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|Tuesday, March 8th, 2016|
|Monday, February 1st, 2016|
|Friday, January 8th, 2016|
|Six-word book descriptions
Alice posted this elsewhere:
"Describe your favorite book in exactly six words. And we can guess which it is!
mine: a dude hates a big whale."
I can't pick one favorite book, but I wrote six-word summaries of several of my favorites:
- Bear leads king's rise and fall
- Layered loops of logic form thought
- War distraction to sneakily destroy ring
- Wildlife links mountain strangers' love lives
- Europeans' militarism escalates far beyond expectations
- Doors lead to adventure under London
- Warning: Factory cuts trees animals need
- Injured brains work in bizarre ways!
- Teens transported to sinister Escheresque place
What's your favorite book in six words?
|Sunday, December 6th, 2015|
|Tuesday, November 17th, 2015|
|Massachusetts Governor's office in denial about refugees?
This morning I called Governor Charlie Baker's office to express my dismay at his anti-refugee comments, which seem designed to pander to xenophobes. Spoke with an aide at his office who immediately got argumentative and defensive. She seemed in denial, which is a bad sign if that's the prevailing way of thinking at that office.
Oh no, she said, he only meant that since the Syrian government can't provide us with good data for background checks, we need to wait until they fix that. Really? What she's saying is that anytime there's a major civil war somewhere, we need to wait until that war is over and the country can put its civil service and census system back on track, before we accept any refugees fleeing that war? It's a clearly insane position, that she wouldn't even think about what it meant.
When I mentioned, several times, that Massachusetts doesn't even have a way to prevent refugees from coming here if the Federal government lets them into the country, she repeatedly ignored that and pretended I didn't say it. When I said, several times, that it's clear the only reason Baker would speak up about this in the way he did is to pander to xenophobes, she interrupted every time. She doesn't want to see it, doesn't want to acknowledge anything about it. It's like the governor's office is trapped in a self-righteous bubble of willful denial about what he's doing and saying.
If you wanna try your luck, 617-725-4005. Be calm. Be prepared for them not to listen. Maybe a large enough number of people saying what they really don't want to hear will get some of them to start thinking about what their governor is really doing, even if they'd rather not think about it because it's so disgusting and uncomfortable.
If you call, please comment here and tell us how it went?
|Thursday, November 12th, 2015|
|Support Syrian Refugees
In the past couple of months I've called members of Congress several times to ask them to get more Syrian war refugees into the US. The Obama administration announced earlier this fall that they would admit 10,000 more this year, but compared to the scale of the problem, that's almost a joke (though it's no joke for the 10,000 individuals!) - there are more than 10 million people fleeing this war, so 10,000 is less than 0.1% of them. As a wealthy country of over 300 million, we can certainly do better.
Of course what the President do on his own is limited, without more funding. Well, now some Senators have introduced an actual bill to do something about it:http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/senate-should-pass-bipartisan-bill-provide-funding-better-address-syrian-refugee
S.2145, the "Middle East Refugee Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act
" of 2016, would provide $1 billion in funds to resettle approximately 100,000 more refugees in the US, and improve conditions in refugee camps in Jordan and the region. And it was introduced by a Republican and a Democrat together, which gives it a shot of rising above the hyper-partisan nature of most votes in the Senate. But so far, all of the additional cosponsors
have been Democrats.
The Senate repeatedly passed emergency supplemental appropriations to fund the Iraq war, totalling hundreds
of billions of dollars. That war caused a large part of this refugee crisis, because the extremist groups who infiltrated and took over Syria's civil war, and have lengthened it and made it so unresolveable, were nearly all products of our Iraq invasion. ISIS, Al-Nusrah, and so on - they were created by people who recruited in Iraq, trained in Iraq, gained experience and built networks in Iraq, and then came from Iraq to Syria when the opportunity presented itself. Surely the same Senate that spent hundreds of billions to put tens of millions of civilians in crisis and misery, can vote for just $1 billion to rescue some of them. (they should do more, but this is a good start)
Look at that list of cosponsors
. If one of your Senators is on it, call them and thank them! They've all been getting some calls from anti-immigrant people upset at the thought of resettling refugees. And whichever of your Senator(s) aren't on the list - call them and ask them to cosponsor!
