November 17, 2018

In the Overnight Snow Café...


... you can leave a sprinkling of comments.

"Making friends is actually quite simple; most people are flattered that someone cool (that would be you, taking my advice) wants to befriend them."

"If there is a person in your workplace, church group or running club that sets off Potential Friend sirens in your head, here’s what you do":
1) Become a person who is comfortable spouting non-sequiturs. Friendship starts by talking, which means that someone has to start talking! Comment on the weather, or the smell of the room, or something on TV last night … regularly. It’s pleasant to make conversation about something light...

2) Then, once you have built up a rapport with your Potential Friend, you have to DTT: Divulge To Them. Share a very tiny secret, like you have cramps or you’re hung over or you accidentally voted for Bush. This is step one to building trust.

3) The next step is crucial! After you DTT, wait a period of time, and then refer back to the thing you divulged to them! You are creating an inside joke. THE FOUNDATION OF FRIENDSHIP.

4) And finally, you have to ask them to hang out with you one on one. And then again, 2-6 weeks later. Then they should get the hint and ask you to hang out, too. Now you are friends. Congrats!
From "How to Make Friends" (NYT) — addressing the difficulty people seem to have making real friends after they're out of school.

And I know — you never have cramps and you voted for Bush on purpose. That's why I'm able to DTT that I write a blog that is read mostly by people who voted for Bush on purpose AND Trump on purpose. And I seriously need to make new friends after the friends I lost because my blog is read mostly by people who voted for Bush on purpose and Trump on purpose.

As for step #4, if you do the ask-out twice like that and then they never come back with the ask-out, then you know you are not "someone cool." But keep wielding the old 4-step approach to get more data points. Good luck!

"When Sardar Singh Jatav set out walking on a muggy night in early September to talk with the men who employed his son, he found them already waiting for him in the road."

"But they were not in the mood for discussion. The higher-caste men greeted Mr. Sardar with a punch to the face. Then they broke his arm. Then they pinned him down. Mr. Sardar shrieked for help. Nobody came. One higher-caste man stuffed a rag in his mouth. Another gleefully pulled out a razor. He grabbed Mr. Sardar’s scalp and began to lift and cut, lift and cut, carving off nearly every inch of skin. 'Take that!' Mr. Sardar remembers them saying. 'Tell everyone we scalped you!'... One police commander tried to claim that the assailants hadn’t intended to scalp Mr. Sardar but that part of his scalp had simply fallen off when they hit him in the head with a stick.... Mr. Sardar said that while he was being scalped, the Gujjars taunted him for wearing a turban, something that Dalits are not supposed to do. He remembers the men saying: 'We’re going to take away your crown.'"

From "‘Tell Everyone We Scalped You!’ How Caste Still Rules in India" (NYT).

"Sara Lynn Michener, 39, stopped shopping at Victoria’s Secret about 10 years ago. She said she was frustrated..."

"... by the seemingly inexperienced sales people, the overwhelming 'pinkness' of the brand and the inauthentic 'glamazon images' in the store. She now mostly buys her bras online and at Nordstrom, environments that are mostly free of the sexed-up imagery that makes Victoria’s Secret the store it is. 'Even if I walk into the Nordstrom section, I’m going to have a bad day, so you can imagine Victoria’s Secret,' Ms. Michener, a writer who lives in the Bay Area, said."

From a long article in the NYT called "In 2018, Where Does Victoria’s Secret Stand?/The lingerie company has clung to the idea that women should look sexy for men. And sales are plummeting."

Of course, my question was: Ms. Michener, a writer — is she related to James A. Michener?

Googling her name, I found her page on Medium: "Sara Lynn Michener/Writer. Maker. Feminist. Internet Curator. Spitfire. Ravenclaw. Trekkie. Social Justice Apologist." Ravenclaw — what is that, some Harry Potter category? Yes — "6 reasons to get excited if you’re sorted into Ravenclaw" ("Ravenclaw is the house that champions those with a 'ready mind'"). Do people pushing 40 really think of themselves in terms of Harry Potter classifications? I guess it's better than astrology, and it looks like you just pick the one you think you are, so it's probably also better than the Myers Briggs system.

