Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Turning outrage into sanity?

This bill seems a great idea to me -- it's a crime that a few small-minded state officials can virtually disenfranchise large swaths of the population on whim or through negligence. Here's hoping that the same energy that drove unexpectedly high turnout this fall will also create pressure to pass this one.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Failure of responsibility

A former journalist takes those colleagues to task for failing to cover climate change as the crisis it is.
In the face of this situation — as much as it pains me to say this — you are failing. Your so-called "objectivity," your bloodless impartiality, are nothing but a convenient excuse for what amounts to an inexcusable failure to tell the most urgent truth we've ever faced.
I sympathize that it's hard to create and sustain a sense of urgency -- crises like Katrina managed coverage for, what, a couple of months? -- but this is the lives of our kids, the future of our species, and time is running out. We *need* to get everybody scared and not take the focus off the issue for today's minor news; unfortunately, the business model of the press doesn't fit well with scaring and depressing everybody. Political leadership, anyone?

(via Medley)

Thursday, November 01, 2012


ack!!When I saw the Romney photos from the Red Cross, I thought about the inevitability of his emphasis on charities versus FEMA, but otherwise I sort of shrugged it off. Hearing that the entire thing was staged, and in fact wasted the time of real Red Cross personnel, rather turns my stomach. This campaign really knows no shame.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Arbitrary justice and online commerce

I do the majority of my shopping online. Thinking it's time for board games for Speck? to refill an obscure spice? track down that novel I just heard about? It all ends up on my Amazon wish-list (or directly in my Cart, waiting for critical mass), fueling a steady trickle of packages to my home.

So I can only imagine my horror if I were to wake one day to find that my account had been completely wiped from existence! I think I would collapse on the floor -- not just because of the loss of the couple of Kindle books I have, but all that history and planning in my various lists, and where else would I even get half this stuff (one painful web search at a time)?? And to think that such an account termination could happen because of a foreseeable algorithmic misfire just adds to the chill in my bones.

This seems even worse when you consider the number of other accounts that you might have linked to your Amazon account, whether you use them to fund your Kickstarter contributions or record your audiobooks. A lifetime ban could be severely crippling.

I hope Amazon sorts out the kinks in their system and remembers that users (as reviewers and customers) are what has powered their success. We might be afraid to get too reliant on a resource that can so suddenly and pointlessly be pulled out from under us!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Modern gladiators

I love football. I don't know if it's all the Thanksgiving afternoons with the family menfolk digesting turkey in front of the TV, or the effects of college football and its harmless rivalries, or the sense of a whole region rooting together for a common (pro) team, but somewhere I got the bug, really enjoy watching, and we have even gotten Speck interested in Sunday afternoon games.

But in recent years all the coverage of concussions has made me more and more uncomfortable with this pastime -- not just news of acute injuries, but recurrent patterns of low-level head trauma that add up to early Parkinson's, personality changes, and middle-age dementia (leaving their wives and girlfriends scrambling to hold things together). Many of these players are literally giving up the rest of their lives for these few years of glory (and some for pretty slim glory, as much of the damage accrues to unsung players like punt returners and linemen).

So I watch, and I cheer, but every time there's a really hard hit, or a man stays on the ground, or the replay shows that grim neck-snap, I feel my stomach turn a little, a pang of uncertainty about whether I should watch. The idea that any fans, however incensed, would actually cheer an injury leaves me totally floored. Am glad that this team-mate took his own fans (and the public) to task for that occasion, but honestly, are they meaningfully worse than those of us whose fanship supports the sport in general? I wish I felt more clean about it all.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Voters, Not Victims

GOP dinosaurI really like this campaign that MoveOn has undertaken to rebut Mitt Romney's claim that those who pay no taxes are layabouts and moochers -- it's short individual statements about how a busy and productive life can still land you in slim times. A couple of my favorites are from this grandma and this war vet and Ground Zero volunteer, but there are a lot of others if you somehow need more convincing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Poem for the day


The instructor said,

Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you---
Then, it will be true.
I wonder if it's that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:

It's not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I'm what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me---we two---you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York too.) Me---who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records---Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn't make me NOT like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white---
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That's American.
Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that's true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me---
although you're older---and white---
and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.