Especially if they're a Republican, because getting a couple of additional Republican supporters is probably what will make the difference in whether this passes or not.
|Tuesday, November 10th, 2015|
|much-improved offline maps
With the new offline maps features in Google Maps, you can search for places, get directions, navigate, and look up place info, while offline: http://google-latlong.blogspot.ca/2015/11/navigate-and-search-real-world-online.html
I've been using these features in private for a while, waiting eagerly for it to become public! Now I can use this when other people are around, and tell them about it :)
One thing that could trip you up: When you're offline and using an offline map area, you can only get directions to places within that offline area. If you're in the city and going out to the mountains for the day, an easy mistake to make is to just download an offline map for the mountain area where you think there will be no cell coverage. You want to include the city in the offline area you download, if you will want to get directions *from* the mountains back to somewhere in the city later.
|Tuesday, September 15th, 2015|
"... and since most economists are also human,"
-- Richard Thaler
, an economist, in Misbehaving
|Thursday, September 10th, 2015|
|Thursday, July 16th, 2015|
|Alternative to the Iran nuclear deal
So the major powers, with US leadership, struck a deal with Iran where Iran limits a bunch of their nuclear material and facilities and agrees they're only using it for peaceful purposes, and allows ongoing inspections to prove it, while the rest of the world drops various sanctions and starts letting Iran trade again, improving their economy. And as expected, a lot of Republicans are saying this is horrible and we should reject it, because it's not good enough. Their position seems strange because all of them also assert - and it's true - that *without* this deal, it's much easier for Iran to build a nuclear weapon if they want to. Leave aside for a moment the fact that they haven't for so many years even though they probably could've, suggesting they probably haven't wanted to. Still, what do these Republicans want? No restrictions, and no inspections? The status quo seems more dangerous.
Of course we know what they want: War. Tom Cotton, the Republican Senator who's been one of the leaders of opposition to any deal with Iran, has said so explicitly
. He also believes that war with Iran is inevitable, so we might as well have it now rather than later, so at least his position is kinda clear. Other Republicans who aren't quite ready to come out and say "yes, let's have a war!" have more trouble explaining what they think the alternative to this deal is. What's so great about the status quo?
But here's the thing they miss and that for some reason I have seen very little mention of in the press:We cannot get the pre-negotiation status quo back.
International sanctions against Iran have worked because they've been truly international. But Russia and China have never been particularly enthusiastic about it. They went along with the western powers because our demands seemed so reasonable: we just wanted to prod Iran into agreeing to negotiate with us about their nuclear program, to make sure they weren't going to develop a nuclear weapon. Preventing Iran from having nuclear weapons was something China and Russia could get behind, but they were never much into the broader desire of many western countries to limit Iran's power and influence more broadly.
Well, Iran did what we asked. They've agreed to a deal that was more than most people thought they would. The stated purpose of sanctions has been achieved.
If the US rejects this deal, China and Russia are going to say "if the US can't even take yes for an answer, fuck it; there's no point to these sanctions." They want to trade with Iran, and they want to sell weapons to Iran. If we accept the deal, they may hold back for a while on weapons, or limit them somewhat, but if we reject the deal, I'm pretty sure they're not going to want to have anything to do with any further international sanctions on Iran.
This process wasn't just about negotiating with Iran, it was also a negotiation with China and Russia. Accepting the deal keeps them in too. Going back to no deal means giving up the international consensus too.
|Friday, June 26th, 2015|
2003-06-26: Lawrence v. Texas
ruling, in which "the Court struck down the sodomy law in Texas and, by extension, invalidated sodomy laws in 13 other states, making same-sex sexual activity legal in every U.S. state and territory."
2013-06-26: United States v. Windsor
ruling, in which the Court "held that restricting U.S. federal interpretation of 'marriage' and 'spouse' to apply only to heterosexual unions, by Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), is unconstitutional"
2015-06-26: today :) (Obergefell v. Hodges
(Stonewall riots began June 28th, which puts Pride around now. Just a few days off!)
|Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015|
Since I didn't really like Google Hangouts for texting (it's very nice for video but I don't do video calls much outside work), I have mostly used other things - IRC, SMS, WhatsApp, ... - with people whenever they had those other things. But because Alice switched back to a dumbphone shortly after I gave her an iPad, we switched to using Hangouts and for a number of months she's been the only person I use Hangouts with frequently. Now I have really strong positive associations with Hangouts, because every time I see the Hangouts notification I know it probably means a message from Alice. Hangouts = joy, usually. This is making me like Google Hangouts even though it's irrational - it's not that the app/service has changed or become more likable. Huh.
