December 31, 2022

At the New Year's Eve Café...

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... you can share your new year thoughts.

(That's not this morning's sunrise, just one of my favorite sunrises of the past year. It happened on October 6th.)

"The lightest batting-away of videos you don’t like in favor of ones you do goes on to influence the algorithm’s future range of offerings..."

"... in a way seemingly more sophisticated than the rudimentary logic of, say, YouTube rabbit holes. This has delivered a decisive blow to the centralized feeds of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al.... The days of manually choosing whom to follow and what Netflix genres you’re interested in will be rendered quaint; soon we’ll simply be escorted down the internet burrow supposedly of our choice, and quite happily so. The rapid deterioration of Twitter under Elon Musk’s ownership signals the incoming death of at least one centralized feed, particularly when no one can agree on a worthy alternative.... There’s a part of us that senses all of this and is seeking a less fleeting connection elsewhere. We reach for one another in Discord servers, shady Close Friends allusions, invite-only newsletters, and meme accounts...."

Writes Delia Cai in "The Year TikTok Made the Multiverse Real (And Murdered the Newsfeed in the Process)/As TikTok and its cunningly customized rabbit holes subsume culture, the rest of the internet will splinter further into algorithmic isolation" (Variety).

".... the final nail in his coffin...."

A bunch of links about Trump's newly dumped tax forms — beginning with the screwiest one:


Yeah, thanks. I'll try not to let "cynics" dissuade me from pounding nails into coffins. What had stood out to me was that no one seemed to see any crimes, so it's certainly cheerful to have The Daily Beast come along and declare — who needs crimes? — that there's never been a better reason to throw Trump in prison.

"I thought it was a matter of record."

Norm and Barbara are probably still arguing about this in the afterlife.

"Where I'm from, Thanksgiving is just another long weekend, not some return-to-ancestral-home urge on a par with salmon swimming upstream at the cost of their lives."

"I'm a Canadian living in the US.... In a perfect world, I'd see my extended family at Christmas, but for the last few years I've tried to schedule 'Christmas adjacent' visits. My mom and extended family already have lots of distractions over the holidays and the quality of my time with them is better if I come before or after. The main reason for that scheduling, however, are the frustrations described in this article. And let's not even start in on the Southwest debacle. Commenters point out that good rail service would often be a great option -- but it will never, ever happen here. The author, as a New Yorker, is understandably not a car owner. But most Americans who can afford to fly also own cars. I am increasingly open to replacing plane trips with car rides. What with crowded airports, angry TSA agents, 28" seat pitch, etc, almost any air travel amounts to a wasted day, so if I can drive it -- even if it takes an entire day -- that's now my choice."

Writes Mark Gardiner, of Lawrence KS, in the comments section to the NYT article "The Airlines Know They Are Scamming Us." The article is written by Elizabeth Spiers.

I've long preferred the car ride — even if takes all day — to dealing with airlines and airports and airplanes. As for trains, it's just absurd the fantasizing about trains going on in the comments over there. The top comment is: "Trains. High speed, comfortable, trains on non-cargo hauling tracks, like we have in Europe. Lace the USA with those instead of citizen-funded highways built to benefit the auto industry." 

That commenter is from Paris, France. To that person, I say:

 

Lace... indeed.

"If you’re allowing people to bake cookies and muffins and breads, why should they not be allowed to make cocoa bombs?"

"The first case said that the government can’t ban the sales of perfectly safe homemade baked goods. And so, since we already had that victory regarding baked goods, it definitely made things easier the second time around.... People shouldn’t need to buy or rent a commercial kitchen in order to sell fudge or candies...."

Said Justin Pearson of the Institute for Justice, which brought the 2 cases discussed in "Wisconsin residents can sell more than baked goods from home, judge rules" (Wisconsin State Journal).

Pearson asserted "the 49 other states... have better cottage food laws than Wisconsin."

I'd never noticed the expression "cottage food," though of course I know "cottage industry." "Cottage" makes the particular home sound unusually cozy and quaint. If you look back into the history of the word "cottage," you'll see that that originally it meant a small home for a poor laborer. The oldest use of "cottage industry," according to the OED, came from was in the Freeman's Journal (Dublin) in 1849: "Do you wish to make your labourers comfortable? Teach their children the use of the loom, and every kind of cottage industry."

 

That's "Children On A Path Outside A Thatched Cottage, West Horsley, Surrey" (late 1800s) by Helen Allingham. I found that at the Wikipedia article "Cottagecore." Did you know that some kids today romanticize the cottage and the styles and activities they imagine in and around it?

Annual nonsense.

That's a tag of mine. Possibly useful on this last day of the year. Do you have any annual nonsense?

Things I've labeled "annual nonsense" over the years: Time's Person of the Year, lists of best posts of the year, Valentine's Day, the Met Gala, the Super Bowl half-time show, the anniversary of the day I started blogging, New Year's resolutions, New Year's predictions, the Oscars, setting the clocks forward/back (and critiquing the practice), Groundhog Day (and citing the movie), Thanksgiving (and pardoning turkeys), Rock and Roll Hall of Fame "inductions," April Fool's Day, Drynuary, the White House Correspondents Dinner, the Mummers Parade (controversial in 2016), adults doing Halloween, No Pants Subway Ride....

Here's something I counted as "annual nonsense" a decade ago that I haven't noticed happening anymore: the "war on Christmas."

And here's some "annual nonsense" that I used to notice that hadn't come to my attention in years but is still around, "The List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness." Back in 2008, I blogged about being told to quit saying "maverick," "from Wall Street to Main Street," "desperate search," "monkey" (the suffix), "game-changing," "carbon footprint," "winner of five nominations," "green," "going green," "first dude," "staycation." 

But look, here's a new list of "banished words" for 2023. I'm surprised they're just getting around to "amazing," "irregardless," "absolutely," and "It is what it is." I've got to agree strongly about "GOAT," "inflection point," and "Does that make sense?" I'd say "quiet quitting" and "gaslighting" are too useful to let go of, not yet. And I don't see a problem with "moving forward" (because, despite the explanation given, there are other directions to move (unless you're talking about moving forward in time)). 

Also, I haven't checked other recent years of banished words, but the one that's driving me up the wall is "obsessed." The claims of obsession are beyond ridiculous to pathetic these days. Somebody likes something — a food, a lipstick, and TV show — and they'll say with giddy emphasis: "I'm obsessed."

I remember when "obsession" was reserved for unwise love affairs, but that tipped over into a winking joke around 1985...

 

... and it's been downhill from there.

"the dogs were good again this year"

Pope Benedict and Barbara Walters join the Pelé death triad.

This is one of the greatest death triads I have ever seen. Perhaps the greatest.

Goodbye to 3 greats, in 3 different fields — religion, journalism, and sports. All 3 died after a long, productive life — PelĂ©, a little young, at 82, Walters at 93, and the Pope at 95.

December 30, 2022

Sunrise — 7:41.

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"Russian soldiers called up to fight in Ukraine will have the chance to store frozen sperm in a cryobank for free, according to a leading Russian lawyer."

 BBC reports.

"[T]his solution meant that if a man died - or lost the ability to reproduce - then he would still be able to have children."

"Her brother, Gordon, brought a 19-year-old, fellow art student round to her flat in Harrow. He had red hair and a face whitened with talcum powder."