By Langston Hughes
(via Hoarded Ordinaries)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Jumping off the boat

It's hard not to think that Republicans are starting to worry less about Romney and more about their party's long-term prospects when you see headlines like this one. They really have picked a terrible paraody of themselves to put up for office, haven't they?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

An appropriate memorial the World Trade Center attacks is new evidence that the Bush Administration actively minimized and overlooked warnings about Al Quaeda's plans for some 6-9 months, not just that one famous memo. But, you know, Republicans are who keeps this country safe. Sigh.

(via Medley)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Quote of the day

The most civilized people are as near to barbarism as the most polished steel is to rust. Nations, like metals, have only a superficial brilliancy.
- Antoine de Rivarol,
epigrammatist (1753-1801)
(via A.W.A.D.)

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Could we get rid of austerity already?

I mean, it seems pretty obvious to me that reducing public spending just when the public most needs it will be counterproductive, but, as Atrios always says, the Very Important People see the world differently. Well, here's how it's working out: England is watching its recession lengthen, joining its austerity pals Ireland and Spain, and now Italy joins the disaster, with ripples that even Germany can no longer ignore. Wake up, before it's too late! This is the time to spend, because if nobody does, we're all going to be out of work!!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ensure *your* right to vote

hanging chads A great page, GottaVote, summarizes the requirements for voting for each state, so you can see whether you will need new ID, what documents are required, and how long you have to get things straightened out. Look it up, be sure you have what you need to have your say in November.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Our once-proud nation...

This is a sentence that we shouldn't allow to be truth:
Almost half of middle-class workers, 49 percent, will be poor or near poor in retirement, living on a food budget of about $5 a day.
Seventy-five percent have less than $30k in their retirement accounts on the day they depart -- this seems like a clear failure of the 401k model (and a clear explanation of all the elders visible in low-end service jobs). We need to get sane about this before we're right back in the postwar grandma-eats-dogfood days -- actually, I guess we are already. Shameful.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Quote of the day (political edition)

If you were to design a tailor-made plutocratic villain to run for the Presidency in the post-crisis Occupy era, you could barely do better than Mitt Romney. The guy quite literally has the very job and personality that Gordon Gekko's character was based on.
- David Atkins

New kitten!

Yes, we have gotten a new kitten. There was some advance promise to Speck that such a thing would occur this summer, and the wealth of summer kitten rescues gave us a heap of choices. (Those visits are pretty good recreation in themselves!) So here he is, Milo!

Milo's face as he sits atop Speck's rocker

He's still living in a bedroom, being sniffed (and sometimes growled at) under the door by our other cats, but we've let him out for a few supervised adventures, and we hope to be introducing him around more formally in the next couple of days. The cats are bitter, but I hope his insistent and resilient playfulness will win them over.

Milo, a vision in orange and white, sipping from his water bowl

As for us, we're pretty taken with him -- he prances up to anybody who comes into the room, looking for love and/or play, and he has slept many nights already snuggled in the curve of my neck -- and Speck is making her peace with the high energy and unpredictable pointiness of kittens (which I think are different in reality than imagination). One forgets, however, how much feist and play there are in a small kitten, and right now his energies peak around midnight, so it's not uniformly good for our sleep or toes...

Milo waits for a toy to move

Monday, July 16, 2012

This is what happens when summer eats you

That is, you end up with a giant backlog of links and no time to really make a post out of them. Or even hope that anybody will want to sort through them. But here are a bunch of things I've caught in my net over the last few months in the category of Cheerful Bits, yay!

