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Top posts in the last 50 posts

Most comments: 30

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2017-04-13 23:12:49 (30 comments; 21 reshares; 43 +1s; )Open 

United Airlines made me abandon my mobility device at the gate. Before my honeymoon.

I've been waiting to post this until I heard a response from United. But with the recent uproar over their handling of passengers, I figured it was time.

Most reshares: 21

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2017-04-13 23:12:49 (30 comments; 21 reshares; 43 +1s; )Open 

United Airlines made me abandon my mobility device at the gate. Before my honeymoon.

I've been waiting to post this until I heard a response from United. But with the recent uproar over their handling of passengers, I figured it was time.

Most plusones: 43

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2017-04-13 23:12:49 (30 comments; 21 reshares; 43 +1s; )Open 

United Airlines made me abandon my mobility device at the gate. Before my honeymoon.

I've been waiting to post this until I heard a response from United. But with the recent uproar over their handling of passengers, I figured it was time.

Latest 50 posts

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2017-04-19 20:27:19 (17 comments; 0 reshares; 16 +1s; )Open 

The Mighty finally manages to get a response from United.

A United spokesperson told The Mighty:

"We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience Mr. Harris experienced and are in the process of reaching out directly. FAA regulations differ depending on the type of lithium battery. Certain Segways that contain lithium ion batteries may not be permitted as carry-on items but may be checked at the ticket counter as a mobility device. We are contacting Mr. Harris to apologize for what occurred."

I'm not sure what their "process of reaching out directly" is, but I guess we'll see.

The Mighty finally manages to get a response from United.

A United spokesperson told The Mighty:

"We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience Mr. Harris experienced and are in the process of reaching out directly. FAA regulations differ depending on the type of lithium battery. Certain Segways that contain lithium ion batteries may not be permitted as carry-on items but may be checked at the ticket counter as a mobility device. We are contacting Mr. Harris to apologize for what occurred."

I'm not sure what their "process of reaching out directly" is, but I guess we'll see.___

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2017-04-17 03:24:16 (12 comments; 0 reshares; 23 +1s; )Open 

Getting exposure from George Takei and The Advocate is a mixed blessing.

George Takei linked to the story! Unfortunately, not my Medium post [https://medium.com/@treyharris/united-airlines-made-me-abandon-my-mobility-device-at-the-gate-before-my-honeymoon-8d74eee04038], but an article in The Advocate, the LGBT magazine.

I say "unfortunately" because if you read the comments, most are squabbling over whether my sexual orientation is relevant to the story or not. I guess most followers of Takei aren't familiar with The Advocate so they don't understand what it is—they aren't in travel news or aviation news or disability-rights news or business news, so they'd have no "angle" if they didn't lead with my husband and I being in a same-sex marriage—they'd have no reason to run the story at all.

But commenters arebew... more »

Getting exposure from George Takei and The Advocate is a mixed blessing.

George Takei linked to the story! Unfortunately, not my Medium post [https://medium.com/@treyharris/united-airlines-made-me-abandon-my-mobility-device-at-the-gate-before-my-honeymoon-8d74eee04038], but an article in The Advocate, the LGBT magazine.

I say "unfortunately" because if you read the comments, most are squabbling over whether my sexual orientation is relevant to the story or not. I guess most followers of Takei aren't familiar with The Advocate so they don't understand what it is—they aren't in travel news or aviation news or disability-rights news or business news, so they'd have no "angle" if they didn't lead with my husband and I being in a same-sex marriage—they'd have no reason to run the story at all.

But commenters are bewildered, irked, or downright offended that my orientation is mentioned in the lead. And that probably would be reasonable, if they thought The Advocate was a general-audience newsmagazine. But it's not, so it's a big tempest in a teapot that's totally tangential to the real issues here.

Oh, well—it's still publicity, and George Takei is someone I love. By total chance, he happened to sit down next to me on the subway last year and we rode several stops together chatting about transit and how he likes NYC compared to LA and then I tried to say something about how much his advocacy meant to me and I got all tangled up in how to say it and I think I ended up blithering towards the end. He was still a really delightful person to talk to one-on-one, though.___

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2017-04-16 22:07:49 (12 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s; )Open 

Why would Disqus mark this as spam?