But is Sara Lynn Michener related to James A. Michener? The closest I got to an answer was an essay by Ms. Michener, "The Life and Times of Thurber James Michener/Obituary of a Beloved Dog."
... I placed all the love I had left in this dog, knowing he could never hurt me unless he was parted from me, like my own little pantalaimon. He licked my tears and put his head on my chest or dove between body and arm and seemed to make it possible for me to breathe. He followed me around extra closely, he was happily affectionate when I was happy, and gently affectionate when I was sad. I came to understand that the magic of this town I had loved, was merely how I had seen it — along with everyone else who comes to love a place to the point of fiction. Every American small town has a dark underbelly once the veil of what feels so deeply like community is lifted, so easily and under the slightest pressure. When I saw it for what it truly was without that love, I left with an effort that would not have been possible without my constant. All eighteen pounds of him in fur, bone, blood, and a love of bacon and peanut butter.
Anyway, I was thinking about James A. Michener, because I've been working my way through a box set of the complete episodes of "Friends," and his name came up in "The One With The Stoned Guy" (from February 1995). Ross wants to accommodate a girlfriend who expects him to talk dirty when they have sex, Joey gives him some lessons, and Ross reports back: "Oh, I was unbelievable.... I was the James Michener of dirty talk. It was the most elaborate filth you have ever heard. I mean, there were characters, plot lines, themes, a motif... at one point there were villagers."

At one point there were villagers! Did Americans understand that line in 1995? TV writers 23 years ago expected a mainstream audience to grasp a surreal turn in the dialogue that demanded understanding of the work of a specific writer. But it was James A. Michener — and he was still alive (alive and 88) and he'd even published a novel that year — another one of his 40 books. I'm just going to guess that knowing, back then, that a Michener story would have villagers was about as difficult as understanding, these days, what it means to be a Ravenclaw.

"Leaves are nature's natural mulch and fertilizer... When you rake all the leaves away, you are removing that natural benefit to your garden and lawns..."

"... then people turn around and spend money to buy mulch. If you feel like you have to clean up your yard... people can use their leaves like they would mulch, and move them to a garden bed or area that is more aesthetically pleasing.... Over winter months, a lot of butterflies and moths as pupa or caterpillar are in the leaf litter, and when you rake it up you are removing the whole population of butterflies you would otherwise see in your yard."

From The Detroit Free Press (internal quotation marks deleted).

Surgery without sedation and a question about charity.

"Most cataract surgeries are performed using a local anesthetic as well as 'conscious sedation,' which involves an anesthesiologist putting patients into a sort of twilight state. But some practitioners will do the procedure without the sedation. Although not for everybody, surgeons say, this approach is worth asking about if you’re a calm patient. It can be especially appealing if you don’t have someone to help you get home, or your insurance doesn’t fully cover the cost of an anesthesiologist."

From "What Doctors Don’t Tell You About Cataract Surgery/Patients should know about choices to be made about the procedure and postsurgery adjustments that may be unexpected" (WSJ).

I don't like that headline, because based on my experience, doctors do tell you all those things. Maybe some doctors don't tell you, and I'll bet some patients don't understand or remember what they are told. But I didn't know that "some practitioners will do the procedure without the sedation." That surprised me. A tough person who hates sedation might like this option, but I think it's terribly sad if someone picks this option because they don’t have anybody to help them get home or because they can't cover the cost of sedation.

I suspect that not having someone to help you when it is required for a medical procedure is a troublesome problem for many aging people who are proud of living independently. It would be nice if there were an easy, Uber-like service for this need.

And yet why am I so sad about this? I know that extremely low-cost cataract surgery is provided to millions of people in other countries. I've researched some of the charities that do this work, and they say $25 is all it takes to remove one person's cataracts. Presumably, sedation is a luxury. Maybe we comfortably squeamish Americans should be asked if we would forgo the sedation if it would cover the cost of cataract surgery for 100 individuals in poor countries.

November 16, 2018

At the Friday Night Café...

... you can talk all night.

And think of using the Althouse Portal to Amazon. If you'd like to buy what I just bought, it would be this wooden spoon and this jumbo bottle of Philosophy Purity.

