March 9, 2019

"Alex Trebek announced a few days ago that he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and that he plans to keep working as he fights the disease."

"Let me be clear: This is not an elegy. I hope Alex will be hosting 'Jeopardy!' for a long time to come. It’s impossible to even imagine the show with anyone else. But he’s been doing one job so long, and so well, that I think we sometimes take him for granted. Let’s make sure that we appreciate the man as long as we have him. 'Jeopardy!' contestants are, by strict policy and even the weight of federal law, kept far away from anyone who actually runs the game. Apart from what home viewers see on camera, you don’t hang out with Alex. He remains, I like to say, a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a Perry Ellis suit.... Alex Trebek fascinates America, but we don’t quite get him. He’s a game show host, but he’s not hearty or ingratiating.... In person, he’s decidedly not the stern, judicial presence you might expect. On TV, he’s all business. He has 61 clues to get to, and not a lot of time. Hosting such a dense, fast-moving game is an insanely hard job, but he makes it look effortless... But when the cameras stop rolling, Alex is a looser, even goofy presence... He still has the slight testiness, the dry imitation hauteur you can see when he spars with contestants in the interviews, but he’s gracious and candid and self-deprecating...."

Writes Ken Jennings (in a NYT op-ed).

Yes, it seems impossible to imagine the show without Alex Trebek. Meade and I like to watch the show, and when we heard the bad news, Meade said that if Alex Trebek dies, they should just retire the show. But in a way, I can imagine the show without Alex Trebek, because I remember the "Jeopardy!" of the distant past, with the original host Art Fleming. I remember resisting the new person when the new person was Alex Trebek.

But who could replace Alex Trebek? When Meade and I talked about it, the first name I thought of was Ken Jennings. But it's been so long that Alex Trebek has been the show's identity. 35 years! To hear Alex read the questions — the "answers" — is to feel that is the only way they can be read — a perfection in style and intonation.

At the Drainage Café...


... get out there (or get in here).


"You remind me of a celebrity, but I can’t remember which one — who’s someone you relate to?"

Oh, no! This article about making small talk suggests that question. Be forewarned. If someone asks you that, it's not really because you reminded them of a celebrity. Don't be tricked into offering up the secret part of yourself within which you imagine that you're like a particular celebrity.

But you can tell me: What celebrity do you think you remind people of?

Also: If you get that question some day, here are some responses you can use:

1. "Did you get that question from an article about how to make small talk?"

2. "Althouse!"

"Brands do not see or hear, so they are at the mercy of their owners or care providers who must preserve the dignity and special character that the brand exemplifies."

"Managing a brand is not so different from caring for someone who becomes handicapped," said Nick Caporella, CEO of the company that makes LaCroix sparkling water, quoted in "This wild CEO statement from the maker of LaCroix is one of the most bizarre we’ve seen in a while" (CNBC). The company's profits are down 39%.

Also, from the press release: "We are truly sorry for these results stated above. Negligence nor mismanagement nor woeful acts of God were not the reasons – much of this was the result of injustice!"


"There is no greater passion than the kind that creates the wonderful refreshment and contentment described as unique! No doubt, the sound and personality of the word LaCroix, coupled with the awesome experience of its essence and taste. . . is unique. One can be induced to purchase by cheapening price or giving away a product, but falling in love with a feeling of joy is the result of contentment. Just ask any LaCroix consumer . . . Would you trade away that LaLa feeling? 'No way, they shout – We just love our LaCroix!'"

How weird is that? Maybe that's how we talk now. It's like a Trump tweet, no? This is the future. Get ready.

"With thick layers of ice and snow still plaguing curbs and gutters in Madison, city officials are asking for residents’ help in clearing thousands of storm sewer inlets in anticipation of rain Saturday."

"Temperatures are expected to climb to the upper 30s on Saturday as well, hastening the spring melt and adding more water to the rain. The city has about 20,000 storm drain inlets. Many were opened two weeks ago when similar weather conditions hit the city, but city crews weren’t able to get to every drain. 'We still need the help of residents so water can reach those storm drains,' Mayor Paul Soglin said Friday. 'Let’s work together to make a concerted effort to help city staff and clear the storm drain inlets in your neighborhood.'"

I know a lot of my readers are here in Madison. If you are physically able, have you adopted at least one drain? It would be great to get out there this morning — before all the rain (and the subsequent overnight freezing) — and dig the snow away from the drains.

"Newness or difference from the norm is a very urban, almost postmodern, quest. It is recent. It is class-based."

Said NYT food-studies scholar Krishnendu Ray, quoted in "The People Who Eat the Same Meal Every Day" by Joe Pinsker in The Atlantic. Pinsker goes on:
So, when accounting for the totality of human experience, it is the variety-seekers—not the same-lunchers—who are the unusual ones....

The daily rituals of office life are characterized by their monotony and roteness, and bringing a different lunch each day is a sunny, inspired attempt to combat all the repetition. I do genuinely appreciate the optimism of those attempts. But in my mind, eating the same thing for lunch each day represents a sober reckoning with the fundamental sameness of office life. It seems like an honest admission that life will have some drudgery in it—so accept that and find joy elsewhere instead of forcing a little bit of novelty into a Tupperware and dragging it along on your commute.
The article is about eating, but Ray's observation (and Pinsker's) is more general and broadly philosophical. I think it's a big, important topic: sameness and variety. Do we want to travel or stay home (and when we travel do we want to go back to one familiar place)? Do we want monogamy or a variety of partners? Do we love days that follow the regular pattern or do we long for exciting surprises? Do we want to watch a television show with familiar characters in familiar places (like the old sitcom "Friends" or a long-running soap opera) or do we want to launch into some new movie with actors we've never seen before and need to figure who these characters are even supposed to be and whether the place where they're having their strange problems even follows the physical rules of Planet Earth?

Are these questions — to paraphrase Ray — first world problems? Well, what if they are? We're here now: Let's talk about them.

ADDED: Related:
Venture capitalist and entrepreneur Craig Cooper... says his body automatically goes to sleep every night at 10:24 p.m., he’s an exercise rat who never works out in an actual gym, and he takes 22-minute naps in the afternoon to boost his productivity....

He eats five cans of sardines every day to maintain his health and energy. “Sardines are the No. 1 superfood for guys,” said Cooper, who co-hosts CNBC’s reality pitch series “Adventure Capitalists. ” “They’re a powerhouse of nutrition, so I’m kind of an evangelist for sardines amongst everyone I meet.”

"Past biomechanical studies show that when women run braless, their breasts joggle up and down by seven inches or more and also oscillate side to side...."

"... A 2013 questionnaire provided to women running the London Marathon found that more than a third of them, including runners with small breasts, told the researchers that their breasts often felt sore. But little past research has explored whether breast size and potential soreness affect women’s decisions to participate in exercise or if they influence the kinds of exercise that women might — or might not — pursue. So, for the new study, which was published this month in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sports, researchers from the Biomechanics Research Laboratory at the University of Wollongong in Australia advertised for women willing to have their breasts measured and discussed. The researchers recruited only women because, obviously, women possess female breasts.... Women with larger breasts, whatever their B.M.I., exercised less on average than those with smaller ones and were more likely to feel that their breast size interfered with moving...."

From "How Breast Size Affects How Women Exercise/As women’s breast sizes grew, their participation in physical activity declined, particularly if that exercise was vigorous" (NYT).

ADDED: From the comments at the NYT, from Mary E:
I had huge girls, and hunted and hunted for supportive sports bras. I was physically active, but high intensity activities like running were out of the question - there was no way I could run down the street without making a spectacle of myself.

Then 11 years ago, I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer in one breast. With a strong family history of breast cancer I opted for bilateral mastectomies. I elected DIEP flap reconstruction, which is microsurgery moving fat from the abdomen to the chest to make new “breasts”. I kept telling my plastic surgeon that I wanted nothing bigger than B cups. Bless her heart, she gave me exactly what I wanted. What a relief! I could buy cheapie off the rack sports bras and get full support! I even started running, eventually working my way up to completing a half marathon at the age of 58.

I would give anything to not have had cancer, even to keeping my oversized girls. But since cancer did hit, I was going to do my best to get something good out of it. I wish I’d known what a relief it was to have small breasts, because I would have had breast reduction surgery years ago.

March 8, 2019

At the Friday Night Café...

... talk all you like.

"A few hundred people lined a two-lane county highway near the church, hoping for a glimpse of Mr. Trump from the roadside grass or from the cemetery across the street."

"When his motorcade arrived, it passed 23 white crosses, one for each of the storm’s victims. Just before Mr. Trump left the church, he and the first lady, Melania Trump, approached the display. The couple walked the row of crosses, pausing at each one."

From "Trump Surveys Tornado Damage in Alabama" (NYT).

"Adnan Syed, subject of 'Serial' podcast, will not get a new trial."