"His name was Malcolm McLaren: self-declared genius and godfather of punk. So began one of Britain's great creative partnerships... His mother was a sex worker and he had been brought up by his eccentric grandmother, who lived by the motto 'to be bad is to be good and to be good is just boring.'... He took six days to visit her in hospital after the birth of their son, refused to be called 'Dad' and threatened to cart the child to Barnardo's when asked to pitch in. Westwood retreated to a caravan in Wales; hunting for wild vegetables while he ran riot in London and married another art student. But attraction overcame everything.... Westwood rekindled the partnership, blossomed artistically and simply ignored the abuse."

From the BBC obituary for Vivian Westwood.

"Then came the Sex Pistols, snarling at the 1970s. McLaren embraced them as an angry pot-shot at the hippy movement he hated. Westwood opened a shop on the King's Road, conjuring the look the Pistols made famous. A bewildered world gasped and named it Punk. She called the shop, 'Let It Rock', then changed the name to 'Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die.' Finally, it was re-branded simply as 'SEX' - the huge pink sign above the door meant only the brave went in...."

Lots more at the link, and the BBC has a nice photo collection here

"Rumours had swirled online that police had been tipped off to [Andrew] Tate's presence in the country after he posted a video taking aim at the environmental activist Greta Thunberg."

"However, this is not believed to be the case. In the footage he posted, he was handed a pizza box from a local restaurant, which some users suggested had inadvertently revealed his location to officers. The row with Ms Thunberg began earlier this week when Mr Tate tagged the 19-year-old activist in a post boasting about the 'enormous emissions' produced by his fleet of cars. Following the arrest, Ms Thunberg tweeted 'this is what happens when you don't recycle your pizza boxes,' referring to the online rumour...."

From "Andrew Tate detained in Romania over rape and human trafficking case" (BBC).

A strange story, strange enough to overcome my previous resistance to participating in the notoriety of this person. He's "from social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok — for hate speech (in the form of misogyny). He was banned from Twitter too, but he's one of Elon Musk's restorations.

"AI utopians believe humanity will find more of life’s meaning elsewhere, because while the machines are busy doing the drudgery..."

"... of daily living, they’ll be set free to explore. Maybe they’ll discover poetry they never had time to read, or go on more hikes. Maybe they’ll be able to spend their days in profound discussion with cherished friends, rather than in front of screens — or maybe they’ll spend all day in front of screens after all, having conversations with robots."

Writes the Washington Post Editorial Board in "We asked an AI bot hundreds of questions. Here’s what we learned."

I've already read enough machine-written text to want to avoid it whenever I can, but unfortunately, much human-written text resembles the work product of ChatGPT... including what I just quoted above. There's a positive side to that, though. Sensitized to the the loathsomeness of machine-written text, I can defend more vigorously against the mechanical writings of the human being.

IN THE COMMENTS: Stephen wrote: "A machine would never have written that phrase…or is that what a machine would like me to believe?"

It's like the — or should I say "the the"? — way Rand McNally would add a nonexistent town to each map or the ancient Persians would weave a mistake into each carpet. 

"Before Canadian musicians like Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell or Leonard Cohen, there was Ian Tyson."

"Mr. Tyson... began his music career as half of the folk-era duo Ian and Sylvia and went on to become a revered figure in his home country.... [His] song 'Four Strong Winds' in 2005 was voted the most essential Canadian piece of music by the listeners of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation public radio network...." 

From "Ian Tyson, Revered Canadian Folk Singer, Dies at 89/A rancher for most of his life, he began his music career as half of the folk-era duo Ian and Sylvia and was also celebrated for his commitment to the culture of Canada’s ranch country" (NYT).

 

"In 1962, they moved to New York and became mainstays in the emergent American folk scene, and friends with Bob Dylan and his girlfriend Suze Rotolo, who described Mr. Tyson as 'movie-star handsome' and 'the best looking of all the cowboy dudes in Greenwich Village' in her 2008 memoir, 'A Freewheelin’ Time.'... 

"A 2008 profile in The Globe and Mail when he was nearing 75 captured some of the details of it at his T-Bar-Y ranch: The 6 a.m.-to-6 p.m. work schedule. The Monday washing (five pairs of Wranglers to get him through the week). The 'mean, garlicky' buffalo he cooked... 'I became a historian, a chronicler of this way of life... and this way of life is just about over. The cowboys are all gone.'  It was a theme he often came back to. 'People tell me, Tyson, you’re always longing for the old days... And they’re right, that’s true — I live in the past. And it was way better.'"

December 29, 2022

Sunrise.

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"There was no beginning or ending to the day. If in the middle of the night something he was thinking about bothered him, he would get up..."

"... and go back to work. Our studio, in which we both lived and worked, is undivided. Our son grew up in an environment where machinery, canvases and stacks of metal were right in front of his bedroom.... He always rejected categories of art and loved going back and forth between painting, drawing, sculpture and jewelry — going wherever his mind went... Whichever work he was making was meaningful. They were all ways of learning. The work and the act of making it possessed him at a deep emotional level that people often said they could feel or see."

Said Daniel Brush's wife, Olivia Brush, quoted in "Daniel Brush, Boundary-Defying Artist, Is Dead at 75/He worked in jewelry, sculpture and other genres, creating one-of-a-kind pieces and, for the most part, spurning the mainstream art world" (NYT).

"Well, you do describe the character of the average bookseller as one of 'morose, unsociable shabbiness.'"

"Is that because the job breeds a certain cynicism into you, or is it that morose, unsociable, shabby people are drawn to the trade?"

Dennis Duncan, author of “Index, A History of the,” asks Shaun Bythell, in "What’s it like to own a bookstore in our digitized age? Shaun Bythell, owner of The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland, discusses his new book, 'Remainders of the Day,' and the highs and lows of his job" (WaPo).

Bythell says the job breeds it into you — "It does wear you down." 

You'd think that a person attracted to a life among the books would feel joy from this environment. We're told Bythell studied law but decided he didn't want "a conventional life." After a series of "really crummy jobs," he stumbled into buy some guy's bookshop.

This is Bythell's 3rd book. You can buy all 3 — "Remainders Of The Day," "Seven Kinds Of People You Find In Bookshops," "The Diary Of A Bookseller" — packaged together, here.

Here's the morose, shabby Bythell presenting his book:

"In one study, over 700 male and female social drinkers were divided into groups of three strangers and instructed to drink for 36 minutes."

"The participants thought the drinks were a prelude to the experiment, but researchers were observing what they did at the table. Initially, the strangers did not smile much. But as they consumed their vodka cranberry drinks, their expressions changed. They not only smiled more, but also caught each other’s smiles, and spoke more in succession. And they shared more of what researchers called 'golden moments' when all three strangers smiled as one...."

From "Why do people like being tipsy? Here’s how alcohol affects the brain. The buzz produced by alcohol comes from a cocktail of pharmacology and social ingredients, research shows" (WaPo).

"By the time the boomers began having kids of their own, in the nineteen-eighties, their countercultural dreams had long since crumbled."

"They had to figure out what new message about the meaning of work to pass on to their children, the so-called millennials (born between 1981 and 1996). In looking for a compromise between corporate conformity, which they still distrusted, and their own failed attempts to reject work altogether, the boomers came up with a clever solution: telling the millennial to seek work that they loved.... The destabilizing impact of the 9/11 and the financial crises that followed cast doubt on the idea that our jobs should be our ultimate source of fulfillment...."

Writes Cal Newport in "The Year in Quiet Quitting/A new generation discovers that it’s hard to balance work with a well-lived life" (The New Yorker).

"The anti-clutter nags conflate two distinct forms of materialism. In behavioral psychology terms, 'terminal materialism' refers to..."

