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?

Decade done

Another year, another silent prayer that next year’s social-media utterances are less fraught and more fun. (Previously.)

  • [A friend made a “time to make the donuts” post.]

    “Time to make the donuts” is my first waking thought most days.

    The weird thing is, a different Facebook friend made a “time to make the donuts” comment (to which I made the same reply) a year ago, as one of the very first posts of 2018.

    So a new year is now “time to make a time to make the donuts” post.

  • [When someone shared the right wing meme “shove the border wall down their throats like they shoved Obamacare down ours.”]

    Why are you in favor of a border wall?

    Why are you opposed to the ACA?

    Why are you in favor of a government shutdown?

    [Later in the thread, replying to “have a obligation to stop the eligals and drugs coming into our country.”]

    To support building a border wall to solve this problem, you have to believe (a) that this is a big enough crisis and (b) the border wall is the right solution.

    If you believe both of those things, ask yourself where that belief came from. If it came from people you know whose opinions you trust, ask where their belief came from.

    I think you’ll find it all originates as Fox News propaganda. Forgive me for presuming, but the fact that you didn’t know Obamacare is really called the Affordable Care Act reinforces this belief. Having successfully demonized Barack Obama, Fox News makes a point always to attach his name to things they want their audience to despise.

    No expert in immigration or border security takes either (a) or (b) seriously. But Fox News is committed to selling the urgency of the wall to those of us who aren’t experts.

    Why would they want you to despise the ACA and support a border wall? Because if the ACA is a success, that means the Democratic party sometimes deserves your vote. And if the border wall is a mistake, that means the Republican party sometimes doesn’t. And Fox News is in the business of making sure you think Democrats are the literal enemy.

    Hence the “let’s do to them what they did to us” framing of your original post: it’s part of a program to drive a wedge between us, to convince us all that we’re at each other’s throats. To make us forget that we have centuries of experience compromising and finding common ground.

    That, after all, is what democracy is – the messy business of figuring out what we can all agree on. As we’ve seen, it works wonders. It made us the most successful nation in human history. But democracy – “rule by the people” – is by definition a threat to those already in power. So they are forever trying to undermine it. It’s our job not to let them.

    [Later still, after a counterargument consisting mainly of “as far as Trump goes, he’s a intelegent business man.”]

    Is he? How do you know?

    I’m going to say something uncontroversial: Han Solo and Indiana Jones are two of the coolest movie characters of my lifetime. Both have loads of charm and wit.

    Harrison Ford plays them both. Have you ever seen him in a talk-show interview?

    https://youtu.be/HRwsWmBC2bc
    https://youtu.be/Xprm-H1mWPE

    The man is a block of wood with zero charisma. But give him a script and some direction, point a camera at him, and suddenly women want to have his babies, men want to start wearing fedoras and leather jackets, and movie studios want to pay him eight figures because they know they’ll earn back ten.

    You see where I’m going with this, right? Maybe Trump is an intelligent businessman… or maybe his real skill is in simply playing one on TV, with as much actual skill in leadership and negotiating as Harrison Ford has in archaeology.

    How can we know which is right? If you wanted to know if someone’s a successful businessman, one thing you would not do is believe the man’s own pronouncements about his prowess. In fact you’d do the opposite, knowing that only weak men feel the need to insist they’re rich and powerful.

    No, you’d look at the health of the companies he’s started. You’d gauge his ability to hire and retain top talent, and earn their loyalty and respect. You’d see how often he manages to achieve his goals by aligning the interests of different groups of stakeholders.

    By those measures, Trump is a failure on an operatic scale. Nearly every venture he ever started is now bankrupt and/or under criminal investigation. He employs his relatives because, like a mob boss, he can’t trust anyone else in his inner circle, which is a revolving door of backstabbers that leads, for many, to jail or ruin. In fact so few people are willing to work for him that some of the most coveted high-power jobs in Washington go unfilled. Virtually none of his campaign goals has been realized.

    “But he’s a self-made billionaire” you say. He is neither self-made nor a billionaire. (Why do you think he refuses to disclose his tax returns?) There has now been extensive reporting and judicial scrutiny that shows young Donald Trump burned through money faster than his rich father could find ways to skirt the tax laws to give him more; and that in the early 2000’s Trump was in such a dire financial situation that he had no choice but to link up with an international money-laundering cartel.

    Of course he says he a genius businessman. What else is he going to say?

    [Much later, after someone commented “it shows Congress we the people run this country not them.”]

    After their experience rebelling against King George, the Founding Fathers rightly mistrusted executive authority. That’s why they gave most of the power in the Constitution not to the President, but to Congress – the body consisting of the directly elected representatives of “we the people.” The job of the President is mainly to carry out the decisions reached by Congress.

    It’s true that, over the years, this balance of power has changed as Congress has granted more authority to the executive branch. This has happened bit by bit by bit, mostly when Congress has felt the need to punt on some politically difficult decision. It’s a design flaw in the Constitution. Nevertheless, it’s a mistake to say that letting the President have his way means we the people are in charge. In fact it means the exact opposite.

    [Very much later.]

    I see plenty of debate on this thread, which is good. Frustrating as it can seem at times, that’s democracy! That’s literally exactly what democracy is.

    What I don’t see is debate about the basic premise:

    • Whether a crisis exists;
    • If it does, whether addressing the crisis involves making the southern border a little bit harder to cross.

    You’re all assuming the answers to the first two questions are “yes” and “yes” and have jumped straight to “is a wall the best way to make the southern border a little bit harder to cross?”

    That’s not an accident. That’s manipulation.

    Keep in mind that the oldest trick in the seizing-more-power playbook is to gin up some crisis, make enough people believe in it, and convince them that you’re the one who can solve it.

    So, does a crisis exist? How do you know?

    [Then came a meme: Dorothy asks The Scarecrow, “But how do you talk without a brain?” and The Scarecrow replies, “I’m a Democrat.”]

    What’s more important: scoring 🤣 points from people who already agree with you? Or finding common ground with those who don’t? One’s easy, fun, and a cop-out; one’s hard, thankless, and your civic duty.

    Obviously I disagree with the original post and some of the opinions in this thread. In response I have patiently tried to persuade others to understand my point of view. I have insulted no one. I invite you and everyone to treat your fellow countrymen with the same respect.

    [Finally, a right-wing meme asking why the government can erect so many thousands of miles of sound walls alongside highways but should be prevented from building a border wall.]

    Are you posing this question in a sincere effort to get an answer?

    If so, here’s mine:

    • These would make ineffective border walls. Effective border walls would have to be much higher and stronger, and they’d have to be built (and maintained) in much more remote and rugged places. They would therefore be much, much more expensive.
    • A wall would do very little to protect our lives, which are not meaningfully threatened by the southern border.
    • There are many better uses for the same money and manpower that would protect our lives from actual, serious threats.
    • History has shown the folly of erecting border walls.
  • [When asked if I can explain why it’s ok to spend $XX billion on foreign aid but not $X billion on a border wall.]

    Yes! It’s easily explained by this:

    Don Corleone understands that when you’re rich and powerful, doing favors for others places them in your power.

    When we give foreign aid to other countries, we can influence their policies to our benefit. On one end of the influence spectrum, we can threaten to cut off their aid. On the other end of the spectrum, we can offer to forgive their debt. Most of our international relations are conducted somewhere in between those two extremes: countries operating with an understanding that it’s in their interest to keep America happy.

    Only about 1% of our budget goes to all the foreign aid we give out. The return on that investment is tremendous. We recoup many times that small amount: in our economy, our security, and our ability to exercise power around the world.

  • Never interfere with your enemy when he is making a mistake.
    Trump Has Defeated Himself

  • [Someone posted a right-wing meme saying, “So Democrats want to impeach President Trump because of 4 million new jobs, low gas prices, defeating ISIS, …etc…”]

    No, that’s not why.

    [Then, in reply to “so what’s there big reason?”]

    There is of course disagreement on the exact grounds for impeachment, but here are some of the things different groups have said:
    Proposed grounds for impeachment and timeline

    In a nutshell:

    • Obstruction of justice, multiple counts (which is what they would have impeached Nixon on, if he hadn’t resigned first)
    • Lying under oath (which is what they did impeach Clinton on)
    • Violation of the Constitution’s “emoluments” clauses (designed to prevent bribery of the President)
    • Disclosure of classified information to a foreign enemy

    So, not nitpicky things. In addition to these, some have suggested other less-tangible grounds, like inciting hatred and a failure of moral leadership. There’s also a cluster of potential criminal charges relating to the Trump Organization, including fraud and money laundering. It’s not clear to me whether those would be part of any impeachment effort.

    Personally there are a few things I would add, like the concentration camps at the border where thousands live, and some die, in cages with inadequate care and no prospects for release or change – short of a massacre, one of the most monstrous atrocities in modern history.

    Most are awaiting the report from the Mueller investigation, which is widely expected to contain revelations many times more damning than even the various bombshells that have already become public.

  • Holy crap, was Vice some amazing filmmaking. But I didn’t realize I should have emotionally prepared myself to relive all that.

  • [Someone posted a right-wing video purporting to show how insecure our border is.]

    Why is this all anyone’s talking about now? Is there suddenly a crisis so bad that all other government business must stop until this is resolved? Or is there some other explanation?

    Let’s suppose there is a terrible immediate crisis: terrorists, criminals, and drugs entering the country. Is that problem worse now than it’s ever been?

    Let’s suppose that it is worse now than it’s ever been. So let’s build a giant wall! If we put 10,000 men on the job, it can be built by 2030.

    Oh but wait. This is a TERRIBLE IMMEDIATE CRISIS. 2030 isn’t nearly soon enough. Never mind, we need a wall, we’ve got to shut down the government anyway until we get it!

    Oh but wait. 95% or more of terrorists, criminals, and drugs enter the country by air. With the government shut down, TSA agents aren’t getting paid and are calling in sick by the hundreds. As a result, our airport security is a fraction of what it should be.

    If there’s a terrible immediate crisis, why would Trump be making it worse by compromising airport security? (Not to mention food security, since FDA inspections are now halted.)

    Maybe there’s not really a crisis and/or the wall isn’t the right solution? But then why is Trump insisting on this wall?

    Could it be that, as a reality TV star, Trump knows an applause line when he hears it? And when during his campaign, as he tossed out outrageous but attention-getting off-the-cuff ideas one after another (remember?), the racists that flocked to him cheered the wall more than any other proposal, so he zeroed in on that?

    (Yes, racists. You don’t hear anyone calling for a wall on the Canadian border, do you? Why do you suppose that is?)

    Can the actual crisis be that, having committed himself so thoroughly to this idea, he now risks humiliation by admitting he never really thought it through?

    Have we crippled ourselves because one man is afraid of being exposed as a fool?

    [“Do you feel that some of the wall is fueled by racists?”]

    Well, racists make up part of Trump’s coalition, wouldn’t you agree? And what else explains their eagerness to wall us off from Mexico but not Canada – an even longer, even more open border?

    The answer can’t be “terrorists, criminals, and drugs only come from Mexico,” because (a) that’s not remotely true and (b) even if it is, and we made coming across the southern border harder, don’t you think they would just start coming over the undefended northern border instead? (To say nothing of our long coastlines.)

    Isn’t it possible that part of the answer is our northern neighbors are mostly white and English-speaking, and our southern neighbors are neither?

    Anyway, we have effective border controls: satellites, drones, sensors, patrols, all of which is working today, all of which we could scale up very quickly if we felt the need – which isn’t true for a wall. Thanks to those controls, illegal border crossings are about one-third of what they were twenty years ago, and if it wasn’t a stop-everything crisis then, why should it be now?

    Unless, as I say, the crisis is actually about Trump having to save face somehow.

    [“I don’t see how trump is racist? And if I’m in favor of a border wall does that too make me racist?”]

    Neither of those things is what I wrote. I said that there are racists among his supporters – the KKK called Trump “our guy” – and those racists liked the sound of the wall because of what it represents: keeping brown people out of America.

    When Trump saw he had a winning line with “build the wall,” he doubled down on it, because as a showman, that’s what you do. He built up a whole story about how we need it urgently, so that non-racists could buy into the idea too. But a story it is.

    [“Do you not think it’s a problem that illegal immigrants are coming into our country?”]

    Sure it’s a problem, but only a small one. If some of those immigrants are criminals? Well, so are plenty of Americans. If some of those immigrants go on welfare? Yes, it costs us all a few cents more, but nothing compared to the price we all pay for, say, Trump’s big tax cut for the wealthy, or the trade war he started with China.

    Anyway, most illegal immigrants are here not because they snuck across the border, but because they started as legal immigrants who overstayed their visas. A wall would do nothing to address that. A wall would do nothing to address the smuggling of drugs hidden inside legal shipments, which is how most smuggling happens. A wall would not stop a terrorist in Mexico from buying a $300 plane ticket, flying to Canada, and entering the United States literally by crossing the street.

    When you say “of course the wall won’t be 100% perfect,” what you’re overlooking is that it will be close to 0% perfect. We have worse problems, and better solutions, that need our attention and our money.

    We are all racist, but as with all of our worst impulses, some of us have learned this about ourselves and chosen to exercise control over it, others haven’t. When I refer to racists, I’m talking about those folks.

  • [On a lighter note, in response to “Anybody know what to do if you accidentally washed your remote. Asking for a friend.”]

    Now you can only watch clean shows.

  • Disavowed.
    Kremlin: Allegations Of Trump Being A Russian Agent Are ‘Absurd’ And ‘Stupid’

  • [Someone posted a hateful right-wing meme. Someone else challenged him. Original poster answered, “I don’t know anything about it tbh”]

    Then why amplify the message by reposting it? A sincere question.

  • I’m hearing “no worries” in response to “thank you” more and more often. I consider it rude. Here’s why: “no worries” (or the similar “don’t worry about it”) is what you’d say if someone apologized to you for some slight or injury or inconvenience. Saying it in response to “thank you,” as when you’ve just done something for someone, implies that you were inconvenienced but don’t mind. That’s a very different sentiment from “you’re welcome,” which implies that it’s your pleasure to do things for that person.

  • [Someone linked to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s tax plan can get the rich to actually want to make all Americans richer. Here’s how.]

    Sounds something like my Sigma Tax idea.

  • [Right-wing meme: raising the flag at Iwo Jima, caption “Nobody called it toxic masculinity when we were saving the world.”]

    There are EVIL VILLAINS working to DESTROY AMERICA.

    They do it by hijacking the DOPAMINE CIRCUIT in your brain. Yes, yours.

    Dopamine is the pleasurable REWARD CHEMICAL your brain releases when you ACHIEVE SOMETHING.

    It’s what makes dumb games like Tetris, Angry Birds, and Candy Crush ADDICTIVE.

    Memes like this are churned out by TROLL FARMS. They pay MONEY for this kind of thing.

    You get a DOPAMINE HIT when you repost it or when someone “likes” it, just like a game.

    Its message seems harmless and true, but it’s actually HARMFUL and FALSE.

    FALSE: No one is calling masculinity “toxic.” Instead, there’s something else called “toxic masculinity,” separate from real masculinity. (Real masculinity is, “Let’s get this unpleasant job done.” Toxic masculinity is, “That fag smiled at me, let’s beat the shit out of him so no one thinks I liked it.”)

    HARMFUL: This trains conservatives in how to mock and ignore liberals. (There are similar memes shared by liberals that ridicule conservatives.) Seems tiny by itself, but multiply it by hundreds of different memes and millions of shares and likes, and you’ve got a nation that can’t reach compromise on anything, or even talk to one another.

    The troll farms that produce memes like this are bankrolled by BILLIONAIRES who benefit from a WEAK AMERICA. Don’t let yourself be an unwitting soldier in their army! When you see something like this that triggers that satisfying TRIBAL FEELING (“Haha, those coastal elites are the worst, amirite?” or “Those clueless rednecks just don’t get it, smdh”), that’s the time to stop and BE SUSPICIOUS of its motives.

    Stop letting them divide us. We’re the UNITED States of America.

  • [Right-wing meme: Nancy Pelosi says “Our security is fine, we do not need a wall” and also says, “I’m canceling the State of the Union address due to concerns about security.”]

    “Like the ski resort full of girls hunting for husbands and husbands hunting for girls the situation is not as symmetrical as it might seem.”

    [“I don’t understand?”]

    The security threat of a few bad people sneaking across the border and fanning out across North America in an attempt to disappear is pretty different from the security threat of all our national leaders concentrated in a single easily targeted location at a time of diminished law-enforcement capacity.

  • [In reply to Roger Stone Arrested for breakfast, Trump Caves for lunch. Can’t wait to find out what’s for dinner..]

    Unfortunately it’ll probably be something dramatic that Trump feels he needs to do to prove he’s winning.

  • Hope Adam McKay and I both live long enough for us to get some distance from this era, for him to make an amazing movie about it, and for me to see it and laugh and cry.

  • [On whether to spring for a high school ring.]

    Hahaha! I got suckered into buying mine. In thirty-five years I’ve worn it exactly zero times.

  • Just heard the mini story on Point Roberts. Did you know U.S. gas pumps switched briefly to metric when gas broke $1/gal, to cope with the pumps’ 99.9¢/gal limit? @romanmars

  • It only takes some idiots to ruin things for everyone.

    Part of a vaccine’s effect is to make it harder for a virus to infect you if you come into contact with it. Harder, but not impossible.

    Most of a vaccine’s effect is that when you multiply that first effect by vaccinating everyone, the virus can’t spread. You are much less likely ever to come into contact with it.

    If enough people forgo the vaccine, they increase your risk, even if you’ve gotten it.

    “Idiots” is not a strong enough word.

  • [Friend posts God ‘wanted Donald Trump to become president’.]

    God also wanted World War II to happen.

    God is a dick.

  • [Someone writes a post ridiculing the idea that drug addiction is a disease.]

    I lived for several years without chickenpox. I didn’t want chickenpox. But then the people around me got chickenpox and I was exposed repeatedly. My immune system put up a fight but to no avail. I got chickenpox. Once I got it, I tried and tried to get rid of it. It took some time, but finally I was chickenpox-free.

