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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Cos' LiveJournal:

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    Thursday, January 1st, 2037
    12:00 am
    Other Places I Post
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    Monday, December 15th, 2014
    1:33 pm
    Rhyming Fish
    A game from Valerie Thompson.
    (though she got it from someone else, I don't know who)
    Merely ending in "fish" is in suffishient :)

    rainbow trout / eelpout
    gar / char
    bass / wrasse
    jawfish / sawfish
    bonefish / stonefish

    First one is from Valerie, the rest are me & Alice. Can you think of another?

    Edit - More from the comments...

    From wotw:
    aruana / piranha
    cory / dory (which Alice and I thought of, but then thought "dory" wasn't a type of fish)
    Thursday, December 11th, 2014
    11:19 am
    Which way do you go?
    Your walk to class on campus, or to work from home or the nearest transit stop, has a few options. You could go around that building to the left or to the right, you might turn first and then go two blocks over or go two blocks first and then cross... do you find one shortest or nicest way and fall into the habit of always taking it, or do you switch it up every time? What motivates you to do one or the other?

    You're going to eat out at a neighborhood you kinda know, which has some restaurants you've been to more than once. Your friend ask you to pick where to eat. Do you go for an old favorite most of the time, or are you much more likely to pick somewhere new until you've tried all the places in that neighborhood? Why do you make the choice you make?

    Your friend picks a place for you to eat, and you've been there a few times. Which is more likely: you order something you've had before that you know you liked, or you search the menu for something you haven't tried yet that you think you'd like? What motivates you one way or the other?
    Friday, November 21st, 2014
    7:07 am
    Traveling with my parents
    Leaving now, and coming back the evening of December 7th.

    This will be my parents' first trip to Hawaii! We're going to Oahu first for a few days (they wanted to; I'd skip Oahu if it were just me :), then Maui for 5 days (Maui is the best!), then the big island for 7 days. ilahni will join us during the middle (1 day of Maui and 4 days of big island)! On the way back I also get to see mackelzinzie briefly!
    Saturday, November 8th, 2014
    11:14 am
    Snorkeling with Mantas
    Clips of video I took in January 2013, when Alice and I went on a snorkel excursion to a spot near Kona, Hawaii, where giant manta rays congregate every night to feed. A bunch of boats and divers go out every night, and shine big lights into the water, which the mantas apparently really like, so they hang around the lit areas and are very easy to see.

    Adult mantas range from about 15-20 feet in wingspan. They're huge, awesome, graceful creatures, slowly swooping around feeding on zooplankton.

    Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
    8:10 pm
    A few election observations
    Not the top stories, but a few interesting things on the side...
    • Where will Scott Brown run next? He was born in Maine, but they don't have an election for Senate (or Governor) in 2016. Can he wait four years?

    • The flipfloppiest US House seat ever is on a roll. New Hampshire's 1st district. Carol Shea-Porter (who is awesome, BTW, one of my favorite members of Congress ever) won it narrowly in 2006, and got re-elected in 2008. In the 2010 Republican wave, Frank Guinta took it from her. In 2012, she took it back from him. Yesterday, he beat her in yet another rematch. If she runs in 2016 chances are with presidential election turnout she'll get it back, so I suspect she is likely to. As Daily Kos elections put it, "Looking forward to [Guinta's] war with Shea-Porter continuing until Ragnarok #nh01". Or maybe they should just work out a time-share and alternate each year.

    • From the 2004 election through this year, Republicans have lost every election for federal or statewide office in Massachusetts, except two: the two times Martha Coakley was nominated for federal or statewide office.

    • Minimum wage increases won big: It was on the ballot statewide in Alaska, Illinois, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Arkansas. The lowest margin it won by was ten points, 55% to 45%, in South Dakota. In the other four states it was over 60%, with the highest margin in Alaska - 69% to 31%.

    • Attorney General Eric Holder said he was resigning, but would stay in office until a successor is confirmed. Obama hasn't nominated a replacement yet. If one isn't confirmed quickly, Eric Holder may be stuck, since a Republican Senate seems unlikely to confirm any Obama nominee for any office ever.

    • Lots of states had new voter suppression measures in force this year, in part thanks to the Supreme Court eviscerating a large part of the Voting Rights Act. But finally, one state went on the offence in the other direction: A "Right to Vote" constitutional amendment passed in Illinois with something like 70%, forestalling discriminatory voter ID laws and similar measures. Maybe it'll inspire similar measures in other states.

    • Black turnout was very high, but the white percentage of the electorate was much higher than 2012 due largely to the fact that Latino turnout was waaay down. Obama reportedly put off pushing on immigration and immigrants' rights issues in the past year to try to help vulnerable Democratic red state Senators. Not only did it not help them, but it seems to have backfired and taken out plenty of other Democrats who would've held on with higher Latino turnout.