"... acquiring and valuing an object purely for its intrinsic properties — like a fancy new iPhone (that will inevitably become obsolete). The worthless-looking junk we hang on to often exemplifies 'instrumental materialism,' valued for its connection to another person, a place, a time in our lives, a meaningful affiliation. These can take obvious forms — a wedding ring, a crucifix. But they can also be as eccentric and inscrutable as an abundance of paperweights or a ceramic leprechaun."

Writes Rob Walker in "Clutter Is Good for You" (NYT).

Walker quotes a book by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Eugene Rochberg-Halton that asserted: "We began to notice that people who denied meanings to objects also lacked any close network of human relationships."

A disturbing challenge to minimalists!

December 28, 2022

Sunrise — 7:35, 7:38.

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"... seems like an absolutely incredible investment."

"Sam, born during a Texas covid surge in July, 2020, is typical of what some experts are calling an 'immunity gap.'"

"He was cared for at home by his father for his first eighteen months, so he avoided the usual viral infections of infancy. When he started day care this year, his immune system was fairly naĂŻve to infections, except for those covered by his vaccines. So, like many kids his age... he is getting all of them now. Before covid, the cohort of kids under age one would be exposed for the first time each winter. This year, a much larger cohort of kids—not just kids in the first winter of life but also older toddlers like Sam—are getting their first infections. For the millions of children whose important kid work—learning, development, and play—is being interrupted by back-to-back infections, the medical response feels terrifically inadequate...."

From "The Post-COVID 'Immunity Gap' Continues to Pummel Pediatric Wards/While hospitals struggle to find room for young patients, parents have few options for O.T.C. medicines to soothe their sick children" (The New Yorker).

"We both believed that the best outcome was a normal transition of power, which was working, and neither one of us contemplated in any serious format the 25th Amendment."

"The only research I did out of curiosity was I googled it. I remember my general counsel asking me if we wanted him to do extensive research on it. I said, no, not at this point."

Said Steven Mnuchin, quoted "Jan. 6 transcript: Mnuchin briefly discussed 25th Amendment removal of Trump" (The Hill).

 "We both believed" referred to Mnuchin and Mike Pompeo.

"6 a.m. Wake up and put on knit cardigan, slacks, and sensible shoes. Feed my cat, Mr. Foibles. Have tea and English muffin..."

".... while I read Shakespeare and listen to symphonies. 7 a.m. Get into twenty-year-old Corolla, turn on NPR, get rattled by news and switch to listening to a Charles Dickens book on tape read by Alistair Cooke...."

From "HOW NON-LIBRARIANS IMAGINE A LIBRARIAN’S TYPICAL WORKDAY" — #15 on "COUNTING DOWN OUR 20 MOST-READ ARTICLES OF 2022" (McSweeney's).

I need to work on a list — something like 20 most-[something] blog posts of 2022. Maybe 20 most useful tags of 2022 or 20 most meandering sidetracks of 2022 or 20 least expected topics of 2022 or 20 best hobbyhorses of 2022....

"Parks Canada's Most Memorable Public Toilets Of 2022."

From National Parks Traveler, via Metafilter.

"No matter the type of fireplace, whether it’s wood-burning, pellet-burning, natural gas or electric, using one typically generates some amount of greenhouse gases..."

"... and other emissions that can be damaging to the environment and human health. To avoid these effects, [one woman] said she recently bought flameless battery-powered candles and placed them inside her fireplace. “It’s exactly the effect with none of the muss and fuss'...." 

From "The healthiest ways to light up a fireplace/Different types of fireplaces, such as wood-burning, natural gas and electric, can have varying environmental and health effects" (WaPo).

"Criminal prosecution is the wrong idea. Use the 14th Amendment on Trump."

Write Bruce Ackerman and Gerard Magliocca (in The Washington Post).

Legislation already proposed by Democratic Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) and Jamie B. Raskin (Md.) would grant special jurisdiction to a three-judge federal court in the District of Columbia to determine, within three months, whether Trump’s involvement in the assault on Capitol Hill amounted to an “insurrection.” The panel’s decision would receive automatic Supreme Court review.

This is urgent business. If Congress does not move quickly to enact the Schultz-Raskin proposal, the issue of Trump’s political future will drag into 2024, when the next election will rev into high gear and courts will be inclined to let the voters decide.

Yes, hurry up! Wouldn't want to leave it to the voters to decide. Democracy is at stake.

You know, I wish Trump would go away. But these efforts to subvert the democratic process using the courts and the 14th amendment are not the way to make it happen. I know there's a tremendous fear that if allowed to run for President, Trump might win. But if you give into that fear and look for some way other than fighting him politically, you are blatantly displaying your mistrust of democracy.

Children's books made with Midjourney/Dall-E 2/ChatGPT suffer from a "Whimsy Gap" — they are "moralistic, but not transporting."

The "images... are sometimes cute, even beautiful, but somehow off, with distorted proportions or elements of an idea mashed up to discordant effect."

Writes Alyssa Rosenberg in "Why AI will never beat Maurice Sendak" (WaPo). She tested the tools, trying to make children's books.

So far, these tools are limited to the data sets their creators have used to teach them about language and images. If AI is moralistic, limited in imagination or — as in the case of a powerful new avatar generator — inclined toward porn, that’s on the humans.

Oh? I don't know how she's so sure of that, but it sheds some light on an article I saw the other day that said AI wrote better and more "moral" opinions than the Supreme Court.

I can't find this right now. Did the lawprofs who wrote it withdraw it — perhaps because someone pointed out the flaw in their reasoning? The more "moral" opinions were, as you might imagine, more in line with the political left, and the machine may have been fed that point of view.

But I did find this:

December 27, 2022

At the Old One Café...

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... you don't have to shake/get cute/run. You can write about whatever you want.

Was Louisa May Alcott a trans man?

Peyton Thomas — host of "Jo’s Boys: A Little Women Podcast" — looks at the evidence in a NYT op-ed.

Alcott, we're told, "used the names Lou, Lu or Louy." And: 

"It might be hard to remember, in an era where gray-planked floors seem inescapable, that wall-to-wall carpet used to be everywhere...."

"Less expensive than other flooring materials like wood and linoleum, it took off with the midcentury building boom. And while it’s fallen in and out of fashion — color-blocked 1970s interiors and McMansions both favored this type of flooring — it’s never really left...."

From "Wall-to-Wall Carpeting’s Very Good Year" (NY Magazine).

"But, as we’ve seen this year, if you want to make a space stand out with a single move, vibrant wall-to-wall carpeting is one way to do it. And it is possible to do it extremely well. Case in point: designer Mark Grattan’s Mexico City apartment and its seafoam-green living-room carpet, which was on the cover of Elle Decor last year. Or the Coming Soon founders’ bungalow in the Rockaways, covered in a custom installation of Cold Picnic’s patterned rug...."

"I called free speechies first."

"I never claimed to be Jewish. I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was 'Jew-ish.'”

Said George Santos, quoted in "Liar Rep.-elect George Santos admits fabricating key details of his bio" (NY Post).

He also "confessed he had 'never worked directly' for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, chalking that fib up to a 'poor choice of words.'"

Also: "I didn’t graduate from any institution of higher learning. I’m embarrassed and sorry for having embellished my resume. I own up to that … We do stupid things in life."

He's also "very much gay" and "OK with my sexuality," though he "dated women in the past" — "I married a woman. It’s personal stuff.... People change. I’m one of those people who change."

Well, what are you going to do? The time to catch a politician lying is before the election. What if you could undo elections because the winner lied? We couldn't have a democracy. You have to accept that when it's over it's over. There are procedures for challenging the vote itself, and when those procedures run out, it's time to move on. But there's no post-election procedure for reexamining whether the candidate deserved your vote. All you can do is make fun of this guy... and maybe resolve to do better research on candidates in the future.