    I lived for several years without smoking. I didn’t want to smoke. But then the people around me started smoking and I was exposed repeatedly. My intellect put up a fight but to no avail. I started smoking. Once I started, I tried and tried to quit. It took some time, but finally I was cigarette-free.

  • [Right-wing meme: “They came to take part in the American Dream. European Christians built this nation. They didn’t come to bitch, collect welfare, demand citizenship, wave the Mexican flag, wage jihad, or replace the Constitution with sharia law.”]

    They didn’t demand citizenship?

    They didn’t wave their native countries’ flags?

    They didn’t try to impose their religious views on others?

    How sure are you about these statements?

  • [Right wing meme: “Bush 41: We have a border crisis. Clinton: We have a border crisis. Bush 43: We have a border crisis. Obama: We have a border crisis. HRC: We have a border crisis. Trump: Let’s build a wall and end the border crisis. Media: OMG, Trump manufactured the border crisis!”]

    It’s true that a southern-border crisis has been a recurring theme for a long time. It’s misleading to say that presidents and presidential candidates have been saying so, but then to leave out what they did about it. That makes it sound like it’s only gotten worse and worse until Trump decided finally to address it. In fact it’s gotten mostly better over the past 15-20 years. What Trump has manufactured is the sense that things are worse than they’ve ever been – also that a wall is any kind of solution.

    Please read this: President Obama Also Faced A ‘Crisis’ At The Southern Border.

    Excerpt:

    When the surge of migrant children began arriving in 2014, the Obama administration tried some of the same tactics as the Trump administration.

    The Obama administration housed migrant children in temporary camps on military bases. And it pushed for long-term detention of migrant families while their asylum cases played out in immigration court […]

    But then, those tactics shifted […]

    According to [migrant rights expert] Michelle Brané, the Obama administration deserves credit for learning from its mistakes.

    “The Trump administration has done basically the opposite,” Brané said. “They took exactly what failed, and expanded on it.”

  • A little hug becomes huge instantly
    If you just add silent E

    [Followup.]

    Gonna be honest: when he turned a twin into twine, six-year-old me was a little freaked out.

    [Friend writes, “Just watch out for the lesser-known invisible E.”]

    The one at the end of “mic,” you mean?

  • At this point we could probably attach generators to the founding fathers spinning in their graves and generate a small city’s worth of electricity.

  • [Left-wing friend posts hateful and ignorant right-wing meme. Other liberals reliably heap scorn on it.]

    Not sure what calling this disgusting or stupid will accomplish other than making someone who agrees with it feel defensive, and harden them in their opinions. Me, I’d ask why Trump deserves having his flaws overlooked when so many others (like Obama) are summarily dismissed as the enemy.

  • [Aggressive right-wing meme says “Fuck open borders” among other things.]

    Why?

    This is a sincere question.

    Why “fuck” these things? (As opposed to “I oppose open borders,” for example.)

    Why fuck these particular things? (As opposed to “fuck climate change” or “fuck corporations paying zero taxes on billions in profit”?)

  • “Nice guys finish last” is not enough of a reason not to be a nice guy.

    [Followup.]

    …because “virtue is its own reward.”

  • [Right-wing meme: “If theres even one homeless child in America we have no room for illegal aliens.”]

    Not sure why you tagged me in this post. Is it to see whether I have a countervailing opinion?

    I’m not in favor of illegal aliens. (Or homeless children!) But if you want to know what I think is wrong with this meme, here’s something: homelessness is not a product of illegal immigration. It’s a function of the economy and of public policy, both of which have been badly out of balance for many years now. We could house all homeless people for next to nothing, comparatively speaking. We just have to decide to, instead of deciding that billionaires pay too much tax, for instance.

    Generally speaking, immigration expands the economy (up to a point). A good, legal immigration policy would help solve homelessness, not worsen it.

    It’s not like America is an egg carton with illegal-alien eggs taking up the spaces of citizen eggs.

  • [Right-wing tweet from one Cloyd Rivers: “When you reward mediocracy and give kids a trophy just for playin’, you end up with fast food workers who think they deserve $15/hr. Merica.” Someone points out that $7.25/hr is not a livable wage. Rivers: “Let me learn you some knowledge. Minimum wage ain’t supposed to be a career. It’s meant for high school/college kids with no discernible skills, not adults supportin’ a family.”]

    I wonder where Cloyd Rivers thinks higher skills will come from for most folks. Underfunded public schools? Unaffordable colleges? On-the-job training, maybe, but if you start as a fry cook, what are your career opportunities?

    [Friend points out there are plenty of affordable community colleges and trade schools.]

    Fair point. Of course even if you can get college paid for, you still have to be able to afford the time it takes to attend it, but that’s a whole nother discussion.

  • Headline: 40% of voters would re-elect Trump.

    OK. How many of those have access to news other than Trump propaganda?

    If that’s the only information you had, you’d vote to re-elect him too.

  • I’m excited to see Captain Marvel this weekend, but am still not over the fact that the real Captain Marvel now has to call himself Shazam.

  • How strange is it that we’re getting Captain Marvel and Shazam movies just a few weeks apart?

    Also, for nostalgia’s sake: Captain Marvel saves the day

    [Someone posts about Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.]

    Ah, EW+DG! <3 Blazing a trail that Xena, Warrior Princess never acknowledged.

    [Followup.]

    Ginger or Mary Ann? (Mary Ann of course)
    Jennifer or Bailey? (Bailey)
    Electra Woman or Dyna Girl? (Dyna Girl)

  • Who are these people who leave a Marvel movie as soon as the credits start to roll?

  • If you virtue-signal but don’t actually embody the virtue you’re signaling, that’s clearly bad. If you do embody the virtue, then avoiding signaling it can be thought of as a higher form of it, just as anonymous giving is a higher form of charity than non-anonymous. On the other hand, you then open yourself up to a charge of false modesty, and lose an opportunity to model the behavior for others that you’d like to see them adopt.

  • [In reply to a meme of a guy working on a home-improvement project, caption “This will only take an hour / 8 hours later”]

    Reminds me of Hal fixing a light bulb

  • I don’t understand how people tolerate raspberry seeds.

  • [Friend’s son got a moving violation which says “Bring ONE parent to court.”]

    Just like a Wonka Golden Ticket! “You may bring one member of your own family but no one else!”

  • Don’t say “iconic.” Don’t say “way, shape, or form.” Don’t say “changed forever.”

  • I wrote a thing you might enjoy reading!
    Understanding the Stellar consensus protocol

  • Fear of competition is a nice way to tie a lot of current narratives together.

    White supremacists are wedded to a philosophy that can’t compete in the marketplace of ideas on its merits, so they have to annihilate threats to their story.

    Gerrymandering and voter suppression are meant to protect powerful politicians from competition.

    The tech and telecom giants fear competition and so engulf and devour their competitors before they pose a serious threat.

    Wealthy parents who doubt their children’s ability to compete buy admission into prestigious colleges.

    On an individual basis, many of these behaviors are rational. As a society we must be more aggressive about insisting on fair competition in the public sphere, the only sure protection against decline.

  • Took Archer for one of these tonight. His verdict: it’s like sucking toothpaste through a straw.

  • Culturally appropriate(d) breakfast.

    [In reply to “That is the most unappetizing thing I have ever seen on a plate!” and “Ew!”]

    You do not like them. So you say.
    Try them! Try them! And you may.
    Try them and you may, I say.

  • We are all racist. Those who claim not to be are worse than those who acknowledge they are and are actively fighting it.

  • [In response to the all-black-and-white Steamboat Willie Lego set.]

    Gasp!

    On another note: ohhh, it’s the boat that’s called Willie! I always thought Mickey was called Steamboat Willie in this cartoon, which made me wonder why it’s celebrated as the debut of Mickey Mouse.

  • [My congressman advances a bill protecting local TV-station ownership, which would force Sinclair out of some markets.]

    Now that’s striking at the root.

  • When a news headline says that such-and-such Supreme Court justice cast the deciding vote in a 5-4 case, couldn’t you say the same thing about any of the five?

  • [Another right-wing meme about addiction not being a disease, because you don’t “walk outside and catch crackhead.”]

    AIDS is a disease, right? But you don’t just walk outside and catch it, you have to engage in some pretty specific behavior, and then your insides become disordered in a particular way. Same with addiction.

  • The hot takes you read or heard over the weekend about the Mueller report were probably all wrong. Please read this. https://twitter.com/SethAbramson/status/1109913558333210629

  • Baklava Galactica

  • On the bright side, maybe this will give a boost to projects like Solid, IPLD, and others that seek to redecentralize the net.
    EU Puts An End To The Open Internet: Link Taxes And Filters Approved By Just 5 Votes

  • [Friend asks, “So now we have Republican congressmen quoting Mein Kampf on the floor of the House. How do we end this fucking nightmare?!”]

    By pooling our assets and buying out Fox and Sinclair.

  • Strongly recommend the Story Pirates podcast (for both kids and adults).

  • [A tweet said Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were spotted having lunch together. AOC tweeted BREAKING: We had labneh.]

    omg i love her

  • [Friend posts, “You land a guest role on one of the Law & Orders. Are you a judge, witness, perp, bystander, or defense attorney?”]

    I’m fired after a day and a half of production because I can’t stop glancing into the camera lens.

  • President Buttgiggle. I’m ready.

  • [Friend posts meme: “Companies that have self checkout machines are not hiring and training people for jobs of the future, they are training you to do it for free.”]

    I’m not unsympathetic to this argument, but could you not say the same about the mountains of other kinds of automation that have obsoleted various jobs since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution? None of us today gives a thought to the idea that we’ve been trained to operate elevators “for free”…

  • The OA, season one, was powerfully weird and held my attention for that reason; but it was also frustrating, seeming to lack a strong narrative through-line. Season two is equally weird but also deeply satisfying.

  • [Archer’s 14th-birthday photo.]

    One year out of date
    (A year that he reports was great)

  • Notre-DAMN

  • Pipe through

    perl -pe ‘s/([01]+)/chr(oct(“0b$1”))/eg’

    to read Mayor Pete’s message to the bots.

    Pete Buttigieg Stuns Campaign Crowd By Speaking To Manufacturing Robots In Fluent Binary

  • [Friend posts news about an old workplace destroyed by fire the same week I spend a week working in NYC.]

    I see your “personal history gone” and raise you being waist-deep in hipsters, boutiques, coworking spaces, tasting rooms, and specialty bakeries, all in a part of Brooklyn where, in my time, you didn’t dare go.

    [Followup.]

    (And we liked it that way!)

  • Unoriginal headlines are unoriginal. terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad

  • On the political question of whether to pursue impeachment, I have this observation: the Constitution says we must, and we already have one party of ignoring the Constitution. We don’t need two.
    The Mueller Report Was My Tipping Point

    [Someone points out it’s not “must.”]

    You’re right: technically it’s only “may.” But our Congressman, Jared Huffman, is right about why it’s really “must.” https://www.facebook.com/jared.huffman.9/posts/1878758642229788

  • Explore all the branches of the story tree – then add some of your own!
    Kill Ralphie!

  • Seventeen years. Never not a rockstar. (Only now it’s a little more literal.)

  • Why is this the road sign for “playground”? I haven’t seen a seesaw at a playground in decades. Do kids even know what that silhouette is?

    [Followup.]

    “Phone”

  • [Right-wing meme: “There are over 350 million guns in the United States right now. If guns were really about killing people you’d all be dead by now.”]

    If the point of this post is that more guns does not mean more gun violence, that’s simply wrong. There is a well-established correlation showing the very opposite.

    [“I’m just saying that it doesn’t matter if there’s more or not. If someone wants to hurt you by way of a gun they will get one legal or not.”]

    You’re right: if someone’s determined to shoot me, then one way or another they’ll find a gun and shoot me. The number of guns sloshing around won’t change that.

    But it’s wrong to conclude that the number of guns therefore doesn’t matter, because you haven’t accounted for unpremeditated shootings. Very many people get shot by accident, or because a situation escalated farther than it would have if a gun hadn’t been involved. I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess this accounts for the majority of gun violence.

    It is hard to argue that reducing the total number of guns would have no impact on that number. Impossible, actually, since where it’s been done – whether by law, or with buyback programs, or just social pressure – it’s been shown to work exactly as expected. Reduce guns, reduce gun violence.

    I’d like to know what motivated you to repost this meme to begin with. It’s labeled “defend the 2nd,” which suggests you’re concerned about gun rights. But gun rights are as permissive as they have been at any time in this country’s history. There is no crisis looming where we lose those rights.

    Nevertheless, something moved you strongly enough – outraged you, possibly – to make you publicly take a side on this issue. I’m guessing this was the result of seeing others online taking a similar position, all premised on the idea that gun rights need defending. You’ve amplified that message: now others who see your repost will have a stronger sense (one they can’t quite put their finger on) that our gun rights are under a threat that must be fought against.

    If there is no real crisis, then why do these memes exist? What is their purpose, if not to preserve gun rights? Whom do they benefit?

    The answer is: politicians, who have identified this as a useful wedge issue, one about which it’s easy to whip up strong emotions on both sides regardless of the actual facts. Why that’s useful to them: because if you think the liberals are coming for your guns, you are much less likely to band with them against the REAL outrages. Like babies dying in American concentration camps. Like multibillion-dollar corporations paying zero dollars in tax, while all the rest of us pay thousands more. Like oil companies concluding privately that they’re destroying the planet, while paying to publish “research reports” claiming the greenhouse effect is a hoax. Like public lands being sold off to private companies, public policy being sold off to foreign governments, and on and on.

    They fear us uniting to address these challenges, so they are strongly motivated to keep us divided. Constantly beating the drum about things like gun rights and abortion are a great way to do that.

    What if we stopped marching to their beat? What if we stopped letting them trigger us all the time and started demanding action on the things we can all agree about?

  • [On “May the fourth.”]

    I resist the dumb pun. As far as I’m concerned, today is Dave Brubeck day.

  • [Friend posts a pun about onions.]

    Now I’ve heard it allium.

  • [Someone posts a meme describing a fantasy of Trump getting re-elected, declaring a Vietnam war 2.0, Gen Z kids getting drafted to fight, and soldiers doing Fortnite victory dances over slaughtered rice farmers.]

    Jesus Christ

    [Then, when that got a laughing-face reaction.]

    Sorry, I should have been clearer: Jesus Christ, this is deranged, and not in a good way. It frightens and depresses me that you find humor in it.

  • Hello in heaven, Mom! You have now missed twelve years of anecdotes and updates about your grandsons. I badly want to be able to tell them all to you and hear your reaction, but honestly I already know exactly what it would be: kvelling your brains out.

  • [Right-wing meme about Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner: “Bruce was limber, Bruce was quick, Bruce went liberal & lost his dick.”]

    Anyone can be transgender. The only connection with liberalism is, liberals are the ones who believe it doesn’t make you any less of a person.

  • It pains me to admit it now, but I poked fun at gay people when I was young. Also, I had some stereotypical racial prejudices.

    These were attitudes handed down to me by my culture, fueled in large part by having no actual gay people (that I knew about) or brown people in my life.

    I’m happy to say that I’ve long since outgrown those attitudes, but at least I can understand racists and homophobes: they lack an exposure to diversity that, in my life, helped to dispel my ignorance.

    But no one’s not exposed to women. For the life of me I cannot understand those men who treat women as an underclass.

    [Friend writes, “Undersized genitalia… just guessing.”]

    Then I really cannot understand them 😉

  • [Friend writes, “I never watched Game of Thrones, and overhearing all the hype is confusing me. Did it have a dragon named… Drogon?”]

    Two responses, can’t choose between them, you decide.

    1. “When he gets in a scrape
    He makes his escape
    With the help of his friend
    An ape named Ape”

    2. Better than a chimp named Cheetah

  • I’ve always considered myself an ally for women, but have always harbored this bit of unuttered skepticism: as long as there exist women willing to trade on sex appeal, what hope of equality can there be for the rest who aren’t?

    That bit of skepticism, I realized not long ago, rested upon a bedrock of unconscious bias: the assumption that the gatekeepers will always be ones on whom female sex appeal works.

    That need not be true. In fact it needs not to be true.
    Where women call the shots

  • [A friend posted about the Democrats’ inability to frame issues well.]

    I heard a Fresh Air interview years ago with a Democratic Party strategist lamenting this gap in messaging skill. Don’t remember who it was, but I do remember him pointing out (correctly, I thought) that part of the difference relates to the conservative preference for authority, which allows their echo chamber to line up behind and amplify their message of the day; while progressives, more committed to democracy per se, have the proverbial cats to herd. So even though they do have a message of the day, everyone is reading from their own scripts, to the detriment of the party. I also remember Terry Gross asking him what some recent messages of the day have been, and he couldn’t answer, because he doesn’t read them. 🤦

  • [Friend posts news story about segregation in the Bay Area being worse now than in 1970 and comments, “Typical liberal policymaking!”]

    I have no trouble at all believing that segregation is an unintended consequence of liberal policymaking, but which policies do you think are responsible, and how do you think they contribute to segregation?

    [Crickets.]

  • Me: I have nothing left to teach you about being cool.
    Jonah: I know.

    [When an astonished friend asked if he really played the legendary Sweetwater Music Hall.]

    Ahem, he tore the roof off of Sweetwater.

  • Dear @CanadaDry, I bought the 10-ounce bottles of tonic water from @SchweppesGB because they were glass and yours were plastic.

  • Does Donald Trump belong in prison or in command of our nuclear arsenal?

    Pelosi: Why not both?

  • Personally I think she would be great rebooting Ackmena, the bartender role made famous by Bea Arthur.
    Emma Thompson Tried to Be in Star Wars

  • Neal Stephenson has blown my mind with his latest book, Fall; or Dodge in Hell. Didn’t want it to end but couldn’t stop reading. Sure it’s fiction but it will change your IRL ideas about cosmology and theology, to say nothing of fake news and filter bubbles.

    [Followup.]

    The Baroque Cycle remains my favorite work of his, and those who read that first will find Fall to be a satisfying bookend of a sort to that one.