CNN reports.
The [Maryland] Court of Appeals reinstated the conviction by reversing a March 2018 ruling by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. That court had ordered a new trial for Syed, who is serving a life sentence in the slaying of his ex-girlfriend. Adnan had argued that he had ineffective counsel because his former defense lawyer didn't interview an alibi witness.

But in a ruling released Friday, the Maryland Court of Appeals said that because of "the totality of the evidence" against Syed, there was not "a significant or substantial possibility that the jury would have reached a different verdict had his trial counsel presented the alibi witness."... 

"Omar says the 'hope and change' offered by Barack Obama was a mirage."

"Recalling the 'caging of kids' at the U.S.-Mexico border and the 'droning of countries around the world' on Obama’s watch, she argues that the Democratic president operated within the same fundamentally broken framework as his Republican successor. 'We can’t be only upset with Trump. … His policies are bad, but many of the people who came before him also had really bad policies. They just were more polished than he was,' Omar says. 'And that’s not what we should be looking for anymore. We don’t want anybody to get away with murder because they are polished. We want to recognize the actual policies that are behind the pretty face and the smile.'"

From "The Democrats’ Dilemma/What Ilhan Omar and Dean Phillips tell us about the future of the Democratic Party" (Politico).

"Yes, I came very, very close to leaving the Earth. Good news, I didn’t.... Even people who are not huge fans of mine have actually said nice things about me."

"We all know that’s going to change when I get back, but for right now, it’s brilliant!"

Said Whoopi Goldberg, who nearly died of pneumonia.

"I got my first face tattoo... when I was 24. Basically, I got it so that I couldn't get a normal job...."

"I got 'cursed' above my eyebrow. I used to be quite critical of myself and see the glass half empty. I used to think things happened to me for a reason and I would punish myself for things mentally. Then I got a rose on one side of my face, which is to do with romance and beauty, then leaves on the other side, which symbolise new beginnings for me in my life.... Some of the stories behind some of the people I tattoo are heartbreaking or really joyous.... I help a lot of people who are really self-conscious about parts of their body, or stretch marks or scars from self-harming. If you have something pretty on a part of your body that you have negative feelings about, it can make you feel much more confident and happy. Growing up I was a very timid and quiet girl."

BBC reports.

A nap will lower your blood pressure as much as a low dose of blood pressure medication.

A new study says, per BBC.

"Each year, more than a half-million metric tons of microfibers — the equivalent of 50 billion plastic water bottles — enter the ocean from the washing of synthetic textiles..."

"... according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, a Switzerland-based group that counts governments, nonprofits and charities among its members. While all clothing sheds fibers when washed, synthetic particles — unlike wool and cotton — don't biodegrade. Most conventional washing-machine filters aren't designed to trap such tiny particles.... Microplastics have turned up in seafood, drinking water, beer, honey and sugar, according to studies, but the impact on human health is unclear...."

From "The Tiny Plastics in Your Clothes Are Becoming a Big Problem" (Wall Street Journal).

"Bad lawyer and fraudster Michael Cohen..."

"1994 was a great year for me because that's when I started really discovering and learning to play music, around age 13."

"And 25 years ago today, March 8, 1994, was a great day for music, because that's when Soundgarden released Superunknown, and Nine Inch Nails released The Downward Spiral. These weren't just some of the better records by a couple heavy, alternative bands of the mid-'90s. They were that, but they were something more. Listening to them now brings us back to a time when a rock band could be massively successful while daring to break out of formulas and challenge listeners. Here are 5 highlights from each album...."

Writes my son John on his blog, and if you go there, you'll get the 10 highlights, with discussion.

What were you listening to in 1994? I was listening to these recordings, because John was playing them, and I'm glad I had the experience, which I wouldn't have had if I'd been making my own selections at the time.

"There’s even a genre of YouTube videos devoted to documenting hungry eaters picking clean a new crab-leg serving, metal tongs battling one another for every last leg."

"'Mostly the customers argue [over] the crab legs because when the crab legs come out people just rush and take them,' a buffet manager recently told the New York Post. 'If we have a few guests when they come out, after maybe one or two minutes [the crab legs are] gone.' But the Hobbesian scramble — blink and those crab legs are kicked — has recently spiraled into flying fists, general mayhem, and 911 calls. Remarkably, twice within the same 48 hour stretch last month buffet lines were the scenes of brawls over crab legs. The incidents were separated by nearly 1,000 miles.... Buffets are unique American common grounds, pulling together people from diverse backgrounds and stations of life. They share that particular feature with Waffle Houses, the all-night comfort food franchise. And like Waffle House, buffets can be the scene of wild antics...."

From "Crab legs sparked a brawl at a buffet. A day later and hundreds of miles away, it happened again" at The Washington Post, which provides a link to the NY Post article, "Massive brawl erupts over crab legs at Chinese buffet in Queens." The NY Post story has a racial angle — the racial slur "privileged white bitch" was allegedly deployed. WaPo mutes the racial discord with oblique terms like "diverse backgrounds and stations of life."

"'Menopause lasts longer than that': Manafort’s 'shockingly lenient' sentence ridiculed."

That's a headline at WaPo. Completely unnecessary. No reason to drag a feminine health matter into the subject of Manafort's sentence.

This is another one of these mainstream media articles that just tap social media. What are the tweets about the surprisingly short sentence the federal judge gave Manafort?
On Twitter, users employed a particular shtick: Contrasting the length of the sentence with other common situations. By early Friday, the phrase “47 months” had been tweeted thousands of times.

“I have stuff in my fridge that’s been there 47 months,” one Twitter user wrote....

CNN political commentator Ana Navarro-Cárdenas tweeted that she not only was grounded for “47 months for talking-back to my mom once,” but also had a “chancla,” or flip-flop, thrown at her....

47 months? I’ve seen longer sentences in Raymond Chandler novels.
You get the idea. But one person said, "47 months. Menopause lasts longer than that," and that's the joke WaPo put in the headline.

The author of that tweet is Barbara Davilman, who identifies herself at Twitter as "tv writer/prod & author. I'm passionate about dogs and politics, struggle with my weight and hair and worry that sane people are a minority." So it's a woman, and she's doing "woman" topics. I guess there's still a market for such junk. Menopause jokes. So retrograde.

And don't get me started on Ana Navarro-Cárdenas. Apparently, throwing shoes at children is okay, and you can out your mother as a shoe-thrower... when it's in service to the anti-Trump agenda and it has ethnic zing.

Nancy Pelosi's grammar mistake is telling: "Whomever falls into that net, falls into that net."

I'm reading the front-page WaPo article "House Democrats torn over how aggressively to scrutinize Ivanka Trump, president’s other children."
Presidential children rarely draw the scrutiny of congressional investigators, but Trump’s adult children fill unique roles in his administration, with Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, carrying the title of senior advisers to the president while being heavily involved in policy decisions and Capitol Hill negotiations on criminal justice, the Middle East and paid family leave.

“Whomever falls into that net, falls into that net,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday, arguing that Trump’s children are not off limits to investigations. “They are advisers to the president. They have security clearances. This is not their children at home.”
Who uses the word "whom" in speech? You sound stuffy even if you use it correctly, but when you use it incorrectly, you're really letting it show that you're straining at — what? — aloofness, intellectualism, loftiness, distance. It's so revealing.

Of course, "whomever" is wrong, because it's the subject of the phrase. The verb is "falls," and we don't say "him falls," so we don't say "whom falls." Even if you imagine a longer sentence, like, "We will go after whomever/whoever falls into that net," "whomever" is still wrong, because "whoever falls into that net" has to work as a phrase.

The "whomever" mistake evinces strain, and I think Nancy Pelosi is under terrible strain. Her party has taken over the House, and it's under pressure to perform, and one idea that could work but could fail is to investigate investigate investigate. But I don't think it's a good strategy to trawl all over in hope of finding something, anything. You look so irresponsible, and you're asking us to give you more power in the next election. Pelosi uses this metaphor of a net — but it shouldn't be a trawling net. It needs to be a net fixed in place, not wielded by aggressive Democrats. People — like Ivanka and Jared — simply fall into it.

But "whomever" reveals Ivanka and Jared as objects, not subjects. They don't fall. They are pushed.

"[Abstract artist Sean] Scully... fumed over what he called 'Pottery Barn' tastes among the locals who spurned Gold Zinger."

I'm reading a NYT article about conflicts between people who want sedate colors in their neighborhood and people like Scully who want to flaunt their boldness and creativity as they paint the exterior of their house. It bothers me that the NYT didn't allow comments on this article, because a bigger deal needs to be made out of this:
In an oversight, his team did not file for paint color approval permits required by the local government’s Historical Areas Board of Review. At the board’s December meeting, some emotions ran high as the public debated whether Gold Zinger should be allowed to remain on the house.
In an oversight?! How does the NYT know this was an oversight (as opposed to an easier-to-ask-forgiveness-than-permission strategy)? And what "team"? Did Scully have professional painters — is that the "team" — and somehow they didn't know about the required permits? I'm not a professional journalist like the folks at the New York Times, but my sense of journalistic professionalism is that the NYT ought to have written something like, Mr. Scully maintains that he did not understand that the law in his historic district required a permit approving of his house color.

