May 15, 2021

"All of us, more or less, wear masks. Because without masks we can’t survive in this violent world."

"Beneath an evil-spirit mask lies the natural face of an angel, beneath an angel’s mask lies the face of an evil spirit. It’s impossible to have just one or the other. That’s who we are. And that’s Carnaval. Schumann was able to see the many faces of humanity—the masks and the real faces—because he himself was a deeply divided soul, a person who lived in the stifling gap in between the two."

From the story "Carnaval" by Haruki Murakami, in his new short story collection "First Person Singular."

If this post makes you want to listen to "Carnaval," you may be interested to know that there are 2 characters who decide that "Carnaval" is the greatest piece for solo piano. They meticulously study recordings of "Carnaval," and one, the man, decides the very best is Arthur Rubinstein’s RCA recording, which you can listen to here. The other person, the woman, takes the position that the best is Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, available here.

My reason for posting this isn't really to push the Schumann piece on you or to get you trying to figure out which is the best interpretation. Of course, I'm more interested in the subject of wearing masks. Masks come up in the story because masks are worn at the pre-Lent festival called Carnival (AKA Carnaval). Notice the "carn" — "Carnival is literally the festival of thankfulness for meat, and a farewell to it, as Lent begins." Is there some connection between masks and the loss of meat? The face is meat? 

I'm simply offering this as something to add to your reflection on the subject of mask wearing.

"The lack of women in tech is a complicated problem. Attacking or ignoring one book written by a misogynist won’t solve it."

"However, rejecting the book as a typical narrative of our industry might be a good start. The book tells the story of an uninspiring, morally questionable individual in tech, who stands out only for the way he disparages people of minorities. It’s not 'a guide to the spirit of Silicon Valley' as the author and his publisher try to present. Men don’t have to be like the author, and women don’t have to work with, even tolerate, men like the author to fit into the tech world." 

Wrote Chip Huyen, a writer and computer scientist, in "A simple reason why there aren't more women in tech - we're okay with misogyny" (at her own blog). She wrote that 2 years ago, criticizing Antonio García Martínez for his memoir, "Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley." It was March 2019, and García Martínez had just been hired to write at Wired. Huyen wanted people to know that he'd displayed himself as an out-and-proud sexist. 

Huyen quoted this passage from the book:

“Most women in the Bay Area are soft and weak, cosseted and naive despite their claims of worldliness, and generally full of shit. They have their self-regarding entitlement feminism, and ceaselessly vaunt their independence, but the reality is, come the epidemic plague or foreign invasion, they’d become precisely the sort of useless baggage you’d trade for a box of shotgun shells or a jerry can of diesel.”

I was reading that because I was sent there by Axios, in a new article, "Apple parts ways with employee amid backlash." García Martínez had moved on to a job at Apple, and some employees there put together a petition, stating "We demand an investigation into how his published views on women and people of color were missed or ignored, along with a clear plan of action to prevent this from happening again."

"The larva of the cicada on attaining full size in the ground becomes a nymph; then it tastes best, before the husk is broken. At first the males are better to eat..."

"... but after copulation the females, which are then full of white eggs." Wrote Aristotle, quoted in "How to Cook Cicadas, According to 3 Richmond, Va., Chefs/Cicadas are swarming the East Coast, and three Southern chefs are cooking them up every which way. Kung pao bugs, anyone" (Bon Appétit). 3 recipes at the link, plus this revelatory tip:
After all, if cicadas [are] the shrimp of the dirt, they should stand in just fine for their pink cousins...

... in whatever shrimp recipes you've got.

Since the word "shrimp" has popped up, let me drop in this song I chanced into yesterday when I was researching the question what are the greatest melodies? 


How many shrimps do you have to eat/Before you make your skin turn pink?

In case the idea of Don Lemon leaving CNN is distressing you, Don Lemon says "Relax! I'm not leaving," smiles a charming smile, and says he'll explain everything on Monday.

Okay. That's what I got from clicking on the Twitter sidebar. Here's the NY Post article on the subject:

Lemon shocked viewers by ending his news show Friday with... “It’s been really, really great. This is the last night that will be ‘CNN Tonight with Don Lemon.'” he said. “So, I appreciate all the years of ‘CNN Tonight with Don Lemon,’ but changes are coming, and I will fill you in.”

No NYT article yet, but I see something there from a month ago: "CNN Is in a Post-Trump Slump. What Does That Mean for Don Lemon?/The prime-time host on the future of cable news, the urgency of conversations about race and whether CNN is a boys’ club." It's a podcast interview. Excerpt: 

"I feel the need to continue wearing my mask outside even though I’m fully vaccinated because the inconvenience of having to wear a mask is more than worth it to have people not think I’m a conservative 😬."

 Tweets activist David Hogg. (I got there via Instapundit.)

This tweet is so perfect that I thought it might be a fake David Hogg making fun of lefties, but it's the blue check mark David Hogg, so I'm trusting Twitter that it's really him. I'm saying it's "perfect" because it sounds exactly like someone without much comic talent doing some heavy-handed, obvious political humor. It seemed like what right-wing people imagine left-wing people are thinking. But it's the left-wing person himself, and I guess he thinks he's being funny.

"Some fun fact about these little creatures: In Vietnam we eat them"/"How dare you come here and say that. Oh nonooooooo."

"those were delicacies in someplace in VN,some are just plain street food,some are expensive high class dishes, I’m sadly have to announce to you that." 

 From "A Little Vietnamese Mossy Frog" (Reddit).