Happy Fascinating

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Romney is a scary guy

A great video makes that argument here -- not so much that he's shown a list of scary tendencies (although I think that could be argued as well), but that he appears to be clay in the hands of his handlers, and he appears to be surrounding himself with men in the mold of Dick Cheney. Nobody wants another round of Bush/Cheney years . . .


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ze Frank says

This manic style of video may or may not be for you, but I love Ze's notion of a finishing stamp, which somehow combines the notions of self-actualization with the idea that You Have to Ship (which could itself be put better if I were less tired). Lots of good bits in that 3-minute package!

Update: man, if you're feeling a little bleak, watch this Chase the Happy video! I loves me some silly!!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Through the door at last

little photo of JossGreat GQ profile of Joss Whedon, one of TV's greatest (and most overlooked) writers of the last couple of decades. Manages to capture the whiff of martyrdom that his fans surround him with, while also noting the tragedy that his innovation and creativity have run into so many walls. Worth a read for diehard followers and the mildly curious alike, and a little poignant for fans, knowing, as the writer didn't, that The Avengers was about to meet with such explosive success. [Bonus: he's a redhead! who knew!!]

Thursday, May 10, 2012

When the personal is political

Am touched by this piece about the President's announcement yesterday. It's true that there are political arguments, and then there's the immensely personal moment of recognition, of participation in civic rituals as old as time.
There's something very deep about having your government declare you a stranger to its laws, defining your love as outside all respectable recognition. For my president to stand up and say that I should belong fully to my nation, that my wife and I should be considered as fully married as my brother and his wife—well, it reopens and washes out some very deeply incised sense of exclusion, a scar inflicted when, at age 15, I first panicked at the realization that I might be queer.
I still remember a friend's adapting the Jewish custom of spilling some wine at a wedding to the statement that their joy could never be complete as long as so many of their friends could never share the same moments in their own lives. Not soon in Pennsyltucky, maybe, but the stir is clearly rising...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Quote of the day

pebble with a spiral carved on its surfaceLet me not think of my work only as a stepping stone to something else, and if it is, let me become fascinated by the shape of the stone.
- Ze Frank *

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Yes, this

A heartfelt parental response to recent tragedies, and a reminder to everybody to make change happen where you can, in your community, in your home.

(via Medley)

Friday, March 16, 2012

The power of the 40-hour week

It's not just good for lazy people; it actually makes workplaces more productive, in every category, from manual labor to "information fields."
But the bottom line is: For the good of our bodies, our families, our communities, the profitability of American companies, and the future of the country, this insanity has to stop. Working long days and weeks has been incontrovertibly proven to be the stupidest, most expensive way there is to get work done.
Hopefully the culture can be saved from itself, at least for bottom-line reasons, if humanitarian arguments aren't enough.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Quote of the day (absurd misogynist ideas edition)

If we could harness the power of the crappy ideas coming out of the state of Arizona, we could probably power a rocket ship to the moon, where there are no Mexicans or fertile wombs and everyone can be free to be as mean a cranky asshole as they want at all times!
- Jezebel

Kickstarter backing for science?

I can't decide whether I think this is brilliant or the beginning of the end -- a Kickstarter-like method for crowd-funding small scientific projects. What appeals to the public and what needs doing are often miles apart, although, conversly, there are almost certainly a host of worthy small projects that are beneath the notice (or outside the main focuses of) larger funding institutions. This could help offset the starving of less sexy low-tech fields, and/or enable student projects and other limited endeavors. But it's hard not to picture a sort of flash-over-substance ethic too. Will be interesting to see.