So people in the town had to get upset and devote time and energy to fighting Scully:
Opponents deemed the color “over the top and jarring.” Mr. Scully’s team defended it as “bold, beautiful and uplifting,” suited to a woodsy neighborhood known as “eclectic, unique, artsy and individualistic.”
What "team"?!
The board nonetheless concluded that Gold Zinger had to go. This spring, it will yield to Semolina, a creamier yellow from Benjamin Moore.... [H]e accepted Semolina as a compromise: “I don’t want war.”
He doesn't want war, but he broke the rules, fought his neighbors who had a right under the existing rules, and when he lost, he went to the press and insulted the neighbors for their restrained taste and vaunted himself as "bold... uplifting... artsy and individualistic."

If you want to argue for brighter colored houses, go ahead. Get the rules changed. But don't move into a neighborhood and just start breaking the rules. Talk to people. Try to understand them. Maybe they have good reasons for believing in quiet colors and neutrality. Maybe you'd get your mind changed — you who are supposedly so open-minded.

ADDED: People who live in a "woodsy neighborhood" may like to look out their windows and see woods, not the other houses. They may want the buildings to recede and not pop. This is a perfectly legitimate preference. It's a taste for nature and visual quiet over noisy self-expression.

"Go Home to Your ‘Dying’ Hometown/I did, and it isn’t what I expected. I am more involved..."

"... in social and racial justice, economic development and feminism than I ever was in a big city," writes Michele Anderson (NYT). The hometown she moved back to is Fergus Falls, Minnesota. The "big city" was Portland, Oregon, where her work "felt trivial and temporary" and life "somehow lacked meaning." And it was expensive.
In a 2009 commencement address at Northern Kentucky University, [Wendell Berry, the Kentucky writer and farmer] encouraged students to consider whether they might be better and more responsible citizens if they embraced the concept of homecoming rather than the desire for upward mobility, which lures them to places to which they have little connection, to participate in a destructive and extractive economy....

My move felt like a sort of protest against the idea that creative young people need to live in coastal cities. I pictured myself taking dreamy walks on the prairie, or cozied up in cafes during blizzards, writing. I thought I would learn gardening and canning, or how to clean freshly caught fish....

Particularly since the 2016 election, I hear the national media — or even my friends back in Portland — dismiss my rural colleagues, family and neighbors as out of touch, hateful, fearful of immigrants, and doomed to a life of boredom and poverty.... [I hear] exaggerated or even fake “Trump country” exposés, to well-intentioned but out-of-touch efforts to mend the “urban-rural divide,” to patronizing television contests in which viewers vote for the “best small town” in their state....

Maybe a different conversation can start with us, the homecomers. We are bridge builders, skilled at identifying the opportunities for “local adaptation” that Mr. Berry hopes for, able to act as translators across ideological divisions.....

March 7, 2019

At the Thursday Night Cafe...

... talk all you like.

"I see everything as an opportunity. This is an opportunity once again to declare as strongly as possible opposition to anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim statements [and] white supremacist attitudes."

Said Nancy Pelosi, quoted in "Pelosi Says House Will Condemn All Hate as Anti-Semitism Debate Overshadows Congress" (NYT).
She took a shot at President Trump and his equivocal statements after the deadly white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017: “The president may think there are good people on both sides, we don’t share that view.”

Democrats are confident that they can unite the caucus, and they want to get the fight over [Ilhan] Omar out of the way....  Ms. Omar, a Minnesota Democrat and one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, has been fending off accusations of anti-Semitism for weeks...

“It’s not about her, it’s about these forms of hatred,” Ms. Pelosi said about the resolution. Tensions boiled over in a closed-door meeting of House Democrats on Wednesday that pitted older Jewish Democrats who want a forthright statement condemning anti-Semitism against younger liberals....
For another perspective, here's "The Democratic Inquisition has come after Ilhan Omar/But strong popular resistance is foiling attempts to burn her at the political stake" by Richard Silverstein (Al Jazeera):

"Silencing music by a dead person who committed crimes does nothing to stop those kinds of crimes from happening in the future."

"If we consistently threw out all music by people who once acted horribly, we’d have no John Lennon, no Beatles, no Miles Davis. Of course, the Beatles revolutionized rock and pop music, and Miles Davis revolutionized jazz. So we’d be left musically impoverished, just to make ourselves feel good."

Writes my son John (at his blog post, "Should we stop listening to Michael Jackson?"), adding, "And yes, I am that guy!," linking to an Onion piece, "Man Always Gets Little Rush Out Of Telling People John Lennon Beat Wife."

And it's not just music. Don't forget "Red-blooded Caravaggio killed love rival in bungled castration attempt." So, burn this:

In case you're wondering, that painting is "Mary Magdalene Cannot Believe Martha Failed to Provide a Fork."

"The man of a thousand voices talking perfectly loud/But nobody ever hears him or the sound he appears to make..."

I was amused by this perfect version of the old Beatles song. I must have heard it before — it's from 1968 — but I don't remember. The demeanor of the female singers is downright spooky. The lines I chose for the post title interest me. It feels like a variation on  If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?:  If the man of a thousand voices is talking perfectly loud but nobody ever hears him, how can he appear to make a sound?

"The collection contains Dworkin’s more outrageous assertions, the ones that repelled me as a young woman and concerned critics like my mom and other pro-sex feminists..."

"... that men need to forgo their 'precious erections' and 'make love as women do together.' That pornography 'incarnates male supremacy' and is 'the DNA of male dominance.' That all intercourse, while not literally rape, violates the integrity of a woman’s body, that women who want it are 'experiencing pleasure in their own inferiority.' What women really want, she argues, is 'a more diffuse and tender sexuality.' (Speak for yourself!) Her lens was dark as hell: 'We are very close to death,' she said in a speech about rape. 'All women are.'...  In many ways, my views about feminism were shaped by the disagreement about the role of sex in women’s liberation, which morphed into the 'sex wars' of the late 1970s and 1980s — the 'anti-sex' feminists on one side, the 'pro-sex' feminists on the other... With the right to sexual pleasure safely a tenet of modern feminism, [Dworkin's] writing ... galvanizes me to dispense with likeability and embrace indignation.... Next to the vacant, rah-rah version of sex positivity I grew up with in the ’90s, Dworkin’s rage seems downright clear-eyed.... Last Days at Hot Slit is a mirror for what I’ve been afraid of for years: being defiant, being ugly, being unloved by men, even being unloved by other feminists like Andrea Dworkin."

From "Sex, Lies, and Andrea Dworkin" by Nona Willis Aronowitz (New York Magazine).

"At some point during the winter break last month, someone covered the playground of a public school in the Rego Park section of Queens with swastikas and other anti-Semitic sentiments."

"Either poor spellers or unfamiliar with the exact phrasing of the Nazi salute, whoever was responsible inscribed the words 'Hail Hiter' on the ground in chalk. Several days later, two boys were arrested and charged with aggravated harassment. They came from the neighborhood, one that has long been predominantly white and Jewish but grown more diverse in recent years with an influx of Asian immigrants.... In this case the face of hate was the face of two children of color — one black, the other Asian — who were 12 years old.... [Maybe] they learned that it is perfectly fine to express a mischievous, rebellious or playful side through the use of such cruel and divisive imagery. This generation of children has grown up with constant screen time, inundated with an endless stream of images that eventually renders many of those visual signifiers meaningless, where Nazi symbolism is just processed as more cartoonish provocation.... We do not know whether the two boys arrested in Queens understood the weight of their actions, whether what they were doing was an act born of loathing or stupidity.  In big cities where neighborhood demographics are so often changing and gentrification is often compelling those changes, a truly holistic approach to preventing acts of racial and ethnic bias.... would be proactive rather than responsive. The police would keep from reflexively criminalizing ignorance."

From "Two 12-Year-Olds Drew Swastikas on a Playground. Is That a Hate Crime?" (NYT).

Trump is right where he wants to be at this time point in his narrative arc.

(Just a hypothesis, but think about the long view leading up to the election and Trump's awareness of himself as theater.)

"It’s like with old vinyl, and how everyone wants to have turntables again. We get to a place where something out of date comes back in..."

"... there’s definitely interest in keeping this almost-extinct way of enjoying movies alive."

From "The World’s Last Blockbuster Has No Plans to Close/With the closing of a Blockbuster store in Australia, the one in Bend, Ore., will be the last to survive changes in technology and shopping that reshaped the way people watch movies at home" (NYT).
Bend is in a region that the city’s mayor, Sally Russell, describes as having “huge expanses with really small communities” that often do not have easy access to the high-speed internet necessary for content streaming. Many residents of outlying areas stop at Blockbuster during their weekly trips to town to run errands, drawn in part by the store’s seven-day rental policy, Ms. Russell said, adding that the store’s last-in-the-world status could even give it a lift....

