of you will appreciate this virtual event happening Saturday and Sunday: the Roguelike Celebration, a conference about Rogue-like games (such as the venerable Nethack, and variants both old and new). Tickets are pay-what-you-can. Hope to “look” you there! Roguelike Celebration

  • The Amy Coney Barrett Rose Garden ceremony is turning out to be a slow-motion version of the climax of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

  • [In reply to now-deleted tweet by Roman Mars about seeing one's book in bookstores.]

    I published a book once. Used to go into stores to take it off the shelf where it was spine-out, and display it cover-out. Good times.

  • [Friend reshares tweet, “Trump is being advised to resign in honor rather than leave in defeat.” Friend adds, “Thoughts and prayers, man.”]

    I'm not a praying man, but I am thinking soooo hard.

  • [Friend posts pictures of someone's very decked-out Star Wars-themed vehicle. Other friend asks if he's visiting me.]

    I swear, you're a Star Wars fan for half your life, people think you're a Star Wars fan for your whole life.

  • [Friend reshares post from “right wing Twitter”: “American men have lost all ability to keep the hysteria of their women in check. The women know it, and are punishing society for it. Women want, and need, a firm and steady hand.”]

    Don't forget that Russian trollbots troll liberals and conservatives both. This might be a strawman designed to provoke us and drive the wedge deeper.

  • Democracy has never been under a greater threat.

    Luckily it has never had a bigger army.

    Do your part, soldier.

  • [Friend sums up recent right-wing shenanigans driving a “green tsunami” of contributions to Democratic campaigns; asks “Is it foolish of me to feel any sense of optimism at this point?”]

    Optimism required. Complacency prohibited.

  • Archer's Snoopy Dance #tbt

    If the election goes the right way I will do this dance myself and share it with you.
    https://youtu.be/1OEAq4PF0mA

    • [A few weeks later.]

      It'll feel more like victory when this half-ridiculous, half-horrifying coup attempt is behind us. But a promise is a promise.
      Dad's Snoopy dance

    • I did look for a bright orange men's one-piece swimsuit, but strangely enough they don't make them in adult sizes. Unless it's a mankini, and neither of us wants that.

    • [Friend asks, “Please floss.]

      If we go two for two in the Georgia runoffs, it's a deal.

  • [Niece got married.]

    ❤️❤️❤️ ℂ𝝤𝘕ℊℛⒶ𝚃⒰ℒÅⓉ℩ℴℕ𝓢!!! ❤️❤️❤️

  • Driving turnout! Vote Forward #TheBigSend

    • [Friend says he's already mailed his ballot, too.]

      Nice! But these weren't ballots. These were handwritten letters to a few dozen voters urging them to cast their ballots.

    • [Another friend did 260 of these.]

      Fantastic! I thought I would do a batch of twenty every night for two or three weeks but it didn't turn out that way – not even close. But I don't feel too bad, because I created OK With That instead.

  • [Friend posts two photos of two different toilets from two different angles, asks which one to choose for their bathroom?]

    Facing forward, definitely.

  • [Friend seeks ways to work more quinoa, which they find unappetizing, into their diet.]

    This is my favorite way to get the quinoa that my cells, but not any of my senses, crave. Seeds of Change Organic Quinoa and Brown Rice

  • [Friend posts yearbook photo of the Brick Prison Playhouse gang.]

    My own contribution to the first BPP performance was eminently forgettable, but Steve+Andrew's “Horatio and Algernon” stuck with me. I typed it up from memory years later and I think it's mostly right: Horation and Algernon

  • [Friend posts article about Trump's Twitter account being hacked, writes that “had an easily guessed password and did not use two factor authentication,” laments the “missed opportunity.”]

    What is the most impactful thing you can imagine having done with his Twitter account if you could have? I'm having trouble coming up with anything at all.

    • [Another friend suggests, “Announce his withdrawal from the election?”]

      That would only set off a cycle of chaos, which is exactly what Trump himself uses it for.

  • [Sharing A Message to Democrats from Your New Ally shortly before the election.]

    “Do not hesitate to swagger. These last two weeks belong to you […] Now is when you turn a victory into a rout.”

  • [High school friend Peter B. sends a birthday greeting: “HBDTYHBDTYHBDDBHBDTY (&MTFBWY)”]

    TYPB&GL

  • [Niece sends a birthday rhyme: “Happy birthday uncle bob / Tho this year might have made you sob. / Today is your day! / To bad you can’t go outside and play. / So stay inside and drink some wine. / Have a bottle or two and you’ll be feeling fine. / Sit back and relax / But be careful there might not be enough toilet paper to wipe your a**!”]