"With their thin majority, House Republican leaders will have little room to distance themselves from any of their members, giving lawmakers with incendiary views outsize influence..."

"... said Russell Riley, a presidential historian at the University of Virginia Miller Center. 'Every time some outrage erupts from that body, it will remind the American people of Donald Trump and that this is still the party of Donald Trump,' Riley said. 'The noisy and unruly behavior in the House will be perpetual reminders that the party prefers to make noise rather than govern.'"

Writes Toluse Olorunnipa, in "Hitting back at Trump, Biden gears up for more clashes with GOPAs Biden prepares his reelection bid, some Democrats see an advantage in highlighting volatile remarks by Republicans" (WaPo).

"In the weeks since the election... the White House’s eagerness to call out antidemocratic messages has intensified. It has been fueled in part by the tone and agenda of the newly empowered House Republicans, who have announced plans for actions such as impeaching Biden’s Cabinet members, investigating his son Hunter, blocking spending bills and holding up debt limit increases, all of which the president’s team contends will be unpopular with centrist voters. White House officials deny this is an electoral strategy, saying Biden is doing more naming and shaming in part because there has been a troubling increase in harmful and shameful rhetoric." 

Some rhetoric is harmful and shameful, and some rhetoric is utterly harmless, because it's purely decorative, and no one seriously considers believing it or because there's nothing, really, to believe given some phrase like "in part" that drains all meaning from it — e.g., "Biden is doing more naming and shaming in part because there has been a troubling increase in harmful and shameful rhetoric."

AND: If X does "more naming and shaming" because of the "increase in harmful and shameful rhetoric" isn't that a self-perpetuating dynamic? I'm visualizing a hamster wheel. Must run. Cannot stop. Naming and shaming. Naming and shaming....

"Several years ago, an optometrist ambushed me during a routine exam: 'Do you know you have retinitis pigmentosa?'"

"... I had no idea what she was talking about. She followed with another question: 'Are you night blind?' Indeed, I was. I’ve never been able to see in the dark; it’d been something of a running joke among family and friends since I was a kid. 'Clumsy,' we called it.... I had a progressive eye disease that eventually results in blindness. There’s no cure."

Writes Jon Gingerich in "How I wrote my first novel while going blind – and kept it a secret" (The Guardian).

"I sold my novel last year. In a decision that was fully on-brand, I didn’t tell my publisher I’d lost my vision.... [M]y worst days are the ones when I realize I’m left to work with pieces of myself, that I’ve become unmoored from the human experience in some fundamental way. But... [w]e are a collection of small losses, and each of them have a distinct weight. We have no idea what others are walking around with, the weight they’re carrying on their shoulders.... [C]ommitting to the cane was the most terrifying development yet, because it meant my secret was out.... I felt relief that no one batted an eye. Why would they, anyway?"

"We have no idea what others are walking around with"... unless they use a cane or its equivalent (and we, ourselves, have the vision to see it).

December 26, 2022

17° today — finally, warm enough to go outside.

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We were snow-shoeing in the woods, which worked not merely for our own health and pleasure, but also served as trail maintenance.

Write about anything you want in the comments.

"In the early to mid-2010s, when high schoolers today were in elementary school, many schools practiced — and still practice — 'balanced literacy'..."

"... which focuses on fostering a love of books and storytelling. Instruction may include some phonics, but also other strategies, like prompting children to use context clues — such as pictures — to guess words, a technique that has been heavily criticized for turning children away from the letters themselves. For at least part of the time, Memphis was using a popular curriculum called Journeys. Its publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, described it in a statement as a comprehensive program 'grounded in research and backed by scientific evidence,' with daily, systematic instruction on literacy skills, including phonics, and 'a variety of resources to support teachers.' But Mark Seidenberg, a cognitive scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has studied reading, described the program as 'the legacy of balanced literacy' because it offers teachers many options, some more effective than others. 'There are things in there that would allow teachers to teach many different ways — and that is the problem,' he said."

From "In Memphis, the Phonics Movement Comes to High School/Literacy lessons are embedded in every academic class. Even in biology" (NYT)."

"Shakes... cute! That's a young one."

Just now, at Meadhouse.

How is it possible to be a "lookalike" with a person who is "unrecognizable"?

I'm trying to read "Simon Cowell, 63, continues to look unrecognisable with his radically different facial features as he attends a Christmas Carol event with lookalike son Eric and fiancĂ©e Lauren Silverman" — in The Daily Mail.

"She had no map, compass, or matches. No flashlight or headlamp, though her parents said she used her phone as a light...."

"[S]he had granola bars, a banana and water that likely froze very early on.... She wore long underwear but only light pants and a jacket. She had heated gloves and a neck warmer but no hat. Her shoes were for trail running.... She had planned to hike alone for three days, have her mother join her on the Wednesday and celebrate [climbing all 48 peaks] with a dinner at the grand Mount Washington Hotel. She told her mom she had checked the weather, as did her mother, but only saw the forecast for where they were staying in Franconia. 'It was cold, but ... I didn't know anything about the mountains or anything else. It did not look bad,' [the mother] said. The pair shopped for food that afternoon, and Emily did some school work before setting an alarm for 4am. The following morning her mother dropped her off at a trailhead at 4:30am, with plans to pick her up eight hours later....."

From the Daily Mail article, "Grieving doctor couple's daughter, 19, died on winter hike through snowy New Hampshire after setting out in thin clothing and sneakers with just granola bars and water for sustenance/Emily Sotelo, 19, was found dead on a New Hampshire mountain trail on what would have been her 20th birthday... Her goal was to summit all 48 peaks over 4,000 feet by her 20th birthday...."

"Mr. Zhang, 56, said he lost $70,000 gambling last year, prompting him to play more in the hopes of winning it back."

"He immigrated six years ago from Beijing, where he worked as a calligraphy teacher, but is now unemployed, he said. He rides the bus [to the casino] weekly from his home in south Brooklyn to play baccarat and other games. He pulled out his platinum Resorts World card, saying he was prepared to stop gambling once he played enough to obtain a black card, the highest status. 'If only I could win a little bit every time I came,' Mr. Zhang said in Mandarin. 'How great would that be?'"

From "Casinos Target a Vulnerable Clientele: Older Asian Gamblers/The industry’s efforts to lure Asian customers will be a significant factor looming over the upcoming application process for new casino licenses in New York" (NYT).

The article isn't entirely about the vulnerability of "older Asian gamblers" to gambling problems. Some of them are riding the bus to socialize with other people who speak their language, and others make money by selling the $45 gambling voucher they receive for taking the $20 bus ride.

"Since I have to wrap up soon, do you have any strategies for ending an interview well?"

Michael Schulman asks Dick Cavett at the end of "Dick Cavett Takes a Few Questions The legendary television host talks about his friendships with Muhammad Ali and Groucho Marx, interviewing Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis, and finding a new audience on YouTube" (The New Yorker). 

Cavett answers:

Often I would do it very badly. I would rush it, hadn’t saved enough time. I almost called a guest by the wrong name but caught it, thank God, or whatever gods may be. What’s that from? “I thank whatever gods may be.” It’s a poem that’s often recommended as good religious thinking. “I thank whatever gods may be for my indomitable soul”? Hmm.

"[T]he White House Office of Explaining What the President Actually Meant explained that the president wasn’t suggesting that we were facing Armageddon per se..."

"... but was merely, as is his wont, emitting words, one of which happened to be 'Armageddon,' and everybody should just calm down."