"A Qantas flight attendant who got blind drunk on peach martinis in a New York bar during a layover has lost his appeal to win his job back."

"Luke Urso, 24, claims he drank just 'two peach martinis and three gin and tonics' at the 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar in New York in 2017 but due to the bartenders 'free pouring' the cocktails, he ended up collapsing in the toilet and being rushed to hospital. Mr Urso believed that while he thought he was drinking five drinks, he had really consumed the equivalent to 14 standard drinks - resulting in him unable to work his shift the next day and Qantas having to foot the $20,000 hospital bill.... [The Australian Fair Work] full bench said Mr Urso's evidence could 'simply not be accepted' saying he 'could not seriously have thought that a drink in the nature of a peach martini would only contain one standard nip of alcohol,' it said. 'The evidence tends to suggest that he had significantly more than five drinks, in which case 'free pouring' loses whatever capacity it had to exonerate him,' it said."

From The Daily Mail.

Are you familiar with "nip" as a specific small amount (like a "shot")? I see there's an old word "nipperkin":
Nipperkin was still around as the nineteenth century turned into the twentieth, but lasted little longer.... There are a number of references to it in books of the period, as in The Dynasts by Thomas Hardy, published 1904-8 but set at the time of the Napoleonic wars: “I’d sooner have a nipperkin of our own real ‘Bristol milk’ than a mash-tub full of this barbarian wine!” [Bristol milk = sherry.]

Its name is so intimately tied to English and Scottish rural and domestic life that it comes as a mild shock to learn that the word is probably Dutch in origin and is related to the German and Dutch verbs nippen, to sip.

We still sometimes speak of taking a nip of spirits, often notionally for medicinal purposes, as a character did in The First Men in the Moon by H G Wells: “He recommended a nip of brandy, and set me the example, and presently I felt better.” Nip here is an abbreviation of nipperkin, in the looser sense of any small quantity. However, nip has some more specific senses: it’s a legal measure in Australia and New Zealand, of size 30ml; in the USA in particular it’s usually one-third of a local pint, a bottle size for high-alcohol beers like barley wine.
And what is "free pouring"? Is it wild or careless oversizing of portions? That's not what I'm seeing:

"Caroline said that as her big sister kept watch at night for wild animals, 'I thought of going to the park with mommy and daddy. I thought of going to the ocean. I thought of everything but it didn't work.'"

From "Rescued California sisters, ages 8 and 5, say they survived by drinking rainwater from leaves and keeping 'happy thoughts' about their family" (ABC News).

"If you don’t know who Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg is yet, you can think of her as Ocasio-Cortez’s international climate-change counterpart."

"Like the rock-star progressive representative from New York, Thunberg is a charismatic young woman whose social-media savvy, moral clarity, and undaunted truth-telling have inspired throngs of admirers to take to the streets for a better world and call out the politicians, propagandists, and CEOs who are standing in the way. Just as the 29-year-old Ocasio-Cortez torched the right-wing trolls who laughably derided her as 'stupid' after she introduced... a Green New Deal, so Thunberg, 16, has gained prominence partly from her blistering callouts of global elites.... The grassroots movements now taking charge of the climate fight consist overwhelmingly of teenagers and twentysomethings—people like Ocasio-Cortez and Thunberg. These young fighters are decidedly not your parents’ environmentalists: supplicant, 'realistic,' and all too accepting of failure. They are angry about the increasingly dire future that awaits them and clear-eyed about who’s to blame and how to fix it.... They grasp what many of their elders apparently never learned: The climate struggle is not about having the best science, the smartest arguments, or the most bipartisan talking points. It is about power...."

From "On March 15, the Climate Kids Are Coming/A massive, international, youth-led mobilization will demand action on the climate crisis" (The Nation).

March 6, 2019

At the Wednesday Night Cafe...

... you can talk talk talk.

"Retiring early isn’t just about saving up enough money... It’s also a huge emotional and ideological transition."

"One big question I struggled with is, how can I be a feminist and believe we need more women leaders in the workplace, and then retire early and remove myself from my leadership role? But once I started planning to leave, I got much better at helping other women at work because I stopped competing with them.... People will say, 'You write a blog so you’re not retired,' but I’ve made zero dollars from it.... It’s funny — I’ve realized that I actually like working. I’m wired to want to work. I’m just not wired to live in our current work culture where I’m supposed to be excited to be connected at all times.... Another thing I didn’t expect about retirement was that Mark and I had some rocky periods in our relationship in the last year. There’s this idea that work is the villain keeping you from having a good marriage, so if you take work away then your marriage will be perfect. That’s not true. I know some people whose early retirement exposed unfixable problems in their marriage, and made them realize that they wanted to do different things with their lives... [W]e’d always said, 'Our dream is to be able to wake up in the morning and say, "What do we want to do today?"' And it turns out that we both had different interpretations of what that meant. For me, that was very literal — to wake up and say, 'Hey, is it snowing? Is it sunny? What should we do today?' But for Mark, he’s more like, 'What do we want to do this week?' He will fill up his calendar with mountain biking and community stuff, and I felt left out of that. We were each doing what we said we would do, but it turned out that wasn’t the same thing. We’ve been working through that...."

From "Retired at 38. Here’s What I Didn’t Expect" (New York Magazine).

"While some commenters feel that tossing cheese at a child’s face and posting the video online without their consent humiliates them and is akin to bullying..."

"... others insist that it’s ultimately harmless and the kids are having fun. One mother, responding to criticism on Instagram, fired back, 'Maybe you could try smiling or heaven forbid laughing one day! You might like it!'"

From "'Humanity is doomed': People keep throwing cheese on babies’ faces for social media likes" (WaPo).

And here I thought it was the Era of That's Not Funny. Or is this the perversion that emerges from an excess of not-funnyism?


"2019 Top 100 Best Places to Live — #3 Madison, Wisconsin."

At Liveability. What beats Madison? Boise, Idaho and Raleigh, North Carolina.
Madison is ranked so high on this year’s Top 100 Best Places to Live list because it excels in nearly every category across the board. The food scene is stellar, from cheap eats to fine dining, with a wide range of styles and flavors. There is plenty of green space within the city and tons of lakefront since it sits on an isthmus, but it’s also within 50 miles of 21 State Parks, forests and recreation areas. Though the city could benefit from more diversity, Madison is a friendly, easy-to-navigate city that’s chock full of things to do and see — many of which are free through the state’s flagship university....

"Ice cream for adults" — a cruel, "edgy" ad.

Lauded at Adweek, in "Halo Top’s First National Ad Campaign Is a Dark, Hilarious Scoop of Existential Dread."

Halo Top is low calorie ice cream. So, good, don't give it to a child. But do you, the adult, identify with the girl's mother in that ad, who represents the customer for this product? She's harried, on the phone, and the creepy ice cream truck man tells her daughter that she hates her job.

Halo Top has 240 calories per pint. But would you rather eat a pint of this than a quarter pint of ice cream that is made with normal ingredients — cream, sugar, eggs?
What sets Halo Top apart is what’s used to displace much of the sugar and fat. This means the use of the indigestible substances including the sugar alcohol called “erythritol” and supplemental fibers.... [T]he texture of low calorie ice creams are nowhere near as creamy. ...

"Colorism matters."

Via "Will Smith 'casting as Richard Williams' sparks colourism debate" (BBC).
Colourism is a form of discrimination against dark-skinned people in favour of those with lighter skin from the same race.

It can lead to a lack of representation in film, TV and fashion, particularly in Hollywood and Bollywood, as well as discrimination at work or on dating sites, and even to serious health problems from skin bleaching creams.

"A breakaway female cyclist was forced to stop during a prestigious race in Belgium after she started to catch up with the men's competition, which had started 10 minutes earlier."

"Swiss cyclist Nicole Hanselmann described it as an 'awkward moment' when she was held up in Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad race after she broke away from the women's pack and caught up with the men's support vehicles. She had developed a two-minute lead 30 kilometers (18 miles) into the 120-kilometer (75-mile) race when officials asked the 27-year old former Switzerland road champion — and the women's race — to stop at a level crossing until the gap with the men's race was restored. The racing event's official Twitter account reported the 'neutralization of our women race at railroad crossing in Sint-Denijs-Boekel... due to a very slow mens race.'"

CNN reports.

"Do we want a livid warrior or a happy one? Someone eager to name and shame enemies, the way Donald Trump does, or someone with a less Manichaean outlook?"