WaPo's Jennifer Rubin pushes for a primary challenge to Trump... with the end of getting — who else? — John Kasich elected.

In "Here’s what a primary challenge to Trump would accomplish," she writes:
While there might be downside to the person challenging Trump, a primary opponent isn’t likely to take Trump on if he’s concerned about playing it safe and husbanding his or her popularity. The primary challenger, if you will, acts like the horse who jumps out to the lead, wears down the favorite and allows his stablemate to come from behind for the victory. And sometimes, the lead horse might actually win. Who’d do this? Maybe someone who already has a job (e.g., Mitt Romney, the Utah senator-elect), or doesn’t need one (e.g., a retired government official), or just thinks it’s the right thing to do (outgoing Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake?). ...

[A] primary run doesn’t preclude a third-party run by a different candidate, most likely a moderate candidate in the event Trump wins the GOP nomination. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, visiting in New Hampshire, explained the ideal circumstances for such a run. My colleague David Weigel writes, “Kasich was speculating on what it would take to break the two-party system wide open. He imagined a 2020 matchup between Trump and a left-wing Democrat that would create ‘a vast ocean between the parties.’ ” The decision to mount a third-party run could wait until after both parties pick their nominee; but if Trump falters in the primary, nothing would stop Kasich (or anyone else) from entering the race. (For now, Kasich occupies an enviable position. A non-candidate with high name ID can continue to criticize Trump and urge his fellow Republicans to hold Trump accountable for his rhetoric and actions.)
I just love the phrase "husbanding his or her popularity."

Anyway... someone other than Kasich is supposed to go in there and wear himself out weakening Trump, and Kasich has identified himself as the one to come in after someone else does the groundwork. Kasich is the moderate in waiting — quite openly and with strong support from The Washington Post.

"CIA concludes Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination."

WaPo reports.
The CIA’s assessment, in which officials have said they have high confidence, is [based on] multiple sources of intelligence, including a phone call that the prince’s brother Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, had with Khashoggi, according to the people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the intelligence. Khalid told Khashoggi, a contributing columnist to The Washington Post, that he should go to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve the documents and gave him assurances that it would be safe to do so.

It is not clear if Khalid knew that Khashoggi would be killed, but he made the call at his brother’s direction, according to the people familiar with the call, which was intercepted by U.S. intelligence....

The CIA’s conclusion about [the role of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] was also based on the agency’s assessment of the prince as the country’s de facto ruler who oversees even minor affairs in the kingdom. “The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without him being aware or involved,” said a U.S. official familiar with the CIA’s conclusions....

The CIA sees Mohammed as a “good technocrat,” the U.S. official said, but also as volatile and arrogant, someone who “goes from zero to 60, doesn’t seem to understand that there are some things you can’t do.” CIA analysts believe he has a firm grip on power and is not in danger of losing his status as heir to the throne despite the Khashoggi scandal. “The general agreement is that he is likely to survive,” the official said, adding that Mohammed’s role as the future Saudi king is “taken for granted.”...

How Trump won the Acosta lawsuit.

You don't alway win by winning. That's too easy. The genius move is to win by losing.

AP reports on Trump's reaction to the temporary restraining order that Acosta won against him:
[The judge] ordered Acosta’s pass returned for now in part because he said CNN was likely to prevail on its Fifth Amendment claim — that Acosta hadn’t received sufficient notice or explanation before his credentials were revoked or been given sufficient opportunity to respond before they were....

“In response to the court, we will temporarily reinstate the reporter’s hard pass,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “We will also further develop rules and processes to ensure fair and orderly press conferences in the future.”

Speaking to reporters after the decision, Trump said, “If they don’t listen to the rules and regulations, we will end up back in court and we will win.” He later added: “We want total freedom of the press. It’s very important to me, more important to me than anybody would believe. But you have to act with respect when you’re in the White House, and when I see the way some of my people get treated at press conferences, it’s terrible. So we’re setting up a certain standard, which is what the court is requesting.”
The judge framed it as a matter of process, which justifies Trump issuing a set of rules of decorum. I assume the rules will include a requirement that a reporter who has received a response (whether it's to his liking or not) must relinquish the microphone, that there can be no physical interference with a staff member who reaches out to take the microphone, and that one must stop talking once the President (or press secretary) has moved on to the next questioner.