    • Colorado has now voted down "personhood" ballot measures three elections. "Personhood" laws are ones that define a fetus as a person, giving them all sorts of legal rights. Failed in 2008, 2010, and 2014. Will Colorado have to vote on this again in 2016? Personhood also failed on the ballot in North Dakota this year. It hasn't ever won anywhere yet.

    • Ballot measures passed in both California and New Jersey that would reduce prison sentences for drug possession and other nonviolent offenders. Yay, finally! We need a lot more of this.

    • Most Democratic candidates for governor in races that were polling as close lost, but two won: Hinkenlooper in Colorado and Malloy in Connecticut. One thing the two have in common is that they both championed and signed major new gun regulation laws after Newtowne, and drew a lot of backlash in both states. Coincidence, or did gun regulation help them?

    • Colorado Senator Mark Udall was possibly the NSA's top critic in the Senate (or maybe second, after Ron Wyden). His loss is a win for NSA surveillance.

    • Michele Bachmann is finally gone! Although dr_memory says "just wait for her inevitable reality TV show".

    Monday, November 3rd, 2014
    12:01 pm
    Massachusetts Governor
    I'm so ambivalent about this election for Governor, and people keep asking me what I recommend...

    On the surface, Martha Coakley(D) seems better on the issues than Charlie Baker(R), but it's kind of hard to tell what their differences really are. Neither has a solid record on a broad range of governing and policy, as they would if they'd been a mayor or legislator.

    Charlie Baker spent most of his time in the corporate world, and he talks moderate but reminds me a lot of Scott Brown and Mitt Romney. We certainly have a recent pattern of Republicans much like him talking moderate to get elected and then showing their right wing colors once they're in higher office.

    [On the issues...]On the other hand, Martha Coakley's record is entirely on the Attorney General side of things (before that, she was Middlesex DA). While she's been good on equal rights for women and LGBT people, she's really sucked on many of the core issues that the Attorney General's office exists for. Weak on justice and on criminal justice reform, pro-Patriot Act, pro-drug war, pro-surveillance, anti-rights for the accused, pro-keeping innocent people in prison.

    How would these two govern when it comes to the economy, environment, wages, health care, crime, transportation, infrastructure, education, ... mostly we just have to take their word. Coakley's need to maintain relationships with Democratic groups would probably keep her on the better side of most of these, but I don't know what she'd actually fight for or initiate. Baker, I fear, would pull a Romney.

    On womens' and lgbt and gender equality and reproductive choice and related issues, I think we've done a great job in the Massachusetts progressive movement over the past decade in changing the legislature such that we can get much of what we want regardless of governor. When it comes to things like, say, repairing and expanding public transit, or reforming taxes to make them fairer and better finance the state, our legislature is still the main stumbling block. We need a Governor like Deval Patrick to really push them, still not get most of what he wants, but make some progress. Baker likely won't even support this kind of progress, but I don't expect Coakley to push for it, so the end result could be similar.

    Coakley, on the other hand, will probably promote casinos while holding back medical marijuana and trying to prevent decriminalization, and will be a drag on any efforts for criminal justice reform if we get real leadership on that from other quarters (like certain state senators). Health care financing changes, especially single payer, will come from the legislature and be resisted by either of these governors.


    To sum up, on balance I think Coakley will probably be somewhat better but it's hard to tell. Balance that out with the fact that she's been awful on some of the main issues she's actually been responsible for, while showing herself repeatedly willing to promote gross injustice on an individual level.

    Another factor I think is important: Either one of them, if elected, will be very vulnerable and likely to be replaced in the next election.

    Charlie Baker: He's a Republican in a Democratic-leaning state, with various positions opposed by majorities here. He can win against a bad candidate like Coakley, but his chances against a good Democrat would be low, even as an incumbent. Not to mention the rather consistent pattern of Republican Governors in Massachusetts either not running for re-election, or leaving partway through a term. We've had four Republican Governors in my time in Massachusetts, and every one of them has done one or the other.

    So, Charlie Baker represents a great opportunity to get a really good Democrat in as Governor in four years. If Coakley loses this time she's unlikely to win the nomination next time even if she runs, and we can nominate someone much better and beat Baker. On the other hand, if Coakley wins this time, we probably won't have a Democratic primary contest in four years, she will be renominated, and will be vulnerable to losing to another Republican. Will that one be better or worse than Baker? It's a risk.

    On yet another hand, our Republican Governors' pattern of leaving partway through their terms means we frequently end up with the Lieutenant Governor in charge. Baker's running mate, Karyn Polito, really is a right wing extremist. She also was a leader in trying to ban gay marriage, voted against the transgender equal rights bill, filed a complaint against the Registry of Motor Vehicles when they started allowing people to change their sex designation on their drivers' licenses, co-sponsored a bill to require schools to notify parents if any mention of anything LGBT-related would be made in school... she's the kind of awful that usually gets sidelined in Massachusetts.