Friday, March 09, 2012

The joys of Serendipity

old iPod headphones adI don't know why iTunes arranges albums by artist first name, but sometimes the results can be fun. I'm in a period of systematically listening through my library (to make some playlists, clear out some chaff, and figure out what that thing over there is) and my last session involved the series: Marilyn Manson, Mason Jennings, matt pond PA, and Miles Davis. Total hoot from beginning to end! Thanks, arbitrary ordering!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I have a blog?? Dump of recent grumps

Apparently the act of moving things into my category tab bars now substitutes for the psychic release I used to achieve through, you know, blogging. Discussion and analysis, venting, all that stuff. Now it's just a boggling heap of tabs up there leering at me. So here's everything that makes me want to scream (other than toddler willfullness, etc.), compiled from the last, um, two months:

Quote of the day, political woes edition

Oh well, you battle global economic meltdown with the corrupt idiotic elites you have...
- Atrios

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Poem of the day

If snakes were blue

If snakes were blue, it was the kind of day
That would uncoil in a luxurious ease
As each mica-bright scale exposed a flange of gold
And slowly, slowly, the golden eyes blinked.

It was the kind of day that takes forever --
As though minutes, minutes, could never be counted -- to slide
Among the clouds like pink lily-pads floating
In a crystal liquid pure enough to drink.

And there was no distinction now between
Light and shadow except the mystic and faint
Sense of adaptation of the iris,
As light diminished and the first star shone,

And the last veery, hidden in a thicket of alder,
Thought it would break its heart perhaps -- or yours.
Let it be yours, then. For such gentle breaking
In that ambiguous moment could not be

Less than a blessing, or the kind of promise
We give ourselves in childhood when first dawn
Makes curtains go gold, and all night's dreams flood back.
They had guaranteed our happiness forever.

And in a way such promises may come true
In spite of all our evil days and ways.
True, few fulfillments -- but look! In the distance lift peaks
Of glittering white above the wrath-torn land.
- Robert Penn Warren

Sunday, January 29, 2012

To Speck, within sight of 4 years old

I can't believe that it's been nine months since I sat to write one of these! The fact that I haven't found the time has to be credited, at least in part, to how fast we're running all the time to keep up with you, your energy and your ever-increasing grasp of the world. You're still at an interesting intermediate state in many ways: you use scissors like a champ now, gladly take on 100-piece puzzles, and are pround to be a user of Big Girl (fluoride-containing) toothpaste as of the last couple of weeks, but you still resist saying goodbye to your high chair or crib, show no signs of advancing toward overnight potty training, and have reverted to eating only a half-dozen favored foods (and complaining about dinners out). Still, leaps and bounds on many fronts mean you're a radically different girl than when last I wrote.

Speck on the Zoon train at 41 months

Notably over this span, you took on an assortment of behaviors that I've always associated with Kids (without really being aware of the ages at which they might predominate). We're probably 6-8 months into the world of repeated demands such as "hey! watch this!" You like making up imaginative stories, especially about a former/secret/imaginary life in varying degrees of detail (from the vague to the explicit: you lived in Greece, you had different parents, you rescued a sparrow...). You have lately become obsessed with poop jokes and all things scatological or smelly. And you can make an abstract scribble and then describe in detail the things that it shows.

Other pleasant surprises: you have moments of real snuggliness. You no longer require your PB&J cut into tiny pieces, and you sometimes even eat the crusts! (as long as they're not attached.) You worked hard for several months at swinging and jumping until you finally achieved your goal (around 42 months) of successfully navigating a set of monkey bars. Speck near Gammy's pool in water wings Around that same time you took your first true solo potty trip and also managed to get yourself dressed one morning. (Neither of these things are reliable yet, but progress!) You're not only able to spell your name, but you can write at least the first three letters -- and love to do so -- and you know your and Gammy's phone numbers by heart. You can work a computer mouse and no longer even think about doing so as you navigate games and websites. You have developed an interest in board games, which is something of a relief to your parents. And you're a complete water bug, loving to splash in Gammy's pool, and taking your first no-parent swim class at the Y.