    A birthday rhyme!!
    I send them all the time
    Now I've gotten one
    And I've been outdone!!

  • [Another birthday greeting: “Happy Bday!🎂👍🎊💃🌟🚀✨👏💫🎉⚡️☀️🌞🎂”]

    Thanks! That long string of emojis made me smile. But then I re-“read” it, dwelling on each one for a moment, and it made me smile even more.

  • [Friend wishes me “many happy returns of the day.”]

    Thank you! “Many happy returns of the day” is one of my favorite expressions. I can barely parse it but it sounds so old-timey and sincere.

  • [Screenwriter friend Joelle wishes me a happy birthday.]

    INT. SUBURBAN DINING ROOM – DAY

    A balding MAN, 50's, sits at his computer, sipping his morning coffee. He reads a social media post and smiles.

    MAN
    Aw, thanks Joelle.

    • [Joelle responds: “Netflix says you’re greenlit.”]

  • Live music! Drive-in concert with the amazing and eclectic Pink Martini.

  • [Friend sends late birthday greeting with adorable dog photo.]

    Hee hee hee hee! I don't care how late your birthday greeting is, this picture is welcome ANY TIME OF THE YEAR.

  • Hello, Trump supporters! Here is a partial list of people who were also Trump supporters like you, but who now publicly oppose him. Which is more likely: that you know something they don't? Or that they know something you don't?

    Former national security adviser John Bolton; former secretary of state Colin Powell; former Ohio governor John Kasich; former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina; former Michigan governor Rick Snyder; former Arizona senator Jeff Flake; former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff Miles Taylor; former Pennsylvania governor and secretary of homeland security Tom Ridge; former chair of the Republican National Committee Marc Racicot; former chair of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele; former secretary of defense Jim Mattis; former secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer; former general counsel for the Department of Homeland Security John Mitnick; former special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL Brett McGurk; former FBI director James Comey; former White House director of communications Anthony Scaramucci; former homeland security and counterterrorism adviser Olivia Troye; former Department of Homeland Security deputy chief of staff Elizabeth Neumann.

  • [Friend writes about his “creeping election dread.”]

    Only “creeping” for you? Lucky…

  • [Friend shares meme: a recorder gift set with “easy” sheet music from Frozen and the caption, “Do you know someone with kids? Do you hate that person?”]

    I heard an interview with Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who (with her husband Robert Lopez) wrote the songs and music for Frozen. She described going into a Disney store to buy something for her daughter. When she got to the counter, “Let It Go” was playing on the store's speakers, probably for the twentieth time that day. The clerk rang her up and she fished in her purse for her Disney employee discount card. The clerk said, “Oh! What do you do for Disney?” She replied bashfully, “Actually, I wrote this song.” The horror-struck clerk said, “WHY??”

  • [Suzanne’s birthday.]

    My first three years were lonely
    I had no sister yet
    And then, on this day, years ago
    The two of us first met

    And now I had a sister!
    My first and lifelong friend
    If fates allow, this day, next year
    By God, with her I'll spend

    • [Suzanne thanks me for being her big brother, posts this photo.]

      Hey I remember this picture. I think I'm saying to you, “We're gonna know SO MANY MOVIES.”

  • [Sean Connery dies.]

    Oh I feel terrible. I made a “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die” joke just yesterday.

  • [Dad posts a new drawing.]

    Thanks for Chering!

  • None shall pass.

  • Happy eighth birthday to Pepper the dog!

  • [Cousin Carol's birthday.]

    I did not get you
    New apparel
    So here's a rhyme
    For Cousin Carol

    (Hope you like
    My rhymes for “Carol”
    They had me over
    The so-called barrel.)

  • [Friend posts webcomic, “House Of Grammer Horrors: Grammer Nerds Will Loose There Mind!”]

    I literally died.

  • According to Google Maps there are no poke bars named Ponzu Scheme. This is a travesty.

  • A big bag of leftover candy from Halloween, followed just a few days later by a stressful election? Whose bright idea was this??

  • [After the election, friend laments the large number of “racist assholes” who voted for Trump.]

    Racist, yes. Assholes, mostly no. If you lived in a news desert / propaganda bubble like much of the country does, you'd vote the same way, and believe you were doing it for the right reasons.

    • [Friend objects, “if you're racist, you're definitely an asshole.”]