    If it weren't for Karyn Polito I think I'd be leaning a little towards hoping Baker wins, and looking forward to the opportunity to elect someone good in 2018. She tips the scale for me, and I reluctantly and ambivalently recommend voting for Coakley, to avoid the high risk of Karyn Polito becoming Governor if Baker wins and uses it as a springboard to run for President, or just plain leaves.
    Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
    3:18 pm
    Massachusetts Ballot Questions: No, Yes, Yes, Yes
    This year I think the ballot questions are easy. I can see room for disagreement on Question 3 but I think the others are as close to slam-dunk as a ballot question can be.

    Question 1 - Cut the Gas Tax: No

    Current law will adjust the gas tax automatically for inflation. In other words, the real inflation-adjusted value of the gas tax will stay the same, so the absolute number of cents per gallon will increase a little bit as inflation goes. This question wants to repeal that. This repeal is ridiculously stupid from any logical point of view; it only makes sense if you hate taxes on principle and want any way to cut them down. Because that's what this question would actually do: slowly cut the gas tax down from its current value, while sales taxes and income taxes continue keeping up with inflation because they're percentages of things that go up over time (retail prices, and salaries).

    Question 2 - Eliminate Loopholes in the Bottle Bill: Yes

    The existing bottle bill works really well. About 80% of deposit bottles are recycled, while fewer than 1/4 of non-deposit bottles are recycled. But many popular bottled drinks, such as water and juice, aren't covered by the existing law. You sell soda, it gets a deposit; you sell water in the same bottle, it doesn't. This loophole doesn't make sense. Question 2 would rectify it, bringing bottle deposits to juice, water, and sports drink bottles.

    If you hate recycling, you'd vote against this. If you hate the idea of the government taxing anyone to encourage any behavior - even a very small tax where everyone who pays it has a way to get their money back, you'd vote against it. If you don't fit into either of those categories, you vote yes.

    Question 2's oppenents have been spreading outright lies in their ads because lying about it is the only way to get reasonable voters to vote no. Unfortunately polls say it may be working; too many people are hearing these lies and believing them. So this is one where you should post to social media and tell your friends.

    [ Edit: Yes, we know lots of people have recycling bins. Despite that fact, a large majority of deposit bottles currently get recycled and a large majority of non-deposit bottles currently do no. For whatever reason - a majority of MA doesn't have curbside recycling; lots of people buy bottles away from home and there aren't recycling bins nearby, etc. - the stats are clear. Pointing out that we have recycle bins doesn't change that reality. Bottle deposits are extremely effective. ]

    Question 3 - Repeal the Casino Law: Yes

    Big casinos are basically the equivalent of toxic sludge factories polluting their region with crime and poverty and lost jobs, while extracting money for a large corporation usually based far away. But what do they produce? Something you can already get in other forms or go elsewhere to get. There are already enough of avenues for gambling for people who really want it, that it's hard to argue it's worth the cost of doing so much damage in Massachusetts just to create a few more. The damage won't be limited just to people who want casinos and are willing to take the cost; it'll hit plenty of people who either don't care or don't want casinos, and don't deserve to be struck by the toxic effects on their surroundings.

    Question 4 - Earned Sick Time for Employees: Yes

    Companies with 11 or more employees would be required to offer at least 5 paid sick days a year. Currently, they can offer zero sick days. 5 isn't a lot. Also since a lot of the businesses that don't offer sick days are food service, passing this question would reduce the likelihood that when you eat out, you're eating food prepared by someone who has the flu but couldn't afford to take a day off out of fear of losing their job so they pretended to be well.

    Others also recommending No-Yes-Yes-Yes:

    Monday, October 27th, 2014
    11:14 am
    Dublin, first impressions
    [ I wrote this post in my head weeks ago, but never actually wrote it while traveling, so now I'm reconstructing it from memory, probably altered. Consider this a hybrid of a post written at the end of my second day in Dublin, and one written a month later after having spent four days there. ]

    Riding the bus from the airport into Dublin, the city's appearance reminded me of Boston. Coincidentally just as I said to undulations that the area we were passing through looked like South Boston, the driver announced the stop: Convention Centre. To top it off, a few blocks after passing the Convention Centre we passed a large wooden sailing ship anchored in the river in the middle of the city, as a museum. [Non-Bostonians: This parallels the Boston Tea Party Ship, which is a museum in a canal next to South Boston, not far from our Convention Center.]

    Dublin reminded me of Boston in the look of the streets and buildings in the area we stayed, too. Specifically Boston, much more than Cambridge or Somerville or Brookline, there. And in the way people drove, and the habits of local pedestrians, including when and when not to jaywalk and how cars reacted to pedestrians. Walking around felt like at home, just an unfamiliar neighborhood.