Dave Barry emits some words in "Dave Barry’s 2022 Year in Review" (WaPo).

"An Evocative Year in New Yorker Illustrations/A collection of some of the most striking images of 2022."

It's quite a collection.

I don't know if you can see it without a subscription, but this is one magazine clearly worth subscribing to. I only have 4 magazine subscriptions, and if I could only have one, this would be it. The others? New York Magazine, New York Review of Books, and Vanity Fair. I subscribed to Vanity Fair for a particular article and don't know if I'll renew my subscription. It needs to measure up. The other 2 have served my purposes well enough — that is, I have access to many things that turn out to be bloggable. But The New Yorker stands alone. Much of it annoys me, but often in a way that proves bloggable. In any case, the illustrations really are phenomenal, and seeing so many collected on one webpage makes an immense impression.

"Elena Xausa, who was sought after by top publications and companies for her vibrant and whimsical illustrations that evoked joie de vivre even among..."

"... the most seemingly everyday subjects, died on Nov. 27 at her home in Marostica, Italy. She was 38.... The cause was appendiceal cancer."

From "Elena Xausa, Illustrator With a Whimsical Style, Dies at 38/Her brightly colored work, often serving as visual metaphors, was sought after worldwide by major periodicals and advertisers like Apple and Nike" (NYT).

Here is the beautiful tribute from her husband, Lorenzo Fonda, on Instagram.

And here is her webpage, brimming with lively artwork.

December 25, 2022

Christmas night...

... and you can talk about whatever you want.

"Several busloads of migrants were dropped off in front of Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence in Washington, DC, on Christmas Eve in 18 degree weather...."

"A CNN team saw migrants being dropped off, with some migrants wearing only T-shirts in the freezing weather. They were given blankets and put on another bus that went to a local church.... It’s not clear who is responsible for sending the migrants to the Naval Observatory, where the vice president’s residence is located, though CNN reported earlier this year that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had sent buses of migrants north, including to a location outside Harris’ home."

CNN reports.

***

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."

***

I wonder, if Kamala Harris wanted to seize this occasion and make an impressive showing for herself, what could she do? I understand the response that is to do nothing and to deny her adversaries the power to require that she react to a circumstance that they created. But what if she wanted to say or do something... on Christmas? Kamala Harris is a Christian — a Baptist.

The Oxford English Dictionary word of the day is "Christmas, v." — "Christmas," the verb

It means "To celebrate Christmas; to spend the Christmas period in a particular place." That's intransitive. You can also use it as a transitive verb — meaning "To adorn (something, esp. a building or room) with Christmas decorations" — but that is deemed colloquial, so save that for your more relaxed occasions, such as after people have Christmassed quite a bit, perhaps with a can of pop and some Christian Brothers brandy.

Here are some historical examples of  Christmas — the verb — collected by the OED:

1884 Daily News 16 Feb. 5/3 Two policemen who had too obviously been ‘Christmassing.’

1967 ‘A. Burgess’ in Hudson Rev. 20 99 I Christmassed in the country. 

Those are the intransitive kind. I like this anachronistic appearance of the colloquial transitive verb:

1966 J. Goldman Lion in Winter i. ii. 17 Eleanor. (Moving to the holly boughs.) Come on; let's finish Christmassing the place.

Anachronistic, in that the character, Eleanor of Aquitaine, lived from 1122 to 1204. But who knows how Eleanor talked? Maybe the author wrote the line that way to sound archaic to the people of 1966.

That's her tomb, you may realize. Do you believe in reading after death? If there is reading after death, what books do you think will be available?

I've been criticized for starting the day saying "Merry Christmas, everyone" because what about the way not everybody is Christian?

I've got to admit, the criticism didn't occur to me. Anyway... 

 

I hope that gives you a thing or 2 to think about, and really: The day is Christmas, and merriness can be wished for all. Or isn't that insensitive too?

I'm on record not being able to detect sarcasm in Matt Yglesias, so I'll just give you this plain:

Joe Pera's update from Buffalo.

@joepera Update from Buffalo #buffalo #joshallen ♬ original sound - Joe Pera

"When you operate, especially if the operation is dangerous, you live very intensely. You live entirely in the present..."

"... and the world outside the operating theatre simply disappears. You are never bored. You cannot afford to make any mistakes. And making a mistake with your hands – your instruments slipping, for instance, or your hands shaking – is incredibly rare.... Working on the doll’s house in my workshop is a very different experience. My mind wanders and I often struggle against boredom, especially if the work is very repetitive, such as making multiple bannisters for a miniature staircase. I often get things wrong and have to saw up a new piece of wood and, cursing myself furiously, start all over again – not a luxury you have when operating."

Writes Henry Marsh in "After a long career in brain surgery, I’m trying my hand at making doll’s houses/To my surprise I don’t miss neurosurgery now I’ve retired, but still find joy in making things for my grandchildren" (The Guardian).

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Did you travel plans work out okay? Are you snuggled up at home? Have you been up for hours... waiting for the others to get up and do Christmas... or just hanging out as you would on any other day?

December 24, 2022

Christmas Eve...

 ... keep warm. Don't slip on the ice. Feel free to use this space to talk about anything that catches your fancy.

"And as the Christmas season comes and goes over the next eight or nine days, composting down into a farty mulch of colourless, stodge-based meals..."

"... eaten at weird times, afternoon sleeps in hot telly rooms, and leftovers swallowed between slices of white bread with a large glass of Christmas table 'mine sweep' (three parts prosecco to one part port, one part advocaat and two parts 'grandma spat that coffee out because she thought it was tea'), we will be seeing an awful lot... [about] Detox January, New Year/New You, and all that tired old annual post-party guff."

Writes Giles Coren in "Get fit next year with the Benny Hill Sprint/Forget the Body Coach, it’s all about the silly walk — or another of these fun-packed workouts from our slapstick greats" (London Times).

1. He's reacting to a Times article called "A ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’ workout could burn 100 calories in minutes" ("Adopting a John Cleese-style silly walk for 11 minutes a day could, a study suggests, be the key to achieving the amount of vigorous physical activity recommended for most adults by the NHS.")

2. I'm mostly blogging this because I was intrigued by the word "stodge." I know "stodgy," but what's a "stodge-based meal"? The OED says "stodge" is colloquial and means "Food of a semi-solid consistency, esp. stiff farinaceous food; spec. heavy and usually fattening food (often with little nutritional value)." I think in America, we'd say "glop."

3. The adjective "stodgy," when used to mean "Dull, heavy; wanting in gaiety or brightness," is figurative. The original meaning was to describe the kind of food that would be called "stodge." The oldest recorded example of the figurative use of "stodgy" is  from Laura Troubridge, "Life amongst Troubridges" (1874): "We had meant to play Rats and Ferrets, but we had to begin a stodgy game of Old Maid."

4. Now, the most useful thing I have to offer you is that "stodge" can be used figuratively, to refer to things that are stodgy — "stodgy notions" (as the OED puts it). Instead of saying, "Your ideas are so stodgy!" for example, you can say, "Spare me this stodge!" 

5. What are you planning to eat on Christmas and through New Year's — stodge?

Upstairs to downstairs texting at Meadhouse.

 

I need to contextualize that last remark. It all goes back to something I reminisced about and blogged in 2014:

The phrase "jacking up" normally goes with opposition to taxes, so it's a humorous flip to use it when you're actually in favor of more taxes. I'll never forget the time, back in 2010, when we watched the Obama rally from the TV set up on the Union Terrace, in a big enthusiastic crowd of mostly students. I wished I'd caught this one guy on video. Upon some mention of taxes, he stood up facing the crowd and yelled "Taxes?! I say jack 'em up!!!" He did this with a big, clownish, full-body gesture that ended with arms aloft and thumbs up. Meade and I have been imitating that guy for years. For the drunk-on-beer/drunk-on-Obama Terrace crowd, maybe it all seemed like a dream or a joke. Need money? Get money! Jack 'em up!