Any complaints about these rules and the prescribed consequences of violating them can be met with pieties about adhering to the judge's ruling. Things must be done in an orderly way — in the press room and in a system of due process. Any complaints premised on freedom of the press will be met with statements like "We want total freedom of the press" and we want perfect due process. So here you are, here's notice of our rules of decorum. And that should be the end of the kind of questioning Acosta has become famous for. Trump wins.


"[Stacey] Abrams mulls asking a court to order a second vote in Georgia governor’s race" (WaPo).
[Abrams] would rely on a provision in Georgia law that has never been utilized in such a high-profile contest. It allows losing candidates to challenge results based on “misconduct, fraud or irregularities . . . sufficient to change or place in doubt the results.”...
Unofficial returns show Kemp with about 50.2 percent of the more than 3.9 million votes cast. To avoid a runoff with Abrams, he must win at least 50 percent of the vote. He has about 18,000 more votes than necessary to win outright.

To prevail in a court challenge, Abrams would have to demonstrate that irregularities were widespread enough that at least 18,000 Georgians either had their ballots thrown out or were not allowed to vote.
UPDATE: Abrams gives up, because "The law currently allows no further viable remedy," but...
“Let’s be clear: This is not a speech of concession because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper,” Ms. Abrams said amid a blistering attack on Mr. Kemp’s record as the state’s chief elections regulator and on the balloting process in Georgia. “As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede that.”

I didn't blog the death of Stan Lee, so why am I blogging the death of William Goldman?

Both were important writers in American popular culture whose work did not reach out to me personally. But I will link to the Goldman obituary (WaPo), because I have consumed his work. It loomed large in the part of the culture where I lived. I've never had any interest in superhero comics. Never read them. Never cared. Have no opinion other than it's something I see other people like. Those other people can talk about the meaning of Stan Lee. But Goldman is another story.

IMDB lists 34 movies he wrote. I've seen:
1990 Misery (screenplay)
1987 The Princess Bride (book) / (screenplay)
1976 All the President's Men (screenplay)
1966 Harper (screenplay)
Big Goldman films I avoided (and these are all films from the 1970s, when I would go to see every well-reviewed movie unless I actively avoided it):
1976 Marathon Man (from: his novel) / (screenplay)
1975 The Stepford Wives (screenplay)
1973 Papillon (contributing writer - uncredited)
1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (written by)
Looking at that, I have 3 thoughts: 1. "The Princess Bride" was great, 2. I must have really not wanted to see "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" to have never — in all these years — happened into watching it, 3. Goldman seems to have been a competent, successful, mainstream writer, and good for him, but I have no sense of him as original, profound, or speaking to me.

Now, let me read the long WaPo obituary and see what I'm missing:
Mr. Goldman, who learned his trade from a screenwriting guidebook he bought in 1964 at an all-night bookstore in Times Square, abhorred film schools and auteur theory. In profanity-laced interviews, he repeated his mantras: “Screenplays are structure,” “stories are everything.”

“It’s not like writing a book,” he said to the publication Creative Screenwriting in 2015. “It’s not like a play. You’re writing for camera and audiences. One of the things which I tell young people is, when you’re starting up, go to see a movie all day long. By the time the 8:00 show comes.... you’ll hate the movie so much you won’t pay much attention to it. But you’ll pay attention to the audience. The great thing about audiences is, I believe they react exactly the same around the world at the same places in movies. They laugh, and they scream, and they’re bored. And when they’re bored it’s the writer’s fault.”
And that's the attitude about movies that has taken over in the last 40 years and why I'm not interested in movies anymore. This grand effort to preemptively stomp out all boredom bores me.

What happens now that the federal judge requires the White House to give a press pass back to Jim Acosta?

"I will grant the application for the temporary restraining order I order the [government] reinstate the pass," said U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly, quoted at Fox News. (Note that Fox News filed an amicus brief supporting Acosta.)
The Trump appointee declared that precedent has been set that the White House should have given Acosta due process before taking away his credential and that harm to the reporter has already occurred....