    Dublin also omits street signs at many intersections. I guess a lot of European cities do that, though.

    Later in the city center, I saw an old university, with stone walls and stone buildings and a large central yard open to the public and full of people. Near a very busy intersection full of shops and bus stops. In another part of downtown, a few blocks of cobblestone streets reserved for pedestrians, but not designed and laid out as a deliberately-constructed pedestrian mall. More elements falling into place.

    And, of course, all the Irish pubs :)

    My coworker George Keith, who plays fiddle in pub sessions in Somerville, lived in Dublin for 8 months, so I asked him to recommend some good pub sessions. One night, we went to Cobblestones Pub, one of the places he suggested, and the music was indeed wonderful. Early during the evening session, a visiting musician walked in and asked to join in. I heard him say he was from Boston, to which one of the other musicians responded that he hadn't been to Boston recently. He said this in a tone that implied that of course one goes to Boston from time to time, that doesn't even need to be said; he was just saying he hadn't gone recently.

    During a break between tunes, I introduced myself to the Bostonian. Turns out he knows George Keith, and plays sessions with him in Somerville sometimes, and I've probably seen him play. Later, a woman entered with a flute and asked to sit in with them. Introductions all around, and when she heard that guy say he was from Boston, she said she'd just been there this summer. During another break, I introduced myself to her. Turns out she'd met Laura Cortese when she visited. She hadn't really met my housemate Valerie, who's in Laura's band, but she did see Valerie play.

    Here's a video of a tune from that group. James from Boston is playing a flute sitting on the back bench on the left. The woman who visited Boston this summer is the one with curly hair who starts playing about 50 seconds in.

    Some more clips from that session:


    Also a video from the afternoon session at Cobblestone the same day,
    and a session at Hughes Bar, another place George suggested.
    Saturday, October 18th, 2014
    5:42 pm
    Modes of Transport
    Thursday I went through the Fiumicino shuffle once again. Unlike the time I wrote about 6 years ago when I took two trains and five buses in the morning, it was simpler this time because my hotel's shuttle took me directly from the hotel to the correct terminal. And for the first time in all the times I've flown from that airport, I got to board the plane directly from the gate, rather than via another bus. (Although on balance, I'd have traded the 40 minute long passport check line in sweaty humid heat for another couple of bus trips if I had the choice; of all the foreign airports I've been to or through, Fiumicino is the only one that always makes the USA's awful airports look good by comparison.)

    It did get me doing a mental inventory of all the kinds of transportation I'd used on this trip...
    - planes large medium and small-ish, from legacy airlines and low cost airlines
    - tram/light rail, trolley, monorail, subway, urban metro rail, regional commuter rail, long distance train with reserved seats
    - private rented bus, public city bus, double decker bus, electric bus, shuttle bus...
    - shuttle van, rented car, privately owned car, taxi
    - cruise ship, ferry, tender boat, water bus, rowboat/gondola

    I didn't ride any propeller planes, helicopters, funiculars, sailboats, or motorcycles, though.
    Monday, September 22nd, 2014
    4:20 pm
    Going to Europe at the end of the week
    My family in Israel is having a family trip in a couple of weeks, a cruise from Rome stopping in several places on the coast of Italy, France, and Spain and then returning to Rome. I'm going to join them, but flying out early to go some other places first, leaving this Friday night.

    A few days in Dublin with undulations, then a few days in the Netherlands with a friend from IRC. elfy will join me there, and we'll go to Berlin and stay with her friend for a few days. From there I'm going to take a train to Rome to meet up with the family. I've got 2.5 days to go from Berlin to Rome so I should probably stop somewhere on the way, but I haven't figured out where yet. Still puzzling out how to do European multi-carrier train itineraries and choose routes.

    Wanna suggest a thing to do or see?

    Do I know anyone in any of those places but forgot they're there because I haven't been there in years or ever?
    Thursday, September 18th, 2014
    3:20 pm
    Tricky 3-hop ssh tunnel
    Of possible interest to sysadmin geeks; others may want to skip this post :)
    I'm posting this for the next person who searches the web for advice on how to do this, because when I needed to I didn't find a clear answer and it took me a while - reading documentation, experimenting with ssh commands - to figure it out.

    You've got hosts on two private, protected networks, let's call them zimnet and girnet, and you'd like to securely copy some data from a zimhost to a girhost through an ssh tunnel. The data is sensitive so you'd like to reduce your risk by avoiding having any of it ever stored on a filesystem on any host in between, so you don't have to worry about file permissions, backups, automatic snapshots, and so on. Just a direct ssh tunnel all the way through.