      Imagine you're a white voter in a rural county in the middle of the country somewhere. You believe strongly in justice and fairness. Black and brown people should enjoy the same rights, protections, and opportunities as white people. You even speak up about this when your beer buddies voice their racist attitudes.

      But in the place you live, and have never left, you seldom encounter anyone who's not just like you. And you live in a news desert. So you have no direct experience to contradict the propaganda that, by means both overt and subtle, have convinced you and everyone around you that American racism is a solved problem. Why, we just recently had a black president! What other proof do you need?

      So you don't oppose ending affirmative action programs, and you don't oppose gutting the Voting Rights Act. Why would you? Those may have been needed once, to re-level a tilted playing field, but keeping them in place now that their work is done would be tilting it the other way. That's not justice and fairness.

      Some day, you might learn more on the topic and realize that racism is not solved, and when you do, you will be appalled and change your mind. You will consider yourself more woke, and happy to be so. But that day is not today.

      In this scenario, you are a racist. But you are not an asshole.

    • [Another friend asks how we get that message through, that racism is not a solved problem.]

      Good question. To some extent, having the opportunity and capacity to confront and change one's own unconscious attitudes is a marker of privilege, requiring exposure to alternate viewpoints, time for reflection, and certain habits of thought that are far from common. It is too much to hope that meaningful numbers of people will change their minds this way.

      However, I took heart from this article, which argues that what we're seeing in the country in general is what we saw in California in the mid-1990's. And as has often been true over the decades, as California goes, so goes the nation. The regressive xenophobia of that period gave way to inclusiveness and tolerance, in an almost organic way (not to minimize the hard work of the various coalitions that remade things). We should expect to see the rest of the country catch up over the next several years. Here's hopin’. California is the United States of America, Just Sooner

  • [Friend fact-checks Biden's comment that Trump will be only the fourth U.S. president not to be re-elected. In fact there have been nine, and Ford doesn't count because he was never elected president in the first place.]

    Ford wasn't even elected vice president.

  • San Francisco, this week: San Francisco voters pass “Overpaid Executive Tax”

    Me, seven years ago: The Sigma Tax

  • [Right-wing friend posts, “We're being told to accept the results by the same people who've spent 4 years not accepting the results.”]

    There's a difference between not liking the results and not accepting the results. I don't think you can point to a single instance where a Democrat, unhappy about 2016, did anything but work within our system of Constitutional government to constrain Trump. That's not liking the results. On the other hand, very little of Trump's present behavior shows respect for the Constitution. Indeed he's doing everything he can to subvert it. That's not accepting the results.

  • [Three days later, Biden finally clinches the election.]

    Just got back from walking the dog. Scattered whooping and applause could be heard coming from every direction.

  • [Friend posts photo of man in Central Park who, after the election, arranged big letters to spell “BREATHE.”]

    If it had gone the other way, they could have spelled, “Rat be he.”

  • [Friend posts Yonatan Zunger Twitter thread from a few years ago.]

    “Historically, there has been exactly one solution for Nazis. It did not come cheap.”

    Nor was it even a solution, apparently.

  • [On a post by Congressman Jared Huffman (a renowned atheist) thanking supporters for his re-election and describing the work ahead of fighting for American values of justice and fairness while healing the divisions in the country.]

    Neither one of us is a religious man, but I can think of no better thing to say at this moment than God bless you.

  • Dreamed that someone had found, and was mounting a production of, the short play I wrote at age 16 for the inaugural Brick Prison Playhouse performance. It was mortifying.

    • I've never been so happy for an early phone call to interrupt my sleep.

  • What's worse: one fraudulent vote cast? Or one legitimate vote suppressed?

    • The right answer is that both are bad, of course: a rhetorical question whose followup is, “So why do we see so much effort by the GOP to prevent one and nothing at all to prevent the other?”

  • [On Thanksgiving, friend asks, “Who else has bought the WKRP turkey drop episode so they can make their kids watch it every year?”]

    I didn't buy it, but I found a copy online and we do exactly that.

    Now, if you can find a copy with the original music (including Pink Floyd's “Dogs,” without which Mr. Carlson's comment to Johnny – “Do I hear dogs barking on that?” – makes no sense) I would pay money.

    Unfortunately, the climax of the episode (and the unforgettable denouement) are so absolutely amazing that the equally genius first half does not get the respect it deserves.

  • Biden's victory was fraudulent, so you say. Question: in what way would a legitimate Biden victory look different?