I'm trying to figure out what heuristic would mark the following probably spam and am drawing a blank. Anyone have a clue? It was in an attempt to comment on: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2017/04/15/this-gay-couples-honeymoon-was-ruined-after-united-forced-them-to-abandon-a-mobility-device/

——
I must be careful about what I write at this point as with the press this has received it is, apparently, possibly the subject of legal inquiry. I would firstly refer you to my Medium article in which I wrote about my experience — https://medium.com/@treyharris/united-airlines-made-me-abandon-my-mobility-device-at-the-gate-before-my-honeymoon-8d74eee04038 — and was referenced above—it answers all of your factual questions, I believe.

(I understand and empathize with your separate and valid point that a source of journalismarguably ... more »

Why would Disqus mark this as spam?

I'm trying to figure out what heuristic would mark the following probably spam and am drawing a blank. Anyone have a clue? It was in an attempt to comment on: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2017/04/15/this-gay-couples-honeymoon-was-ruined-after-united-forced-them-to-abandon-a-mobility-device/

——
I must be careful about what I write at this point as with the press this has received it is, apparently, possibly the subject of legal inquiry. I would firstly refer you to my Medium article in which I wrote about my experience — https://medium.com/@treyharris/united-airlines-made-me-abandon-my-mobility-device-at-the-gate-before-my-honeymoon-8d74eee04038 — and was referenced above—it answers all of your factual questions, I believe.

(I understand and empathize with your separate and valid point that a source of journalism arguably should not make the reader look elsewhere for additional detail; but all journalism must decide what to preserve and what to cut, otherwise it's just stenography.)

As for the airline's ostensibly "valid concerns" about the device, again, this is a level of detail to be found in my Medium article—United Airline's own policy and government regulations as found republished on United's own website are quite clear that this device should have been allowed.

The Segway is not a hoverboard—and assertion of the manufacturer's purported desire to "distance itself" from their bad reputation is irrelevant here—the only relevant question is, do the safety concerns presented by hoverboards present with the Segway? They do not.

Hoverboards have a justifiable fire-risk history. This is not because they have two wheels or because they self-balance—the characteristics they share with the Segway. The captain did not ask me to step off of it and pull it so as not to injure myself on the way to my seat; he refused boarding because it was an ostensible fire-risk.

But the Segway does not share the characteristics with hoverboards that made them fire risks. The dangerous hoverboards used cheap batches of poorly-tested batteries that were wired together passively to produce enough power. The Segway has batteries similar to a Tesla electric car: each tested individually, and power managed through a sophisticated computer to prevent overheating or spontaneous combustion. It has a UL certification for fire safety imprinted with a hologram seal on its underbody. (An electric wheelchair of 1990's design which would undeniably be required to be allowed onboard has MUCH more potentially-dangerous batteries than the Segway, both in risk of increasing injury in the event of an aircraft accident and in the risk of spontaneous combustion during normal flight.) No Segway miniPro (at least, none used and charged properly) has ever spontaneously combusted.

I fully understand your comment about people faced with something unfamiliar to them making conservative judgment in favor of what they may have believed was safety. But that is why we have rules for the treatment of disabilities—most people who must make decisions about their treatment will not have the expertise or experience to make the correct decision each and every time, so they are required to defer to laws and policies that have been made by people who have grappled with these issues.

We can't allow individuals with momentary discretion to make judgments about what individuals with disabilities are and are not allowed to do—to do so would make us live our lives in a constant state of chaos.
Imagine if a security agent could force a diabetic to dispose of his or her syringes because, in the agent's mind, they could be used as a weapon. That thought on the basis of security might be valid in the moment—but if it were an allowable use of discretion, no diabetic could ever travel. So we have policies in place that prevent such use of discretion that may make a certain amount of sense in the moment, but if allowed would present an unjustifiable suppression of the freedom of people with disabilities to travel.
___

2017-04-16 19:06:33 (3 comments; 0 reshares; 12 +1s; )Open 

Web UX Mistake #68: Hijacking navigation keys on pages with text boxes

I get it. You do your site coding on a MacBook or iPad and, for you, mousing or touching are the only ways you ever move your cursor.