"Someone poised to reciprocate Trump’s nastiness or someone incapable of it? I’m not entirely sure which type is more likely to defeat him. But I know which gives us a better chance at healing America — if that’s even possible — and moving us past a juncture of crippling animosity. It’s the type that Hickenlooper represents and maybe even exemplifies.... Optimism, warmth and joy matter. They propelled Ronald Reagan to the presidency. I think they’re even a small part of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez phenomenon — the part that leavens the stridency and purity tests. She has a wide, dazzling smile. In a video that went viral, she dances. Some of the Democrats who are pursuing or seriously considering presidential bids are better at dancing, metaphorically speaking, than others. It doesn’t come easily to Bernie Sanders, which is why he added all that poignant family history to his big speech on Saturday, or to Elizabeth Warren, which is why she sipped a beer in an Instagram video that was part of her rollout. It’s effortless for Beto O’Rourke. It’s present in Cory Booker. It comes and goes with Kamala Harris, who’s still calibrating her temperature.... Hickenlooper sees a sunny approach — one that emphasizes aspirations over grievances — as the necessary balm for a grossly divided country and the most potent antidote to Trump...."

From "Does John Hickenlooper Have a Secret Weapon? Maybe nice guys finish Trump" by Frank Bruni (NYT).

The second-most-up-voted comment is from someone with the insight to adopt the screen name "Me":
Just no.

I’m done with “happy”, “consensus-building” Democrats. I’m still young, and I want to see transformational change in this country before I’m dead— enough with the baby steps.

Time to bring the fire.
Bruni uses but doesn't delve into the phrase "happy warrior." To me, it means Hubert Humphrey:
Humphrey's consistently cheerful and upbeat demeanor, and his forceful advocacy of liberal causes, led him to be nicknamed "The Happy Warrior" by many of his Senate colleagues and political journalists.... As Vice President, Humphrey was criticized for his complete and vocal loyalty to Johnson and the policies of the Johnson Administration, even as many of his liberal admirers opposed the president's policies with increasing fervor regarding the Vietnam War.... [H]is nickname, "the Happy Warrior", was used against him.... 
And I see that William Safire wrote one of his "On Language" (NYT) columns about the phrase. This was back in 2004, when John Kerry was running for President. A WaPo columnist had just written that Kerry was "dour" and no one would call him "the happy warrior," and a Democratic Senator had just insulted President George W. Bush as "the happy warrior" who "strutted" about his military adventures.

Safire informs us that the phrase originated in a William Wordsworth poem, "Character of the Happy Warrior" (1807)(''Who is the happy Warrior? Who is he/That every man in arms should wish to be?.... Whose high endeavors are an inward light/That makes the path before him always bright:/ . . . But who, if he be called upon to face/Some awful moment to which Heaven has joined/Great issues, good or bad for human kind,/Is happy as a Lover'').

Safire tells the story of how the phrase got from the Wordsworth poem into American political discourse. In 1924, Franklin Roosevelt had the task of putting the name Al Smith up for nomination at the Democratic National Convention. Smith campaign manager Joseph Proskauer had written a speech using the phrase, and FDR rejected it — saying "You can't give poetry to a political convention." So FDR drafted his own speech, but it was worse, and he ended up giving in.  Insisting that it would be "a flop," he gave Proskauer's "Happy Warrior speech." But it went well, so he claimed he'd given his own speech with that one bit from Proskauer ''stuck in.'' Proskauer sulked.

So much for happiness.

"'Number one, I’m in love, and you’re in love. We’re all in love together,' Trump gushed... 'There’s so much love in this room, it’s easy to talk.'"

"'You can talk your heart out. You really could. There’s love in this room. You can talk your heart out. It’s easy. It’s easy. It’s easy.' At the start of his speech, he warmly embraced the American flag... Trump’s effusive love may or may not be the result of calculated strategizing, but it’s not a bad tactic, even though it’s rhetorically bizarre compared with most electoral speech. He seems to intuit that decent swaths of Americans struggle not only with a poverty of material resources — which his policies have worsened — but also with a poverty of dignity and with emotional destitution that comes from being thought little of, mocked, ignored and dismissed by mainstream culture.... Trump may have simply stumbled upon the power that’s possible to reap by addressing his base’s urgent need for affirmation.... The question for 2020 is whether there’s a candidate available on the left who can (or will) convey a better, broader version of it — something grandly affirmative, but nonetheless sincere, that can tend to every wound."

Writes Elizabeth Bruenig in "Trump’s love may be why he’s maintained a strong grasp on his base" (WaPo).

I haven't read all the comments over there, but basically, Bruenig's advice — Democrats should express grandly affirmative, sincere love — isn't heard at all. It's only resisted: Trump's love is not real love.

March 5, 2019

At the Tuesday Night Cafe...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"In this little room full of people he was suffering the pangs of men whose egos lose their virginity..."

"... as happens when they overhear for the first time a beautiful woman’s undiluted, full-strength opinion of their masculine selves."

That's my second-to-last quote from "The Bonfire of the Vanities," which some of you have been reading along with me.

The "he" is the prosecutor Kramer, and the woman is Maria, whose recorded voice he's hearing. She calls him "a pompous little bastard" and "a creep."

I like the idea of an ego losing its virginity. And then there's the notion that a woman's opinion can rape a man's ego. Is the male ego so weak or is the undiluted, full-strength opinion of a beautiful woman exceedingly strong?

"No charges against the positive behavior coach at Whitehorse middle school, says district attorney Ismael Ozanne...."

David Blaska says he's "not surprised," and...
Neither are the mother and grandmother of the black 11-year-old girl who was supposedly manhandled by that white Madison educator. For different reasons.

In a press conference closed to all but accredited news media, Ozanne stated: “I am aware of public narratives about this incident. Some members of our community have coupled this information with their own experience, drawing conclusions that are simply wrong.”...

Afterwards, mother and grandmother told the assembled news media and this blog that Ozanne’s decision was just another cover-up of white racism in Madison, even though the district attorney himself is of mixed race....
We talked about this incident a week ago, here.

Blaska is running for a seat on the school board, and his main issue is maintaining order in the schools. As a citizen trying to speak at school board meetings, he's been shouted down by protesters who characterize him as a racist.

Here's another Blaska post from a couple days ago:
I do pity Jennifer Cheatham, superintendent of Madison schools. Try as she might, she will never be able to bow and scrape low enough to satisfy the social justice warriors.

In the wake of a disciplinary incident at Whitehorse middle school that may well have gotten out of hand, Ms. Cheatham announced a new round of racism re-education camps and a report-your-teacher racism hotline, among other burnt offerings to the goddesses of identity politics....

"Going to another country is giving up control. And women are more comfortable than men at not being in control."

My son John quotes the orientation leader of his study-abroad program. He's reading that Atlantic article — "Why Are So Few Male Students Studying Abroad?" — that we were talking about a few days ago here.

The quote in the post title pushes me to think of what Instapundit wrote when he linked to my post: "My hypothesis... People do study abroad in hopes of meeting new sexual partners. Men, heavily outnumbered on campus by women, don’t have to go abroad for that. Women, with a shortage of men on campus, do."

Let's put aside the part about the sex ratio at home and concentrate on the first assertion: "People do study abroad in hopes of meeting new sexual partners." Now, combine that with John's orientation leader: "Going to another country is giving up control. And women are more comfortable than men at not being in control."

I'm not sure what I want to say about "comfort" with "not being in control" when I think about it in terms of "hopes of meeting new sexual partners." Obviously, John's orientation leader was implying that women are better than men because they instinctively give up control. Quite aside from the problem of stereotyping people, should women be praised and encouraged for not taking control of what happens to them — that is, passivity?

Axelrod isn't quite saying it's a witch hunt, but it too easily plays into the "witch-hunt" meme.

It's hard to think what anything really is or isn't anymore. It feels much better/smarter/safer to speak about whether things fit into memes. Or really not even that. It's more a matter of whether something can be used by somebody else to further their memes.

"I'm way past 50, and was dissatisfied with my tiny circle of 'friends.' They were angry, miserable people, who..."

"... due to our vicious political climate, couldn't have a discussion about anything else. It was exhausting to be with them. The answer? I went back to school. I'm now in my second semester at a four year college, working towards a BA in American Studies.... Thankfully, the students have accepted me as one of their own, and I have new friends and activities to keep me motivated. I also bought into the 'meal plan,' so I hardly even have to cook anymore. I show up, swipe my card, and have a great lunch or dinner with interesting company. Check into the university system in your state. Sometimes all you have to do is express an interest in auditing a class or classes and they will treat you like royalty."

That's the top-rated comment on a WaPo advice column dealing with the question how to make new friends when you're older than 50. The comment has comments, including, "Yes, school is for all ages these days, not just the 18-22 set! There are now more adult age students in college than those 18-22, so go and have fun and learn something interesting."

ADDED: Here's another commenter, with a different very specific recommendation: Be like Confucius:

I'm fascinated by the unintentional ambiguity of the headline "This teen got vaccinated against his mother’s wishes."

I'm looking at "This teen got vaccinated against his mother’s wishes. Now, he’ll testify before Congress" (WaPo). Fine. I know the story. Ethan Lindenberger, after he turned 18, went and got his own vaccinations.
His mother, Jill Wheeler, told Undark, an online science magazine that first reported Lindenberger’s story, that her son’s decision was "like him spitting on me, saying 'You don’t know anything, I don’t trust you with anything.' "
Interesting topic. Feel free to expound on it in the comments.