  • [Friend posts this photo with the comment, “Omnipotence ain’t all that I guess”]

    Marriage = 1 man in pants + 1 man in a kilt

  • Thy birth this day we note with cheer
    As in years past, and now again
    It cometh up but once each year
    The natal day of dear McKen-
    na

    (Sorry, “McKenna” doesn’t fit at the end of a line of iambic tetrameter.)

    Happy birthday!

  • Fourth of July – what a day to lose the Little Drummer Boy challenge!

  • How could anybody be expected to handle school on a day like this?

  • [Storm left a large broken tree branch dangling right over someone’s house.]

    DAMN-ocles

  • Have they tried Hare Krishna?

  • [Home Depot owner is a major GOP donor.]

    Home DepNO

    Home Despot

  • I don’t entirely agree with this op-ed’s prescription against boldness, but I definitely agree with this:

    “I wonder what would happen if the Democratic nominee simply refused to talk about Trump. No responding to whatever stupid nickname he comes up with. No sweeping denunciation of some deed of his that any sensible American already knows is wrong. Just the articulation of better solutions to America’s problems. Trump would go mad with the lack of attention. And maybe then, thank heaven, he’d go away.”
    How Democrats Defeat Donald Trump

    [Followup.]

    Michelle Obama said it first, and better: When they go low, we go high.

  • [Right-wing meme: “Musslamic Democrat, Ilhan Omar, has threatened members of Congress. She’s told several Republicans that she’ll send them ‘shawarma’, to ‘give them a taste of her culture.’. Share to say arrest her now!” A friend ridiculed the ignorance on display.]

    This is evil genius at work. The meme creator(s) knew just what they were doing.

    The sentiment and tone will resonate with some people even if they don’t know what shawarma is (or do know, but somehow gloss over that part of the message). They’ll repost and spread the meme.

    Those who oppose messages like this one will fixate on surface errors (“shawarma,” “musslamic,” etc.) and dismiss the person reposting it as an idiot.

    They may even call out the mistake publicly, causing a defensive reaction by the poster: entrenchment of their attitude vis-a-vis the meme, hostility toward those pointing out the error.

    Wedge between right and left driven deeper. Mission accomplished!

    [Followup.]

    “will fixate on surface errors”

    …overlooking the more important ones, like the fact that the comma goes inside the quotation marks.

  • Held the door open for a black man at the post office today. He said, “Thank you, my brother,” and it was the best feeling in the world.

  • Ironically, the word that came to mind to describe Huffman’s reasoning was “unimpeachable.”
    https://www.facebook.com/jared.huffman.9/posts/2036511569787827

    [Friend comments, “Love Huffman! So smart and thoughtful. Would love to see HIM president.”]

    100%. If you want to love him even more, I can recommend his podcast.

  • [After a mass shooting, friend posts, “I actually find it reassuring that POTUS felt he needed to make an anti-racist, unifying statement this morning, no matter how hypocritical and scripted. I don’t even care about the deflection to mental illness and video games. It feels like a desperation move.”]

    Worse dictators than Trump have been brought down by public opinion.

  • [Slate tweets, “Jimmy Carter’s revolutionary efforts to diversify the courts changed the law forever. Trump is undoing that achievement one judge at a time.”]

    “Forever”? The second sentence contradicts the first sentence.

  • Everyone please stop saying “X changed Y forever.” We don’t know yet. changed forever

    [A friend points out the observation by Heraclitus that “you never step in the same river twice.”]

    OK, “X changed Y forever” is allowed again, as long as you add, “and so did everything else.”

  • Ask any mermaid you happen to see
    What’s the best tuna that doesn’t advertise on Tucker Carlson?
    (Hint: not @StarKistCharlie)

  • Have you seen the cool fan theory that it’s only a fake cancellation? Is The OA Fake-Canceled or Am I Just Losing My Mind?

    [“Wishful thinking,” writes a friend.]

    But a “take all my money” moment if true.

  • I left Google four years ago. Just sayin’.

    [A friend writes, “You are the king of good timing!”]

    That sounds like a character from The Phantom Tollbooth. “What land is this?” wondered Milo, and no sooner had he uttered it than a balding, middle-aged man appeared, wearing a crown and announcing, “Welcome to the Kingdom of Good Timing!”

  • What’s the name for the phenomenon where you saw some episode of some show once, and then months or years later you see a random rerun of the same show and it’s the same episode?

  • [Friend tweets, “All these people calling for recession so they can buy a house seem to misunderstand how this works. Sure, the price of that house you have your eye on might drop by 40%, but so will your net worth. And that job that’s paying your salary? They’ve told you to clean out your desk.”]

    Oh and not for nothing, the human misery all around you increases. But whatevs

  • The proprietor would not let me pay him for fixing, on the spot, a pair of expensive sunglasses I bought from him years ago and which have held up so well that he hasn’t seen another penny from me since. So instead I am urging all my northern California friends to give the SunGlass Galleria of Marin their business.

  • [Friend writes, “What do you call a sophomore who boysplains to his math teacher? An algebro. (The letters on my rack in a recent Scrabble game.)”]

    In the version of Scrabble I play with my family, a word like this is acceptable if you can supply a definition that meets with general acclaim.

    Also: what does Wyldstyle wear under her top? A Legobra

  • [Re: storing solar power.]

    Every home should have its own molten salt tank.

  • Trump, soon. Bananas – Executive Orders

  • Unintentionally hilarious typo: Better safe then sorry.

  • Go to your Facebook settings, then to “Security and Login,” and turn on “Two-factor authentication.” This prevents hackers from accessing your account even if they guess (or otherwise obtain) your password. (Let me know if you’d like more info about how this works.)

    After you’ve done that, go to the “Apps and Websites” section of settings and disable the access to your Facebook account that you may previously have granted to other apps and websites.

  • My wife sent me to the store
    I cannot remember what for
    What comes after the ampersand
    In “Honey, pick up some Pampers and”?
    – Ogden Bob

    [Friend urgently asks if this is an oblique way to say we’re expecting again.]

    No, it’s just my way of letting you know what a rhyme for “ampersand” is.

  • [Friend posts this image and writes, “This is from the page you have to go through to register for a SECURITY conference that I’ve chosen not to name. Can anyone explain to me any way this can possibly be useful?”]

    These are security researchers, so this has to be the sort of mischief where they hope X% of website visitors will reflexively enter one of their other passwords.

  • I’m going to go out on a limb and say that John [Roderick]’s whimsical pronunciation of “UFOs” (as “oof-o’s”) can be traced back to James Belushi’s performance in the 1987 comedy Real Men.

  • The eyes of the nation turn expectantly to Vice President Pence. Conversion therapy center founder who sought to turn LGBTQ Christians straight says he’s gay, rejects ‘cycle of self shame’

  • “Doonbeg boondoggle” is a headline phrase for the ages.

    [Followup.]

    History nerds of the future will challenge each other with questions like “What was the Doonbeg boondoggle”?

  • This is an example of some of the political e-mail I get. I will never respond to or even open messages of this type: the ones that are trying to trigger me, to tap into the hatred they assume I must feel, my supposed eagerness to see Trump humiliated.

    I do not hate Donald Trump. I am not eager to see Trump humiliated. On the contrary, I am eager to see him stop humiliating himself: to honor his oath of office for once, to put the good of the country ahead of his petty interests. Any time he does that I will cheer him gladly. But it won’t be without considerable surprise and some suspicion, since he consistently acts in the same way as the senders of this message: relying on and appealing to our basest instincts.

    [Followup.]

    It’s 0% Trump hatred, 100% affection for American ideals and institutions.

    OK, OK, it’s close to 0% Trump hatred.

  • “Psst! What does a yellow light mean?”
    “Slow down.”
    “OK. What… does… a… yellow… light… mean?”

  • Cold turkey has not worked for me in the past. What has been working for me lately has been paying closer attention to the protein content of the things I eat. The more protein I get, the less I crave sugar and carbs. I still allow myself a bite or two of sweets a couple of times a day, and that seems to be enough to keep the addiction monkey satisfied while I slowly but steadily lose weight.

  • Does Superman supermansplain?

  • Wondering what the deterrent value is of two weeks in prison.

    I mean, we’re trying to get our kid into college right now, and two weeks in prison seems like a very small price to pay for taking a shortcut through the process.

    [Followup.]

    Better not chance it. I mean, I can only count on white-person justice, not celebrity justice.

  • [Friend posted about the San Antonio teacher who asked his students to describe the positive aspects of life as a slave as well as the negative.]

    If this was the teacher’s subversive way to expose and then challenge the students’ unexamined racism, then good effort, I say, but misguided and tone deaf. If it wasn’t, then sheesh.

  • Preordered.
    We Are Indivisible: A Blueprint for Democracy After Trump

  • Just noticed that all the e-mail notifications I receive from Facebook have an:

    X-Mailer: ZuckMail [version 1.00]

    field in the header. 🙄

  • A eye-opening challenge: on your next visit to the grocery store, try to avoid plastic packaging completely. Let me know how you do.

  • On one recent visit I wanted some cold cuts. I could have bought the prepackaged kind, but, plastic. So I went to the deli counter, where they could slice me some fresh meat and wrap it in wax paper. They did that – but then they slid the wax paper package into a ziploc plastic bag! (I asked them to take the plastic bag back.)

  • [Friend posts about the assassination of the Panama Papers reporter two years ago by a car bomb, which none of us had heard a single thing about.]

    wtf

  • Wow, look at Neil Hamilton in the 1930’s! He was Commissioner Gordon on TV in the 60’s. He died on this date in 1984.

  • My investment in Will Donald Trump complete his first term is presently +26%

  • Everyone go see Maiden. Hollywood couldn’t write a more rousing story of adventure and redemption than the one these real-life women lived.

  • The Google Wave team is all like, “SEE?”
    The Hottest Chat App for Teens Is… Google Docs

    [Someone points out how slow Google Wave was.]

    They never got the chance to make it fast.

  • Holy cow!
    GEO Group Running Out of Banks as 100% of Known Banking Partners Say ‘No’ to the Private Prison Sector

  • Yes, there has always been corruption. Yes, government is usually maddeningly inefficient. But there was a time, not that long ago, when a prevailing commitment to the principles of our nation actually truly counterbalanced those things, and real good got done. There will be such a time again, IF WE WILL IT.

  • You don’t fix a bug without adding regression tests.
    Every article of impeachment against 45 that’s introduced to public should be presented along w/ proposed changes for how we prevent this in future…

  • [Someone refers to Trump supporters as dummies.]

    Dummies? Or people stranded in information landscapes saturated by Fox News and conservative talk radio?

  • Vaccinated: f u, flu.

  • [Cycling friend laments the filling up of a protected bike lane by cars thinking they could park there.]

    To be fair, I’m on your side and I’d still probably make that mistake.

  • To help my kids keep abreast of the news, I summarized today’s headlines for them. It looked like this.

    [Followup.]

    I would pay good money for a website that was just an interactive, browseable, up-to-date version of this. No joke.

  • Watergate happened in a Washington populated by men who had personally gone to war and learned a visceral lesson about the evils of fascism and authoritarianism. Today’s Washington has forgotten.

  • When you pull the lid off the Han Solo in Carbonite roaster, does Harrison Ford emerge, shivering and blind?

  • [Friend wonders if Republicans defend Trump because they know Pence would be worse.]

    Not according to When a Vice President Becomes a Threat

    “If it was just a matter of magically snapping their fingers… pretty much every Republican senator would switch out Pence for Trump.”

  • [Friend responds to the latest Trump outrage with the usual “If Joe Biden acted that way Republicans would go ballistics with cries of ‘Traitor!’”]

    If Joe Biden poured himself a glass of lemonade, Republicans would go ballistic with cries of “Traitor!”

  • [Friend posts, “What is it with the last two GOP Presidents and their love of childish nicknames?”]

    cough can only feel big by belittling others cough

  • My Yom Kippur character: Atoney the Tiger. His product is Fasting Flakes, so terrible that it’s easy not to eat them. “They’re GRRRRR-oss!”

  • The world needs a @scottmccloud-style explainer for the Trump scandals.

  • [Paul Krugman tweets You know, it would be one thing if American democracy had been overthrown by sinister super villains. In fact, the guys who seized power are tacky, lowlife crooks.]

    That the feet on the ground are “useful idiots” doesn’t change the fact that Putin fits the bill to a T.

  • IMPORTANT: Institutions Work

    These days it can feel like they don’t and never have. This is an illusion: the result of a decades-long effort by the powerful to dismantle them. Why make that effort? Because THEY WORKED TOO WELL to let them get away with whatever they wanted.

    Young people especially, who may not remember a better-functioning time: have faith in the power of institutions as a force for good, and let’s repair the damage.

  • The power to enforce subpoenas seems to me like a use-it-or-lose-it kind of thing.

  • “Are my methods unsound?”

    “I don’t see… any method… at all, sir.”

  • “Going into the details of Anti-de Sitter / Conformal Field Theory would require another book entirely.” – @seanmcarroll in Something Deeply Hidden

    Me: Shut up and take my money!

  • Trump said the quiet part out loud – “We’ve taken control of the oil” – lending credence to the theory that the Trump presidency has been a project to, among other things, secure Syrian oil fields for Russia.

  • From those to whom we give the greatest authority we must demand the greatest accountability.

  • “No one is above the law, not even the President of the United States.”

    I’ve seen this a lot lately, but it’s wrong. It should be:

    “No one is above the law, LEAST OF ALL the President of the United States.”

    The law must constrain the President MORE than it does everyone else.

  • [Friend tweets, “If you feel a need to debate Trump and his moron army – don’t know why you would, but some people do…”]

    “don’t know why you would”

    Because they are our countrymen and (for a lot of them) it’s not their fault they live in places where the conservative propaganda machine has a media monopoly.

  • Quick, to the newspapers to find out what to think about the Gell-Mann effect!

  • Dudes, look. I get it. As a white man I too feel anxiety about re-leveling my privilege. I’m committed to it, though, because, y’know, justice.

    But keep this up and you’ll blow it for all of us. Re-leveling won’t stop at equality… and we’ll deserve wherever it does end up. https://t.co/nluIrg9u7P

  • Prediction: McConnell will soon have to inform Trump it’s time to resign, because he can no longer protect him against removal from office. Trump will fulminate for a few news cycles and then make a surprise state visit to Moscow. There he will seek asylum from American justice and resign the presidency, not via prime-time address to the nation but by a tweet saying, effectively, “Fuck all y’all.” There will be a period of confusion about whether we have a president or not, and ultimately the Supreme Court will have to decide whether the fuck-you tweet is official-enough notification to make Mike Pence president.

    [Followup.]

    You heard it here first.

    [Various entertaining alternate scenarios proposed.]

    This is what I predict will happen, it’s not what I hope will happen.

    What I hope happens is much closer to the climax of Moana, where someone figures out how to put back into Trump supporters the heart that’s been stolen from inside them, and they are magically unmonsterified. “This is not who you are.” Moana – Know Who You Are

    [A friend posits the Pence-pardons-Trump gambit.]

    That seems like the obvious thing but AIUI a presidential pardon from Pence doesn’t get Trump off the hook for state charges that NY investigators are itching to bring.

    [Followup.]

    The Onion is thinking along the same lines I see. Trump Ties Thousands Of Balloons To White House Roof In Attempt To Sail Away From Impeachment Inquiry

  • A treat! Amazon Prime Video is presently streaming one of my favorite movies, Movie Movie, an homage from 1978 to the old-fashioned double features of the 30’s. The first “feature” is a black-and-white boxing melodrama; the second is a Technicolor musical extravaganza. Both are very tongue-in-cheek and affectionate and hilarious.

    Here’s what makes it extra special. When it was originally released on video in the 80’s, it was the depths of the Ted Turner colorize-everything-yes-even-Casablanca era, and those idiots colorized the boxing melodrama (even though George Burns introduces the film saying the first half’s in black and white). From then until now, that was the only version I’ve been able to find anywhere – but the version on Amazon Prime is restored to its proper form. Hooray! Watch and enjoy.

  • Had a quantum-mechanics insight recently as a result of reading Sean Carroll’s terrific new book, Something Deeply Hidden.

    The book makes a case for the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum physics, as opposed to the more traditional Copenhagen interpretation.

    In the Copenhagen version, there are many possible outcomes for submicroscopic events, and nature randomly chooses one, but only when the event is “measured” by an “observer.” The probability of each possible outcome is given by a mathematical formula called a wave function, and the process of nature choosing one of those outcomes is called collapse of the wave function. “Measurement by an observer” could be taken to mean interaction with any macroscopic system, as if there’s one set of rules (“quantum physics”) for submicroscopic interactions and another set of rules (“classical physics”) for larger ones.

    Where is the transition from quantum to classical? How does nature choose an outcome? Copenhagen doesn’t say. It just says, “Do the math and you can predict the behavior of nature to an unprecedented degree.” In this it’s right, which explains why the vague epistemic underpinnings of Copenhagen have gone largely unquestioned for so long.

    In the Many Worlds interpretation the wave function does not collapse. When the wave function says a submicroscopic thing can zig left or zag right, then reality branches and both outcomes really happen. When an observer measures the outcome, the observer becomes “entangled” with the possible outcomes and now there are two observers, one who saw the thing zig left and one who saw it zag right.

    What’s the meaning of “are” in that last sentence? Obviously we all experience just a single reality. If I saw the thing zig left, where’s the “me” who saw it zag right?

    This is the insight I had: the other “me” exists in the same sense that the “me” of last year exists. Absolutely real and completely inaccessible from this reality.

    [Friend objects that this would mean other universes are robbing ours of energy.]

    My understanding is that this objection is based on a non-rigorous understanding of the law of conservation of energy.

    When the wave function branches, the total energy after the branch must equal the total energy before. That means that (in the simple case of two equally weighted outcomes) the total has to be shared across two realities, so each has half the energy of before.

    But so what? Inside each reality, the absolute energy of everything is scaled down equally, meaning that the relative amounts of energy remain unchanged, and that’s all that matters to our experience. A muon is still as heavy as 207 electrons, in other words. That it’s half as heavy as a pre-branch muon is irrelevant – there are no pre-branch muons around to compare it with.

    [Friend uses Zeno’s paradox to point out a supposed fallacy: “If they halve the distance between them every 10 seconds, how long until they’re actually touching?”]