But some of us—and I'm tempted to say most of us—use the arrow keys and other navigation keys at least some of the time when typing text.

I'm not saying not to have keyboard shortcuts on your site. It is annoying when you hijack a key that does something useful on a plain-Jane webpage and make that key do something else, but that's not this design mistake, that's Web UX mistake #107.

I'm saying that, once you have a text box, then you need to allow people typing in that text box to have full cursor movement via the keyboard commands they're used to. That means arrow keys, PgUp and PgDown, Home, End, and the control- and alt- andcom... more »

Web UX Mistake #68: Hijacking navigation keys on pages with text boxes

I get it. You do your site coding on a MacBook or iPad and, for you, mousing or touching are the only ways you ever move your cursor.

But some of us—and I'm tempted to say most of us—use the arrow keys and other navigation keys at least some of the time when typing text.

I'm not saying not to have keyboard shortcuts on your site. It is annoying when you hijack a key that does something useful on a plain-Jane webpage and make that key do something else, but that's not this design mistake, that's Web UX mistake #107.

I'm saying that, once you have a text box, then you need to allow people typing in that text box to have full cursor movement via the keyboard commands they're used to. That means arrow keys, PgUp and PgDown, Home, End, and the control- and alt- and command- modified-versions thereof. (And also every single control-key and escape-plus-key combination, because on some devices, text boxes have editor bindings that some of us use.)

So, when you have a news site with a comment box at the bottom, then focusing the comment box needs to remove all your hooks for those keys.

Do you have any idea how frustrating it is when someone types a comment for your site, then notices a typo in the prior word and—reasonably enough—presses the left-arrow key, only to be zipped up to the top of the page where they can't see the text box anymore? Or, worse, when they do touch or click to correct something, try to get back by pressing the right-arrow key, and you whisk them off to the next article on your site—destroying everything they've typed in the process?

Here, this is easy:

1. When you register ANY keyboard hooks, add them to a list.
2. When you detect focus has moved into a text box, immediately unregister all the hooks in the list, and add them to another list of pending hooks.
3. When you detect focus has left the text box, or the text box ceases to exist, re-register the hooks in the pending list and put them back in the first list.

Yeah, if I really love your site and for some reason also really want to comment there (for some reason, those two things don't often coincide...), I'll eventually wise up and type my comments into a notepad or Google Keep or something, then copypasta the kaboodle rather than deal with your annoying hooks.

But I have to really love your site to go to that trouble. If your bosses are wondering why your "user engagement" is so low—just maybe the problem isn't with the clickbaity-ness of the headlines or anything in the content itself; maybe it's in your code. Your code is making many (most?) people's first attempt to "engage" a painful one—losing a comment they've typed before being able to post it is an irritation that 99% of the time's going to make them a permanent non-engager in the future. And it's your code's fault.

Yes, you. I'm looking at you, right now, through the typey-tappy machine. I can do that because I learned to run sites back in the days when we had to know this shit. I'm giving you the evil eye. Now go fix it.___

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2017-04-16 04:33:28 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 33 +1s; )Open 

And now it's in Fortune...



And now it's in Fortune...

___

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2017-04-15 13:13:34 (6 comments; 0 reshares; 16 +1s; )Open 

I really wish Mashable's promos for this were about denying disability rights under established law rather than about making me cry, but otherwise...

The article isn't bad.

I really wish Mashable's promos for this were about denying disability rights under established law rather than about making me cry, but otherwise...

The article isn't bad.___

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2017-04-13 23:12:49 (30 comments; 21 reshares; 43 +1s; )Open 

United Airlines made me abandon my mobility device at the gate. Before my honeymoon.

I've been waiting to post this until I heard a response from United. But with the recent uproar over their handling of passengers, I figured it was time.

United Airlines made me abandon my mobility device at the gate. Before my honeymoon.

I've been waiting to post this until I heard a response from United. But with the recent uproar over their handling of passengers, I figured it was time.___

2017-04-07 19:55:08 (3 comments; 0 reshares; 8 +1s; )Open 

The airstrike was about as unilluminating as Trump's first military foray could be.