Most striking here is your leap in social development. Not only have we seen you play with (as opposed to next to) other kids, first occasionally and now regularly, but you actually made your first real friends in the last two months -- we even swung a playground playdate with one of them. You still have a tendency to adopt little kids and look after them more than to engage real peers, but friendship is a pretty loose construct at this age, and the enthusiasms are mutual, so who cares!

reading with DadHere are a couple of things that I now recognize as toddler behavior, but might in a more naive stage of life have expected I had another 10-12 years before I'd have to master: claims that we're "ruining your life," general anti-parent acting out, and back-seat driving ("keep two hands on the wheel!")... I find that a glass of wine with dinner is a great help in such matters -- that and increased use of morning coffee appear to be your parents' adaptations to life with the challenges of 3.

Here are some distinctive new things that seem very specific to you:
  • You started to have a set of "three questions" that you wanted to ask at bedtime before the last song (what time will I get up, am I wearing a diaper, will you come if I need something) and this has evolved into a pretty long nighttime ritual, including a "sleep tight" call-and-response with whoever is putting you to bed.
  • An innocent game of feeding you macaroni (to speed dinner time) took on a life of its own as each bite had to have an entire narrative context (a bunny running away from a fox, who says, "I'll get him next time!" etc.). We repented too late.
  • Your vocabulary, grammatical structures, and use of idiom continue to be amazing to one and all. You ask the meanings of new words and often incorporate them later.
    Speck explains a map in the car
  • You are interested in maps (especially to playgrounds!), flags, and languages (esp. the bits of Spanish being introduced at school), so we're happy to see that you seem to have some concept of the greater world. However, you've taken to calling the US flag the "Philadelphia flag," so there's still a way to go! hah.
  • Your desire to read has begun to bear fruit, as you now recognize easily 100 words when you see them written, and while you still like to "fake read" books to your family, at other times you also work in the real words that you recognize, such that your takes approximate ever more closely the real story (and, in the case of Pooh stories, often make it all the way there). You've also surprised me by reading a sign or bit of chat from the online games we read together, so this may soon be another skill you apply without thinking about it (although I keep waiting for a moment of amazement when you realize that you are uncovering new content for yourself)...
So I feel that we are poised on the cusp of a whole new world -- of spending time with friends, of exploring new ideas and places through reading, of transitioning more and more into the Big Girl realms of behavior. And yet you still feel very attached to us, like having your flock around you, are in no rush to push off. We're in no rush either. Part of us looks forward to reclaiming more free time, more head space, but part of us can hardly imagine you heading off to kindergarten in another 18 months, or even graduating to the older class in your preschool (in more like 6-9 months). And I suspect that we'll miss your acute desire for our involvement in everything you think and do, however exhausting it can seem right now. But we're excited for what you're seeing and thinking, what's just ahead, and the whole crazy trip. Keep it coming!!

Speck in Christmas finery against a zebra-striped couch

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Quote of the day

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
- Anton Chekhov
(via whiskey river (riskywiver on Twitter))

Monday, January 23, 2012

Minds ranging through the universe

I went to this video to see Stephen Colbert out of character, but I stayed for the whole thing, because it's the best demonstration I've seen of Niel DeGrasse Tyson's amazing way of bringing science and its wonders to life (and one of the best discussions I've seen of the broader value of science and of encouraging intellectual curiosity in general). Heartening, and worth the hour or so of investment.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Grimly apt

Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream" speech isn't freely available in video form because of the choices of its legal owners (his family and Sony Entertainment). You'd think that they'd want everybody to watch it on MLK Day, what with the national holiday and all, but apparently keeping history alive costs $20, man.

(via Ezra Klein)

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Now THIS is how a new year should start!!

pseudocolored photo of E. coli bacteriaThe FDA is finally limiting antibiotic use in agriculture, to help forestall the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Better late than never -- the future of our species thanks you!!

(via mimi smartypants)

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Tweet of the day

Seriously, more people live in my apt complex than will vote for any candidate in the Iowa caucuses. Come here & cover our tenant meetings.
- anildash (Anil Dash)

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Wacky idea of the day

...would be Obama-Clinton for '12. Seems unlikely to me, given her previous statements that she's done running, but it would certainly give the campaign a kick in the shorts and would set the party up for 2016. Only time will tell...

(via kottke)