  • [Friend tweets GIF of biking between rows of construction pylons, comments, “Stay on target.”]

    Just like Beggars Canyon

  • Yesterday my marriage to Andrea turned 21! So naturally…

  • [Right-wing friend reshares anti-pandemic-restrictions meme telling his state's governor, “when you pay my bills, you can tell me how many people I can have in my house.”]

    When I read this, it sounds the same as “No one can tell me how much dry kindling I can store on my porch during this raging wildfire.”

    I'm not saying this to antagonize you. I'm saying it because I don't want you or your family to die.

    [Appended: chart showing spike in Covid casese in friend's county.]

  • [Covid-surviving friend reports the return of her sense of smell after eight long months.]

    Yay!

    I am super-curious: was it like a switch being flipped, where one moment you couldn't smell and the next you could? Or was it the kind of gradual thing where you finally realize, “Oh, hey, I've been smelling things for a little while!”

    [Answer: It was like a switch being flipped!]

  • [Resharing Adam Davidson's tweet about being OK with a truth-and-reconciliation process.]

    The part of me that loves justice would like to see Trump prosecuted. But a more pragmatic part of me kind of doesn't care what happens to him personally (especially if we can have a truth-and-reconciliation-style full accounting). His ability to dominate our national discourse is coming to an end.

    However, the pragmatic part of me does care very, very much about what happens to Betsy DeVos, Louis DeJoy, and Everyone DeElse who enabled him. The next dictator wannabe is waiting in the wings, and he'll need cooperation in subverting our democracy (again). Whether or not he gets it will depend a lot on how we deal with the current rogues gallery.

  • I know my birthday was a few weeks ago, but since most of you didn't send gifts I figure it's not too late to ask you for what I really want:

    I want you not to die, or get sick, or sicken or kill others. Please take the coronavirus REALLY REALLY SERIOUSLY for at least the next few weeks.

    There is more virus out there now than ever. Your odds of encountering it are the highest they've been, and the “dose” you're likely to get is higher too.

    And you just know that plenty of people all over the country are going to ignore the advice and the pleading. They're going to travel and create thousands of virus-spreading events. So by the time Thanksgiving is over, the blizzard of virus flying around will make today's record-setting amount look like flurries.

    So remember a hundred years ago, in March, when shelter-in-place was novel and kinda fun and we weren't all sick to death of it? I need you to access that feeling again and really commit to staying home and staying away from others. Because if you're not part of the solution you really are part of the problem, and this particular problem is no fucking joke.

  • [Friend reshares meme: Norman-Rockwell-style painting of a Thanksgiving gathering, but the turkey on a platter is a giant coronavirus.]

    Daaamn

  • “Dungarees” is not in my kids’ vocabulary. When did that word die, and why?

    • Did the fashion-jeans trend of the ‘80s kill it?

    • What new use could we put that word to now that it's available?

    • [Friend suggests, “Define a measurement scale for bullshit? ‘Today's statements by Rudy Giuliani were recorded at 71 dungarees, a new record high for Philadelphia courtrooms.’”]

      Degrees of dung. Love it.

  • [Resharing 16 Photos Of Rudy Giuliani In A Hot Room.]

    If I live to be a million I will never understand how it is possible to be Rudy Giuliani and not crawl under a rock as soon as I wake up every morning.

  • [Resharing headline, “Michigan lawmakers said they would honor the outcome of the state's election process, another blow to President Trump”]

    Technically, isn't it the same blow?

    • “You lost the election. And now, guess what: you lost the election.”

  • [Resharing Edward Norton: Call Trump's Bluff]

    Trump hopes “to create enough chaos and anxiety about a peaceful transfer of power, and fear of irreparable damage to the system, that he can cut a Nixon-style deal in exchange for finally conceding. But he doesn't have the cards.”

  • [Resharing I Lived Through A Stupid Coup. America Is Having One Now.]

    “You have taken an orderly system balancing a whole lot of chaos and fucked with it. I don’t know how it’s going to explode, but I can promise you this. It’s going to explode.”

    I am eager to disbelieve the point this article makes, which in turn makes me mistrust any rationalization that attempts to refute it. Here's the best one I've got anyway: the “ticking bomb” at the heart of our democracy isn't one that will explode at some unknown point in the future, it's one that has been going off at intervals since the mid-19th century.

  • Is it just me, or is everyone's internal monologue periodically interrupted by the involuntary composition of new verses for “Gaston”?

    No one thinks like Gaston
    No one drinks like Gaston
    On a sweaty day, nobody stinks like Gaston!