Trump's decision last night to launch 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Syrian airbase that the sarin attack was allegedly mounted from was reportedly the least aggressive of three options presented to him by the Pentagon, with the second being missile strikes on multiple (perhaps a half-dozen) airbases and the third, most aggressive, option being a multi-sortie bombing and missile attack (probably something like the four-day "Desert Fox" attack President Clinton ordered in 1998 attempting to degrade Saddam Hussein's WMD production manufacturing and supply lines) with the goal of effectively destroying Assad's air force.

The domestic and world reaction shows that he did the bare minimum of what was required for the international community to conclude that the United... more »

The airstrike was about as unilluminating as Trump's first military foray could be.

Trump's decision last night to launch 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Syrian airbase that the sarin attack was allegedly mounted from was reportedly the least aggressive of three options presented to him by the Pentagon, with the second being missile strikes on multiple (perhaps a half-dozen) airbases and the third, most aggressive, option being a multi-sortie bombing and missile attack (probably something like the four-day "Desert Fox" attack President Clinton ordered in 1998 attempting to degrade Saddam Hussein's WMD production manufacturing and supply lines) with the goal of effectively destroying Assad's air force.

The domestic and world reaction shows that he did the bare minimum of what was required for the international community to conclude that the United States didn't have an absentee landlord, or that the United States hadn't actually become a client state of Russia. That these worries weren't true was not a foregone conclusion, remember, so last night's attack wasn't nothing.

It was probably as close to nothing possible militarily while having the greatest PR impact possible, though. I already stated the goal of the most aggressive option presented by DoD: disable the Assad air force. The goal of the middle option would have been to significantly degrade that air force; it possibly would have made a difference in the frequency and magnitude of barrel bombing.

The goal of the option actually taken, though, seems almost purely PR. We reportedly let our Russian "allies against ISIS" know in time to move out their assets, which surely gave the Assad regime time to move most or all of their aircraft and ordnance out as well. (In case you're not familiar with the fraught multilateral situation we're in in Syria, we're tacit allies with Russia against ISIS and other terrorist activity in Syria, but we are nominally against the continued regime of Bashar al-Assad while Russia is its greatest ally and the Assad military and Russian military are in joint operations down to the unit level. Throw Iran in the mix (the main supporter of Hezbollah—a target of the US, Russia and Assad—but also anti-ISIS and pro-Assad) and you've got a mess of frenemy relations that makes the pre-WWI Balkans look simple.)

Russia's public diplomatic response, in turn, has been entirely predictable: angry in tone—right down to the Security Council emergency meeting with the Russian ambassador wagging his finger at Nikki Haley, but lame in impact. (Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said, notably, that he didn't think the "situation was irreversibly" deleterious to US/Russia relations.)

The items of interest here:
• Again, he didn't do nothing. That will help quell the security community freakout that's been at full-tilt since Nov. 9.

• The thing he did was quite predictable (in predicting what any recent American president might have done) and moderate in scale. That will help calm the international community a bit—reportedly officials in world capitals have been asking one another how unpredictable Trump will actually be and have privately worried about a madman with the nuclear launch codes.

• Despite his predictability in action, in his remarks, both before and after the attack, Trump maintained his very ill-considered posture of unpredictability and continued to assert that unpredictability is good. In foreign relations, the security community is essentially in unanimous agreement that unpredictability is never good. (Perhaps Trump is confused because unpredictability can at times be useful as a tactic in war—career intelligence and security staff have said Trump does not seem to grasp the difference between strategy and tactics, nor in the difference between diplomacy and war.)

• Allies were not sought in this action. That is perhaps the most significant datum from last night, but it isn't that significant. An operation of this size is one the US is easily capable of handling (it involved just two Navy destroyers), so seeking ally support would have been more of a signaling move than a tactical one. Mounting an allied operation would have taken more time; at minimum, assuming just our closest allies already in the theater, another two or three days.

• Chinese President Xi Jinping being at Mar-a-Lago meeting with Trump when the attacks happened were significant and might explain the lack of allied support. Trump may have wanted to send China the message that his muscular talk about North Korea isn't just saber-rattling and that he's prepared to use force. If this was part of the calculus, it could explain the decision not to delay for the time necessary to mount a joint strike.