|Friday, April 17th, 2015|
|kerning the car
When you park the car and realize it's not positioned quite right relative to other cars or the curb, and you move it slightly to get the spacing just right, you are kerning the car.
actually said "returning the car" but once I mis-heard him we decided it was a useful turn of phrase)
|Wednesday, April 15th, 2015|
|Hugos and Puppies
I'd like to read some of the Hugo Award nominees in the next few months, but avoid spending time on less-good nominees who are only there due to the sadness of the nutty puppies*
gave me a link to a puppy-free slate
, but that's not exactly what I want. Some books & stories good enough to have had a great shot at the Hugo ballot without any puppies, were probably included on the puppy slates. I'd like to read some of those, but don't have time to read everything, so I want to avoid the ones that would near-certainly not have been on on a puppyless ballot.
People who are familiar with a bunch of the entries on the 2015 Hugo ballot
, which ones do you recommend spending my time on?
* For a long version of the puppies thing, you can read George R.R. Martin's series of posts on his LiveJournal starting with this one
and continuing from there. For a short version... anyone got a link to a good short summary for readers who don't know anything about this and are curious?
Edit: This looks like a good readable summary that doesn't require that you already know a lot about it: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/04/13/1376743/-Freeping-the-Hugo-Awards
You do need to know what "freeping" refers to: Overwhelming a poll/vote/election by getting a large number of people from outside its usual community (people who would otherwise not have been involved) to all vote in the same way.
Edit2: Another good piece, with more historical context:http://www.newrepublic.com/article/121554/2015-hugo-awards-and-history-science-fiction-culture-wars
|Monday, April 13th, 2015|
|Dismay at reactions to Clinton's announcement
In the wake of Hillary Clinton's official announcement that she's running for President, I've been looking on in dismay at a lot of the posts and articles going around arguing that we should all just support her now whether we like her or not, and nobody should challenger her for the Democratic nomination.
If you don't think Clinton is a bad choice for President, then you don't need to be convinced to support her. But these pieces are aimed at progressives who have problems with her, and they seem to boil down to idiocies like:
- Because Clinton is better than a Republican, that means you should support her becoming the Democratic nominee. After all, you wouldn't want to support a Republican!
- Progressive third party runs for President are dangerous because they just make it easier for the Republican to win... so that means you should support Clinton becoming the Democratic nominee.
- Face it, nobody's running against Clinton in the primaries (umm, because those who might run are considering whether they'll have any support or whether everyone's falling in for Clinton from the start), so therefore you should discourage anyone from running against Clinton and just accept that they won't (if you do that, then indeed they won't), and support Clinton even if you don't want her.
When you see one of these, please call them out for the utter nonsense they are. Do it in public. Comment on Facebook posts. Write to newspapers. Say it to your friends.
We're not going to get a good candidate in the Democratic primary if all the people who might consider running think the public believes all this BS and will therefore support Clinton regardless of whether they prefer her or not. Show people that there are a lot of people who don't buy it, and that a legitimately good candidate who enters the primaries can get support.
("Why should we want someone better than Clinton, why isn't she a good choice?" is a matter for another, longer post, but it mainly comes down to her support for unnecessary war, death, and destruction for millions of people, and that she's been consistent in her support for those things and will likely cause more of them in the future. However, if you genuinely support her and think she's the right choice, you can still understand that these arguments aimed at those of us who don't think so, are senseless. Try to sell us on why she's good, not on "suck it up, you shouldn't try for someone better, because Republicans".)
|Monday, March 9th, 2015|
|Reduced Temperatures Ahead
I can remember the moment, on my first cross country road trip many years ago, when I first saw a highway sign that said "REDUCED SPEED AHEAD: 70", and I laughed.
That's how I felt when I saw the weather report today: "Temperatures dropping into the low 30s overnight."
(For readers not from the US: Around here in the northeast, highways usually have speed limits of 55 miles per hour near cities, and 65 miles per hour in rural areas. Speed limits above 65 are rare anywhere within 10 hour drive of here, and a "reduced speed ahead" sign usually means the speed limit is changing to 55 or lower. In the mountain west and great plains, though, there are a lot of highways with speed limits of 75 MPH and even some with 80, so 70 can be a "reduced" speed limit.)
|Monday, February 23rd, 2015|
|arora's annual confessions post
Oops, usually I post the link on the day she opens it, but I forgot and then I was away for the weekend.aroraborealis
's annual anonymous confessions post
opened on Friday, and is still open. Usually it goes for about a week, though it varies a bit.