"Perhaps no single male fashion accessory provokes as much emotion as the bow tie."

"People who wear them fall in and out of love with them or bear them as a burden for life. People who have to look at them can find them irritating or worse. The presence of a bow tie always seems to draw comment and the phrase 'bow tie-wearing' in certain contexts can sound like a slur.... To its devotees the bow tie suggests iconoclasm of an Old World sort, a fusty adherence to a contrarian point of view. The bow tie hints at intellectualism, real or feigned, and sometimes suggests technical acumen, perhaps because it is so hard to tie. Bow ties are worn by magicians, country doctors, lawyers and professors and by people hoping to look like the above. But perhaps most of all, wearing a bow tie is a way of broadcasting an aggressive lack of concern for what other people think.... Another class of bow-tied men is comprised of comedians who wear them ironically, like Mark Russell [and] Pee-wee Herman.... [George] Will said he started wearing a bow tie in the 1960's as a statement 'when things started going crazy.'..."

From a 2005 NYT article by Warren St. John: "A Red Flag That Comes in Many Colors."

"If I go looking for something I usually don’t find it. In fact, I never find it. I walk into things intuitively when I’m most likely not looking for anything...."

"Obscure artists, obscure songs. There’s a song by Jimmy Webb that Frank Sinatra recorded called, 'Whatever Happened to Christmas,' I think he recorded it in the 60s, but I just discovered it...."

Said Bob Dylan, recently.

 

Questions for discussion:

1. What's the use of looking for something? You'll have better luck walking intuitively while not actually looking. That is, don't look where you're going. That's exactly what doesn't work.

2. Frank Sinatra is hardly an "obscure artist," but there are many recordings of Frank Sinatra singing an obscure song. What's your favorite obscure Frank Sinatra song?

3. Even Jimmy Webb is not obscure, but how many songs has he written, and what percentage of them are non-obscure? But don't talk about them. Talk about a Jimmy Webb obscurity.

4. Whatever happened to Christmas? Remember how love was all around? Whatever happened to you?

5. What have you found, Bob Dylan style, by walking into it intuitively? 

"Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona agreed on Wednesday to tear down a makeshift border wall built out of old shipping containers..."

"... ending a divisive border security effort that sparked protests and legal challenges. The agreement came as part of a lawsuit filed last week by the Biden administration... [arguing] that Mr. Ducey’s wall was constructed illegally on federal land... The project, funded by the Republican-controlled State Legislature, has cost at least $82 million...."

The NYT reports.

But that's not a child.

"Hiring Mr. Syed at this point is, at best, premature and I am deeply concerned that Georgetown is placing the value of celebrity over the Jesuit values that made the school what it is today."

Said Steve Kelly, lawyer for the family of the murdered teenager Hae Min Lee, quoted in "Georgetown hires Adnan Syed after court tossed his murder conviction/Prosecutors have acknowledged Syed, subject of the true-crime ‘Serial’ podcast, was wrongly convicted" (WaPo).
Kelly said in a statement that he applauded Syed’s efforts to improve himself by getting a degree, but as a Georgetown graduate himself he was also “appalled that Mr. Syed has been deemed an ‘exoneree’ based on a deeply flawed process in which his victim’s family had no voice and at which no evidence of actual innocence was presented.”

December 23, 2022

It's Christmas Eve eve...

 ... after another day of staying inside out of the cold and wind. 

So, again, no photo. Tomorrow, we're told, it will be "much warmer," but that means only that it will go up to 8° (which will, they say, feel like -11). But the days are getting longer. Today was 6 seconds longer.

All of this is just to say: Write about anything you want in the comments.

"There seems to be genuine confusion over what a well-meaning person can say without offending someone."

"According to Pew, a majority of Americans believe there isn’t any agreement on what language is considered sexist or racist of late.... You might find yourself wondering: Can I use that word? Am I not supposed to say that anymore?... [W]e enlisted the help of the polling firm Morning Consult to survey a representative sample of over 4,000 Americans...."

This is a very useful and entertaining exploration by the New York Times. Let me just highlight — uplift and highlight — a few things that stood out for us here at Meadhouse: 

First, the overview:

"In the weeks while the House select committee to investigate the insurrection at the Capitol was finishing its report, Donald Trump, the focus of its inquiry, betrayed no sense of alarm or self-awareness...."

So begins "The Devastating New History of the January 6th Insurrection/The House report describes both a catastrophe and a way forward" by David Remnick, in The New Yorker.

I'm not reading this article. (It would take a lot to get me to read a January 6th article at this point.) I just thought that was a very funny sentence.

What would it take for Donald Trump to "betray" a "sense" of "alarm" or "self-awareness"? Why doesn't David Remnick betray a sense of alarm or self-awareness? Are we, generally, supposed to betray a sense of alarm or self-awareness? Is that something good people do? I guess it's something guilty people do, if they're good people who are not good at being guilty.

But it's just hilarious to imagine a Donald Trump who: 1. Feels that he is guilty and 2. Cannot cover up his feeling. How would we even begin to recognize such a creature to be Donald Trump?

I'm considering becoming the blogger who finds articles that I refuse to read, then reading just the first sentence, and blogging that and only that.

"It is not clear what is more chilling: the menacing role played by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Twitter’s censorship program..."

"... or its mendacious response to the disclosure of that role. This week saw another FBI 'nothing-to-see-here' statement to the release of files detailing how it actively sought to suppress the Hunter Biden story before the 2020 election, gave millions to Twitter, and targeted even satire or tiny posts that did not conform with its guidelines. The releases document what some of us have long alleged: a system of censorship by surrogate or proxy. The FBI has largely shrugged and said that there is nothing concerning about over 80 agents working on the censoring of posters, including many American citizens...."

Writes Jonathan Turley.

"'The men and women of the FBI work every day to protect the American public. It is unfortunate that conspiracy theorists and others are feeding the American public misinformation with the sole purpose of attempting to discredit the agency.' What is striking about this statement is that the FBI is now adopting the language of pundits on the left that any objections to its role in censorship is a 'conspiracy theory.' Rather than acknowledge the concerns and pledge to work with Congress to guarantee transparency, it is attacking free speech advocates who are raising the concern that Twitter had become an agent of the government in censorship."

"Sitting across from [Kamala] Harris had me thinking about how I’ve devoted a good deal of my life to analyzing how the media, and Americans more generally, treat powerful women."

Writes Molly Jong-Fast in a Vanity Fair piece with a long title: "KAMALA HARRIS, A VERY TURBULENT YEAR IN AMERICA, AND THE CHALLENGE OF BEING FIRST/In an interview with Vanity Fair, the vice president discusses protecting abortion rights post-Roe and tackling immigration, along with how, as a woman of several firsts—from DA to AG to VP—she hopes to 'create a path and widen the path for others.'"  

It sounds as though, in the middle of the interview, she's ransacking her own mental archive in search of any substance to use in this big Vanity Fair piece she's supposed to write.

And here is the most powerful woman—quite literally one heartbeat away from the presidency....

Oh! The despair in those words! Here you are, given special access, and you don't just trot out the old clichĂ© — "one heartbeat away from the presidency" — you pad it with the ludicrous amplifier "quite literally." I am quite literally rolling on the floor laughing my ass off.