• Among prominent Republicans in Congress, at this writing only Sen. Rand Paul has come out against the strike (and only insofar as insisting that congressional approval should have sought before taking action). Democrats are mostly tracking the same line as Sen. Paul, though a few have come out against the attack itself as well. In other words, Congress's reaction was entirely predictable.

• The manner and timing of the warning on Russian "deconflicting" channels we use to prevent inadvertent US/Russia hostility in the Syrian theater will be interesting, should it leak, but the warning's merely happening is not significant. A strike without warning on a joint Assad/Russian airbase would have been perceived as an act of war against Russia and contrary to our agreement regarding operations in the Syrian theater.

If Trump had done this particular action without warning Russia, it would have been a sure sign of madness; to potentially start war with Russia over such a militarily insignificant strike would be utterly irrational. Had a President Hillary Clinton mounted this strike, she would have warned Russia as well.

The timing and manner, should we ever learn it through leaks, would be interesting just in that it would tell us if Trump was more deferential to Russia than necessary. It could also tell us if Trump wasn't as deferential as he could have been (and perhaps should have been by our agreement), but that seems implausible—there would be little benefit in that for Trump except domestically in attempting to prove his independence from Russia. If a White House source makes that claim in the next day or two and Breitbart runs with it (as a sort of redemption—the alt-right, at the moment, seems a bit shell-shocked and betrayed by last night's events), pay it no heed—it's impossible to know for sure and it would serve the administration's political goals.

The other two more aggressive options would have resulted in destruction of Russian assets and perhaps in heavy Russian casualties. That Trump didn't select one of those tells us precisely nothing we don't already know. But most military analysts I've read don't think the other two options would have been wise: the "medium" multi-airbase one would have angered the Russians without achieving much more than the same PR the strike we mounted did; the "all-out" one to destroy Assad's air force would have been likely to fail, certainly without allied support, and doing it without Russia's coöperation would have been nearly as mad as ordering the operation he did without warning them.

"Russia's coöperation" is not nearly as crazy an idea as it sounds at first blush, by the way. Russia is Assad's strongest ally because Russia needs its Mediterranean port in Syria and Assad controls Syria—for now. It's no secret that Putin has no love for Assad and might welcome the chance to turn on him in a way that maintained their military presence there. Ordinarily, this would take weeks or months of careful and meticulous diplomacy with Russia, and Rex Tillerson has shown us nothing if not that his State Department is neither careful nor meticulous.

Ordinarily. If Trump's current administration has lines into Russia and vice versa as the campaign did, this could be worked out more easily via quid-pro-quo concessions, but it would crush any pretense remaining that this administration doesn't have a special relationship with Russia. Trump can't afford to do that at this juncture.

So, the long and the short of it: politically, last night's attack will probably do what such action always does: shore up support from his base and in the House and Senate Republican conferences, increase his approval ratings marginally, divert the press from domestic issues for at least a couple news cycles, and give the White House more fodder for dissembling about current internecine conflicts such as why Steve Bannon was removed from the National Security Council's principals and what Jared Kushner's portfolio really is.

It was probably a null-op with regards to both the country's and his administration's relationship with Russia. There will continue to be angry words from Russia, but they will only be words. And let's not forget that even if Russia does like Trump as the American president—a conjecture that may not even be true—domestically, they need the United States as an adversary. Some weeks ago already, the Kremlin ordered Russian-language state media—but not English-language media such as RT and Sputnik—to cool it with the on-air adoration of Trump.

Militarily, in Syria, the operation probably obtained a tacit goal of preventing Assad's further use of sarin anytime soon, but will do little else, and Assad hadn't used been proven to have used sarin prior to this week since Russia supposedly disarmed the regime of its chemical weapons in 2014. Use of chlorine and mustard and the barrel-bombing will likely continue unabated.

The only place where I think last night's action may augur a change is in rhetoric about Syrian refugees. Don't get me wrong; I highly doubt the White House is going to do a 180° on the travel ban or on letting Syrian refugees enter the United States. Policy is likely going to remain unchanged for the foreseeable future. But I do suspect that Trump's apparent awakening this week to the issues afflicting the Syrian people may result in his policy statements becoming mushier when it comes to refugees in Europe and Asia. (It could even help restore our relations with Australia! Just kidding. Mostly.)