    If they also halve their sizes every ten seconds, they’ll never touch. Infinity isn’t just for very very big numbers; it’s also for very very small ones.

    Our intuition says that the total energy value being spread among branching universes must deplete sooner or later, but (a) why should we trust our intuition when it comes to this? and (b) maybe it will, raising the fascinating but completely speculative possibility that there are “leaves” at the ends of the branches of the multiverse to be found when some minimum energy value is reached.

  • Hey, alla youse
    Have you heard the news?
    Today is the birthday
    Of my sister Suze

    I think that she’s fine
    That sister of mine
    But one thing she’s not:
    She’s not twenty-nine

  • Visited Houston last week. Saw this at the Johnson Space Center! It was part of their fiftieth-anniversary celebration of Apollo 11. Who sees the problem here?

    [A friend spots it: it should be Edwin Aldrin, not Edward Aldrin.]

    Of all the places!!

  • Dear Toyota USA,

    We were considering a new RAV4. Welp, not anymore.

    Signed,
    – A California Couple

    Toyota’s Support of Trump Emissions Rules Shocks Californians

  • [During a devastating wildfire season.]

    Incredible (and yet not) that the lack of any word from the White House about the situation in California isn’t news.

    [A friend comments about Trump.]

    To be clear, it is unsurprising and frankly uninteresting that Trump has said nothing. The surprising thing is that no one has commented on his saying nothing; it’s completely normalized now.

  • [Halloween.]

    Selected subject lines from today’s political e-mails:

    • Avoid fright this Election Night
    • A spooky poll
    • Truly scary
    • A scary thought
    • Treats, not tricks
    • Here’s what’s spooky
  • [Friend posts health meme: “Balto didn’t bust his ass across the Alaskan tundra in 1925 to get those vaccines for dying children, for you to send your kids to school without being vaccinated in 2019.”]

    The full story is much, MUCH more amazing than just “hero dog delivers life-saving serum.” Also, Balto gets rather more of the credit than he deserves. Check out The 1925 Serum Run to Nome

  • [In response to scaremongering about the prospect of Elizabeth Warren as the Democratic nominee.]

    If Warren’s elected and her ideas do turn out to be terrible, at least they will have been enacted within the framework of actual policymaking. We’d still have the machinery of government in place to fix any mistakes. But with Trump?

    That’s about all the thought this takes.

  • [Right-wing friends praising Trump’s handling of China.]

    For generations, the United States has been a beacon of hope for people all over the world. Desperate families fleeing violence and crushing poverty have found justice and opportunity here.

    Now when they come, we literally steal their children, sell them into adoption, and give the profits to Betsy DeVos.

    I might feel better about the administration’s efforts on our trade imbalance with China and prison reform and whatever else if it weren’t for little things like that.

    How do you reconcile your support for Trump with that?

    Or with “abusing power for political gain,” “mishandling classified information,” “undermining duly enacted federal law,” “obstruction of Congress,” “obstruction of justice,” “profiting from office,” and “fomenting violence?” (The (Full) Case for Impeachment)

    Or with the strange fact that nearly everything Trump does harms our institutions and alliances and aids Vladimir Putin?

    This is a sincere request for information. I have not yet found any Trump supporter willing or able to answer this question in any way other than “so what? all politicians are crooks,” which is no answer at all. Can you?

    [Crickets.]

  • [On the publication of the White House tell-all A Warning by Anonymous.]

    Prediction: “Anonymous” will turn out to be “John Barron.”

  • Thirty-one years ago
    Upon this date
    Two kids fell in love
    When they stayed up late

    On this very day
    Twenty years before now
    They made it official
    By exchanging a vow

  • [Friend wonders why Trump would pardon soldiers convicted of UCMJ violations over the objections of everyone: “There’s no clear benefit to Trump.”]

    Trump, thinking: “When the shit hits the fan I’ll need the army on my side. Maybe if I pardon some soldiers…”

  • [Friend mentions Bill Bryson’s Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way.]

    One of my very favorite books of all time.

  • Northern California doesn’t do fall colors, much, but my street managed to eke this out this morning, for which I’m grateful.

    [Friend writes, Look out for that volcano at the end of the road!]

    Ha. Take a closer look at that “volcano,” those are the real colors of fall around these parts.

  • The buck stops everywhere else.

  • If you’re old enough, you might remember Disco Demolition Night. Literally overnight we all went from listening to disco music on our top 40 stations to asserting “Disco sucks!”

    It’s not that we stopped liking disco music. It was more like oh hey, I have no opinion on this topic and here’s a fun new one to have!

    Of course once we decided to “have” this opinion, we had to defend having it. I personally remember sneering at those who failed to agree that disco sucks.

    This is how I understand Trump’s base of support.
    Disco Demolition Night

    [Followup.]

    Disco lives forever!

  • On what would have been my Mom’s birthday, there are a thousand reasons I wish she were still around, but at least I’ve been spared the constant diagnosing over long-distance phone calls of video-streaming devices and services.

    Oh who am I kidding, I would secretly have loved that. Miss you, Mom.

  • [About the Star Wars-themed Instant Pot.]

    Please let it make the sounds of Aunt Beru’s kitchen.

  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: Excellent, and I didn’t expect it to be about what it was about.

    Knives Out: Excellent, and I didn’t expect it to be an allegory for what it’s an allegory for.

  • If you have a resolution in mind, why wait for the new year? Meatless Mondays begin for me today.
    Meatless Monday

  • Saturday night. Choose one:

    [01] Alright for fighting
    [02] S, A, T-U-R, D-A-Y… night!
    [03] Everybody loves
    [04] Live from New York, it’s
    [05] Fever
    [06] Divas
    [07] Special
    [08] Sunday morning
    [09] Fish fry
    [10] High n dry
    [11] Another
    [12] One more
    [13] Same old
    [14] Jukebox

  • Competition makes everything better. That’s the whole idea behind democracy, and also capitalism. Without competition, those systems can’t work.

    Unfortunately, the first impulse of a person or a group with some power is to limit the competition they’re subject to. Big companies buy up small challengers. Political parties close access to debates. Anti-trust laws get weakened. Power consolidates.

    America won’t be America again until we can restore robust competition in public and private spheres. That might seem impossible, but Represent.Us has a very credible plan that is already starting to work. They need your help to bring it to full fruition. Please give your money and time.

    End corruption. Defend the Republic.

  • Fallen fire.

  • My nerves are not equal to our current historical moment. The fight-or-flight phrasing of the political e-mails I’m getting are not helping.

  • I was having a rough time dealing with the political news yesterday, as I sometimes do. Getting some family time in after work helped. And so did these words from Heather Cox Richardson’s (amazing, essential) daily summary, which identified my dejection as the calculated product of a group both cynical and desperate, a realization that caused the power of my dejection to evaporate as if by magic.

    “The Republicans are not trying to make a case, or to persuade anyone; they are simply trying to dominate by making this all so painful we stop caring and let them get away with excusing their president for abuses that no one contests.

    “It is a travesty… but remember that they would not behave this way if they thought they had it sewn up. They know their only hope is to convince the majority of Americans, who disapprove of Trump, either to believe their lies or to get so tired of the screaming that they give up. It is classic abusive behavior.”

    https://www.facebook.com/heathercoxrichardson/posts/2096849707125751

  • 75 years ago today, a surprise enemy attack in the Ardennes forest against exhausted and undersupplied American troops marked the beginning of our bloodiest battle in World War II – and, after more than a month of miserable fighting, arguably our greatest victory.

    The threat against American democracy then was not as great as it is now, coming as it does from within, by those whom we have entrusted to protect the Constitution but who have, in word and deed, demonstrated their undisguised hostility to it.

    What must you, a patriotic American, do? Freeze in a ditch through a long Belgian winter without adequate food or clothing while shells explode and shrapnel flies by?

    No, though a hardy earlier generation did just that. If they could do that, YOU can certainly show up at an event TOMORROW AFTERNOON in support of impeachment. Find one near you at https://www.impeach.org/event/impeach-and-remove-attend/search.

    Think showing up won’t make a difference? In fact it’s the one thing the other side fears. PROTESTS WORK. Getting us to think otherwise is their whole strategy. It’s the reason they’ve been spamming the news and social media with deflections, distractions, polling, and scaremongering about impeachment backfiring, etc. It’s to discourage us and wear us down. Don’t fall for it.

    If we don’t preserve the rule of law, you’ll miss it when it’s gone. And you’ll feel even worse knowing you could have done more. SHOW UP.

  • [Friend posts link to article about The Married Kama Sutra, with this excerpt: “When the man is loading the dishwasher, and the woman must come over, because he’s loading it wrong, it is called ‘The Dishwasher Position.’”]

    In our house it’s me who fixes the wrong dish loading of my wife. We’re kinky like that.

  • [Trump is impeached. Friend posts a meme: “America doesn’t need a new president, America needs a new Congress!”]

    I guess you support Trump and disagree with today’s impeachment vote. Can you explain why? I’d sincerely like to understand your position. Because everything I’ve heard to support impeachment is overwhelmingly damning, and nothing I’ve heard in defense of Trump makes a lick of sense.

    [“I don’t really have anything too back up why, but he’s done a lot of good for this country…”]

    “he’s done a lot of good for this country with jobs”

    Are you aware that though the number of jobs has indeed been increasing, another number called the Jobs Quality Index has been plummeting? This means that more jobs than ever are unskilled, low-wage jobs without security or benefits.

    “national debt”

    Are you aware that when Trump took office, the national debt was 19 trillion, and it’s now 23 trillion? Are you aware that the deficit (the amount by which government spending exceeds revenue each year) was declining when he took office, slowing the accumulation of debt, but that it is now growing again?

    “spent more time working with the president and the rest of the republicans”
    “I really don’t expect any [of] them to help each other”

    Are you aware that Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives have worked together to create and pass more than three hundred bills, most with strong support from both parties (covering such things as drug prices, election security, and worker pensions), but that Mitch McConnell has sent them all to a “graveyard” in the Senate where he refuses to let them be debated?

    If you were not aware of these things before, does being aware of them change your mind? If not, why not?

    If you were aware of these things before, why are you willing to overlook them?

    As I said before, I really, really want to understand your position. Please help me.

    [“trump isn’t the best president we’ve had but he is better than any of the candidates the Democratic Party had/has too offer”]

    Again I must ask if you’re able to articulate why?

    [“you win”]

    If you think this is about me trying to win something, then I have failed to explain myself, and I lose.

  • In 1980, shortly before the release of The Empire Strikes Back, a Time magazine article previewed and explained the “Episode V” in the opening crawl. (The original Star Wars was not yet “Episode IV: A New Hope.” It was retroactively retitled for a subsequent re-release.) That’s the first we heard of George Lucas’s nine-movie plan, which was then slated to wrap up in 2001. That seemed impossibly far off to 14-year-old me – half again as distant in time as my lifespan so far – but when I made the effort to imagine finally getting to see that film in that unknowable future, it felt like it would be a glorious culmination, a completion, a bookend for the first few volumes of my own life, the apotheosis of moviegoing.

    Now that it’s actually here it feels like just another holiday-season errand to take care of.

  • [“Friend posts link to Warning lights are flashing for Democrats as they impeach Trump.]

    “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.”

  • [Someone posts a meme of a crying baby labeled “Official seal of the United States Democratic Party” and the comment, “The truth hurts Democrats.”]

    I know I’m making a pest of myself and I’m sorry. But I have a lot of affection and respect for you which is why I am so eager to understand your posting of things like this meme, which makes no sense to me. What purpose could you be trying to serve by insulting so many other Americans, at a time when everyone on all sides complains about the political divide in our country? Where do you think that divide comes from? It comes from you, and people like you, doing things exactly like posting this meme, and signaling in other ways that you refuse to engage with anyone who disagrees with your dear leader.

    How did he become your dear leader, and how did you become convinced that he can never be wrong, so everyone else always must be? That’s what makes no sense to me. That’s what I’m frankly desperate to have you explain. Because the twentieth century sent us many very clear warnings about the destruction and suffering that awaits all of us as long as you and people like you keep deepening the divide instead of trying to reach across.

  • [Ken Olin tweets, “I truly believe the only reason Trump lies so much about things that are incredibly easy to check, is because he’s insane.”]

    Insanity [paraphrased]: doing the same thing again and again and expecting it to work.

    Trump’s lies keep working.

    We keep expecting facts to work against them. We try and try and keep failing.

    We are the insane ones.

2018 in review


My social-media utterances this year, in all their political-anxiety and quixotically-attempting-to-engage-with-the-other-side glory. Leavened by not nearly enough comic relief.

2019, I just want to tell you good luck. We’re all counting on you. (Previously.)

  • “Time to make the donuts” is my first waking thought most days.

  • Visited Kachka recently, and ate “like a Russian” as advised by the menu: with every square inch of the table covered in assorted zakuski and pelmeni, interspersing tastes of everything with shots of three different kinds of vodka. It was amazing. And all I could think of was how much I missed out in the 1980’s, before I knew how to eat, when I politely declined all the unfamiliar Russian dishes Olga Epelboim put in front of me when I visited. I’m sure now that they must have been delicious.

  • Webcomics make the best essays. The Good War

  • [In a comment thread.]

    Animal House, in case you didn’t know, is the greatest comedy ever made, with the possible exceptions of Groundhog Day, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and What’s Up, Doc?

  • [Commenting on (and quoting) a post promoting a right-wing opinion column.]

    “if you read with an open non biased mind (sorry most wont)”

    O the irony.

  • Everyone is wrong. What’s your position on GPS?

  • Earlier today I was despairing. “How does the rule of law come back from a day like today?”

    Then I read @HoarseWisperer’s tweet and I thought, “Oh, maybe this way.”

  • [After the State of the Union address.]

    The best thing you can do today is to donate money to an organization to repudiate the destructive agenda described in last night’s speech. Does it bother you that Trump and his allies are dismantling individual liberties? Donate to the ACLU. That they’re trashing the environment? Donate to the Sierra Club. That they’re enabling hate groups? Donate to the Southern Poverty Law Center. That they’re co-opting the news media? Donate to ProPublica. That they’re undermining the very structures of government? Donate to Indivisible, Flippable, or SisterDistrict (and vote in November!) to elect officials who respect rather than revile the role of government.

    There are a hundred other worthy organizations you could send money to. Choose one, choose two, choose ten. But donate a meaningful amount TODAY – NOW – to help us all send the message loud and clear that we reject the plutocracy the GOP cheered for last night – we want Liberty, we want Justice, and we want them for All.

    Let tomorrow’s headlines be about the outpouring of opposition to Donald Trump and his shameless enablers.

  • [Commented on a post by Dave, a right-wing friend, condemning kneeling during the national anthem, on the grounds that it’s disrespectful to the armed forces.]

    Suppose a white man shoots a young black kid to death and gets away with it by telling a jury nothing more than “a black kid in a hoodie made me afraid for my safety.”

    Suppose a cop gets away with basically the same exact thing.

    Suppose that happens again and again and again and again. Suppose it happens hundreds and hundreds of times in places all over the country and there’s no sign of things ever changing for the better.

    Suppose the collective apathy about this crisis offends your conscience. And suppose you’re a celebrity. You’d like to use your renown to give something back to the country that made you a star. You don’t want to make too big a thing out of it – no speeches, no marches, no boycotts – just a quiet symbolic gesture in the hope that it will raise awareness.

    What would you do?

    [Friend responded that I can’t keep up this “insane liberal rage” for seven more years.]

    Not rage. A sincere question. What would you do?

    I’m curious. Why did this read to you as “insane rage”?

    [And when Chris chimed in with, “Don’t try to have an intelligent conversation with a liberal. It just won’t work.”]

    That can be taken either way. Not knowing you, it’s impossible to tell who you’re insulting, me or Dave!

    [And when the thread went silent.]

    I posed a simple question above: “What would you do?”

    I didn’t get an answer. But I did get called a liberal, twice.

    What about my question makes me a liberal? My question barely expresses any opinions; it just lays out a hypothetical (a thinly veiled one, I admit). If there’s any opinion that comes through, it’s a hatred of injustice.

    But that’s universal. Don’t you hate injustice too?

    [And finally…]

    So rather than get an answer I got called a liberal, as if that excuses conservatives from engaging with me.

    But we are countrymen together. Neither of us is going away. It is our civic obligation to engage with one another. To compromise. America has at times been excellent at this – and those are the times America has been best.

    What’s the alternative? Constantly to undermine one another? Whose agenda does that serve?

    The truth is, liberals and conservatives agree on most things. We all want safe food and drugs, clean air and water, adequate pay for honest work, fair elections, peace, justice, public safety.

    But no politician ever won office by telling you how much they’re like their opponent. So they must find the fissures of disagreement, drive a wedge there, and hammer, hammer, hammer. If they do it enough you can start to believe that your political opponents – your fellow Americans! – are traitorous threats to your very way of life. Don’t fall for it.

    They have to keep us hating each other to keep the money and the votes flowing. But it’s not liberals vs. conservatives. It’s all of us against the fuckers that want to keep us divided.

  • Gotta become a billionaire now so I can mount a vanity space mission to recover Elon’s Tesla.

    Glad finally to have a reason.

  • TFW a complex narrative dream draws to a satisfying conclusion and you wake up naturally five minutes before the time you had the alarm set for.

  • [In reply to @TomiLahren’s tweet, “Can the Left let the families grieve for even 24 hours before they push their anti-gun and anti-gunowner agenda?”]

    Is it time to talk about last week’s massacre yet?
    The one the week before that?
    The one the week before that?
    The one the week before that?

  • [Replying to a gun-rights maximalist in a comment thread after another mass shooting.]

    “semi automatic weapons were around for decades before these Mass shootings became so common”

    My pet theory: we are collectively too wealthy. Our homes have gotten too big and comfortable. We therefore spend too much time in them and too little in common spaces, disintegrating our communities.

    Whether that’s true or not, positively identifying deep societal problems won’t happen any time soon, to say nothing of fixing them. In the meantime, the next gun massacre will happen soon. This is an emergency. I suggest sensible gun-control measures. What practical solution do you suggest? It should be something other than “get people wondering whether guns are the real problem.”

  • [In another comment thread about how to address the problem of school shootings.]