At this point, I am sure Jong-Fast found absolutely nothing of interest in this interview — nothing, that is, that she wanted to use.

"Kareem Rahma, a New York–based comedian, hops in the back of a cab with two camerapersons.... 'Take me to your favorite place'..."

"... Rahma instructs the man behind the wheel as a percussive score strikes up, 'and keep the meter running.'... As they break bread, [Kareem] Rahma peppers the cabbies with questions about how long they’ve been driving and where they’re from... Rahma, who has a thick mustache, rogue curls, and a Nolita Dirtbag–lite aesthetic, is always curious, never pretentious, and often funny. At the end of each episode, he takes out a wad of cash and doles out hundreds of dollars to each driver—a welcome sight to taxi drivers after the siege of Uber and Lyft—topped off with a generous tip. ... Keep the Meter Running... quickly became one of my favorite new shows of 2022."

Vanity Fair shares. 

Feel free to watch "Keep the Meter Running" — but I'm warning you: It's on TikTok!

December 22, 2022

At the Ice Cold Café...

 ... you can curl up and chat all night.

"Bankman-Fried to be released on $250 million bond, live with parents."

WaPo reports. 

Bankman-Fried’s appearance comes as two of his closest former colleagues pleaded guilty to criminal fraud charges. The two associates — Caroline Ellison, the former chief executive of Alameda Research, Bankman-Fried’s hedge fund, and Gary Wang, co-founder of FTX and its former chief technology officer — are cooperating with federal prosecutors, a development that spells deepening legal peril for Bankman-Fried....

Ellison, who was at times romantically linked to Bankman-Fried, pleaded guilty to seven counts that mirror a significant portion of Bankman-Fried’s indictment....

"'I don’t see anything while he’s writing,' Gottlieb says. If he has any idea when the book will issue from Caro’s Smith Corona..."

"... he isn’t saying. (Gottlieb himself uses a Mac.) Turn Every Page plays up the drama of the editing process, emphasizing the (offscreen) sparring between the two men on subjects great and small. (There were, apparently, many blowups about punctuation, most especially the semi-colon: Caro for, Gottlieb against.) According to Gottlieb, these contretemps barely count. 'I would say if there were any real disagreements between us,' he says genteelly, though I doubt he would tell me or anyone. The men did allow Lizzie to film them working together side by side — but only with the sound off. This hands-on, cheek-by-jowl editing, once rare, is now basically extinct. 'Publishing has grown more and more corporate,' he says. 'I think it’s all changing. Luckily, I don’t have to deal with any of that.'"

From "Bob Gottlieb Is the Last of the Publishing Giants/The 91-year-old editor waits for his 87-year-old star writer, Robert Caro, to turn in his book" (NY Magazine).

"It’s worth thinking about what the world would look like today if Mr. Putin had crushed Kyiv within days..."

"... as he and U.S. intelligence services expected. Russian forces would now control nearly all of Ukraine and man the border of Poland and other frontline NATO states. If an insurgency broke out in Ukraine, Mr. Putin would be blaming those countries for aiding the 'terrorists,' whether they did or not, and threatening retaliation. Moldova would have been next to fall to Russia, and one or more of the Baltic states would be in his sites [sic]. NATO would be divided over how to respond for fear of Mr. Putin’s wrath.... The cost of shoring up NATO, with Russian tanks on its doorstep, would arguably have been even greater in the long run. U.S. credibility also would have suffered another blow, compounding the damage from the Afghanistan retreat...."

Writes The Editorial Board of The Wall Street Journal.

"Should Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, 68 and 62, respectively, do what Ginsburg would not?"

Asks Ian Millhiser in "Sotomayor and Kagan need to think about retiring/The US Senate is a fundamentally broken institution. Democratic judges need to account for that in their retirement decisions" (Vox). 

Is this a ludicrous suggestion? Millhiser has no news of ill health from either Justice (though "Sotomayor has diabetes"). His main worry seems to be that the Democrats are going to lose power — and for a long time. But at least they have the Senate and the presidency for these next 2 years. They could slot in 2 reliable liberal Justices — young Justices, 20 years younger than Sotomayor and Kagan. So give them the chance to do it while they can. That's my paraphrase of Millhiser's position. 

Millhiser has a dark view of the Democrats' chance in 2024:

"The more I push[ed] for policy change, the more resistant the leadership became. It was a highly macro-aggressive environment."

"I couldn’t take the necessary steps that were needed to lay the groundwork for innovative equity work in the department.... It’s been fairly traumatic for me.... It created such a hostile work environment for me that I literally could not return to the office... I was hospitalized because of just how stressful the work environment became and I had little support...." 

Said Jordan “JT” Turner, who resigned from his position as Princeton's first Associate Director of Athletics for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), quoted in "3 Princeton DEI staff members resign, alleging lack of support" (The Daily Princetonian).

"[W]omen have the bad habit, now and then, of falling into a well, of letting themselves be gripped by a terrible melancholy..."

"... and drown in it, and then floundering to get back to the surface—this is the real trouble with women. Women are often embarrassed that they have this problem and pretend they have no cares at all and are free and full of energy, and they walk with bold steps down the street with large hats and beautiful dresses and painted lips and a contemptuous and strong-willed air about them...."

Wrote Natalia Ginzburg in 1948, quoted in a new New York Review of Books piece, "On Women: An Exchange Natalia Ginzburg and Alba de CĂ©spedes, introduction by Ann Goldstein."

"In blunt terms, Mr. Zelensky pleaded for more military assistance from the lawmakers, who are poised to approve $45 billion in additional aid by the end of the week..."

"... bringing the total over a year to nearly $100 billion. His message: Your support has kept President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia from overrunning our country. Now keep it coming. 'We have artillery, yes, thank you,' he said. 'We have it. Is it enough? Honestly, not really.' The money, he added, was not charity. 'It’s an investment,' he said. Mr. Zelensky’s visit to Washington — kept secret until the eve of his arrival for security reasons — was a dramatic show of confidence by Ukraine’s leader, who had not left his country since Mr. Putin began his assault 300 days ago."

From "U.S. Aid Is ‘Not Charity,’ Zelensky Tells Congress as a Lengthy War Looms/President Volodymyr Zelensky described military assistance for Ukraine as an investment in global security and democracy in the face of Russian aggression" (NYT).

There were "two hours of closed-door meetings with President Biden at the White House, where both men reaffirmed their determination to defend Ukraine against Russian forces."

"Standing side by side in the East Room with Ukraine’s flag hanging next to gleaming Christmas decorations...."

“So there can’t be any just peace in the war that was imposed on us,” [Zelensky said].

Mr. Biden pledged a united front with Mr. Zelensky, promising that “we will stay with you for as long as it takes.”

So we are committed to an endless war... with Russia?! 

December 21, 2022

At the Wednesday Night Café...

 ... you can talk your way through the storm.

Here in Madison the winter storm warning says we're getting snow through the night, with wind "on the lighter side overnight, but... quickly ramp[ing] up on Thursday behind a cold front with gusts of 40 to 50 mph Thursday night and Friday. Wind chills will plummet on Thursday, dropping to 25 to 35 below zero for late Thursday afternoon through Friday night."

All right then. We will snuggle up inside.

"It is unclear how meaningful stepping down as chief executive would be. The billionaire owns Twitter... and will remain its proprietor."