    No one's smart like Gaston
    Throws a dart like Gaston
    And no one can belch or can fart like Gaston!

    • “I'm uniquely accomplished at eructating!”

    • [Friend comments, “No one sings it like Bob / Recalls jingles like Bob / Does ridiculous lyrical things quite like Bob”]

  • [Friend reshares Bruce Schneier's article on why blockchain voting is a terrible idea.]

    I am a blockchain expert, and I approve this message.

  • [Friend laments the reaction of Trump supporters to the election.]

    “Can you imagine what would have gone on if Hillary had pulled the shit that 45 is pulling”

    Exactly the same thing that happened anyway: frothing, foaming, unceasing expressions of rage. Monsters from the id.

  • [Resharing G.M. Drops Its Support for Trump Climate Rollbacks and Aligns With Biden]

    Way to blow with the wind!

  • We don't get a ton of colorful fall foliage here in Northern California, but happily some of what we do get is right on my street.

  • [Friend recovering from knee-replacement surgery.]

    Good luck! Picture Lee Majors on the treadmill. “Better. Stronger. Faster.”

  • [Friend traveling during pandemic posts photos of completely deserted Seoul airport.]

    Sole Seoul soul

  • [Resharing Rudy's Racist Rants: An NYPD History Lesson]

    I don't know how I managed not to know about this incident. Probably something to do with having just moved to California at the time, and being consumed with startup life.

    Now I can't help but wonder, if this was New York City's reaction to its first black mayor, whether what we've been living through for the past few years is a larger-scale version of the same thing: America's reaction to its first black president.

  • Happy would-be birthday, mom! We miss you and the fun-loving child you remained at heart.

  • You heard it here first: When Covid deaths continue to be high for the first few months of 2021, Republicans will scream that the Biden administration isn't doing enough.

  • [Thanksgiving.]

    Thankful is not a strong enough word for how I feel about having my family around.

  • First-ever attempt at Eggs Benedict a smashing success, thanks to the folks at Bon Appétit who told me I don't need to spend all morning whisking tirelessly over a double-boiler, and I don't need to carefully swirl my egg-poaching water or even add vinegar.

    Bonus: each bite contains 100% of the USRDA of butter!
    Molly Makes Eggs Benedict for a Crowd

  • [Friend posts thoughtful lament about recent proprietary e-mail “standards” which could never have happened “when the IETF was alive.”]

    Can you elaborate on what you mean by “when the IETF was alive”? I don't know, for instance, whether you think the IETF has become irrelevant, or toothless, or dysfunctional, or dominated by corporate interests, or a combination, or something else.

    [Answer: all of the above, with some additional comments, including, “Every Internet protocol that was designed prior to 1994 is an open IETF (or W3C) protocol. Virtually nothing at the application layer has been designed that way since.”]

  • [Friend posts tweet saying, “Something I heard a lot growing up: Girls, boys mature more slowly than you. Make allowances for them. Something I never heard: Boys, girls mature more rapidly than you. Look to them as examples of intelligence and leadership.”]

    Seems like there's a built-in catch-22 in trying to tell an immature person where to seek maturity.

  • [Online estimator of where one is in line for the coronavirus vaccine.]

    I'm way far in the back of the line. Which makes me wonder: how much vaccination has to happen before even unvaccinated people start seeing an appreciable decrease in infection risk?

  • [Friend reshares Kazakhstani bodybuilder marries sex doll after whirlwind romance; questions whether the doll is over 18 and has consented.]

    “Silence gives consent.”

  • Alas, Netflix's DVD service is a shadow of its former self. Turnaround time to get new discs sent out used to be hours and is now days. And their catalog is full of holes that never used to exist. In just a few minutes of casual searching I found no entries for The Brink's Job, Spice World, Ishtar, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, Serial, and 1979's Rich Kids. OG Netflix would at least have had a placeholder page for those titles.

    Between “orphaned works” (titles whose copyright holders can't be identified) and media-format obsolescence I worry about all the titles being memory-holed.

    • The definitive article on orphaned works: In Search of the Last Great Video Store

    • [Friend comments, “many would consider Ishtar becoming an unmovie a good thing.”]

      Intelligent people can disagree (and have) about the merits of Ishtar, but that's beside the point. Even bad movies are worth preserving as capsules of sociohistorical import, particularly when bad movies get made by great stars.

  • [Friend solicits “random advice.”]

    Park sooner, not closer.

    • A polite “take your time” works better than “hurry up.”