    There are over 90,000 schools in the country. Stationing a single $30k-per-year rent-a-cop at each one of them will cost $2.7 billion and offhand doesn’t seem like it will accomplish very much. Even if that money were available I’m sure many of those schools would prefer to spend it on more teachers, new textbooks, heat in the winter, etc.

  • [Mueller indicts Russian spies with ties to the President; Congressman Nadler mentions possibility of impeachment; right-wing friend says Nadler should get voted out.]

    Have you read this week’s Mueller indictment? It’s here: https://www.justice.gov/file/1035477/download

    If you “can’t believe” what Nadler’s talking about, then you have to be prepared to refute the numerous specific, credible allegations in that document laying out the means and motives for a concerted and ongoing criminal conspiracy by foreign nationals to disrupt our electoral process and other civic functions.

    Or you have to believe that protecting against that kind of threat isn’t required of the President. In which case, have you read his job description? It’s here: http://constitution.findlaw.com/article2.html

    [Another in the thread writes, “Democrats are not only Stupid, they are IDIOTARDS!”]

    If that’s your attitude, how do you propose to make common cause with them? We are, after all, one nation, and Democrats comprise very many of your countrymen.

    If we can’t focus on the things that unite us, governing by compromise and concession like every generation for 150 years has managed to do, we’ll descend into endless squabbling at least, and perhaps even tear ourselves apart – either of which outcome benefits other major players on the world stage.

    Don’t follow their script.

    [Still another, Gregg, asks, “What does Nadler want POTUS to do declare war on Russia?”]

    There are many, many steps that can be taken before war. Sanctions. Freezing of assets. Dedicating the resources to strengthen those institutions that are under attack. Making a damn speech.

    A great start would be to stop trying to undermine the investigation that’s uncovering all this.

    [Gregg responds that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor because of sanctions.]

    Are you arguing that, because it led to the attack on Pearl Harbor, we should not have organized the global embargo of Japan? Even after it had invaded China and attacked American, British, and Dutch interests (to say nothing of their brutality towards the Chinese)? Even when their expansionist plans were clear, and threatened our allies? What should we have done – nothing?

    In the eighty years since then, sanctions, freezing of assets, expulsions of ambassadors, punitive tariffs, and other common tools of diplomatic pressure have been used innumerable times all around the world, hardly ever leading to war.

    What should we do now? Not declare war, but not do anything that might provoke a hostile response – so, nothing?

  • [Comment thread with gun-rights maximalist Derick, asking what if you need to defend against home invasion.]

    If I were seriously afraid of that possibility, my first step would be putting steel bars on all my windows, and reinforcing my front door – measures that might reduce my home’s curb appeal but at least don’t require extending dangerous rights to murderous maniacs. The fact that many people claiming to need assault weapons for home defense don’t take other simpler measures first suggests to me that there’s something else going on.

    [Derick asks, what if it happens anyway? What would you do?]

    What would I do? Comply with their demands and hope for the best. Anything else is a Hollywood fantasy.

    My gun would of course be locked in a gun safe, and my ammunition would be locked away separately – basics of responsible gun ownership. Most of the ways a home invasion scenario could unfold would not permit me to get my weapon and the ammunition for it and load it and be ready to use it. Plus I’d have to believe in the first place that that’s the best way to survive the situation. The situations in which I believed that and could get and load my gun AND couldn’t get the job done except with a military assault rifle are fewer still.

    Why obsess over this scenario? You take a bigger risk going outside without sunscreen.

    [Why he obsesses: it happened to his young daughters.]

    That’s a horrifying story. I’m glad it turned out OK […]

    However, nothing in your story suggests that the acquisition of murder-spree quantities of munitions by mentally unbalanced teens must remain completely frictionless.

  • [Friend asks what to do when confronted with an idiotic proposal like arming teachers: dignify with a response, or ignore and cede the debate?]

    “What to do?”

    This: @profmusgrave’s tweet

    Don’t tell people they’re idiots. They won’t hear you. Ask questions that expose their idiocy.

  • [After another mass shooting.]

    Of course it’s violent videogames, it’s gotta be. Unless there are any counterexamples, like countries that have violent videogames and no mass-shooting epidemic. 🤔

  • [Regarding the outspoken survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.]

    Why are kids having success speaking truth to power when the rest of us have not for so long? Not because they are recently traumatized. It’s because Fox hasn’t spent decades laying the groundwork for how to ignore and belittle them.

  • I’ve been telling my kids, “My generation is leaving a mess yours is going to have to clean up.” AND IT’S HAPPENING. 😍 @LittleMissFlint’s tweet

  • The NRA changed from being about shooting targets and food to shooting people. RAWR

  • I refuse to buy anything in the “For Dummies” line of products and so should you.

  • The French Lieutenant’s Woman is streaming on Amazon Prime. It’s an unusual movie in which Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons play dual roles: lovers in 19th-century England, and the actors portraying those lovers in the film-within-a-film being shot in the modern day. Period scenes are intercut with modern scenes; the two stories parallel each other.

    I cannot stop thinking about a scene in which the actors are rehearsing a moment in the film. It’s the simplest little moment: he sees her, she sees him. They start to run through it but are casual and unfocused. They are actors, acting. They perform it something like I imagine I would (my acting skills never having developed beyond the sixth grade). Then she says, “let’s just do it again” and they do. An alchemical transformation takes place. Suddenly they are in the scene, they are their characters. Even though it’s the same two people in the same little room on the same dreary afternoon, somehow, all at once, it’s not – and that’s before the scene abruptly jumps back to the 19th century. It is pure magic, and it proves the adage that good acting is the best special effect. The French Lieutenant’s Woman Clip – Scene Rehearsal

  • [Right-wing friend lauds Trump for meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.]

    North Korea has sought a meeting with an American president since the 1990s. That Trump chooses to engage now signals to every other third world dictator that their best bet is to develop a nuclear program too.

  • Signing into any website and clicking the Remember Me checkbox now triggers a big Mexican musical number in my head. #Coco

  • We choose to go to the moon, not because it is easy, but because we need a Space Force. #iftrumpsaidit

  • December 7th, 1941, a famous, very very famous date. #iftrumpsaidit

  • Fuck. If this is true, the moment of truth is fast approaching when we must all stand and fight, maybe literally, in a showdown between democracy and totalitarianism. @BillKristol’s tweet

  • Mr. Gorbachev, build this wall! #iftrumpsaidit

  • Speak softly and carry – I’m the softest speaker, OK? The. Softest. No one speaks softer than me. And I do, I carry a big stick. A serious, serious stick. #iftrumpsaidit

  • The only thing we have to fear is rapists from Mexico. #iftrumpsaidit

  • Ask not what your country can do for you. I’ll tell you what your country can do for you. Not much, I can tell you that. #iftrumpsaidit

  • [Friend reports his kid found a VHS tape and had no idea what it was. They couldn’t watch the tape, but found an online version to watch.]

    When you’re done streaming, remember: be kind, rewind

  • [On high school classmate Cynthia Nixon running for governor.]

    I have been hearing Edward Everett Horton announce in disbelief “The Governor of New York State!” all day long. Pocketful of Miracles clip

  • Really, really pleased to be able to share the past several months’ work by the thoughtful and talented team at Chain: TxVM, the transaction virtual machine. Introducing TxVM, the Transaction Virtual Machine

  • Hey, wait a second, babies don’t lactate. Just what is Holland trying to pull?

  • McConnell doing something sensible? I am so confused. Sen. Mitch McConnell pushes bill to legalize hemp

    There just has to be something corrupt behind this.

  • [Responding to a cynical post about the questionable new policy of making Parkland students wear clear backpacks and ID badges.]

    “Welcome to the futility of adulthood.”

    It’s just more difficult than most expect, not futile. If it were futile to try achieving things through collective action, we’d still have slavery, women wouldn’t have the vote, everyone would fear smallpox, there’d be no flag on the moon, rivers in Ohio would routinely catch fire, and we’d all have to be covered head-to-foot on sunny days because of ozone depletion.

  • @Emma4Change is not the first E.González to affect presidential politics.

  • [Friend says he has a “+5 dog of cuddling.”]

    The dragon attacks! You say, “Fluffy, cuddle!” Fluffy nuzzles the dragon. They curl up together. You loot the gold.

  • Dear Jeff Bezos, George Soros, or whoever: please buy a controlling interest in Sinclair Broadcast Group. A steal at $1.6 billion. Thanks!

  • [In a thread about the evils of social media.]

    Social media has its problems, no doubt about that. But without it, how many of you would I be in touch with? How many of my ideas could I get across, and how many of yours could I absorb? Would politicians feel compelled to pay attention to the Parkland kids? Could we go back to relying solely on the mainstream press? Could the (much diminished) mainstream press even do its job without using social-media posts as informal stringers?

    The techno-utopianist in me is not dead yet. If these platforms can be made savvier, and if we can become savvier in how we use them – as earlier generations did with their brand-new forms of media – I believe they may be the very key to reversing the divisions they have sown.

  • The name of a character in my dream last night: Dr. Fishfuffy.

  • [In reply to @AoDespair’s tweet]

    Because when you actually are supreme you don’t have to go around insisting you are.

  • [In reply to @iiTalW’s tweet, “People who can’t distinguish between etymology and entomology bug me in ways I cannot put into words.”]

    Laughed so hard I almost needed an enterologist.

  • Welcome to America, where we don’t care what you’re famous for as long as you’re famous.

  • [Eleven years after Mom died.]

    Neil Diamond karaoke at the top of my voice. Miss you, Mom.

  • React to Trump with sputtering outrage and you’re playing on his turf. You have no chance. Stay cool, calm, confident, and classy, and he’s defenseless.

  • Dear @ATT, if you really think pay-for-play was a mistake, you’ll renounce the fruits of that deal. Otherwise, you really only think getting caught was a mistake.

  • [In reply to @jasontoff’s tweet]

    Just this week my long-time dental hygienist confessed to me she’s had plenty of cavities, “same as anyone.”

  • [In another comment thread about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.]

    “I remember when I could go to a concert, a movie, or a ballgame and not deal with politics.”

    People who aren’t professionals, or straight, or white, or men read that and think, “Imagine being so privileged you could ignore politics.”

  • I like the way the word “continuum” sounds and wish we pronounced “vacuum” the same way.

  • [Latin professor friend asks me to turn a comment about her cat into a haiku.]

    [reporting for duty]

    Snoring Percy dreams
    While I write Latin exams:
    “Dormiens bonum”

  • [Trump tweets, “Great meeting with Kim Kardashian today, talked about prison reform and sentencing.” Friend posts it with the comment, “I rebooted my router but I still seem to be living in some insane nonsense universe.”]

    When did we fork off of the sensible timeline?

    I think it was at the moment that presidential stain landed on Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress, though no one could have known at the time the power it would grant to the forces of Chaos. In the movie they’ll make someday about this era, that instant will be freighted with significance via super-slow-motion (tastefully, somehow, I hope), accompanied by a dissonant orchestral crescendo and spinny kaleidoscopic visuals to represent a Rip in Reality.

  • [Smartphone display design trends vs. slow recovery from hurricane devastation.]

    I see the word “notch” in my various news feeds about ten times as often as I see “Puerto Rico.”

  • [Comment thread about science headline, “Process takes CO2 from the air, converts it to carbon nanotubes.]

    Coming soon: “Desperate scientists seek ways to resuscitate plant life and reduce widespread fires after oxygen/CO2 imbalance.”

    Also: “Carbon nanotube lobby disputes atmosphere imbalance is human-caused.”

  • Sitting in a Starbucks, listening to a mom who has clearly forgotten what it is to be a child trying to talk her young daughter out of a sugary snack… by describing what’s in it. “It’s marshmallow and white frosting. No.” “PLEEEEEASE.”

    Child abuse.

  • [In reply to @adamdavidson’s tweet, “After showing some Trump-supporters statistics that quickly disprove their pro-Trump/anti-Obama economic claims, I have come to the following conclusion: This isn’t about facts.”]

    Disagree. The facts will matter in the end. The challenge first, though, is getting those facts past the rhetorical defenses erected by the likes of Fox News.

  • Inhumane work conditions > labor unions > “Capitalism works, who needs unions?”
    Racism/sexism > civil rights laws > “We are equal, who needs laws?”
    Horrifying diseases > vaccines > “No epidemics, who need vaccines?”
    Tyranny > democracy > “No tyrants, who needs democracy?”
    #wcgw

  • Woke up this morning reluctantly realizing that I need to do the right thing and turn myself in for my recent act of theft and vandalism, if for no other reason than to spite Donald Trump by showing how one takes responsibility for one’s actions. A few weeks ago I stole an unattended new ferry boat on a lark, piloted it up one of Marin’s waterways, ran it aground in some shallows, and then hiked out of there. I’ve nervously been following news reports of the incident since then. A lot of people had been inconvenienced cleaning up after my little stunt, and I caused at least tens of thousands in property damage. I wanted to give myself up before the investigation led to me. I was probably headed for jail.

    It was only after I’d been awake for several minutes that I slowly became convinced, with growing relief, that none of this had ever actually happened. Instead it’s been an interlocking series of dreams I’ve been having over the past few weeks.

    Or has it? Maybe it was just one dream, with a depth-of-time illusion as one aspect of it, making it seem like I was remembering things from weeks ago when I wasn’t really. How would I know the difference?

    Have you ever had a series of dreams telling a continuing story across days or weeks? Are you sure?

  • The guy who took the seat right next to me on the ferry when there were still plenty of others available, and who I therefore automatically resented even though the ferry was bound to fill up anyway, just gave up his seat to a young mom standing with babe in arms, so now I have to admire him, dammit.

  • [Right-winger in comment thread concedes that kids and even babies in terribly understaffed and underequipped detention centers is “not a great situation” but what can you do?]

    Not a great situation? Short of a massacre, this is among the most monstrous abuses in human history.

    [Right-winger blames the countries they’re fleeing and asks how I would handle it.]

    When I worked at Google, there was a philosophy called “That’s our problem.” If the user wants to search for something but misspells a word, that’s not their problem, that’s our problem. If they’re too impatient to wait 600 milliseconds for a web page to load, that’s not their problem, that’s our problem. We have to make things right for the user even in light of those problems.

    Laying blame accomplishes exactly nothing. If people are leaving other countries to come here, that’s our problem. We have to make things right.

    Generations of immigrants have come to this country without our tearing babies from their mothers’ arms, putting them in cages, and permanently blighting their lives. It’s hard to imagine any crisis that would make this necessary, and there certainly isn’t one now. So my answer to your question, “How would you handle it?” is “Any of the other ways America has handled immigration before now.”

  • A true horror story.

    There’s a chip in the paint on a wall in my house. Every time it catches my eye, a part of my brain immediately goes, “Is it a spider?” and I turn to look right at it. No, it’s not a spider.

    This happened enough times that I finally trained myself not to look at that spot every time it catches my eye. I know it’s not a spider.

    The other day it WAS a spider.

    The end.

    [Good luck ever sleeping again!]

  • [Friend points out all the good that spiders do for us.]

    My forebrain says the same thing. My hindbrain begs to differ.

  • If we can just get @HillaryClinton to go on TV and say, “Caging small children is just and right and we should do more of it,” I think Republicans would all say, “It’s sinful and cruel!” and would end the policy immediately.

  • In the midst of all the shouting about immigration comes Malcolm Gladwell’s latest podcast episode that explains how strengthening border enforcement over the past few decades, with the best intentions and under irreproachable leadership, paradoxically produced more illegal immigration, not less. General Chapman’s last stand

  • [In reply to @clmazin’s tweet]

    I get your point, but maybe not the best example. Have you seen the original Star Wars script before Lucas’s friends helped to hone it?

  • [In the midst of outrage over child detention, Melania wore a jacket that said “I really don’t care, do u?” Her spokesperson said there was no hidden message.]

    It’s true, there was no hidden message. It wasn’t hidden.

  • [In reply to @adamdavidson’s tweet]

    “Own the Libs”

    3 liberals & 3 conservatives debate a topic for 20mins, live. Viewers vote in real-time on who’s winning.

    R’s tune in to see D’s get owned, the seeming outcome most of the time. Meanwhile it’s breaching the barrier keeping left-wing ideas out of right-wing minds.

  • Them: “Bakers can refuse service to gay couples!”
    Us: “Intolerance is wrong.”
    Them: “Restaurants kicked us out!”
    Us: “Yay!”
    Them: “Oh so now it’s OK?”

    Yes. Intolerance is the thing it’s OK not to tolerate.

  • We have 1/20th the Congressional representation George Washington wanted us to have. Homeopathic democracy

  • [In reply to @EmilyGorcenski’s tweet]

    Most folks just follow the dominant narrative. Today that narrative is told by Fox News. Those same folks would have cheered the defeat of fascism in WWII, but only incidentally. They’ll incidentally be on the right side of history again only when our side tells a better story.

  • Without due process, you’re an undocumented immigrant and can be deported. Oh, you’re not? Prove it! Sorry, there’s no process for proving it.

  • Can Trump be sued for persistent elevated cortisol levels caused by an unending state of emergency, undoubtedly contributing to a shortened lifespan? Asking for a friend.

  • [Friend despairing over child-detention crisis just doesn’t know what to do.]

    Vote. Register others to vote. Donate money. Donate time. Call your representatives. Attend protests. Join organizations.

    Our generation got used to the idea of coasting on the victories of the past, but that is now over. Democracy means we are the ones who have to make things happen, no one else.

  • Things we used to think were great:
    – White bread
    – Bill Cosby
    – Capitalism

  • Tl;dr – Everyone wake the f up before this becomes a nightmare we can’t wake up from. @SethAbramson’s tweet

  • [In a comment thread about ICE destroying records of abuse in its detention centers, a friend asks who will step up to stop them.]

    You and millions like you, NOW. Otherwise, nobody.

  • Nothing says the Supreme Court has to have nine members. Vote like hell so we can turn a six-member majority into a six-member minority.

  • Money talks. But we can make money SCREAM. #generalstrike

  • It’s all Bill Clinton’s fault. He succeeded too well in moving the party to the right. It co-opted the GOP’s best positions, hollowing it out and leaving it with nothing but extremism.