"On Sunday, he tweeted that he had no successor and suggested that there were no qualified candidates to lead Twitter. 'No one who wants the job can actually keep Twitter alive,' he posted. As soon as Mr. Musk took ownership of Twitter on Oct. 27, he fired its top executives. Other senior leaders have since been fired or resigned, leaving the executive suite vacant.... [Musk] has borrowed employees from his other companies, including Tesla and the Boring Company, a tunneling start-up, to join him.... Mr. Musk has also relied on Tesla and SpaceX employees to deal with technical matters, as layoffs and resignations have decimated Twitter’s engineering ranks.... Mr. Musk, who was in Qatar for the World Cup final this weekend with Jared Kushner, is also seeking new investment in Twitter.... On Friday night, the company began another round of layoffs.... Twitter, which had about 7,500 employees when Mr. Musk took over, has lost roughly 70 percent through layoffs, firings and resignations. The Information earlier reported the most recent round of cuts."

From "Elon Musk Says He Will Resign as Twitter C.E.O./When He Finds Successor Mr. Musk, who asked his Twitter followers on Sunday if he should step down as head of the service, will remain the company’s owner" (NYT).

It's such an ordeal to feel better in the style of Joe Rogan.

Did you feel it?

 

ADDED: Thanks to everyone in the comments who let me know I was displaying the 2024 solstice info. I've swapped in the right image. I don't think you could feel last night's event any more than you could feel the event that's 2 years in the future, but I'm not sorry I asked "Did you feel it?"

PLUS: It's still in the future. I'm only now seeing the "PM." For all my tracking of the sun and frequent thinking about the darkest day, I don't understand the concept that the solstice is at a particular minute. And why is it in the afternoon? I'd never noticed until now.

Biden called Trump "very gracious and generous" and — shocked by his own generosity? — changed it to "Shockingly gracious."

I'm reading the Politico report on a new book about Biden, "The Fight of His Life" (by Chris Whipple).

DONALD TRUMP followed a tradition carried out by several of his predecessors and wrote Biden a letter before leaving the Oval Office. Biden’s reaction? “That was very gracious and generous…Shockingly gracious.”

Any graciousness is shocking these days. 

Biden caught himself uttering a bit of graciousness about Trump — calling him "very gracious and generous" — but he couldn't let it stand. It required immediate poisoning. It had to become an occasion for commentary on how Trump is generally to be considered a man incapable of graciousness and generosity. Trump, we all must know, is, overall, a boorish lout.

That perfectly kind letter, following the standard etiquette, had to be repurposed as an occasion for comment on how awful and abnormal Trump is on seemingly every other occasion.

What was more shocking — that Trump left an appropriate and traditional letter or that Biden uttered a simple compliment acknowledging Trump's act? What's not shocking at all is that Biden immediately and impulsively tainted his own compliment.

"In the first months of his presidency, JOE BIDEN vented his frustration about Vice President KAMALA HARRIS, telling a friend that she was 'a work in progress.'"

Politico reports on what's in a new book ("The Fight of His Life," by Chris Whipple). 

[W]ord got back to [Biden] that second gentleman DOUGLAS EMHOFF had been complaining about Harris’ policy portfolio — which her allies felt was hurting her politically....

“[Biden] hadn’t asked Harris to do anything he hadn’t done as vice president — and she’d begged him for the voting rights assignment.”...

Well, why wasn't Harris given what she wanted? Why didn't they try to help her build her reputation? If they thought she was a "work in progress," why didn't they help her progress? Did Biden make her Vice President to impede her progress? 

December 20, 2022

Midafternoon — with woods, snow, and bald eagle.

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"In dreams (Coleridge writes), images take the shape of the effects we believe they cause."

"We are not terrified because some sphinx is threatening us but rather dream of a sphinx in order to explain the terror we are feeling. If this is the case, how can a simple account of such imaginings communicate the dread and the thrills, the adventure, anxieties, and joys conjured by last night's dream? I am going to attempt to do this all the same.... It took place in the Humanities Building, at dusk.... We were electing people to committees... Suddenly we were assaulted by the racket of a street band or a demonstration.... A voice cried: 'Here they come!' then: 'It's the Gods!'..."

Wrote Jorge Luis Borges, in "Ragnarok."

I'm reading that this morning because it's in an Ask Metafilter discussion about something that happened to me last night: dreaming that you are very sleepy, struggling with sleepiness within the story that is the dream.

I'm blogging it because I find it very cool when a subject recurs within a blogging session, and I had already blogged about Coleridge this morning.

"On Christmas Day in 2010, a short, bespectacled 27-year-old Chinese programmer named Zhang Yiming logged onto Douban, a Chinese hybrid of Rotten Tomatoes and Goodreads..."

"... to share his thoughts on a movie he had just watched. Zhang used his Douban account as a chronicle of his personal development, recording the books he wanted to read ('What Would Google Do?' 'Catch-22' and 'The Road to Serfdom') and the movies he’d seen ('The Departed,' 'Good Will Hunting,' 'Inception'). The movie Zhang watched that Christmas was 'The Social Network.' The movie was of particular interest to Zhang.... Born in 1983 as the only son of a librarian and a nurse, Zhang came of age in a China flush with reform and newfound connections to the West.... Zhang loved the freedom that technology offered and displayed a fondness for the West, politically as well as culturally. In 2009, when Chinese authorities blocked access to several websites, he took to his personal blog to voice his disapproval, according to a Wall Street Journal profile. 'Go out and wear a T-shirt supporting Google,' he wrote. 'If you block the internet, I’ll write what I want to say on my clothes.'..."

Much more about Zhang and the app he created in "How TikTok Became a Diplomatic Crisis/A Chinese app conquered the planet — and now the U.S. is threatening to shut it down. Can the world’s biggest virality machine survive?" (NYT). 

"Sex crimes differ from other crimes both in how they happen and in what it takes to prove them."

"Often, you don’t have witnesses to a crime committed behind closed doors, and sometimes in the context of an intimate relationship. But what you may have are other victims, who can echo and corroborate a victim’s account of violence. This is critical because, even today, jurors come to court steeped in sexist biases — for example, that 'real' rape victims fight back physically against their attackers and report sex crimes immediately. These cultural prejudices cast doubt on the individual accuser. A group of accusers is harder to dismiss.... The central insight of the #MeToo movement has been described as 'the power of numbers across time' — in other words, the strength of a chain connecting one victim’s experience to another’s."

From "Weinstein’s Prosecutors Brought His Past Into the Courtroom. Good" by Tali Farhadian Weinstein, a former federal and state prosecutor in New York, and Jane Manning, director of the Women’s Equal Justice Project and former sex crimes prosecutor.(NYT).

"'If equal affection cannot be,' W.H. Auden wrote, 'let the more loving one be me.'"

"In the romantic quest to find a person with whom to share a life, though, we really do seek someone who will fully reciprocate our feelings. We’re warned, accordingly, not to press ourselves on someone who, in the old formula, is 'just not that into you.' Friendships are different; they come in a variety of intensities. Romantic love, if you’ll indulge the caricature, has a toggle switch; friendships come with a dimmer switch. Some friendships have the 'one soul in two bodies' intensity that Montaigne wrote about. Other friendships involve vague good will and an actual conversation every other year. You seldom see each other, but you have a blast when you do. Is there any real friendship between you two?"

So begins an answer from the NYT "ethicist," Kwame Anthony Appiah, answering a question from a person who "pretend[s] to like" someone who considers him a friend. He sees this person as unpleasant and depressed but continues to get together with him, seemingly out of pity for him. 

Here's the Montaigne essay, "Of Friendship." 

"Why the DOJ Might Have a Tough Time Proving Trump Committed 'Insurrection'/It would take a very aggressive prosecutor to take the risk involved in pursuing it.

A Slate article by Dennis Aftergut, a former federal prosecutor.