But, like his "policy statements" with regards to healthcare, we should know by now that mushy statements on Trump's part mean next to nothing about what actual policy will develop.

I don't want to call any military operation (and surely not one that killed innocent people) a "nothingburger". But politically and geopolitically, last night's action was about as close to one as there could be.___

2017-04-07 03:49:01 (24 comments; 0 reshares; 10 +1s; )Open 

I don't think this was Wag the Dog.

If these early "facts" all prove to be true on the ground:
• The Tomahawk strike was on a single airbase, the one from which intelligence said the sarin attack was mounted;
• The strike was definitive: close to 70 missiles on an airbase large by Syrian standards, but certainly no Andrews;
• The Russians were not notified before the strike, though they may have been vaguely informed of "an operation" planned in the area as part of the normal plan-sharing between the US and Russia we've done for years in order to avoid inadvertent US/Russia conflict in Syria;
• The strike did not have many (perhaps no) Russian or civilian casualties;

then my hot take is that this wasn't a "Wag the Dog" operation. That is to say, it was most likely approved by thepreside... more »

I don't think this was Wag the Dog.

If these early "facts" all prove to be true on the ground:
• The Tomahawk strike was on a single airbase, the one from which intelligence said the sarin attack was mounted;
• The strike was definitive: close to 70 missiles on an airbase large by Syrian standards, but certainly no Andrews;
• The Russians were not notified before the strike, though they may have been vaguely informed of "an operation" planned in the area as part of the normal plan-sharing between the US and Russia we've done for years in order to avoid inadvertent US/Russia conflict in Syria;
• The strike did not have many (perhaps no) Russian or civilian casualties;

then my hot take is that this wasn't a "Wag the Dog" operation. That is to say, it was most likely approved by the president primarily for Syria-related goals (however ill-defined those may be) and not primarily as a political distraction.

I'm not naïve; I'm certainly not under any illusion that this won't help to improve Trump's approval ratings, firm up his base and congressional support, and reorient the news cycle at a time Trump desperately needs it.

But at this moment, it doesn't seem to me like this missile strike was a response much different than President Hillary Clinton might have ordered tonight.___

2017-04-07 01:23:39 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s; )Open 

MSNBC is reporting US Navy ships just launched 50 Tomahawk missiles at an airfield in Syria.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/u-s-launches-missiles-syrian-base-after-chemical-weapons-attack-n743636

MSNBC is reporting US Navy ships just launched 50 Tomahawk missiles at an airfield in Syria.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/u-s-launches-missiles-syrian-base-after-chemical-weapons-attack-n743636___

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2017-04-07 00:31:07 (9 comments; 0 reshares; 7 +1s; )Open 

Loved the books, love the TV show. If you're not watching it, you should. The first season covered the first half of the first book, the current second season looks to be wrapping up the second book. And it's been renewed for a third season.

___Loved the books, love the TV show. If you're not watching it, you should. The first season covered the first half of the first book, the current second season looks to be wrapping up the second book. And it's been renewed for a third season.

2017-04-07 00:18:50 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 8 +1s; )Open 

The commander-in-chief being Donald Trump changes everything about how we should think about America's use of force.

Just went back into the archives to see what I said before the "red line" and Russian intervention in Syria. I think my thoughts 3-½ years ago still hold up fairly well. The comments especially (though they're confused a bit by missing comments from people who have been banned or have deleted their accounts).

This was helpful in that I needed to ground myself in a pre-Trump mindset to tease away my deep, deep dread of any military action Trump might lead us into. I realize that I'm now more pacifistic not because of any change in my values or in the underlying geopolitics, but because I just don't trust the man to engage in armed conflict on our behalf.

Talk about a Wag the Dog moment... the very idea that Trump... more »

The commander-in-chief being Donald Trump changes everything about how we should think about America's use of force.

Just went back into the archives to see what I said before the "red line" and Russian intervention in Syria. I think my thoughts 3-½ years ago still hold up fairly well. The comments especially (though they're confused a bit by missing comments from people who have been banned or have deleted their accounts).