  • [Friend reshares tweet saying, “Poll after poll shows that those $1,200 checks are quite literally one of the most popular things the government has done in a while” adds “Socialism unites America (but don't call it that).”]

    “Unitedism.”

  • [Friend reshares tweet containing bizarre ad, says, “I'll bet you a dozen Dunkin' Donuts you will not see the product reveal coming.”]

    I mentally took your bet. Now I owe you donuts.

  • [Friend writes that she has a lot of advent calendars.]

    You're “advent”urous.

  • [Amplifying a comment I made on another post.]

    At the moment PredictIt is giving Biden only an 86% chance of winning the presidency. That means if you believe the election results will withstand the current shenanigans you can earn a tidy 16.2 cents on every dollar – free money!

    If the election results don't withstand the current shenanigans, you've got worse problems than the money you lost at PredictIt.
    Which party will win the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election?

  • Jonah, recently: “How old is Han Solo supposed to be in the original Star Wars?”
    Me, somehow remembering the exact text of the novelization that I read 43 years ago: “Perhaps five years older than Luke, perhaps a dozen.”

    • I also remember a couple of idiosyncratic phrases getting repeated, in a display of lazy writing and/or editing. Shields “barely shunted aside” incoming laser blasts more than once. And “gauges whined in protest” multiple times.

  • [Friend posts that a new Indiana Jones movie is coming, jokes: “Indiana Jones and the Kids Who Need to Get Off My Lawn.”]

    1981: “It's not the years, honey. It's the mileage.”
    2021: “OK, now it's the years.”

  • [They decline to hear Trump's challenge to the election results.]

    Even so, the Supreme Court still has a long way to go to atone for Bush v. Gore.

  • Science takes your causes and tells you their effects.

    Engineering takes your effects and tells you how to cause them.

  • [In a discussion about the Republicans who supported Trump's challenges to the election results out of fear of unhinged Trump supporters.]

    “signing a document they knew would not win to having their families threatened”

    I am sympathetic to this, to an extent. I can't pretend that I would be any more brave than those Republicans who caved for this reason. But it's worth pointing out that everyone who goes along with this sort of bullying only ends up emboldening the bully and making things that much harder for everyone else.

  • I've just outlived Osama bin Laden.
    Outlived

  • [Friend reshares meme, “Stop trying to be liked by everybody. You don't even like everybody.”]

    But that's the problem: I know how I feel about certain folks and I don't want anyone to feel that way about me.

  • [Friend posts quote from Senator Rand Paul ahead of the Georgia Senate runoff: “I'm very, very concerned that if you solicit votes from typically non-voters, that you will affect and change the outcome.”]

    “I'm very, very concerned that if you discourage and disenfranchise voters, that will affect and change the outcome.” Me
  • [Andrea's birthday.]

    We met when we were kids
    And being young was great
    It helped our love to blossom

    I would have scoffed back then
    But doing it with you
    Makes getting old be awesome

    Happy birthday!!

  • How did the peck of peppers Peter Piper picked get pickled?

The spirit of the season

‘Twas the night before Christmas
In, I think, ’82
And for once, the day came
With no things left to do

The gifts had been bought
And been wrapped in advance
To relax and be still
We at last had the chance

We sat in the living room
Candle-lit, calm
And chatted like grownups
Not a boy and his mom

The Christmas decor
Caught the flickering light
It sparkled and gleamed
As we talked through the night

Our tone, as we spoke
Was hushed and subdued
Neither one wishing
To spoil the mood

It’s my perfectest mem’ry
Of how Christmas could be
I wish peace like this
To my friends and fam’ly

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.

Darnedest negotiation 2016


(Strangely, this one also has to do with socks.)

Jonah: Archer, can I borrow your black socks?
Archer: If… [thinks] …you give me a compliment.
Jonah: You have excellent socks.

(Previously.)

Made man


We made a man.

When the planets literally aligned for his first appearance, thirteen years ago today, Andrea and I hoped to make him smart, confident, hard-working, and respectful (despite having to guess at how one achieves that). We never dared to imagine we’d get funny, honest, handsome, inquisitive, thoughtful, athletic, resourceful, kind, generous, friendly, responsible, dependable, creative, and mature into the bargain, but that’s what we got.

We take some of the credit for laying the foundation, but most of that good stuff is all you, Jonah. We’re long past being merely proud of you. It is a privilege to know you.

Porn talk


My older son is closing in on 13 years old, has Internet access, and wears the same size shoes as I do. So I figured it’s time to have the Porn Talk with him.

