December 31, 2022

At the New Year's Eve Café...


... 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 — Pelé, a little young, at 82, Walters at 93, and the Pope at 95.

December 30, 2022

Sunrise — 7:41.


"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





"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.



"... 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 naïve 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...."


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...


... 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.


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 fiancée 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?