Acosta has emerged as a hero of the #Resistance after making a habit of shouting and interrupting when Trump and members of his administration are available to the media....
So what happens now? And I'm not talking about the rest of the judicial proceedings. I mean what happens at the White House press events, with Acosta forced on Trump (and Sarah Sanders)? At first, I thought, they can just never call on Acosta. But I immediately questioned whether that's what will happen.

At the time of the event that led to the revocation of the press pass (when Acosta struggled with a young, female intern over control of the microphone), I wrote, that I had the feeling that "Trump and Acosta are both in control and choosing to do this theater of mutual hate."

So I tend to think Acosta won't be frozen out. That's not Trump's style. He likes to fight. He engages. You might argue and say then why was the press pass revoked? That was another dimension of fighting. You might say: But Trump lost and he hates losers. But he didn't really lose. He's got to take hits to remain the protagonist in this theater of mutual hate. If Acosta had lost the court battle, he'd be much more appealing than he is now, as the rude lout the court forced into Trump's house.

Watch and see. I think Acosta will get his opportunity to "ask questions" (that is, aggressively challenge), and Trump (or Sanders) will do what they do. As Trump likes to say, we'll see what happens. I'm guessing the words "fake news" will be used — along with "rude, terrible person" and "enemy of the people" — and the stinkeye will be bestowed.

"If I walked into Congress wearing a sack, they would laugh & take a picture of my backside."

"If I walk in with my best sale-rack clothes, they laugh & take a picture of my backside. Dark hates light — that’s why you tune it out. Shine bright & keep it pushing."

Tweeted Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. I'm reading the tweet in "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wore clothing, a journalist tweeted a photo, and the Internet pounced" which is in The Washington Post, where the slogan is "Democracy Dies in Darkness," which seems to be paraphrasable as "Dark hates light." I think Ocasio-Cortez responded quite nicely. I even like "Shine bright & keep it pushing" — which made me, an old Boomer, think of 2 of my all-time favorites, John Lennon and Curtis Mayfield ...

Well, we all shine on, like the moon and the stars and the sun...

Keep on pushing... I can't stop now, move up a little higher, some way, somehow...

"'Worse than no rain is negative rain'... The air was so dry, it was sucking water out of the land...."

"According to the U.S. Forest Service, fighting a fire in such conditions is almost by definition a losing battle: 'Direct attack is rarely possible, and may be dangerous, except immediately after ignition. Fires that develop headway in heavy slash or in conifer stands may be unmanageable while the extreme burning condition lasts.' The Camp Fire burned so hot that it cremated people in their homes and cars.... It may take generations for California’s forests to adapt to the warming and drying climate. Nearly every square mile of the state’s forests may need to burn for that to happen — for new life to emerge and for new tree species to migrate northward toward new water sources and cooler air. We can’t continue on as if the fate of Paradise was just a fluke... It’s our choice whether last week’s fires become a cautionary tale, or the new normal. It doesn’t have to be this way."

From "The bizarre and frightening conditions that sparked the Camp Fire" by meteorologist Eric Holthaus (Grist).

Is it "our choice"? Look what Holthaus is calling a choice: It's just whether to view the Camp Fire as the new normal, not whether we would prefer not to have more fire like that. We may choose feel activated and alarmed and yet still not have any way to do something about the coming fires in California. But if people are activated and alarmed, they may want to adopt more of the policies that might slow climate change.

"Large-necked man and Joker lookalike are upping the ‘Florida Man’ mugshot game."

Miami Herald headline.

"During the Cold War, being a conservative was a moral cause. You were fighting Communist tyranny — aligned with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Lech Walesa."

"But you were somewhat marginalized in your own society. Liberals controlled the universities, the news media, the cultural high ground, so the right attracted many people with outsider personalities.... After the Soviet Union collapsed, conservatism no longer had a great moral cause to rally around. It became a technocratic, economics-focused movement concerned with small government and entitlement reform.... Many conservatives simply could not succeed in the new conservative counterestablishment.... [T]hey resent how spiritually flat conservatism has become.... In such a situation, you’re almost bound to get a return of blood-and-soil nationalism. The losers in the meritocratic competition, the permanent outsiders, seize on ethnic nationalism to give themselves a sense of belonging, to explain their failures, to rally the masses and to upend the meritocracy. In office, what the populist nationalists do is this: They replace the idea of excellence with the idea of 'patriotism.' Loyalty to the tribe is more important than professional competence. In fact, a person’s very lack of creativity and talent becomes proof of his continued reliability to the cause, as we’ve seen in the continued fealty to King Trump...."