    [Edit: Also, you may want to allow yourself to do the actual copy noninteractively, to more easily included it in a script - perhaps something that generates the data, copies it, and deletes it, all in a rapid series. However, some of the hops may require an interactive login (in my case, the ssh from zimbastion to girbastion required entering a one time password). Setting up a temporary ssh tunnel allows you to do all the authentication steps in advance, then kick off whatever copies the data.]

    In the simplest case, you can just run "scp file girhost:/path" on zimhost, if they could talk directly.

    If they can't talk directly, but there's some intermediate host they can both talk to, it's pretty easy to set up a two-hop ssh tunnel with port forwarding, and there are a lot of examples on the web of how to do it. But what if...
    - zimnet and girnet each has its own separate bastion host that can connect to hosts on that network
    - hosts behind the firewall for each network cannot initiate tcp connections to their bastion hosts or any outside hosts

    So:
    - zimbastion can ssh to zimhost, and to girbastion, but not to girhost
    - girbastion can ssh to girhost, and to zimbastion, but not to zimhost
    - neither zimhost nor girhost can ssh to any of the others

    Here's one way to do it. There are other ways, but this is the one I came up with that worked for me.

    On zimbastion, run:
    1. ssh -f -L 2222:girhost:22 girbastion -N
    2. ssh -f -R 2222:localhost:2222 zimhost -N

    Now on zimhost, you can do: scp -P 2222 -p /source/file localhost:/destination/path

    Command #1 connects local port 2222 on zimbastion (the local host) to an ssh on girbastion that forwards to port 22 on girhost. It can do this because girbastion is allowed to ssh to girhost, and the forwarding is happening on girbastion. Command #2, intiated from zimbastion as well, ssh's to zimhost and connects remote port 2222 - that is, port 2222 on zimhost - to localhost:2222 (on zimbastion), which is the port where command #1 is listening. You've set up a three-hop ssh tunnel, all initiated from one of the intermediate hosts.
    Monday, September 15th, 2014
    2:57 pm
    Some Whales near Provincetown
    Last week I went on a whale watch with coworkers, and we got three whales close to us for about an hour; they dove for about ten minutes at a time and then came up for a few minutes, so we saw them six times. New England Aquarium has a blog post about our trip with photos of their three flukes. They were humpbacks named Bayou, Pele, and Pepper. Apparently Pepper was the second humpback whale named, after Salt. Both Salt and Pepper were named in 1976, near Provincetown, which is where we were on this excursion as well, so we saw Pepper very close to where she was named 38 years ago.

    In my video clips you can see tail flukes from two of them diving:



    Bayou lost a portion of her tail in a propeller strike a few years ago. You can see the injury when she dives, near the beginning of the video.
    Monday, September 8th, 2014
    2:42 pm
    Massachusetts Primary Picks
    Tomorrow, Tuesday Sep 9th, is the Massachusetts primary election. Polls are open 7am-8pm, and you can find your polling place and a list of candidates on your ballot at WhereDoIVoteMA.com.

    People keep asking me what I think of the Democratic primary candidates, and I promised a post...

    You can read all of the statewide candidates' Progressive Mass questionnaire submissions for a lot more detail about their policy positions, experience, and statements about why they're running and what they believe. Progressive Mass members used these questionnaires, plus a series of candidate forums, to vote on endorsements.

    • Governor

      Don Berwick outshines the others by far. By plainly promoting strong progressive policies, he'd move the debate about a lot of things in Massachusetts and cause a sea change in the kinds of policies we actually get. Single payer health care, a progressive income tax, universal pre-K education, no more prison building, housing-first for homelessness, and more.

      Not only that, but Don Berwick has a long and solid background of evidence-based approaches to management and policy. Instead of deciding a-priori by ideology or political considerations how to do something or how to accomplish some goal, he looks at the actual outcomes of different approaches to see what the evidence says will likely be most effective. Berwick was endorsed by Progressive Mass after getting 70% of the vote in what was then a 4-candidate contest: Significantly more than twice as many votes as the three other candidates combined. I agree with the commenter who wrote, "I believe his candidacy represents our chance to substantially change the political landscape here in Massachusetts."

      Martha Coakley is clearly the worst of the three. Read more...Collapse )
      So here's the problem: Currently Coakley leads in the polls, Steve Grossman is second, and Don Berwick third. If your priority is defeating Coakley, you'd vote for Steve Grossman, who's a reasonable candidate, more likely to beat Coakley in the primary, and better able to win the general election. If your priority is supporting a far superior candidate, at risk of making it more likely that we'll get the worst (perhaps because you think she may not be that awful), then Don Berwick is the best choice.

      [Updated: Or, as some people point out, if you believe Coakley is going to win the primary regardless of who you vote for, then you might as well vote for the best candidate. That's Berwick.]