I sat down to write a bullet list of talking points that I wanted to be sure to cover, but it came out in essay form instead. It’s reproduced below. Note the careful omission of judgmental and heteronormative language. If the values expressed are similar to yours, please feel free to repurpose this for your own parental porn talk.


There are good things about porn, bad things about porn, and in-between things about porn. It’s important to know about all of them before you get too involved with it.

First, the obvious. Porn can be fun. It’s exciting, it’s arousing, it’s a sort of “preview of coming attractions” before your actual sex life begins. It can help you learn about what sexual things you like and what things you don’t at a time when experimenting with other people is not possible (or at least not a good idea). It can answer some of your questions about sex, ones that maybe you’re too embarrassed to ask, or ones you simply didn’t think of. Being interested in porn is normal and OK. I’d be more concerned about a 13-year-old boy who wasn’t.

Now the not so obvious. Most porn is very different from real-life sex. In porn, the men and women have perfect bodies, are easily excited, and are always up for anything. They do not worry about pregnancy or about sexually transmitted diseases. This is a fantasy. You should not expect real sex to be just like porn any more than you’d expect real archaeology to be like Raiders of the Lost Ark. In real life, bodies aren’t perfect, people aren’t always in the mood, and sometimes you or your partner will say “ow” or “stop” or “no, I don’t want to do that.” I don’t mean that real-life sex isn’t amazing – it often is. It’s also sometimes just OK, and sometimes it’s even bad, like everything else in real life.

There is a serious problem that exists among some people who look at porn: they can develop unrealistic expectations about sex and about their partners. When things aren’t just like what they learned in porn, they get disappointed and disinterested. This can really interfere with their intimate relationships and mess up their lives. This doesn’t mean that you should accept a partner who disappoints you. The point of dating is to find someone with whom you’re compatible, who is into the same things (sexually and otherwise) and whom you find exciting. It’s OK to want a little fantasy in your sex life. But if all you know is porn, you risk closing yourself off to the wider, richer world of real-life sex.

Beyond that, there are worse problems. One is the problem of porn addiction, which is a real thing to be feared. You can become addicted to anything that gives you pleasure. It’s a biochemical change in the brain, which is what makes it so difficult to reverse. (You can read more about it here.) This is why we say that things should be enjoyed “in moderation.”

How can you tell the difference between innocent enjoyment on the one hand, and problematic addiction on the other? It’s actually pretty easy. When it starts interfering with other parts of your life, it’s an addiction. You may act towards other people in ways you wouldn’t normally choose to. You may skip activities in which you would normally participate. You might perform poorly on schoolwork or other tasks that you could usually do well. You definitely want to avoid getting addicted, because once you have an addiction, breaking it is very, very hard. To avoid addiction, exercise control over when you look at porn. Don’t let it exercise control over you. To reverse addiction, you first have to be able to acknowledge it exists, which can be hard all by itself. (A good rule of thumb: if you ever find yourself insisting, to yourself or others, that you don’t have a problem, that’s a sign that you probably do.) Seek help from someone, and get yourself involved in one or more different activities to divert your brain’s attention from what it’s craving.

Another serious problem is that, although there’s plenty of porn out there depicting joyful and even loving sex between consenting partners, there is also unfortunately a lot of the opposite: porn that is humiliating to someone, or degrading, or even violent. Porn with one or more of the people clearly not enjoying themselves. Sometimes it’s just an act, but much more often the people in this kind of porn are trapped in a life that’s little better than slavery, and the people producing this kind of porn are genuinely evil. Stay away from this stuff. Not only does looking at it encourage the scum that makes it; the bad vibes can take you to a dark place, messing up your head and your future sex life.

Some porn is actually illegal – illegal to make, and even illegal to look at, and people go to jail for it all the time. This does not apply to most normal porn featuring consenting adult men and women, but even that exists in a grey area where very many people disapprove of it, sending the police and the courts after them at every opportunity. (A great movie about this, which is also a true story, is The People vs. Larry Flynt.) As a result, the whole porn world is sort of semi-legal, and that invites certain kinds of scam artists. Beware of identifying yourself in any way to any porn site. If you are invited to chat, ignore it. Don’t answer survey questions. If you are offered a free signup to some new site, ignore it. Definitely do not respond to requests for photos or video of yourself or others. Disable “browser cookies” if possible. I can show you how. And do not download files; they are almost guaranteed to turn your computer into part of a criminal botnet under the control of Russian gangsters!