  • [Right-wing friend posts an unflattering photo of a frowning Maxine Waters, captioned “The new face of the Democrat party. It is mean, angry, and hates our great country.”]

    What about this picture makes you think Ms. Waters is expressing hatred of our country? Maybe instead it’s hatred of misogyny, or of racism, or of attacks on children traumatized by gun violence, or of inaction in the face of multiple humanitarian crises, or of self-dealing, or of three thousand documentable lies, or of monumental ethics violations, or of fawning over autocrats, or of fucking BABY JAILS, or of wrecking alliances, or of pointless and costly trade wars, or of bankrupting the country to reward the super-rich, or of not lifting a finger to defend the Constitution against its most dire foreign threat in history.

    I mean, maybe it’s hatred of our country, but I think I know what hatred of our country really looks like, and it’s not a facial expression.

  • [In reply to @CollinRugg’s tweet, “The Annapolis shooting is the best news the Left has heard all week. They can now pretend like they care about gun violence and use ever trick in the book to make Trump look bad. Sad!”]

    If you believe the goal of politics is to make one another look bad, you are under the sway of those trying to tear this country apart.

    Please join those of us who believe the goal is to do the most good for the people most in need.

  • [Responding to a friend posting about Germans in WWII failing to foresee the depths of evil they were headed for.]

    This does not help answer a perhaps-unanswerable question: fight or flight? If we stay, are we fools not to learn from their experience, because another holocaust is inevitable? If we flee, are we abandoning the country to its worst elements and thereby maybe causing another holocaust?

  • Grieving is a process. Let’s grieve, and let’s get through it so we can get to the next, more useful step. The America We Thought We Knew Is Gone

  • [After right-wing friend reposts propaganda item, made to look like a CNN tweet, quoting Maxine Waters saying next Supreme Court justice should be an illegal immigrant.]

    Fraudulent Twitter account suspended. (”@CnnPoltics” is missing an “i.”)

    Please be less eager to believe and spread misinformation like this, whose goal is to sow chaos and division. We need the opposite.

  • It works on me, and on everyone I know. But good news: forewarned is forearmed. @LincolnsBible’s tweet

  • I don’t want a blue wave in November. That’s too “us-vs-them,” which is how we got into this mess to begin with.

    I want record-breaking turnout for a renewal of American values: fairness, decency, justice, courage. A red-white-and-blue wave.

  • [On Fox News dropping the “democratic” from the phrase “democratic socialism” to whip up opposition.]

    I’ve been saying (to some DSA friends of mine) that they need better branding, for just that reason. I suggested “asymptotic capitalism.”

  • Talked to an in-law of mine in rural PA who is a Trump supporter. I asked why. He said:

    1. He’s a billionaire so doesn’t have to take shit from anyone.

    2. There are too many bleeding hearts.

    3. His in-your-face style is refreshing.

    4. Sure he’s out for himself, but so are all politicians.

    5. What’s up with tearing apart families at the border? Immigrants who follow the rules should be allowed in, those who don’t should be sent back, simple as that.

    6. Too busy and tired all the time to pay close attention to everything going on.

    This is not a raging libtard hater. This is a sensible, hardworking family man with some strong opinions who has internalized the Trump triumphalism he hears all around him because why wouldn’t he?

    He respects my intelligence and was genuinely taken aback to hear me use the word “frightened” to describe my feelings about Trump.

    When he becomes convinced of the truth behind everything he will turn on the GOP with a vengeance, no question.

    Hard to extrapolate from a single data point but I sense this describes very, very many Trump voters.

    Convinces me that @adamdavidson is right: making the truth clear and accessible is the challenge of our time. @adamdavidson’s tweet

  • [In a comment thread about an opinion article, headline “Susceptibility to fake news is driven more by lazy thinking than partisan bias.”]

    My experience has been that you can’t tell a Trump voter anything, but if you ask questions (without rancor) meant to make them repeat out loud the policies they supposedly agree with, the rational brain engages and they have a meaningful “hmm” moment.

  • [In reply to @owillis’s tweet]

    “all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed”

  • [Ahead of the Trump-Putin meeting.]

    Putin wanted sanctions eliminated, NATO weakened, trade disrupted, and Americans at each other’s throats. Mission accomplished. What do you suppose he will instruct Trump to do next? #TreasonSummit

  • Tomorrow’s front page. Find your courage and make it happen, Nytimes.com. You know it’s the right thing. #TreasonSummit

  • [Dan Rather tweets, “The President… trusts the word of a former KGB agent over the consensus of the American intelligence community backed by a ton of facts… Everyone who excuses Trump’s behavior must answer that now.” Right-wing acquaintance calls it “fake news.”]

    Please suppose for a moment that what the left says about Trump is true: his many bankruptcies left his finances in a shambles that he could repair only by becoming an important cog in an international money-laundering scheme dominated by Russian oligarchs and therefore by Putin, and that Trump is therefore dependent on Putin for his very sense of self, since Trump defines himself by his wealth. Putin exploits this dependence to dismantle the institutions (the WTO, NATO, the U.S. State Department) that oppose his ambitions.

    The left sees evidence of this hypothesis in everything Trump does, and also in the things he fails to do (like cancel the summit meeting, or at least have others in attendance, or confront Putin, or expel diplomats, or make a speech defending the integrity of our elections, or release his tax returns, or, hell, devise a disparaging nickname for Putin like he’s done for seemingly everyone else). Clearly you do not.

    So, question: supposing these things are true, what would it take to convince you?

    [Normally prolific acquaintance never replied.]

  • [On the giant Jeff Goldblum statue that appeared in London.]

    “What is he, making fun of me?”

  • [Friend says the proposed new slogan for the Democratic party is weak and suggests and alternative.]

    I agree “for the people” could be strengthened (is it supposed to imply, “…and not the corporations”?), but I disagree “truth not treason” is a good slogan. It’s unnecessarily inflammatory and confrontational to too many fellow Americans, and focuses too narrowly on one current crisis facing the country.

  • To my supporters: NEVER EVER PAY ATTENTION TO NEWS MEDIA OTHER THAN FOX OR I WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER AN ADMINISTRATION THAT CAN DEFLECT EVERY ACCUSATION. BE CREDULOUS!

  • Aw man, they’re taking away most of the rest of the YouTube video-editing tools. YouTube Enhancements (other than Blur and Trim) are going away August 22

    Previously: Requiem for Warhol

  • Welcome to 2018, where our best chance to save America from the corrupting influence of Russia is to embrace socialism.

  • When the breeze is out a-wooing
    Who can woo so well?

  • [In a thread about vanished childhood restaurants.]

    For a few years in elementary school, approximately everyone, including me, had their birthday parties in the party room at Jahn’s. It looked like this.

    The only thing I really remember from Jahn’s was cheating at a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. My victory was tinged with a shame I’ve never forgotten.

  • Wondrous is our great blue ship
    That sails around the mighty sun
    And joy to everyone that rides along!

  • [Friend posted “CHOOSE THE FORM OF THE DESTRUCTOR”]

    Media consolidation.

  • [Right-wing friend posts in favor of Trump withdrawing from the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal.]

    Can you explain why you think this is the right policy? I haven’t heard a coherent argument in favor. Maybe if you can articulate yours, I would agree too.

    [No answer, but someone else, Allan, writes we’re the greatest country in the world, then asks me why I think Trump’s move is wrong.]

    Here’s some of the argument I’ve heard against this policy:
    – We abandoned an earlier agreement. This harms our ability to negotiate other agreements in the future.
    – We betrayed the allies with whom we negotiated the agreement. This harms our alliances.
    – If we’re all stick and no carrot, we back Iran into a corner and compel it to get its own stick.

    Here’s where your points don’t ring true with me:
    – “We need to let these countries know that we won’t be intimidated by them” In fact everyone can see that nuclear states like Pakistan and North Korea are able to punch far above their weight. With the U.S. behaving in a hostile and unpredictable manner, racing towards acquiring nuclear weapons is Iran’s rational best move. The idea behind the agreement was to give them a better move.
    – “They can’t build a nuclear arsenal if we choke off their money supply” That didn’t stop North Korea. Sanctions fall most heavily on ordinary citizens; governments always have ways to fund their most essential projects, and under these sanctions very little will have higher priority than this.

    [Allan responds “I don’t believe in giving our country away like most liberals” and “What we really should do is level the entire place and see what grows next.”]

    “clearly nothing I say would ring true to you”

    That’s not at all clear to me. I just responded to a couple of specific points you made. I hope you won’t generalize from that to conclude we can’t have a discussion. I would genuinely like to understand your point of view better.

    I am particularly interested to know what you think “leveling the entire place” means, and what that would achieve.

    [No response.]

  • In my dream last night, I was a test pilot flying fighter jets.

    Thank you, brain.

  • If you tell a salmon that its fate is to be eaten, I doubt it would be surprised. But I’m curious to know what its reaction would be after you explain that it will be smoked, sliced, and placed atop a bagel with cream cheese and capers and red onion.

  • [Outrage over reports that Google knows your location even if you disable “Location History.”]

    That Google has a record of your location even if you turn off Location History in the Maps app is not a surprise, and wouldn’t be news if people were more technologically literate.

    Apps that use location data all depend on your device reporting it to them. Restricting one app’s use of that data doesn’t stop your device reporting it to other apps, nor should it.

    [Friend objects that people mistakenly expected Google engineers to act with greater integrity.]

    The Location History team created a feature that records your location history, and a way to disable that feature. When disabled, that feature stores no data. They didn’t lack integrity: they said what they did and they did what they said. Instead, they were naive: they believed that “disable location history” would mean to users the same thing it means to them.

    The situation is similar to the way people misunderstood Chrome’s “incognito mode,” which resulted in this warning screen. Something similar is needed for “disable location history.”

    [Much discussion ensues. Friend comments, “I’ve long been impressed at the mindfulness our pedagogue elders who dominated the academic environment there tried to care about the threat of mass surveillance… The state of Teh Valley is a real shock relative to my expectations of social norms formed back then.”]

    I strongly agree with this sentiment. Some of that old guard was among the leadership at Google when I started there, and during my time there a lot of them left, taking a certain antiestablishment ethos with them that was absent in their replacements. I hope that current events are helping to mold a new generation of technohippies.

    [Another friend observes, “This puts way too much of a burden on the individual, presumably non-tech savvy, user.”]

    The trajectory of my career, and of the industry at large, has been approximately: “Let’s share our love of computers with everyone oh shit everyone has computers now.”

  • Trump is the Icarus of organized crime.

  • [Friend asks, “Is anyone keeping a list of all the stuff we’re going to need to put back eventually?” Another suggests, “System restore to November 7, 2016.”]

    You mean, when half the electorate was ready to overlook “grab them by the pussy”? Nooo thank you.

    If we put things back just the way they were, we shouldn’t be surprised to find ourselves getting the same result again. How about if we imagine some new better ways we’d like things to be?

  • Lived here looong ago. Weirdly chose today to google “grover cleveland mural” and found this article, which didn’t exist a week ago. @MichaelHPerlman’s tweet

  • [Friend posts, “DO NOT impeach Trump. It will embolden his base.”]

    I don’t disagree. But, counterpoint: The Constitution, use it or lose it. If we play politics with enforcing the law, we’re no better than the other side.

    Of course the framers recognized that impeachment is in the intertidal zone between politics and law, which is what makes the situation so tricky.

  • [Discussion ensues.]

    “they’ll claim he would have delivered everything he promised if the Democrats hadn’t nitpicked him out of office”

    That’s going to happen no matter what, with some Trump supporters. I sense that very many of his supporters are more like this though: @geebobg’s tweet. For those supporters, the important thing isn’t so much letting Trump self-destruct; it’s making the depth of his cravenness and criminality clear and undeniable. (And I agree the way to proceed there is to let this nightmare unspool a while longer.)

  • Escrow fund for orphaned works. Gets $ from the sale of every movie/song/etc. with a copyright whose owner can’t be determined. If you can prove ownership in some copyright, you can draw from the fund. Solves the missing-movies problem?

  • I’m not sure about the premise of this article. I mean, how many diehard Trump voters even know about everything that’s going on? Fox News sure isn’t telling them.

    Americans love a strong leader, sure. But they hate being conned. Just wait until the truth of everything starts seeping through to those voters. Nothing Donald Trump can do will drive his voters away: If last week didn’t do it, what will?

    [Discussion ensues. Friends doubt Trump supporters will ever realize they’ve been conned.]

    I don’t think I made my point clearly. It’s this: Fox News and other similar outlets have done a very effective job of cocooning much of the nation in pro-Trump propaganda on the one hand, and on the other hand training viewers to reject information from unaligned sources when it leaks into the cocoon. Under that premise, there is no mystery to Trump’s rock-steady base: they simply haven’t gotten the memo. Inevitably, they will, and they will hate, hate, hate how they’ve been manipulated.

    [“I think you’re overly optimistic here, Bob.”]

    Well, if I’m overly optimistic it wouldn’t be the first time. But note, I’m not claiming that some diehard Trump supporters won’t remain – clearly some will, no matter what. I’m claiming that very many supporters aren’t the diehard-no-matter-what types, and we haven’t heard from them only because they’re shielded from reality. When that shield fails, the situation won’t be exactly analogous to Nixon, who, for all the wrong he did, never seriously betrayed conservative principles, and even did some good while in office. Trump has neither of those advantages.

    This is, after all, the country that elected Barack Obama and popular-vote-elected Hillary Clinton.

  • [A friend writes, “I’ll be wearing my YGG cap – You Got Got!!”]

    A sure way to inhibit those who might otherwise be ready to admit they were wrong.

  • An update on TxVM, Chain’s blockchain transaction format and contract language. With examples! Feature development with TxVM

  • [Left-wing friend posts chart showing soaring corporate profits and stagnant wage growth. Right-wing friend responds with CNBC article, “Pay gains during Trump’s first year in office are the best since the Great Recession. I read and fact-check the article.]

    The headline, and much of the text in the article, is misleading. It cherrypicks a statistic called the Employment Cost Index, which is the cost to employers of the wages they pay and the benefits they provide. This number is indeed higher than at any time during the Obama administration. But it’s also not a “headline” statistic (i.e., one you hear about routinely in the news) because it does not convey the experience of ordinary Americans.

    I won’t include a link here because you’ll accuse me of cherrypicking in return, but I encourage you to Google the phrase “u.s. wage trend” and click through to multiple sources. What you’ll see is that wages are doing OK, but not superlatively so.

    [Right-winger writes, “Are you saying that the media from mainstream nbc news is misleading the people by fake news or filtered news or biased facts and misleading headlines? I need only subscribe to the articles you trust? Is that what you are saying?]

    Nope. I’m saying that article is misleading. I am not generalizing to NBC as a whole, the mainstream media, or anything else. I am recommending that you synthesize your information from a cross-section of different sources (for all things, always, not just politics), because you can’t tell in isolation when a particular source is biased. Even if that source is me 😉

  • Something fun!

    I’d like to try out some quiz questions about technological literacy. Care to be a guinea pig? Answer any of these questions in the comments below. Please, no cheating by looking things up or asking around: just state your own understanding.

    Please don’t be shy: my expectation is that everyone outside the computer industry has wrong or incomplete ideas about these questions. I’m interested in what those wrong or incomplete ideas are. COMMENTS THAT SHAME OR RIDICULE OTHERS’ ANSWERS WILL BE DELETED.

    SORRY, COMPUTER-INDUSTRY FRIENDS, YOU’RE EXCLUDED. But feel free to suggest your own questions in comments below.

    1. What is the difference between the Internet and the World Wide Web?
    2. What is the difference between Google Chrome and Google Search?
    3. What is the difference between HTTP and HTML?
    4. What is the difference between HTTP and HTTPS?
    5. What are cookies?
    6. What is an operating system?

    [After a while, and some interesting responses…]

    Thanks to everyone who participated. Most of your answers were better than I expected! Here’s my attempt at answering each question briefly.

    1. What is the difference between the Internet and the World Wide Web?

    The Internet is a global collection of computers and the electronic connections between them. The resulting network supports a variety of data-transfer applications: file transfer, using the file transfer protocol (FTP); e-mail, using the simple mail-transfer protocol (SMTP); and hypertext, using the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP).

    (The word “hypertext” denotes linking a collection of text documents to one another.)

    The World Wide Web is a subset of the Internet. It consists of those computers that know how to respond to HTTP requests, a.k.a. “web servers.” Depending on your definition it also includes those computers that know how to issue HTTP requests (a.k.a. all the rest of us, surfing the web).

    2. What is the difference between Google Chrome and Google Search?

    Google Chrome is a web browser: an application that knows how to issue requests to web servers, and display the results. Other web browsers include Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer. They all do more or less the same thing.

    Google Search is a (super duper) web server with access to an index of all the world’s websites, more or less.

    3. What is the difference between HTTP and HTML?

    HTTP is the hypertext transfer protocol. It describes the format of the messages used behind the scenes in requesting and supplying web pages and related content. When you click on a link, your computer “speaks” HTTP to the relevant web server, saying “give me document so-and-so.”

    HTML is the hypertext markup language, the format of web pages. An HTML document contains text and special notations that tell your web browser how to display it: “start a new paragraph here,” “embed an image here,” and so on.

    HTTP and HTML are related. Many HTTP requests result in the delivery of HTML-formatted documents. But HTTP delivers many types of data, not only HTML documents. For instance, if an HTML document contains an embedded image (which is not, itself, HTML), a separate HTTP request is used to retrieve it.

    4. What is the difference between HTTP and HTTPS?

    HTTP is the hypertext transfer protocol. The requests and responses made using HTTP are in “clear text,” meaning anyone eavesdropping on the connection can read everything going by.

    HTTPS is a version of HTTP in which requests and responses are encrypted. They are intelligible only to the intended parties. Eavesdroppers see only indecipherable gibberish. (The S stands for “secure.”)

    (This might not be so important except for the design of the Internet: it’s essentially made of eavesdroppers. Every message passed between two computers may end up routed through a dozen others en route, behind the scenes. Each computer along the route inspects the message to learn its ultimate destination – and may do more intrusive inspection too.)