    • Attorney General

      Warren Tolman seems pretty good to me, but Maura Healey really stands out. She's a civil rights attorney who led the lawsuit that overturned a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act in the Supreme Court. She's already got lots of experience in the Massachusetts Attorney General's office, as former Assistant Attorney General. She'd be the first openly gay Attorney General in the US. She's been endorsed by Progressive Mass. I saw them both at a candidate forum and Q&A earlier this summer and came away liking both but having a much better impression of her. This one is, IMO, an easy choice.

    • Lt. Governor

      At a Progressive Mass candidate forum I saw all four candidates speak and answer questions - I asked them questions myself - and I took a bunch of notes. Then I lost all my notes :( Generally I liked all the candidates; Mike Lake and Leland Cheung both seemed better than Kerrigan, and after reflection I decided that Leland Cheung was the best choice. I'm also familiar with him since he's a Cambridge City Councilor and I think he's been one of the best we've had. Some people involved in MA politics whose opinions I value have picked Mike Lake, some have picked Leland Cheung. I'm worried that the progressive vote will split and Steve Kerrigan will win even though nobody I know thinks he's as good as the other two, and neither do I.

      I wish I still had my notes! But you can read the candidates' questionnaire submissions here.

    • Treasurer

      Same thing here: I went to that forum, asked them questions, took notes, and lost the notes, so I fell back on my memory of my impressions, plus their questionnaires. I remember feeling ambivalent about whether Deb Goldberg or Tom Conroy would be best, and I preferred both of them over Barry Finegold.

    • Auditor is uncontested in the primary. Secretary is uncontested in the primary, which is a shame, because Bill Galbin doesn't deserve it. He's better than having an overtly voter-suppressing Republican, but he's anti-Democratic when it comes to his own office, lagged far behind the times in modernizing and computerizing, and the fact that we still don't have election day registration in Massachusetts is a complete disgrace and largely his fault.

      [Update: Galvin will win for sure, since nobody is running against him, but that doesn't mean you should vote for him. I hope you don't.]


    P.S. If you're in the Medford+Somerville district formerly represented by Carl Sciortino, who resigned this year, please vote for Christine Barber for state rep. Carl Sciortino was the best state rep in Massachusetts IMO, and getting someone that good to replace him is a challenge, but she may live up to that challenge.
    Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014
    4:26 pm
    Bee on a sunflower
    I haven't had time to write the post I wanna post this week, but in the meantime, have a video of a tiny bee collecting pollen on a sunflower:



    Based on a discussion on reddit I think it's likely a mason bee (genus Osmia) but am not quite sure. It also seems to look like a polyester bee.

    Sunflower courtesy of Alice, who grew it in her garden.
    Friday, August 29th, 2014
    1:56 pm
    Don Berwick
    Massachusetts' primary election is coming up soon, on Tuesday September 9th.

    We've got a 3-way contest for Democratic nominee for Governor. Here's the one I like:


    Don Berwick is a doctor (at Children's Hospital and MGH), a professor (at Harvard), and a knight (yes, knighted by the Queen! :), with a long background in policy and administration, especially healthcare. He was the head administrator of Medicare and Medicaid for the Federal Government for a couple of years in the Obama administration. He had to leave because Republicans in Congress wouldn't confirm him - IMO likely because of his support for single payer health care and the danger that he might be too good at making Medicare work well under Obamacare and use that to argue in favor of single payer.

    Progressive Mass endorsed Berwick for Governor in a member vote in which he got more than twice as many votes as three other candidates combined*, after his answers on the Progressive Mass issues questionnaire earlier this year. Read that questionnaire for details about his views and policies on a variety of things.

    * At the time of the vote, 4 candidates were running, though there are only 3 now.


    I'm going to see him in Davis Square this Sunday. It's a free public event, right in the middle of Davis Square, 11am-12:30. Wanna come?
    Friday, August 15th, 2014
    11:27 am
    Genocide prevented
    While most of our news attention has been focused on Ferguson, MO this week, let's not miss some very good news: Nearly all of the Iraqi Yazidis who were beseiged by ISIS have escaped into Iraqi Kurdistan. As long as the Kurds hold ISIS off their territory, this is literally and directly a genocide prevented (although at least a few thousand are still at risk).

    Kurdistan doesn't have the resources to feed and take care of the more than 100,000 Yazidi refugees they've received in the past couple of weeks, though they're trying. They need help. The US helped save an entire people from destruction but we can do more to keep them alive now. This is the thing to call your Senators and Representative about today, IMO. (I did this morning)
    Sunday, July 20th, 2014
    9:26 pm
    Portland Plant Bio Conference Trip
    Entry mostly for my own reference, though maybe someone else is interested too.