What I want to talk about is the fanciful idea floating from the poorly written headline — that there could be a vaccination that would give you immunity not from a medical disease but from your mother's wishes — as if the dreams from your mother are analogous to disease and infect you and degrade and destroy you.

Dreams from your mother... it makes me think of "Dreams From My Father" — that strange old book that created a persona who came to be embraced as a President of the United States. And I wonder, did Ethan Lindenberger have a father? I can see hidden in the URL for the WaPo article — teen-got-vaccinated-against-his-parents-wishes-now-hell-testify-before-congress — that there were parents but the headline as written leaves us with only the mother.

Searching the article for "father," I find only this, "According to Lindenberger’s Reddit post, his father was less resistant to the idea since he was of legal age," and I infer that both parents were involved in withholding vaccination from Lindenberger when he was a minor, but dad is keeping his distance from the current public dispute. Dad sounds pliable or noncommittal or weak — leaving the mother alone as she worked her will and then leaving the boy alone when he became a man.

"A veteran Democratic foreign policy adviser has accused Bill and Hillary Clinton of nepotism, dishonesty and vindictiveness..."

"... in an assault on a previously untouched part of the Clinton political legacy – Ireland. Trina Vargo, who was a behind-the-scenes Washington player in Northern Ireland’s peace process, claims the couple tried to obtain a scholarship to Ireland for a boyfriend of their daughter, Chelsea, and later cut funding for the scholarship to punish Vargo for backing Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination race."

From The Guardian.

Front-paged at the NYT: How to eat lunch at your "luxurious" company.

In case this has never occurred to you, snack items can be lunch.

Inside, the article is "How to Make Meals From Office Snacks/At start-ups and luxurious companies, the free lunch is for the taking, if you’re bold enough." I look forward to more NYT articles about things that are "free... for the taking, if you’re bold enough."

How to Stock Your Home Office... supplies are free, if you're bold enough! 

For Shoppers at Department Stores: The clothes and makeup you need for your big date are free for the taking, if you're bold enough. 

For Diners at Middling Restaurants: Your home supply of sugar and ketchup is free, if you're bold enough.

Oh, now, I'm going too far! The NYT is talking about the conditions at "start-ups and luxurious companies." It's okay to take advantage of them, just like it's okay — even a great idea — to tax the rich to pay for things you want for the poor. Well, the workers at start-ups and luxurious companies aren't exactly poor, but they are young and hip and — I'm sure — socialist. So it's not petty theft or bad faith. It's cool, cool enough to be front-paged in the NYT.

Now, why do we need a 2,000-word article about how to grab office snacks for lunch. Is it about the moral question? The legal details? Is it about the office culture — what other employees and your superiors think of the worker who raids the shared snacks to assemble a meal? Is it about the nutritional details of a fruit and cheese (and whether Steve Jobs sort of died of being a fruitatarian)?

It's about the cuisine — the "scrappy new cuisine." And the makers of this new cuisine are stepping up to preen about it and the NYT is printing their names:
“I literally never go out and buy lunch,” said Rebecca Jennings, a culture reporter at Vox Media.... Her signature dish? The personal “work pizza,” which makes use of complimentary bread, sriracha and Babybel. Jennings bakes these ingredients in the toaster oven for about four and a half minutes, until the cheese begins to brown. After that, she adds a special touch. “We have this drawer that I don’t think a lot of the people at the office know about, with leftover Parmesan cheese packets from when big teams order pizza,” she said. “I’ll sprinkle that on top.”
They know now! And what do they think of you? The NYT doesn't seem to have asked anyone. They present Jennings's pridefulness as if everyone will admire her for her ingeniousness and her can-do spirit. There's no one to say she's using too much of the best items or that she's stinking up the place cooking cheeses that they'd only presume to eat cold.

No, it's on to the next person whose snacking gets called not only "lunch" but "cuisine." It's "Kira Fisher, who has worked for several social media companies, including Tumblr...." Wait. Are Vox and Tumblr "luxurious companies"? They're not "startups," are they? Aren't media companies struggling these days?
“One thing I really like to do is make a cheese plate,” [Fisher] said. “Getting all the fruit we have in the office and cutting it — cutting the apples, having grapes, finding whatever cheese they have — and making a little spread, a little office mezze platter.”
Having grapes?  Based on the photograph, I think they meant "halving grapes." And did she really cut  grapes apples with that little plastic knife? This lady is munching on fruit and cheese and taking enough to feel all right without more. But she's calling it "a little office mezze platter." So that makes it cuisine... or bullshit. Take your pick. And maybe it is what media companies deserve. Why is Kira Fisher working at Tumblr? She got her start at "the food blog Sad Desk Lunch, where she cataloged user-submitted photos of bleak workday meals."
Elsewhere online, lists of so-called “D.I.Y. office snacks” and “office snack hacks” recommend unofficial uses of office kitchen appliances, such as using a Keurig coffee maker to cook ramen. 
And the point there was humor. Office snack lunches are depressing. But the NYT is presenting this as a jaunty lifestyle.
According to Ms. Fisher, the great challenge of office cooking is overcoming the sweetness of snack food. She sometimes makes yogurt feel more lunch-like by adding a handful of crushed-up potato chips, or a salty “new wave snack” like Biena roasted chickpeas.
Is that an embedded ad for Biena? Here, buy some of that "new wave snack" through my Amazon portal. You can pay $1 an ounce for chickpeas — or let your "luxurious" company pay — and feel free to put them on yogurt (in your heroic struggle to overcome the sweetness).

A "sales manager" named Michael Sztanski is quoted enthusing about "a make-your-own-bowl-type thing":
“I’ll take the hard-boiled eggs and chop them up to make egg salad with mayo, pepper and salt. That’ll be one part of the bowl. Then I’ll crush up Doritos, or any chip — most recently, I’ve been using Sun Chips. I’ll crush them up as another part of the bowl. Then I get mozzarella balls, which I’ll throw in there as well. And a jerky stick.” 
I'm doing a make-your-own-blog-post-type thing, and yet I will pass on Sztanski's jerky stick.

The NYT does get to some other issues. There are a few words about nutrition. There's taxation: Employers have been deducting the cost of snacks, and it hasn't been taxed as income to the employees. Then there's the question whether you could "get fired for abusing workplace food privileges." A lawprof is quoting speculating that "maybe the employer is going to start saying that this is a crime, like embezzlement or theft." And Jennings is quoted feeling "embarrassment." But:
She probably should not be concerned. “Vox Media’s office cafes make for great spots to gather, have serendipitous run-ins and host creative brainstorms,” a spokeswoman for the company wrote in an email. “It’s no surprise our employees have grown as clever with the snacks as we are with our work.”
That's the right answer for PR and tax purposes. And I believe it, actually. The company is keeping you on campus and basically still working. I've worked in places that serve outright lunches, and it was obvious that the point was to keep you on site and in work mode.

Ah! Finally, we get to "the ethics of snacks." A philosophy professor is consulted:
“Are they an unpaid intern or an underpaid employee suffering from broader social injustices?” [Brookes Brown, an assistant professor of philosophy at Clemson University]. “Or are they the C.E.O. who wants to make a higher rung on the Forbes wealthiest people list?”
I'd like a little detail on the philosophy of that. What is the ethical principle that authorizes readjusting your pay? What's the point of talking to a philosophy professor if you're going to get an answer that sounds like the first thing an employee caught stealing would blurt out?!

There's a second philosophy professor:
“It definitely matters whether the snacks show up in an endless supply or whether there’s a limited amount put out each day,” said Karen Stohr, an associate professor of philosophy at Georgetown University. “The 17th-century British philosopher John Locke put this in terms of an obligation to leave ‘enough, and as good’ for other people,” she said. “That seems to apply to employer-provided snacks.”
That's the Lockean proviso. Read about it here. Locke was talking about taking land from the natural world and making it private property, so I think you need to do some philosophizing to get from nature to an employer and from a human being working on land to an employee eating snacks, but — what the hell? — the article is getting long, we were just pausing to snack on philosophy, and it's time to get back to Kira Fisher. She says the snacks at Vox Media "are restocked daily."
“There’s always plenty left over, so I don’t feel bad at all,” she said. “But if you are the type to go in really early in the morning and take all of the most desired thing, like the cups of guacamole or the hard-boiled eggs, that’s extremely un-chill.”
And that's how it ends, with imagining somebody else who's doing the same thing but they're doing more, and when you think about them, they seem gross. They're un-chill. Hey, Kira, look at Michael, he's taking the hard-boiled eggs and chopping them up with mayonnaise to make egg salad as one part of a bowl and then crushing up Doritos. Should he be ashamed?

March 4, 2019

At the Monday Night Cafe...

... bring up some good new topics. And eschew the “back and forth.”

Thinking of buying a convertible...