    5. What are cookies?

    When you go to a club or a theme park, you get a handstamp. If you leave, the handstamp lets you get back in without having to buy a new ticket or pay a new cover charge.

    A cookie is similar: after you sign in to a website, the web server may ask your browser to store a cookie – typically a short alphanumeric code – and present it for inspection the next time you return. This happens behind the scenes, as a built-in part of HTTP.

    Unlike a handstamp, each visitor to a website gets a distinct cookie. Your alphanumeric code is unique. It’s how websites know it’s you the next time you show up, without requiring you to log in every time.

    6. What is an operating system?

    An operating system is a gatekeeper restricting access to a computer’s resources: its memory, its disk drives, its network interface, its screen, its keyboard and mouse, and more. Any software that wants to run on a computer needs to know the proper way to ask the operating system for the resources it needs.

    Each operating system has its own way of requesting access, which is why software written for Windows is incompatible with software written for Android which is incompatible with software written for iOS (all examples of operating systems).

    [An alternative set of answers in a separate, individual reply.]

    For all the ridicule it got, I have long thought the “information superhighway” was a decent analogy for introducing the masses to the Internet in the 1990’s.

    If the Internet’s a series of roads and the computers are houses and other buildings connected to those roads, then:

    1. The World Wide Web is warehouses full of books.
    2a. Google Chrome is the errand runner you employ to bring you books from those warehouses – and read them to you.
    2b. Google Search is the expert who knows which warehouses contain which books, and which books contain which words and phrases.
    3a. HTTP is the collection of order forms and receipts needed to request and receive books from the warehouses.
    3b. HTML is the layout and typography of the books.
    4. HTTPS is a lockbox in which your errand runner carries your order form to the warehouse, and the book they bring back. Only you and the warehouse owner have the key.
    5. Cookies are handstamps given to your errand runner by warehouses they frequent.
    6. An operating system is a set of keys to the rooms of a house. All the rooms are locked and there’s only one set of keys, so everyone has to take turns using them.

    These analogies aren’t perfect of course, but they’re not too bad.

  • Cloud eggs!

    Cloud eggs

  • [Right-winger asks in a comment thread about voter suppression how we think Republicans are suppressing votes.]

    In the past: literacy tests, poll taxes. Today: voter ID laws, targeted poll closures.

    [Right-winger responds Voter ID laws are not suppression, they ensure the integrity of the vote.]

    That’s the rationalization. But when there’s no demonstrated need for preventing widespread voter fraud, and when the demonstrated effect of voter ID laws is to discourage turnout by traditionally Democratic voters, it’s easy to see why Republicans would enact it under the guise of ensuring electoral integrity.

    I’m not saying Democrats are above using a similar trick if one existed. It’s what political parties have always done. It’d almost be malpractice for them not to try. But we must all resist such things in the name of fairness and democracy.

    “the polls in my county are controlled by the county registrar of voters, not republicans”

    Can you explain why there were 868 fewer places to vote in 2016 than in 2012, and why the closures overwhelmingly affected Democratic voters more than Republicans, without invoking partisan shenanigans?

    To doubt that political parties have influence over elections, or that they will use that influence to their benefit within the bounds of the law and sometimes beyond, is to be willfully naive.

  • [Friend posts that there are more than 500 children in detention still separated from their families. Right-wing person writes a “so-what” response.]

    “I guess their parents should have thought about the consequences to their actions”

    They did. They thought (for example) “Stay in Sinaloa and have my son murdered if he doesn’t join a drug gang? Or go to the land of opportunity?” What choice would you make?

    “This has been going on for years. Why is it such an issue now?”

    Are you suggesting that crimes against humanity get less bad the longer they go on, not worse? Should we not have emancipated the slaves?

  • This feels like one of those captures-the-whole-zeitgeist historic photos. @andyharnik’s tweet

  • [Right-wing friend posts message agreeing with comments made by Senator Sasse (R-NE) at the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing.]

    This is a terrific speech, and I strongly agree with most of it.

    It falls apart near the end, though. After eloquently laying out the ways in which we’ve drifted away from the Founders’ design, Sasse rightly says we need to restore the Constitutional balance of responsibilities between the three branches. But he doesn’t say how to do that – yet he urges the Senate to proceed with Kavanaugh’s confirmation as if that restoration of balance is a done deal.

    It would be nice if it were a done deal, or if there was even a plan for getting that done. But it’s not, and there isn’t, so ultimately Sasse is asking everyone to evaluate Kavanaugh for a job that doesn’t exist: non-super-legislating Supreme Court Justice.

    I have some thoughts on how the legislative branch grew less responsive. It is due, at least in part, to the shrinking size of Congress in proportion to the growth of the country. Homeopathic democracy

    By the way, was anyone else amused when Sasse used the occasion of a Supreme Court confirmation hearing to make a grandstanding speech that included criticism of senators who make grandstanding speeches during Supreme Court confirmation hearings?

  • Now it can be told! This is a very exciting time. Apologies to those of you who’ve gotten only the blandest answers from me these past few months about how work is going. Blockchain company Chain acquired by Stellar

  • [Trump disputes the death toll from Hurricane Maria, saying 3,000 people did not die in Puerto Rico.]

    Perhaps he means that there are 3,000 people in Puerto Rico who did not die.

  • [During the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing.]

    “There are many accomplished men and women in the judiciary, champions of conservatism, whom we can be proud to elevate to our nation’s highest court. Until we find one who cannot be credibly accused of perjury and rape I will withhold my vote.” – Any Republican senator, please.

  • I’ve seen Gary-Kurtz-produced Star Wars, and I’ve seen non-Gary-Kurtz-produced Star Wars, and I know which I prefer.

    RIP, unsung hero of a galaxy far, far away.

  • [In comment thread, right-wing guy repeats complaints about accusations against Brett Kavanaugh.]

    “accusations without proof or any kind of hearing or trial”

    How else is it supposed to work? Trial first, then accusations?

  • [Friend seeks suggestions for questions to ask two female Supreme Court Justices whom she was going to see.]

    Is there a looming crisis of legitimacy for the Court based on the trend of Justices confirmed with less and less political support (see Seems legit) and, if so, what to do about it?

  • This is who Anthony Kennedy wanted to succeed him.

  • I invite the FBI to reveal to the world anything they can learn about my past, if they choose. And I’m not even trying to get on the Supreme Court.

  • [Friend posts that right-wing complaints about due process (regarding accusations against Brett Kavanaugh) are missing the point that the confirmation hearing is a job interview, not a trial.]

    Another view: “due process” in this case means slow the fuck down. The ones screaming due process are conveniently overlooking that.

  • [Friend objects to using the phrase euphemistically.]

    What I mean is, there is a process, and it is due, in the sense that it’s one the Senate has followed for confirming all Supreme Court justices in the modern era. It’s not a euphemism; it’s just not the specific legal doctrine for which “due process” is usually shorthand.

  • It suits the GOP to be alienating women, at least in the short term, because as long as we’re all worked up about sexual assault, it fits into a certain namby-pamby-liberals frame, and distracts from the concealing-evidence story and the Trump-choosing-the-judge-who-will-shield-him story.

  • Reasonable people can disagree about whether Blasey Ford “proved” her allegations against Kavanaugh. But no one can disagree about the behavior we saw on display.

  • [In reply to @OfficialJonZal’s tweet]

    Exactly. There’s no shortage of qualified conservative judges. What’s needed is a reliable partisan operative to protect Trump and his enablers, because the threat to them is real and imminent.

  • [Friend posts about patriarchy (not men) being the enemy of feminism. Another calls out women who support the patriarchy.]

    Before condemning women who have supported the patriarchy, listen to this episode of the Scriptnotes Podcast, featuring guest Aline Brosh McKenna, successful screenwriter and co-creator of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. She gets passionate about the boys’-club nature of Hollywood and the lack of good options for women, especially young women, who want to stand up for themselves. She describes instances of going along to get along in her own career, and regrets those, but observes that (though things have gotten incrementally better in the past couple of years) there are still no systematic mechanisms for addressing bad behavior by creepy execs. Of course this generalizes from Hollywood to society at large. One year later

  • OK, “party of law and order,” what do you have to say now? Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father

  • [Friend reposts appreciation of Walter Cronkite, misguided because it says Cronkite simply read the news and we all made up our own minds.]

    It isn’t so much that we made up our own minds as it is that we trusted him. It was a trust he earned through his gravitas – which is not just seriousness and is definitely not neutrality. Here is an excellent article on this topic: Lessons From Walter Cronkite in the Lost Art of Gravitas

  • Why are they so committed to Kavanaugh?

    Because he’s a reliable vote to frustrate investigations into Trump.

    Why are they so committed to protecting Trump?

    Because they’re culpable too. If he goes down, they go down.

    Solution: Amnesty for Trump’s enablers in Congress. They can even keep their dirty money. All they have to do is to come clean about everything.

  • [Friend: “Sadly, they have no reason to negotiate.”]

    Not necessarily true. Right now it’s a race to dismantle the machinery of justice that might eventually be brought to bear on all of them. Surely some of them fear that won’t happen in time, and they’ll end up in prison etc. Safer to take the amnesty deal and rat out the big fish.

  • Increasingly feeling like we’re going to have to relitigate the 20th century. But this time around we start with nuclear weapons, 400 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere, and a decimated press.

  • [Friend mourns the death of American Exceptionalism.]

    Same. But to be fair, American Exceptionalism has a serious dark side. I’m hopeful about what the young people will eventually build to replace it, and fearful of what it will take to get from here to there.

  • I started writing a tweet. Then I deleted it. I have a virtuous, cleansing sensation.

  • Cons:
    – Perjury
    – Credible accusations of assault
    – Concealed records
    – Inappropriately emotional
    – Inappropriately partisan
    – Rushed, constrained investigation
    – Rushed confirmation

    Pros:
    – Is a judge
    – Likes beer

    Seriously: on what principle other than “own the libs” do conservatives support this nomination?

    [Much discussion follows.]

    I’m not wondering why the politicians support it. That’s pretty clear IMO. (“A properly functioning judicial system is a threat to me.”) I’m wondering why their constituents do.

    [A friend explains, “‘Those other guys are shedding decency in favor of partisan politics’ is the story line for both sides.”]

    This is where you lose me. The objections against Kavanaugh were based on principles that both sides claim to care about: transparency, due process, honesty, character. The arguments in favor of Kavanaugh were… what, exactly? “Don’t let the libs stop our guy”? Is that really it? What does a Kavanaugh supporter – a thoughtful one – say when confronted with the facts of his demonstrable lies, or the missing documents, or the sham investigation?

    [Friend writes, “you’re going to have to engage an actual supporter”]

    I do try from time to time, though I knew few such people. Though I am sincerely respectful in asking for their views, I never get a thorough, coherent answer. Even when it starts well, it only takes my asking a couple of clarifying questions for things to devolve to defensiveness and paranoia or, more often, just disengagement when we get to stuff the talking points don’t cover.

    [Friend writes, “They can’t all be immoral idiots, his supporters.”]

    I am willing to believe that virtually all of those people can be explained by the filter bubble they live in. They are behaving perfectly rationally, even decently, given the information they have.

    [Friend asks, “So how’s our information superior?”]

    Asked like a true scientist. Which is also the answer to your question. It is my strong impression that only (what I will advisedly refer to as) our side seeks to understand other points of view, questions our own beliefs, and grounds arguments on data and principle – i.e., is rational in the Enlightenment sense.

    It may be that some of that impression is due to my own filter bubble, but as I said earlier, some of it is from direct experience.

    Clearly few or none of us are perfect at it: clinging to unquestioned opinions, failing to consider alien ideas, etc. But our side at least strives for the ideal. I see no such thing happening or even possible on the other side. I would love to be wrong about that but I don’t see how I can be; hence this thread. (In which, by the way, thanks, everyone, for engaging.)

  • [Comment thread after Kavanaugh was confirmed. Someone wrote, “Justice Kavanaugh is superbly qualified to sit on the Supreme Court bench.”]

    How do you know? The majority of relevant documentation was kept concealed. The FBI investigation, if you can call it that, was constrained and its report secret. The confirmation process itself was rushed beyond reason, to frustrate proper vetting.

    Almost the only thing we do know for sure is that, under pressure, Kavanaugh is inappropriately emotional and incoherent.

    So, again, what makes you say that Kavanaugh was the best choice?

  • This sign EVERYWHERE Police Removed A Texas Yard Sign Showing A GOP Elephant With Its Trunk Up A Woman’ss Skirt

  • This story reminded me of a conversation I had many years ago with Julie Epelboim. We had just seen Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home together. Kirk and his officers are in hiding from Starfleet, fugitives for stealing the Enterprise in Star Trek III. When Earth comes under global threat, however, they leap into action to save the day, even though they know that if they succeed they face immediate court-martial.

    Julie and I discussed whether we would make that same choice. “Of course!” I insisted at once. “Not me,” said Julie. I couldn’t understand her perspective. Earth! Under threat! A call to heroism! How could you not rush to the planet’s defense even at the expense of your own freedom?

    It occurs to me that we all now have exactly that choice to make.
    We need massive change to avoid climate hell

  • [Friend reported running into Lynda Carter, “the original Wonder Woman.”]

    Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman was 💯, but the first Wonder Woman she was not. She wasn’t even the second!
    Wonder Woman 1967 Screen Test
    Cathy Lee Crosby, the original Wonder Woman

  • [Comment thread: local high schoolers walked out of school to protest Kavanaugh. Right-winger Chris condemns them and says public education is a joke. It should teach them “innocent until proven guilty.”]

    Why do you think “innocent until proven guilty” is applicable in this case? The Kavanaugh hearings were meant to determine his fitness for an important job. They were not a trial or any other process that might have ended in depriving Kavanaugh of basic rights.

    In fact, when evaluating a job candidate, the opposite of “innocent until proven guilty” is true, and rightly so. Do you think an employer should be required to hire the first person they cannot show is a criminal?

    [Chris points out Kavanaugh underwent numerous background checks and it’s unfair for someone to show up at the last minute to torpedo his nomination.]

    During part of my time at Google I served on a hiring committee there, and a situation very like this actually came up. A candidate who’d been through three rounds of interviews, each involving multiple interviewers, made it to the final step of hiring, when following up on a reference revealed some pretty bad blood he’d left behind at one job. Whether or how much that account was true didn’t matter: we were under no obligation to hire him, and the risk of bringing on someone who might behave unprofessionally was enough for us to reject him. There were plenty of other qualified candidates.

    I’m sure this sort of thing happens all the time, everywhere.

    Now, three rounds of interviews, each involving multiple interviewers, are not FBI background checks. But this was for a software engineering job, not a seat on the Supreme Court, so proportionally I’d say it’s comparable.

    [Chris asks what that candidate said when we asked about the rape allegation from 36 years ago.]

    I appreciate your continuing to engage on this topic. I would like to find common ground if possible, and if not possible, I’d like to understand why.

    Your point, though crudely put, is well-taken: we did not confront the job candidate with the accusations against him. We had no reason to, because there were plenty of other good candidates with no alleged skeletons in their closet, so why expose ourselves to the risk?

    The analogy with Kavanaugh breaks down (as I believe you are trying to point out) because we never considered the possibility that someone was deliberately trying to sabotage an otherwise qualified person. Nor did we have reason to suspect that future candidates would be similarly sandbagged. This is the mindset that I presume Kavanaugh partisans had.

    If we did have that suspicion, or if we were short on qualified candidates, we obviously would have tried to get to the bottom of it. We would have started by confronting the candidate with the allegation and noting his response. Belligerence and deflection would have been an immediate red-buzzer moment. Next we would have tried to investigate the complaints against him in greater detail. To do that we would have identified anyone claiming to have information on the subject, interviewed them, and asked to see supporting documentation. We would not have imposed constraints on the investigation’s ability to learn the truth of the matter, and we would have regarded as highly suspicious any attempt by the candidate to do so.

    In short, even with the flaws in my analogy, your point fails to support the historically hasty and suspiciously secretive nomination of Kavanaugh. The alternative explanation – that it was a naked abuse of power, only the latest in a long and increasingly brazen string of them – more than justifies the Terra Linda kids skipping school to protest. They will have to live under a weakened democracy longer than any of the rest of us. Honestly it’s a wonder any of us can go about our normal business at a time like this.

  • [Friend posts, “Hey, if you’re a rich white guy, I get your voting republican. But if you’re not part of the 1%, you’re voting against your own interests.”]

    Even the rich white guys voting Republican are voting against their own interests. History is very clear about what happens to societies with overwhelmingly lopsided and unjust concentration of wealth.

  • It’s now or never. If we fail to make a good showing in this election, we’ve endorsed the naked exercise of unchecked power, and we know how things go from there.

    The Senate is key, and though the odds are long, they’re no longer than Trump’s were at this time two years ago. WE CAN DO IT.

    How? By GIVING UNTIL IT HURTS. (If we fail, it’ll hurt ever so much worse.)

    Where? Glad you asked. I’ve devised an “urgency index” for the seven most important Senate races, based on data from fivethirtyeight.com. It suggests how to allocate your donations depending on whether you want to support 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or all 7 of those races. See the table at the link below, which also includes handy donation links for each campaign. I will periodically update the table as fivethirtyeight.com publishes new data.

    Urgency index

  • Birthday gift from my family: hiking into the rainforest, making a pilgrimage to the One Square Inch of Silence. It was amazing.

    The spot is marked with a red stone, which you swap out for one that you bring. As I was about to do that, Jonah reminded me to make like Indiana Jones swapping the idol for the bag of sand.

    [Sister wrote, “Jonah had to remind you to do that? You’ve changed, old man.”]

    It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage.

  • It’s launch day on my latest work project! Starlight: Payment channels on Stellar

  • Not voting is voting, but for the other side.

  • Every now and then I rev up my imagination and my generosity to max, and I try to imagine Donald Trump experiencing a single genuine moment of tenderness, grace, or humility. I have not yet succeeded.

    [Discussion about what a tragic character Trump would be in literature; also about his supporters.]

    “Can you have a free society with 1/3 ignorant racists?”

    Taking America as an example, I think the answer is “yes, somewhat,” depending on how much you consider America to have been a free society. Obviously it has been more free for some than for others at different times.