    Friday, July 11
    - Alice and her lab fly to Portland in morning for Plant Biology 2014
    - I drive to Alice's & her housemates' place in CT late evening, stay there

    Saturday, July 12
    - Drive to Bradley airport (Hartford-ish), fly to Portland via Chicago
    - wait an extra few hours in Chicago due to flight delays
    - Jocasta picks me up at PDX airport and we drive to Days Inn and check in
    - Carolina Chocolate Drops outdoor concert at Oregon Zoo
    - Get to Portland contra dance in time for the last 3 dances. Jocasta's first contra dance!
    - Back to hotel, bedtime. Did we eat dinner? Other than fries at the zoo concert?

    Sunday, July 13
    - We drive to convention center Marriott, pick up Alice
    - Multnomah Falls with Jocasta and Alice, hike to the top
    - Jocasta drives us back to Days Inn (where my stuff is), and departs to go home to Yakima
    - Afternoon w/Alice! Pack up my stuff, and we take the max to convention center.
    - Check me in to Quality Inn, across from Marriott, and Alice returns to conference
    - Bill Evans banjo house concert in SE Portland with Martin

    Monday, July 14
    - Work at Portland Google office, somewhat changed (and bigger) since I last saw it
    - Lunch with Alice and Eric S at downtown food carts, Alder & 9th pod
    - Visit Gabby at brunch box, where she works - first in person meeting w/her!
    - Dinner on my own at food carts, then meet Alice at max stop
    - Powells with Alice, including cafe, rare books room, and gardening section :)
    - Voodoo Doughnut with Alice, and a box of doughnuts for the next three days :)

    Tuesday, July 15
    - Work at Portland Google office
    - Food cart lunch @ Alder & 9th pod with Alice, Kevin, Martin, Paul, Lara(Bean), Samantha
    - Meet up with Darlene at max stop after work
    - Dinner w/Darlene at Marrakesh in NW Portland, recommended by Samantha
    - Back to hotel w/Darlene staying the night

    Wednesday, July 16 - full day with Alice!
    - Alice checks out of Marriott, labmates go to airport to return to CT
    - Alice and Gabby meet me and Darlene at my hotel room late morning, we check out
    - Berry picking expedition to Sauvie Island with Alice, Gabby, Darlene
    - Collins beach on Sauvie Island with Alice, Gabby, Darlene
    - Stop at B&B on the way back into town to check in / see room
    - Portland Wednesday Munch at bar next to Gabby's apartment
    - Darlene takes bus back to Oregon city, Gabby goes upstairs (home)
    - Alice and I stop briefly at Voodoo again, then return to B&B

    Thursday, July 17 - full day with Alice!
    - Breakfast at B&B, followed by bird watching on their balcony
    - Portland International Rose Test Garden
    - Portland Japanese Garden
    - Lunch at Persian House downtown
    - Lan Su Chinese Garden, including calligraphy demo
    - Hike at Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge in SE Portland
    - Monster Palace dinner gathering! We bring lots of berries :)
    Us, Megan, Martin, Chase, Terra, Dan, Shaunna, Jeff, Beth, their kids, Kevin, a few others...
    - Last night at B&B

    Friday, July 18 - full day with Alice!
    - Breakfast and bird watching at B&B
    - Long but pretty drive to east (rear) side of Mount Saint Helens National Monument
    - Get maps, park permit, and lunch food, in Cougar, WA
    - Meta Lake, Harmony trail (to the shores of Spirit Lake), Windy Ridge overlook
    - Drive directly from Mount Saint Helens to PDX airport
    - Get dinner food at airport, redeye flight to Newark

    Saturday, July 19 - full day with Alice!
    - Breakfast at Newark airport, brief flight to back Bradley
    - Drive back to Alice's house, shower, collapse on futon and sleep 'til afternoon
    - Lunch at Oriental Cafe in Willimantic
    - Hike at Shelter Falls Park
    - Fetch Alice's car from lab, then more Alice time at her place
    - I drive home in the evening shortly before Alice bedtime
    Monday, July 7th, 2014
    12:16 pm
    Human Rights Campaign betrays us again
    A couple of weeks ago, this June, Maine Senator Susan Collins finally came out in favor of gay marriage.

    When the Maine legislature first legalized it in 2009, and then a counter-campaign put it on the ballot, and Maine voted to unlegalize it, Susan Collins didn't do favor it.

    When Mainers United for Marriage organized in 2011 and 2012 to put it back on the ballot, Susan Collins didn't support them.

    When their referendum passed, Maine legalized same sex marriage again at the end of 2012, and in the year and a half that it's been a reality in Maine, Susan Collins didn't support it.

    Why now? Because earlier this June, Shenna Bellows became the Democratic nominee for Senate in Maine, running against Susan Collins. As executive director of the Maine ACLU, Shenna Bellows was one of the lead organizers of Mainers United for Marriage. She was one of the people who formed the organization, back when Maine had recently voted to ban same sex marriage and many people said it was too soon to try again. Her active leadership for marriage equality before it was won has been earning her campaign a lot of support, and contributions.