Here's the first option:

Test sitting in the 2019 "Final Edition" Beetle

I'd be replacing the TT. The reasoning is partly technological — I want a car with Apple Carplay and some of the safety things like a blind-spot alert and a backup camera. And it's partly aesthetic — I love the TT and don't think any car is prettier, but the window space is relatively small and with a convertible I could really open up the visibility. I've got my eyesight fixed, and I'm getting back to driving again, and I want to drive through the American landscapes and have a great visual experience from the car.

The car is the "Final Edition" Beetle.

"I was complaining about how socialist men don’t date socialist women and it really bothers me."

Said Mindy Isser, 28, one of the creators of the dating platform Red Yenta, quoted in "Pinkos Have More Fun Socialism is AOC’s calling card, Trump’s latest rhetorical bludgeon, and a new way to date in Brooklyn" (New York Magazine).
An hour into the party... to promote Red Yenta...  Natasha Lennard, a columnist at the Intercept, [announces:] “There is a service — a communal service — that is better than a Tinder, or the last hurrahs of an OKCupid”... Who wants to slog through a few bad dates only “to find out that someone is a liberal?”...

At least in Brooklyn, and the spiritual Brooklyns of America, calling yourself a socialist sounds sexier than anything else out there, without necessarily advocating anything too risky.... The staid and uncool Democratic Establishment, by blowing a gimme election, had discredited itself... [The] enemy isn’t so much Trumpism as the gauzy liberal triumphalism — like the Broadway musical Hamilton — that papers over the indignities of American life.... 
ADDED: Apparently, people in Brooklyn feel they have to say they're socialists or they're just undateable. That's how I read it.

"As part of an extended podcast recently, I suggested that if closeted people were instead open about their sexuality they wouldn’t abuse others."

"That, of course, is wrong. My intention was to encourage the LGBT audience I was addressing to be proud and open about their sexuality. In doing so, my point was clumsily expressed. I would never, ever trivialize or condone abuse of any kind. I deeply regret my careless remarks and apologize unreservedly for any distress I caused."

Said Ian McKellen, backing off after criticism for observing that actor Kevin Spacey and director Bryan Singer "were in the closet" and "If they had been able to be open about themselves and their desires, they wouldn’t have started abusing people in the way they’ve been accused."

"With progressives pushing Democrats to embrace the Green New Deal — and Republicans ridiculing the idea as socialism — Mr. Schumer is effectively trying to turn a weakness into a strength."

"He is planning daily floor speeches attacking Republicans for inaction and a proposal for a special Senate committee focused on the issue, which he intends to announce this week. And while there is virtually no chance of passing climate change legislation in a Republican-controlled Senate with President Trump in office, Mr. Schumer said he wanted legislation to run on next year — and bring to a vote in early 2021, should his party win the White House and the Senate. 'This is the first time Democrats have decided to go on offense on climate change,' Mr. Schumer said in an interview.... But the rise of climate change as a rallying cry has come with huge downsides for Democrats. The ambitions of its youthful advocates have clashed with the caution of Democratic veterans...  'Climate change, to our frustration, was never an issue that rung a bell with voters, particularly in the throes of coming out of an economic crisis,' said David Axelrod, the former chief political strategist to Mr. Obama. 'But now we’re a decade down the road, and the road is surrounded by floods and fires in a way that is becoming more and more visible.'... The Green New Deal immediately won the embrace of multiple Democratic presidential candidates, including Senators Kamala Harris of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont... 'Do our Democratic colleagues really support this fantasy novel masquerading as public policy?' Mr. McConnell asked last week on the Senate floor... 'Do they really want to completely upend Americans’ lives to enact some grand socialist vision?'"

From "Pressed by Climate Activists, Senate Democrats Plan to ‘Go on Offense’" (NYT).

The Times article quotes Trump's CPAC speech sarcastically encouraging Democrats to run on the Green New Deal: "I think it’s really something that they should promote."

If it's really so bad to run on the Green New Deal, why are Trump and McConnell taunting them about it now? I think it is a bad signature issue, but this early taunting makes me wonder whether perhaps it's good. The reason I think it's bad is that it's all about how awful everything is and how much sacrifice is going to be extracted from everyone.

I think people are drawn to the sunnier vision, and Democrats have worked so hard at painting Trump as dark, ugly, and cruel. The panic and horror about climate change and the demand for immediate and dramatic sacrifice seems to undo all that work and to take on pessimism as the Democratic brand.

I realize the Democrats who are pushing the Green New Deal must think they can put it in a sunny light. It's "Green" and it's "New" and it's a "Deal." But in the old New Deal, good things were offered to people — hope and economic benefits. The Green New Deal asks you to give up hope and to give up economic benefits. What is the psychological draw? Fear? I know there's a way to get to optimism if you can really believe in wonderful technological advances, but where are they?

A beautiful and disturbing photograph.

"Ahmedabad, India/Muslim brides-to-be gather for a mass wedding ceremony" (The Guardian).

From an excellent collection of photographs, here.

ADDED: Here's a completely accidental juxtaposition I caused by dropping another one of those photographs into a message to Meade and then, several minutes later, dropping in this photograph — from Twitter — of an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher:
I love the chiming colors! And the big pointy beaks are such a neat repetition.

By the way, "Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher" sounds very politically incorrect. They might want to change that. Not only are "oriental" and "dwarf" problematic words, but "Kingfisher" calls to mind the "Amos 'n' Andy" character.

"I think I'm going to switch over to Hickenlooper."

I say out loud, as I'm reading "John Hickenlooper, Former Colorado Governor, Declares Candidacy for President" (NYT). Last December, as you may know, I suddenly said — also out loud — "Why aren't the Democratic candidates better? I'm just going to be for Amy Klobuchar."

But I've been worried about Amy. There was that comb-as-a-fork business, and just yesterday I was thinking there are too many Senators in the race, and I think we need a governor. There's Jay Inslee, but I'm thinking he's all about the Green New Deal. So I welcome Hickenlooper:
John Hickenlooper, the two-time Colorado governor and former brewpub owner who has overseen Colorado’s remarkable economic expansion, declared his candidacy for president on Monday.

Mr. Hickenlooper, 67, a socially progressive, pro-business Democrat who has called himself an “extreme moderate”...
Extreme moderate — I like!

Here's his video:

Best line: "As a skinny kid with Coke-bottle glasses and a funny last name, I’ve stood up to my fair share of bullies."

Hickenlooper was term-limited out of his governorship, but he seems to have been a very successful governor with what the NYT calls "a careful, consensus-building approach that won him praise from both sides of the aisle and helped him guide Colorado out of a recession and through a series of floods, wildfires and mass shootings...."
Gary Hart, the former Colorado senator and Democratic presidential candidate, predicted that Mr. Hickenlooper would appeal to primary voters because “he does not have a lot of pretensions.” But Mr. Hart noted that the candidate would have to harden his stances fast, in order to attract the most passionate party activists in the run-up to the primaries.
Eh. Too many Democratic candidates have hardened up stances. I'm for the radical moderate who wants to bring people together and to get things done. There needs to be someone for those of us who loathe "the most passionate party activists."
Mr. Hickenlooper moved to Colorado in 1981 to work as a geologist in the oil industry. After a layoff, he opened a downtown Denver brewpub, eventually expanding to 15 pubs and restaurants, mostly in the Midwest. Soon, he was helping to reshape Denver’s dilapidated core. By 2003 he was mayor; in 2007 he won re-election with 87 percent of the vote...

By 2011, he was governor. In that position, Mr. Hickenlooper pushed through Medicaid expansion under a divided legislature, and signed the gun control package, a major shift for the state. Colorado also gained national attention when Mr. Hickenlooper helped the state establish a national model for recreational marijuana regulation, despite his personal opposition to legalization....

But progressives in the state reserve much of their criticism for his environmental legacy, arguing that he has not gone far enough in regulating the state’s powerful oil and gas industry. In recent years, some residents have faulted him for failing to push well projects out of their neighborhoods. (Mr. Hickenlooper has been so eager to promote the industry that he once drank fracking fluid.)
I guess there's something disgusting about every candidate. Amy Klobuchar ate salad with a comb, and John Hickenlooper drank fracking fluid. I like his brand of disgusting. It's pro-business. And he's a geologist who worked in the oil industry. He must know something. What other Democratic Party candidate has any wide-ranging business experience and has worked at multiple levels of the executive side of government? Hickenlooper was mayor of the 19th biggest city (Denver) and governor of the 21st biggest state. That's a lot of executive experience, and he seems to have handled it well. He's worked as an employee in a scientific field, and he's been a successful entrepreneur making the beloved American product, beer.
The governor, a lanky, guitar-playing, twice-married father of a teenage boy, has long been considered the state’s geek in chief, often running gimmicky advertisements in which he makes himself the butt of a joke. As governor he showered in a business suit for a political ad in which he swore off dirty politics.
Geek in chief. That's what I want.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Hickenlooper, Lauren Hitt, said that the governor learned long ago how to make bullies feel uncertain, and she compared a potential Hickenlooper-Trump election to “a 'Revenge of the Nerds’-type situation.”
Excellent positioning!