ADD: There's a truly adorable photo at the link, which is the reason I'm blogging this. Please don't think I'm blogging this to attack the animal-eating choices of people in a foreign country. Unless we're vegetarians, we eat the animals we're used to eating, and we don't give a reprieve for cuteness. We eat lambs if we like lamb. Here's video of a lamb dreaming, presumably not of becoming a chop.

May 14, 2021

Redbud petals in the lawn.



Several readers have emailed me to say they're getting a warning when they try to come to my blog. I haven't done anything different, so I'm assuming it's some transitory glitch that will be gone soon.

ADDED: I don't see a warning when I try to go to my blog — either in Safari, Foxfire, or Chrome — so I have trouble taking this problem seriously. I know there's a rigmarole that I could go through.... checking for malware, requesting review.



Meade texted that to me from the backyard yesterday. 

I responded...

i like the way the tree looks like a bent arm wearing a very old sweater

Biden "will often snap" — says the NYT, based on interviews with "more than two dozen current and former Biden associates."

I'm reading "Beneath Joe Biden’s Folksy Demeanor, a Short Fuse and an Obsession With Details/As Mr. Biden settles into the office he has chased for more than three decades, aides say he demands hours of debate from scores of policy experts" by Michael D. Shear, Katie Rogers and Annie Karni. 

Before making up his mind, the president demands hours of detail-laden debate from scores of policy experts, taking everyone around him on what some in the West Wing refer to as his Socratic “journey” before arriving at a conclusion. Those trips are often difficult for his advisers, who are peppered with sometimes obscure questions. Avoiding Mr. Biden’s ire during one of his decision-making seminars means not only going beyond the vague talking points that he will reject, but also steering clear of responses laced with acronyms or too much policy minutiae, which will prompt an outburst of frustration, often laced with profanity.

Let’s talk plain English here, he will often snap....

Is transparent propaganda not even propaganda?

There really is another choice.

It's incoherent to demand that people follow science and to misrepresent the options. There's also the choice to avoid both the mask and the vaccination. Everyone knows that. If I had to defend the President, I'd say it's so obviously not true that no one takes it as true, so it doesn't count as a lie.

The Cal Ripken of television.

Maher has tested positive for Covid, but he's symptomless — and vaccinated — so it may be a false positive. In any case, I know from listening to him on the Joe Rogan podcast that he takes great pride in doing an hour-long live show, done without commercial breaks, in which he's actively involved in every segment. 

It really is an impressive achievement, and I wish he could just do his show — do it with distance. But I guess the show made a rule — everyone must be tested and test negative — and rules are rules. No exceptions. 

The lawyer in me says just make a rule where you're not within the rule: Every guest must be tested and test negative. The host is not within the rule. But you'd have to justify exposing the guests to the positive-testing host.

Still: What if all the guests are vaccinated? And distance is maintained. And Maher wears a mask? It might be hard to sell. First, Maher looks like an example of the vaccinated person who still catches the disease. Second, Maher needs to be funny, and he could bomb trying to be funny from behind a mask. We wouldn't see his smirk!

"Microaggressions at the office can make remote work even more appealing/Extended remote work during the pandemic has highlighted how much energy people of color, women, and people with disabilities expend dealing with microaggressions in the office."

A headline at WaPo. From the text:

In a Twitter discussion on office microaggressions, people said working at home has largely spared them from having to deal with such incidents as:
  • having colleagues touch their hair 
  • being mistaken for another colleague of the same race (a problem solved by having names displayed in video meetings) 
  • overhearing insensitive commentary on or being pressured to discuss traumatizing news events such as racist violence or coronavirus outbreaks in their home country 
  • fielding comments from passersby on their “angry” (actually focused) expressions....

Allowing people to work in an environment where they don’t feel the need to keep their guard up means “releasing that mental burden from people who are … getting paid to think"....

Notice the potential for a legal argument: Denying the work-at-home option constitutes race/sex discrimination. There's also new reason to see a failure to accommodate the disabled:

"I’m terrified... Terrified, and I do not scare easily."

I'm reading the top-rated comment at the NYT article, "Hundreds of Epidemiologists Expected Mask-Wearing in Public for at Least a Year/The C.D.C. said Thursday that vaccinated Americans no longer needed masks in most places. Other disease experts recently had a different message: that masks were necessary in public." 

The NYT seems to be stimulating fear in reaction to the CDC announcement. The survey the headline refers to was taken before the CDC took its new position, so these epidemiologists — 723 of them — were, I suspect, passing along the party line. Did they do their own studies? Even if they did, do they study the costs of the restrictions or simply, endlessly default toward caution?

Here's the full comment: 

This is a horrible, horrifying decision. There’s no way to prove who’s vaccinated and who isn’t. People are going to lie about their status. We were out shopping today and my husband saw a woman wearing a mask that said “This mask is as useless as my Governor.” Does she seem trustworthy? Does she maybe seem like someone who’d doff her mask at the first chance, whether she’d been vaccinated or not, because she’s an imbecile and has no regard for the lives of others?

What difference does it make? If you know you're vaccinated and you believe vaccines work, you're fine without your mask, and only the unvaccinated are at risk. Why are you obsessing about the mind of a stranger?

The only thing to freak out about is freaking out itself.

I'm reading From "Opinion: Don’t freak out about inflation yet" by Catherine Rampell (WaPo). Key point:
If everyone interprets recent price spikes as temporary shocks that will disappear as the economy reopens and production ramps up, then inflation and overheating concerns should fade. But if people start to freak out about inflation, then inflation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Businesses start preemptively raising prices and wages, because they expect everyone else to do so, too.

So if there's inflation, it will be our fault. Calm down, settle back. It's only going to be a problem if you make it a problem. 

ADDED: It's all in the mind, so....