    So what did the HRC do? They struck a deal with Susan Collins: She says she favors gay marriage, and they endorse her for Senate over Shenna Bellows.

    I guess the message to other politicians is: You don't earn HRC's support by working hard for equality, which is supposedly their mission. You do it by sitting on the sidelines until the work is done, and then telling HRC that if they'll endorse you, you'll say that you favor the gains from the work that other people did, after they've already won those gains.

    Edit: A post by digsby, via jered, that expands on this. While HRC points to Susan Collins' support of the current Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the Senate, she's part of the reason why the current ENDA is so relatively narrow in its protections; Shenna Bellows, on the other hand, led in getting Maine to pass the Maine Human Rights Act, with broad and comprehensive antidiscrimination protections.
    Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
    2:15 pm
    Supreme Court contraception decision... differently terrible than it seemed
    You probably already know that the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, a company that said it violated their religious beliefs to provide health insurance plans to their employees that pay for contraception. After learning more about it, I realize this decision is not quite as horrible as it first seemed in the way that it first seemed, though it's quite horrible in another way.

    One of the first things I wondered when I heard about it was, waitaminnit, isn't that totally at odds with the 1990 decision about peyote? In that one the court said that the Constitution didn't protect someone's use of peyote for religious purposes - it was still illegal if the law said using peyote was illegal. Did they overturn that precedent?

    But no, they didn't. This new decision is actually not Constitutional. Instead, it's a decision about the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act", a law Congress passed in response to the peyote decision. If the Constitution doesn't give people religious exemptions from otherwise illegal acts they do for religious purposes, Congress decided, we'll just make it so the law gives people such exemptions instead. Yesterday the Supreme Court didn't say Hobby Lobby has a Constitutional right to not pay for this insurance benefit, it said the RFRA (a law passed by Congress) allows them to not pay for such plans.

    Under the RFRA if any other law impinges on someone's religious beliefs, they get an exemption unless the law a) advances an important interest, and b) does so in a "narrowly tailored" way - in other words, doesn't impinge on their beliefs more than is necessary to achieve the goal.

    At first I feared this means the Court decided providing contraceptive coverage wasn't an important enough state interest, but that's not the case. Rather than saying that providing contraceptive coverage isn't a valid state interest, they said that it can be achieved in a different way: Either the government could make insurance companies pay for the contraceptive coverage for employees of companies who sought an exemption, or the government could just pay for that contraceptive coverage directly. Doing either of those would have the full desired effect: Every health insurance plan would cover contraceptives. Since the government can achieve this goal without requiring these companies to pay for it, that means under the RFRA that these companies cannot be required to pay for it.

    In that sense, it's a "narrow" decision, and may be easily fixable. The Obama administration already offered a deal to churches and religious nonprofits that sounds like what the court said it could do legally for companies like Hobby Lobby, so presumably they can expand that deal to include these companies. (There's another court case in the works challenging even that, so we'll see...*)

    Here's what's fucked up:

    1. That anyone would claim a religious objection to contraception seems like a ridiculous anachronism in the 21st century US. It wouldn't be happening if we didn't still have an awful lot of devaluing of women in our culture.

    2. Unlike the peyote case, where someone was being penalized for participating in a religious ritual, this case isn't about the actual practice of religion. It's about employees choosing to use their compensation in a way the employer objects to; the employer isn't actually doing so. This seems crazy to me. Compensation for a job is money or other financial value given to the employee, which they can then choose to use however they want. Morally and logically, this seems no different from letting an employer tell you what you can't spend your wages/salary on!

    ... but here's the worst part:

    3. When the RFRA was passed in response to the peyote case, the hubbub was about people and their right to practice their religion. Now the Supreme Court has decided that some corporations can also have religious beliefs, and thus have the same rights under the law. For-profit corporations can have religious faith!!

    The whole point of incorporating is to shield the individuals who run the corporations and/or own it from legal liability and financial risk from what the corporation does. Yet somehow the Supreme Court thinks that separation between the individuals and corporations doesn't always apply in the other direction when it comes to religious beliefs.

    So... we can get contraceptive coverage back, probably, without even needing Congress (and we certainly could with an act of Congress). But this ongoing trend of the Supreme Court giving corporations more and more rights and benefits that were intended just for actual people is going to be much harder to reverse.

    Edit: Move to Amend is the coalition trying to reverse this trend of excessive corporate rights. You could sign their petition and join their email list.

    Edit2: I really like this blog post, which makes some of the same points, and gives more of a legal analysis (in an easy to read manner).

    *Edit3: Supreme Court is indeed signalling, in that second case, that they may throw a wrench into the workaround: Wheaton College injunction: The Supreme Court just sneakily reversed itself on Hobby Lobby
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