"Given that I am not a blonde, 24-year-old woman who identifies as a polyracial ecosexual, I was a little surprised by the suggestion that I was the same person. "

Writes Andrew Doyle (at Spiked) — noting that he's accused of being the man (woman??) behind Titania McGrath, the name on a very funny "radical feminist" Twitter feed and a new book called "Woke: A Guide to Social Justice."
I am not the only suspect in this curious affair. Twitter users have speculated that the account is run by Chris Morris, Ricky Gervais, or even the American conservative Ann Coulter.  There are now rumours that Rosamund Urwin is the real Titania McGrath, and that her article in The Sunday Times was an ingenious exercise in misdirection. And on Friday, The Times published an exposé in which the satirist Lisa Graves was named as the principal culprit....

I ask Lisa to explain the purpose of Titania’s satire and why she thinks it has become so popular. ‘Well, I am not Titania, like I said, but.... [s]ome really ridiculous things are happening right now in the name of progressiveness, and if you speak out against it, you could get suspended or shamed into apologising for wrongthink. By this, I’m not saying we should all go around being genuinely horrible to others, but that we should be allowed to question and debate issues without being chastised and chased by an internet pitchfork mob. The best way to deal with this sort of thing, the most effective way to fight back, is with humour. Parody has always been an incredibly valuable tool....’

I tell Lisa that I have been accused of ‘punching down’ when I ridicule this ‘woke culture’ in my stand-up, even though it now represents the powerful establishment position. ‘It is not the vulnerable groups that are being mocked’, Lisa says. ‘It is the woke idiots who think they are on some kind of crusade to change the world, when in fact all they are doing is patronising the fuck out of everyone around them and being generally unpleasant while sipping their oatmeal and cardamom chia smoothies and wanking on about how shit capitalism is from their MacBook Pros in Starbucks.’...
UPDATE: "Titania McGrath: 'Queen of woke Twitter culture' sheds his online mask."

"The devastation is incredible."

"Supplements Won’t Prevent Dementia. But These Steps Might."

The 3 steps (from a NYT health column) are:
• Increased physical activity

• Blood pressure management for people with hypertension, particularly in midlife;

• And cognitive training.

That last recommendation [according to Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a neuropsychiatrist and epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, is] "really the concept of being mentally active... Find something you enjoy where you’re learning something new, challenging and stimulating your brain."
It's boring as health advice, so go find something not boring to challenge and stimulate your brain.

Of course, I recommend reading my blog, but what the blog represents for me is a lot of reading and thinking about what I've read and transforming that into writing. So you might want to write your own blog, following my approach. Use it to learn and get and stay interested in a wide array of things and to process what you take in and to do things with language (and pictures).

Something else I recommend — which works for at least 2 of the 3 recommendations  (actually, there are only 2 recommendations for those of us who don't have hypertension) — is to listen to audiobooks while walking.

March 3, 2019

At the Sunday Night Café...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"What does a rat look like when he’s listening to himself being a rat in a room full of people who know he’s a rat..."?

I have another passage from Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities" (for those of you who've been reading along with me). This is  97% of the way through the book, the main character Sherman McCoy is listening as a tape he made is played in the judge's chambers. The point of view shifts, in the end of the first paragraph, from Sherman to the prosecutor (Kramer):
In this sad moldering little room were seven other men, seven other organisms, hundreds of pounds of tissue and bone, breathing, pumping blood, burning calories, processing nutrients, filtering out contaminants and toxins, transmitting neural impulses, seven warm grisly unpleasant animals rooting about, for pay, in the entirely public cavity he used to think of as his soul. Kramer was dying to look at McCoy, but decided to be cool and professional.

What does a rat look like when he’s listening to himself being a rat in a room full of people who know he’s a rat—going wired to see his girlfriend? Unconsciously, but profoundly, Kramer was relieved. Sherman McCoy, this Wasp, this Wall Street aristocrat, this socialite, this Yale man, was as much a rat as any of the drug dealers he had wired up to go rat out their species. No, McCoy was more of a rat. One doper didn’t expect much from another. But in these upper reaches, upon these pinnacles of propriety and moralism, up in this stratosphere ruled by the pale thin-lipped Wasps, honor, presumably, was not a word to be trifled with. Yet backed to the wall, they turned rat just as quickly as any lowlife....
I was, obviously, interested in the rat. But it was especially intriguing to begin with the idea that Sherman wasn't an animal at all but a place, an "entirely public cavity he used to think of as his soul," and all the other people were animals rooting around in that place. As "warm grisly unpleasant animals," I guess they were rats, from Sherman's perspective. Then we shift to Kramer's perspective, and he's seeing Sherman as the rat (and thinking about other rats he has known).

Really, everyone is seen as a rat here, but no one sees himself as a rat. Kramer sees himself as above ratdom, while Sherman sees himself as nothing at all. Both men — projecting rattiness onto others — protect their own interests.

One mate in the bright sunlight, another waiting in the... wings.


"It’s easy to laugh at a grown man in a rubber dog suit chewing on a squeaky toy. Maybe too easy, in fact, because to laugh is to..."

"... dismiss it, denigrate it – ignore the fact that many of us have found comfort and joy in pretending to be animals at some point in our lives.... For David, a writer who works in academia, puppy play is an escape from the analytical world. 'It’s so totally non-verbal,' he tells me. 'It’s pre-rational, pre-conscious. It’s an instinctive, emotional space. But within every puppy is a person. This is part of my identity, but it’s only part. I’m also a vegetarian, play the piano; I have a parrot. I was planting tomatoes on my allotment this morning. I can go months without going into pup space.'"

That's from a 2016 article in The Guardian, "The men who live as dogs: 'We're just the same as any person on the high street,'" which I googled my way into after reading "Top 60 Best Dog Room Ideas – Canine Space Designs," which included this interesting built-in:

For those who think "SNL" skewered the President for his CPAC speech....

... watch closely:

The jokes were all Trump's! And they got big laughs from the "SNL" audience, who might think they're laughing at him, but he's being hilarious every single time.

"How did everyone like the salad? I thought it was OK, but it needed just a little more scalp oil and a pinch of dandruff."

Look out! It's the wit of Amy Klobuchar. She'll never shake that eating-salad-with-a-comb story, so she's going with self-deprecating humor.

You never know. I once thought Donald Trump could never be elected President because his hair was so weird.

Maybe there's something mystical about hair — connecting celebrities to the people. I remember how The Beatles got to us with hair. And in politics, it does seem that the candidate with the best hair wins.

It might jinx you to come out and say it, of course. John Kerry, on his first day of campaigning with his veep choice, the ill-fated John Edwards, proclaimed:
"We've got better vision. We've got better ideas. We've got real plans. We've got a better sense of what's happening to America. And we've got better hair. I'll tell you, that goes a long way."
My blogged reaction at the time, July 2004, was:
That bulbous wig of a hairdo Kerry's been using to offset his lengthy face is good hair? That flappy, fine fringe accentuating Edwards' babyish looks is good hair? Please! For decades, I've been groaning about the outdated Beatle haircuts worn by aging Baby Boomers. Long hair is a young man's style that makes an older man look like an unattractive woman! Beatle styling, with combed down bangs in front, belongs in the 1960s--early 70s at the latest. It's as if 20 years from now, some guy were to run for President and wear his hair like this. I realize practically every man in Congress is making the same mistake of keeping the Beatle do alive, but could someone please tell these people how terribly estranged from any sense of style these men are? The only one of the current candidates with a respectable hairstyle is George Bush....
And George Bush won, so by my lights the candidate with the best hair did win in 2004, as in all the other elections, including the ones with our last bald president, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The question of Trump's hair was immensely complicated in 2016, when his opponent was a woman whose oft-changing hair had been a matter of public inquiry for a quarter century. But she chose to forefront the hair comparison. She made a whole routine out of it with Jimmy Fallon...
She says (slightly garbling what must have been a prepared line): "Have you ever been able to let him touch — let you touch his hair?" And then: "Have you ever really touched it?" When Jimmy says no, she says: "You wanna touch mine?" Jimmy grabs a hank and gives it a sturdy pull. The gesture says: This is not a wig. And he shouts: "It's real! It's real!" He waves his hands about joyously and — with the band playing celebratory music – adds: "And it's got wave and it's fantastic, you guys, and it smells great!" He's laughing heartily and she's laughing heartily.
... and that led Jimmy Fallon — when Trump later appeared on his show — to grab Trump's hair the same way he'd grabbed Hillary's. And that normalized Trump's ultra-weird hair.

But back to Amy Klobuchar. That comb is the most famous thing about her, and she can't lose it. She's got to find a way to work with it. And the Democrats need a way to defeat the President with the absurd hair. Well, Amy's got the comb. If rock breaks scissors, and scissors cut paper, and paper covers rock, then surely, comb conquers hair.