    I think the lesson of the past few years (and of much other recent history) is that the ignorant racists and other antidemocratic elements have always been there and always will, and it’s up to society to keep their power from coalescing. When the rest of us become complacent (we elected a black president, yay!) they become ascendant.

    How does one keep the power of ignorant racists in check? Possibly by the simple expedient of convincing them that their beliefs are out of the mainstream. For a fascinating discussion of this topic, check out this episode of the Hidden Brain podcast, about an effort to heal Rwanda after the racist genocide there: Romeo & Juliet In Kigali: How A Soap Opera Sought To Change Behavior In Rwanda. (Spoiler alert: it worked not because it changed people’s deepest beliefs, but because it changed people’s minds about what other people believed.)

  • [Comment thread about reports that voting machines in some places were misreporting votes. One commenter said they’d like a printout of their vote but even that’s not foolproof.]

    The problem with a printout is, now you can prove to someone else how you voted, which means they can offer to pay you to vote a specific way. That is not a world we want.

    Designing verifiable balloting systems is seriously non-trivial and the focus of much research. The requirement I mentioned is sometimes referred to as “receipt-freeness,” which obviously is in tension with some other requirements. See End-to-end auditable voting systems.

  • [Friend Greg’s birthday.]

    “Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved.” – Mark Twain

    Happy birthday (I guess)!

  • [On an unrelated post, friend-of-friend goes on an unhinged rant against girls “claiming themselves as boys” and vice versa and wanting to use the other bathroom.]

    I am tall, trim, and muscular. I’m thirty-five years old and I have 20/20 vision and a full head of hair.

    You wouldn’t know this to look at me, though. Outwardly I’m short, balding, and fifty-two, and I wear a pair of reading glasses on a cord around my neck. On a good day I can do one complete chin-up.

    Little of that affects how I feel about myself inwardly though.

    I imagine this is what it’s like when someone feels like a man or feels like a woman but outwardly isn’t. Is your back just the way it “should” be? Are your knees? Your teeth? Nature makes mistakes. Nature creates variations.

    Honestly it would be more surprising if gender wasn’t sometimes fluid. There’s more to maleness and femaleness, after all, than just what’s between your legs. There are differences in hormonal balance and brain structure, for example. These things are determined by a cascade of complex processes that begin with just a few individual molecules in the womb. How naive to think that the outcome of those processes would be the same every time.

    So how should we feel about trans people? Some of the ones I know are terrific. Some are assholes. Just like everyone. We can judge them, but let’s do it apart from their gender identity, OK?

  • [Sister’s birthday.]

    Twenty-nine years ago* yesterday I got the best present I’ve ever received. I haven’t stopped loving it since. Happy birthday, Suze!

    * – or more

  • [One week to Election Day.]

    Bad news: If we win next week, the fight is still only beginning.

    Good news: If we lose next week, the fight is still only beginning.

    Stay strong.

  • Something symbolic happened to me this morning.

    I sat down in a Muni train on the way to work, facing forward, earbuds in as usual, listening to podcasts. A black man in a Muni security uniform sat down in front of me on a seat facing the aisle, at a right angle to me.

    At one point while we were en route he gave me a look, then looked past my shoulder.

    Only then did I become aware that a scary disheveled man sitting a couple of rows behind me was ranting loudly to another man standing in the aisle, and had been for a while. A young woman trapped in the window seat next to him looked very ill-at-ease.

    A moment later, while I was still taking in the scene, the security guard got out of his seat, stepped over to where the disturbance was happening, and offered his hand to the young woman.

    She gratefully accepted his help, squeezing past the ranting man (who paid no notice) and taking a new seat near us, visibly relieved.

    Here’s what was symbolic about that:

    I, a white man, was oblivious to the bad shit happening around me, wrapped in my bubble of privilege that allows me to assume everything will be fine. But really, things are often not fine. It took a black man, who knows better, to see the bad shit and do something about it.

    I do wish to become more a part of the solution and less a part of the problem, but clearly I still have some way to go.

    [Later…]

    PS: I do belatedly realize the chauvinism of saying this is something that happened “to me.” Baby steps…

  • [Pun-loving cousin’s birthday.]

    Tried to come up with a pun for your birthday. Asked my friend Ted for help. We couldn’t think of one, so I punted.

  • “Make America Great Again”

    If you’re white and not poor, America has been pretty consistently great for a long time. But there are plenty of others for whom it hasn’t always been great, and some for whom it never has.

    Lately, the veil that protected us middle-class white folks from knowing about the ungreat America has started to wear thin in spots, and at long last we’re getting a good look at the America others have known. Of course we don’t like it.

    We can’t make America great “again” if it wasn’t great to begin with, for some people. The only thing we can do “again” is pretend we didn’t see what we saw and try to get back to it being great for just us, somehow.

    I wouldn’t bet the farm on that being possible. And I wouldn’t do that to my conscience even if it were.

    America won’t truly be great until it’s great for everyone, so let’s Make America Actually Great Once And For All.

  • [On whether to re-elect local school board member Natu Tuatagaloa.]

    To Natu or not to Natu?

  • [In a comment thread about debating abortion.]

    I haven’t ever gotten an actual anti-abortionist’s response to this, but here’s how I prefer to argue the topic: Do the abortion math

    [“have you ever heard even anecdotal evidence of anybody ever changing their mind”]

    Sort of. I’ve heard of pro-choice women wanting abortions and finding themselves unable to go through with it; and I often hear about self-righteous anti-abortion male politicians and religious leaders revealed to have hypocritically gotten an abortion for some mistress.

    [“this argument is terrible!”]

    I sort of intended it to be terrible in the same way that “democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried.”

  • [Friend reposts what appears to be a Russian-bot tweet, unfavorably comparing the chaotic election with the efficient lottery-ticket system, claiming the chaos is on purpose.]

    Designing elections is much harder than designing lotteries. Elections need “enforced secrecy,” lotteries do not. Elections need to enforce one ballot per registered voter, lotteries do not.

  • [Comment thread about Roald Dahl writing the screenplays for both Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and You Only Live Twice.]

    Also, Ian Fleming wrote both novels.

    [Friend-of-friend comments, “And I believe that Dahl and Fleming had a relationship from the secret service, where Dahl was a Mata Hari for British Intelligence, sleeping with diplomats’ wives to gather pillow talk.]

    I am so happy to know that fact.

  • [Friend posts photos from Bend, Oregon.]

    I’ve taken my family on many roadtrips and we’ve been through many towns on the way to our various destinations. None of them had the instant magnetic pull of the half hour we spent in Bend (on our way to last year’s eclipse) and we’re determined to return for real ASAP.

  • I have a feeling my mom would not have liked the age she would have been today. But we sure would have loved her sticking around a little longer. Happy birthday, mom!

  • [Posting in the “Omnibus Futurelings” Facebook group about an episode of the Omnibus podcast.]

    Belatedly listened to “The Letter J” and learned about John’s desire to be called Peter.

    That made me remember Short Time, a Dabney Coleman comedy from 1990. (It had the bad timing to name its main character Burt Simpson just as The Simpsons was becoming big.) He’s a mediocre cop who’s mistakenly told he has a terminal illness. Hoping to be killed in the line of duty for the death benefit his family will receive, he becomes a heroic supercop! (And, spoiler alert: repeatedly fails to be killed, and learns a new appreciation for his life and family along the way.)

    In one scene he bravely walks into a hostage situation in a convenience store to talk down a bomber who wants to blow himself up and his hostages with him.

    Simpson: Go ahead and blow yourself up if you want. Sure gonna be missing a lot. Do you have any kids?
    Bomber: Nicky and Mikey.
    Simpson: Nicky and – how old are they?
    Bomber: Three and a half and five.
    Simpson: Well if you’re gone, who’s gonna see they graduate high school? How are you gonna find out whether they found a nice girl? Whether Mikey’s stutter ever cleared up?
    Bomber: Mikey doesn’t stutter!
    Simpson: I understand. But just saying he did. There’s so much… there’s so many things you wouldn’t even notice until they’re gone. Like, Nicky – can Nicky ride a bike?
    [Bomber shakes head “no.”]
    Simpson: Don’t you wanna teach him to ride a bike? Or see him get his braces? Finally touch the top of that door jamb?
    Bomber: How do you know about the door jamb!
    Simpson: Pal, come on. You may think you know him but I bet you don’t even know who his teacher is. Or the names of the monsters in his room. [becoming reflective] Or why he buried his shoes that time. Or why he made you call him “Peter” for a whole month.

  • Headline on the MSNBC website right now: “Clintons back in spotlight as they kick off paid speaking tour.”

    A more accurate headline would be, “Clintons back in spotlight as MSNBC reports on Clintons.”

  • As we all know, cool guys don’t look at explosions.

    Question: what was the original explosion a cool guy didn’t look at?

    I don’t know the answer. I have a guess, but I’ll keep it to myself for now. Cool Guys Don’t Look At Explosions

    [Later…]

    Here’s what I was thinking of: Goldfinger clip

    It’s only a proto-cool-guy-not-looking-at-an-explosion, though. He’s not walking away from it while it happens in the background, and his not-looking-at-it doesn’t convey he has zero fucks left to give (which is the storytelling point of cool-guy-not-looking-at-explosions scenes). For that I submit James Caan blowing up his house and businesses near the end of Thief (1981).

  • Trying to lose a little weight again. Finding that intrusive thoughts about food are coming up about as often as intrusive thoughts about sex did during puberty.

  • [Comment thread about favorite Christmas movies, starting with It’s A Wonderful Life.]

    Pocketful of Miracles. Also by Frank Capra (his final film), also a terrible title.

  • [In a thread converting quotes from Die Hard into fake Medieval English.]

    Come thee to the seashore, well-met wilt thou be, merry shall we make.

RAWR


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your position on GPS?


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

How does GPS work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oppose Gorsuch

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

Dear Senator Feinstein,

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

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

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

Conspirators into stumblebums

On the twentieth anniversary of the Watergate break-in, reporter Daniel Schorr gave the following account on NPR. I find it more than a little relevant today and have added some emphasis below.

One consequence [of Watergate] was to tear down the majesty of the presidency. No nation could see a president who lied, spied, wire-tapped, spoke obscenities and plotted to thwart the justice he was sworn to uphold and retain its faith in the institution. Ensuing “Gates” – White House scandals – came as shocks, but no longer as surprises. If America today has turned against its government, equating incumbency with guilt and inexperience with innocence, you can trace that back to Watergate.

A pity, because one lesson of Watergate is that the lumbering machinery of government worked. More than the press, it was the much-maligned bureaucracy and Congress and the courts that broke the cover-up: the FBI that refused to lie down and play dead; the assistant attorney general, who refused to be the president’s patsy; the Senate committee that laid the groundwork for impeachment; the federal judge who pursued the higher-ups of convicted Watergate burglars.

Since then, government and judiciary have been increasingly politicized. One wonders if today it could prevent a coup from the top. For that, it is not generally realized, was what was in the making. More sinister than what President Nixon did was what he planned to do after winning landslide re-election despite Watergate. The files and tapes disclosed his plans to centralize power in a “super Cabinet” with White House agents like political commissars riding herd on the departments.

The White House would have its own intelligence and surveillance operation. The full power of government would be turned on Nixon’s enemies. “They are asking for it, and they’re going to get it,” Nixon told John Dean. “We have not used the power in the first four years, but things are going to change now.” The nation was saved from that by the government it disdained, and the press it despises, and by whatever providence it is that makes conspirators into stumblebums.

Nixon was smarter than Trump, and had long experience in national politics, and still was thwarted in his ambition. By that measure we need only a little of that providence Daniel Schorr mentioned to work on our behalf. Let us pray that it’s still in operation.

(Daniel Schorr’s report © National Public Radio. I am grateful to NPR’s Audience and Community Relations department for unearthing this transcript for me.)

Engage

You wouldn’t know it from the level of our public discourse, but there is more that unites Americans than divides us – much more.

As Ralph Nader writes in Unstoppable, his book about forging left-right alliances on topics of common interest,

[M]ost people want safe food and drugs. They want to breathe clean air and drink clean water. They want their work to be rewarded with adequate returns for the necessities of life […] They want clean elections and competitive candidates, who provide perceived differences and choices in their platforms. They want their taxes to be reasonable and used well for the common good in an efficient manner. They want some voice in decisions that affect them. They want peace, justice, and public safety.

But Democrats don’t win office by telling you their Republican opponent is a lot like them, and Republicans don’t win office by telling you how much in common they have with Democrats. They need to find the fissures of disagreement, drive a wedge there, and hammer, hammer, hammer. Those Bible-thumping hicks in the flyover states will catch up to modern society sooner or later. The elite libtards on the coasts hate God, guns, and America. That sort of thing.

We used to know how to get along together, but it’s been trained out of us. Any political statement by one side is treated as an outrage by the other, producing ridicule, aggression, dismissiveness, and further entrenchment on both sides. We all need some deprogramming.

During yesterday’s inauguration of Donald Trump, a conservative friend of mine posted this on Facebook:

Still ecstatic it’s not Hillary.

I wrote,

Sincerely curious to know what your reasons are, as long as they’re more substantive than just “her e-mails” and “Benghazi” and “Vince Foster.”

During the campaign someone wrote that, whatever you think of Hillary, no one can plausibly believe she’d pose a threat to the Constitution; and no one can plausibly doubt that Trump does. To the extent that’s true (and it sure feels true to me), and since preserving the Constitution takes precedence over all, shouldn’t simple patriotism have demanded a Hillary vote?

My friend has not yet responded. But someone else, who I’ll call M, posted in that thread,

Liberals are the most intolerant bunch of people I have ever seen. A woman who accepts millions of dollars from foreign countries for her personal gain (foundation), while she is Secretary of State, doesn’t seem to bother you much. But if Trump says something you do not like, it’s the end of the world and the country is never going to be the same. If we survived 8 yrs of Obama, we can get through anything. He loathes America. The most divisive President ever. A vote for Hillary would have been a vote for Obama.

Now, there is plenty that’s wrong with that statement, and plenty of ways to challenge it. But that’s my programming talking: challenge the opposition, don’t let them get away with it, call them out on every little thing. What does that accomplish? Will I win a convert that way? Not a chance. I have learned from experience that a righteous takedown of this person’s misguided beliefs will make me feel puffed-up and smart and superior and maybe earn me some attaboy points among my peers… but do nothing whatever to meaningfully reach this person, to spread the idea of tolerance and respect, to heal the country. I would only have been helping the hammerers to drive their wedge deeper.

So I quashed my initial impulse to cite anecdotes and statistics and experts to prove my points and disprove theirs. Instead I responded,

Here’s the thing: no one’s ever as bad as their opponents make them out to be. Most of the things people disliked about Hillary were drip, drip, dripped into our heads for a quarter century by her opponents – and it worked! It even worked on me, a Democrat. I didn’t like her much for all those vague reasons – her shadowy connections, something something private e-mail server, etc. – until I started digging into all those criticisms for myself and found there was very little there.

On the other hand, most of what Trump opponents dislike comes from his own mouth – unconcealed hatred and disrespect for very many of our fellow citizens, proud ignorance of the Constitution, contradictory statements on almost every topic, unwillingness to engage with critics other than by suppression, and, worst of all, not one scrap of humility or kindness to be found anywhere in his persona.

I’m not disagreeing with anything in M’s post. Yes, there was a certain stink about Hillary; I smelled it too. Maybe it was just propaganda. As for Trump, I called him out on all those things that Americans want in their leaders – forthrightness, courtesy, maturity, humanity – and that all but his blindest supporters must admit he lacks.

This morning I was enormously gratified to find that M had given my comment a Facebook “like.”

This tiny interaction is my template for how we’ll win back the decent, diverse America we once had and have forgotten we want. We only need to approach conversations like this with no thought of putting the other person in their place, but in the sincere belief that we have more to learn than to teach.

We’ve been trained to treat half of the country as our ideological enemy. It’s time we learned the true enemies are the ones who’ve been turning us against each other.


Bonus: Storm, of the musical comedy duo Paul and Storm, had a similar story yesterday about engaging respectfully with a political opponent and achieving civility: Fist-bump with Uncle Sam.

The Sigma Tax

Pronounced income disparity is the root of many of our country’s problems. Economists have been talking about it for years, and last week President Obama made an attempt to bring the issue front-and-center in a speech at Knox College.

Another thing that economists have long said is, “When you tax something, you get less of it.” So here’s an idea: let’s tax income disparity!

How would this work? Easy. For companies of a given size, we decide what the ideal distribution is of wages and other compensation. We might decide, for instance, that the 90th percentile should be earning no more than 50x what the 10th percentile earns. Whatever numbers we choose, the result is a curve; presumably a less-pronounced one than this:

Once we decide on the shape of our curve, companies are free to obey it or not, distributing their compensation however they see fit. But if their curves deviate too far from the ideal, they pay a proportional income-disparity tax. Maybe they can even be eligible for an income-disparity credit if the curves deviate in the other direction.

Properly tuned, and phased in slowly, this “Sigma Tax” (for the Greek letter that designates standard deviation in statistics) should result in gentle but inexorable pressure that reduces the wage gap, improving things for the bottom 99% without breaking the 1%, while paring some of their shameful excess.

PayPal arbitration opt-out

Bob Glickstein
[address]
[phone number]
[e-mail address]
13 Oct 2012

PayPal, Inc.
Attn: Litigation Department
2211 North First Street
San Jose, CA 95131

To whom it may concern,

I am a PayPal user at the e-mail address above. I do not agree to the Agreement to Arbitrate as delineated in your Amendment to the PayPal User Agreement and Privacy Policy dated Nov 1st, 2012. By this letter I hereby reject it per the opt-out procedure described in section 14.3 (e). Kindly exclude me from the Agreement to Arbitrate.

I further request that you consider dropping the arbitration clause altogether, for all your customers, as a matter of principle. Hand-wringing about frivolous lawsuits notwithstanding, citizen access to the public court system is one of the things that makes America great. I invite you to read my fuller thoughts on the matter at www.geebobg.com/2008/09/20/the-sue-s-of-a/

Timely written acknowledgment of this request sent to the above address would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

[signature]

Bob Glickstein