Writes David Brooks in "The Rise of the Resentniks/And the populist war on excellence" (NYT).

"Without Facebook, Donald Trump probably wouldn’t be president, which is reason enough to curse its existence."

Writes Michelle Goldberg in the NYT, in "Democrats Should Un-Friend Facebook/It’s time to treat Facebook like the ruthless monopoly it is."
The platform was an essential vector for Russian disinformation. It allowed the shady “psychographics” company Cambridge Analytica to harvest private user data. And Facebook helped decimate local newspapers, contributing to America’s widespread epistemological derangement. In general, people trust local papers more than the national media; when stories are about your immediate community, you can see they’re not fake news.....
So well before The Times’s blockbuster story on Wednesday about how Facebook deals with its critics, we knew it was a socially toxic force, a globe-bestriding company whose veneer of social progressivism hides amoral corporate ruthlessness. Still, it was staggering to learn that Facebook had hired a Republican opposition-research firm that sought to discredit some of the company’s detractors by linking them to George Soros — exploiting a classic anti-Semitic trope — while at the same time lobbying a Jewish group to paint the critics as anti-Semitic. Or that C.O.O. Sheryl Sandberg, who has spent years cultivating an image as Facebook’s humane, feminist face, reportedly helped cover up the company’s internal findings about Russian activity on the site, lest they alienate Republican politicians.

Now we’re nearing something close to a progressive consensus: Facebook is bad. The question, as always, is what is to be done.... [T]here are plenty of Democrats who are ready to take on Facebook, and we can expect the new Congress to hold hearings about the exponentially expanding influence of the biggest tech platforms.... If Democrats can muster the will to regulate Facebook and other enormous tech companies, next comes the complicated question of how. Warner has laid out some intriguing ideas in a white paper. Among them are amending the Communications Decency Act to open platforms up to defamation and invasion of privacy lawsuits, mandating more transparency in the algorithms that decide what content we see, and giving consumers ownership rights over the data that platforms collect from them.

November 15, 2018

At the Automat Café...

... let's do lunch.

"In a trend that is not new or surprising, white women seem to be adopting the features of black women on social media in their quest..."

"... to develop themselves as models and influencers. The most recent iteration of this is Swedish Instagram model Emma Hallberg, who shocked some of her followers when they realized she was white.... Hallberg, for her part, has denied trying to intentionally look black; one Twitter user posted what appears to be a DM conversation with the influencer, in which she wrote, 'I’m white and I never claimed to be anything else… I’m NOT "posing" as a colored person as you claim.'... 'I do not see myself as anything else than white,' she added. 'I get a deep tan naturally from the sun.'... For Deja, this widespread behavior isn’t at all surprising, nor is the fact that white women are garnering hundreds of thousands of fans from it. 'Any non-black or white person that has taken black culture and profited off of it is typically never phased [sic] when called out nor will stop,' she wrote."

From "Swedish Instagram Model Insists She’s Not Pretending to Be Black" (New York Magazine).

If you need to see to judge, here's a picture of Hallberg:

Does that "phase" you?

Urban Dictionary prefers that definition of "phase":

You might think the intended word is properly spelled "faze," but Urban Dictionary will push you back:

I blame "Star Trek" with its "phasers."

But let's talk about "garnering" — "white women are garnering hundreds of thousands of fans." I just have a thing about that word. I know it's not as profound as other people's concern about skin darkened not by genetics or the sun but by makeup, but it's a special thing of mine and I can't let it pass. If you're ever considering using the verb "garner," please stop and ask yourself whether you have some ridiculous notion that "get" is not a word and that you'll seem more creditable for using this silly word that originally had to do with storing grain in a place called a "garner." All right, then, back to your racial high jinks. Enjoy the rest of your day.