The point of all this is not to scare you or to be a killjoy. It’s only that if you’re not aware of this stuff and you’re not careful, it’s all too easy to land on content you’re better off avoiding, or to mess yourself up in a variety of ways. Forewarned is forearmed.

The most important thing is to remember that you can talk to me about any of this any time you like. If you have questions, if you see anything that bothers or worries you, if you have anything you want to express, I’m here. I promise never to embarrass you and to keep everything just between us. Don’t forget, I was a 13-year-old boy once too, and I was also every age you’re going to be for the next few decades. There’s bound to be some info in my head that you’d find helpful, and even when there isn’t, sometimes all you need is someone who’ll listen.

A Chanukah miracle

The following is completely true.

Chanukah begins later this week. Yesterday Andrea and I realized that we don’t know where our Chanukah menorah is. This has happened a few times over the years, and on a couple of those occasions we simply went and bought a new one. Sooner or later of course the old one always turned up, with the result that we now have a small collection of menorahs. We suspected that our menorahs were in a box in our recently rearranged storage space, but the prospects for getting there and searching through the boxes before Chanukah begins were nil. So we decided to task the kids with building one out of Lego or something.

That was in the afternoon. Soon after that conversation we all went out for dinner. When we returned, not yet having given the kids their menorah-making assignment, we discovered the doors of the kitchen pantry were open, and the contents of one shelf spilled out, as if someone had been rummaging through it in a hurry. But no one had. Standing upright on the floor, in the center of the spilled shelf contents, was our menorah.

For someone who doesn’t exist, God sure does want me to light Chanukah candles.

Kids provoke the darnedest thoughts

A few days ago, as Archer and I were driving somewhere in the car, he asked me this question clear out of the blue: If you could live forever, what would you want to accomplish?

I have seldom heard a more profound question, and I told him so. After a moment’s thought, the answer that popped into my head — and from then until now, the only real answer that has occurred to me — was, “Help people use the Earth more responsibly.”

I do my part: I recycle, I drive a fuel-economical car, I vote in favor of open-space measures, I turn off lights, and so on. But that’s armchair environmentalism. Archer’s question, and my surprising reply, makes me think maybe it’s time to start doing more. I don’t expect to live forever, but I do hope my descendants will. Shouldn’t I act as if that’s the same thing?

Santa is dead. Long live Santa.

My kids know the truth about Santa Claus. Do you?

It happened on my birthday, of all days, a year ago. The boys were seven-and-a-half and nine-and-a-half. For a few months prior, whenever Santa Claus came up in conversation, whichever boy was speaking would cast me or my wife a sidelong glance and say pointedly, “a.k.a. Mom and Dad!” and the conversation would continue without further comment. So the bubble had already burst, they just lacked official confirmation — which notably they didn’t explicitly seek until we were sitting all together in the living room, getting ready to watch my birthday movie selection. When they did, I asked if they really wanted to know the truth. Archer, who is younger, just barely did, in my judgment. Jonah was burning for it.

So I opened the Wikipedia page about the real St. Nicholas and talked about him for a bit, and how he became renowned as a gift-giver. He was an ordinary man, so of course he died; but the gift-giving idea lived on.

Today, around Christmas every year, the spirit of St. Nicholas takes hold of parents everywhere. So although there’s no guy with a magical sleigh, and other parts of the story certainly are made up, still, in a very real way — and I told them this is honestly exactly what I believe — there is a Santa Claus, and Santa Claus is the idea of giving, and he/it really does travel around the whole world in a single night! He just needs us parents to do his work for him. You’ve heard of Santa’s elves? We’re it.

The boys seemed pretty happy with this explanation. Jonah, for his part, was happy merely to have Santa Claus officially debunked. I repeated my point about the reality of Santa Claus, and Archer said, “I half-believe you and I half-believe Jonah.” “Making up your own mind. I love that,” I told him.

Soon after that we let the boys see Batman Begins, despite some concerns about age-appropriateness. There’s the scene where Bruce Wayne decides he has to have a costumed alter ego:

“As a man, I’m flesh and blood. I can be ignored. I can be destroyed. But as a symbol? As a symbol I can be incorruptible. I can be everlasting.” The point being that if Bruce Wayne is ever injured or killed (or grows too old, which is the premise of Batman Beyond), someone else can don the suit and take over as Batman. In a way this is exactly what happened with St. Nicholas — the Bruce Wayne of gift-giving. Now that was a Santa explanation the kids could relate to.