Since it has already been going for a few days, there are already a lot of interesting/sad/sex/fun/weird/... threads. For example,
Lots more, and I haven't caught up completely yet, but it's time to get to work. Leave me a comment linking to a thread you found meaningful or fascinating or surprising?
|Monday, February 2nd, 2015|
|Snow is overly protective of my tooth
I had an appointment to get a wisdom tooth extracted on Tuesday last week, but due to the blizzard, they called me the day before to say they'd be closed, and I rescheduled it for this morning. This morning, of course, they called to cancel again due to today's snowstorm. Now I have to call back and reschedule again. Before I do that, I'd like to ask: do any of you have any requests as to when you'd like Boston's next blizzard to be scheduled for?
|Saturday, January 31st, 2015|
|Weird mail routing
I mailed a small box to Florida from the post office in Central Square, Cambridge a bit over a week ago, on a Thursday morning. Using the USPS online package tracking site, I saw it accepted at Cambridge around noon, and arrive in Nashua, NH that evening. I guessed (and later confirmed) that Nashua is a sort of hub facility processing mail for several states.
And then, things started to get weird
Thursday night, Nashua sent it to Boston, where it arrived overnight.
Friday morning, Boston sent it to Nashua, where it arrived in the afternoon.
Friday night, Nashua sent it to Boston, where it arrived overnight.
Saturday morning, Boston sent it to Nashua, where it arrived early evening.
Sunday morning, Nashua sent it to Boston, where it arrived Monday morning.
I know that sometimes packages get accidentally misrouted. Sometimes a box has an extra old barcode still visibile that gets mistakenly scanned. Random errors can cause a package to be sent to the incorrect next post office. But this didn't seem random at all:Boston(Cambridge)->Nashua->Boston->N
ashua->Boston->Nashua->Boston. Boston always sends it to Nashua. Nashua always sends it to Boston. There's no breaking out of this loop. (unlike TCP packets, postal mail packages have no TTL field :)
In the meantime, a package I mailed to Volcano, Hawaii on that same trip to the post office on Thursday, was delivered to its desitnation :)
Monday morning, seeing that it had just arrived in Boston yet again, and expecting it to go back out to Nashau by that afternoon, I called USPS customer service. When I gave the tracking number, not only did they see the problem right away, but they also told me the correct Florida address it was supposed to go to. Their system knows.
And then, no more tracking updates on Monday. Tuesday was the snowstorm and I didn't expect any. Wednesday, a new line appeared: Still in Boston, but now "Processing Exception".
BOSTON, MA, USA Wednesday, January 28, 2015 5:46 PM PROCESSING EXCEPTION
Wednesday, January 28, 2015 5:36 PM DEPARTED USPS ORIGIN FACILITY
Monday, January 26, 2015 4:31 AM ARRIVED AT USPS ORIGIN FACILITY
NASHUA, NH, USA Sunday, January 25, 2015 4:56 AM DEPARTED USPS FACILITY
Saturday, January 24, 2015 6:57 PM ARRIVED AT USPS ORIGIN FACILITY
BOSTON, MA, USA Saturday, January 24, 2015 3:35 AM ARRIVED AT USPS ORIGIN FACILITY
NASHUA, NH, USA Friday, January 23, 2015 4:26 PM ARRIVED AT USPS ORIGIN FACILITY
BOSTON, MA, USA Friday, January 23, 2015 8:32 AM DEPARTED USPS FACILITY
Friday, January 23, 2015 3:43 AM ARRIVED AT USPS ORIGIN FACILITY
NASHUA, NH, USA Thursday, January 22, 2015 7:26 PM ARRIVED AT USPS ORIGIN FACILITY
CAMBRIDGE, MA, USA Thursday, January 22, 2015 12:07 PM ACCEPTANCE
Saturday evening, that's still the latest update. 5 days looping between Boston and Nashua, and now it's been in Boston all week, "processing exception".Edit
: Friday, February 6th: It got to Florida today!
|Tuesday, January 6th, 2015|
Frederick, MD county council member Kirby Delauter threatened to sue if a reporter used his name in the paper without his permission.
The Frederick News-Post
responded with this editorial: Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter
I did not get his authorization to name him in this LJ post.