This was helpful in that I needed to ground myself in a pre-Trump mindset to tease away my deep, deep dread of any military action Trump might lead us into. I realize that I'm now more pacifistic not because of any change in my values or in the underlying geopolitics, but because I just don't trust the man to engage in armed conflict on our behalf.

Talk about a Wag the Dog moment... the very idea that Trump might consider the near-certainty of Russian casualties in the "bomb Assad's air force into desert glass" scenario as a potential benefit just to prove "I'm not the puppet, you're the puppet" is so frightening to me that I just want to pull a blanket over my head.___

2017-04-05 22:49:28 (14 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

Web design mistake #23: "Other?" What am I, chopped liver?

When writing an algorithm that fits a list of names (particularly of authors, but it can be of invitees, attendees, pledgers, you name it—anywhere a website displays a list of names that may be truncated), the substitution of "and others" only applies if there are others — that is, more than one name that can't fit.

If it's Jack, Jill, and Barbara, it isn't "Jack, Jill, and others". Barbara isn't "others". She's one person. And she sure as hell isn't "1 other".

But what if "and others" or "and 1 other" fits but the name doesn't? Then chop off another name and make it "Jack and others". Or just "3 people". (I know internationalization makes this one hairy, but come on.)

Callingone... more »

Web design mistake #23: "Other?" What am I, chopped liver?

When writing an algorithm that fits a list of names (particularly of authors, but it can be of invitees, attendees, pledgers, you name it—anywhere a website displays a list of names that may be truncated), the substitution of "and others" only applies if there are others — that is, more than one name that can't fit.

If it's Jack, Jill, and Barbara, it isn't "Jack, Jill, and others". Barbara isn't "others". She's one person. And she sure as hell isn't "1 other".

But what if "and others" or "and 1 other" fits but the name doesn't? Then chop off another name and make it "Jack and others". Or just "3 people". (I know internationalization makes this one hairy, but come on.)

Calling one person an "other" is unintentionally insulting, and it's easy to fix. Just fix it.___

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2017-04-05 22:18:37 (7 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s; )Open 

Think this thing all the way through. What happens next? Really?

I have watched Keith Olbermann's GQ YouTube videos—initially intended for a limited run before the election, but now an ongoing feature—as something not entirely serious, somewhere between wish-fulfillment and escapism. He's always been an over-the-top personality, and many of his "The Resistance" videos have been just popcorn. But cut through the bluster and this one is important. Really.

Let's stop with the bullshit already and get down to brass tacks: if we truly can't escape what seems to be the inescapable conclusion about the origin of this presidency, what then? What does that say about the Republican Party as an institution? What does it say about members — elected officials, appointed officials, party apparatchiki, and even voters — who seem perfectly ready to (and, insome ca... more »

Think this thing all the way through. What happens next? Really?

I have watched Keith Olbermann's GQ YouTube videos—initially intended for a limited run before the election, but now an ongoing feature—as something not entirely serious, somewhere between wish-fulfillment and escapism. He's always been an over-the-top personality, and many of his "The Resistance" videos have been just popcorn. But cut through the bluster and this one is important. Really.

Let's stop with the bullshit already and get down to brass tacks: if we truly can't escape what seems to be the inescapable conclusion about the origin of this presidency, what then? What does that say about the Republican Party as an institution? What does it say about members — elected officials, appointed officials, party apparatchiki, and even voters — who seem perfectly ready to (and, in some cases, already have) put the Republican Party before the country? People whose sole guiding ethical principle appears to be, "if a Democrat does it, it's criminal; if a Republican does it, it's A-OK"?

What does this say about the legitimacy of Neil Gorsuch's nomination (even entirely ignoring the nomination of Merrick Garland and pretending that Scalia died February 13 of this year, not last)? What does it say about his appointees to head agencies? It's been much-remarked that most of them have ideologies that seem destined to sabotage their agencies' missions. Let's not miss the forest for the trees—ideological or not, it's still sabotage.

Ignore Susan Rice and The Failing New York Times and the left-wing blog ProPublica and Arnold Schwarzenegger's ratings and and and... It's all chaff. Shiny objects to pull our (and the press's) attention from that black hole that, by now, might as well have neon arrows pointing at it from all directions.

If Russia invaded us, we wouldn't respond by giving them Alaska back. They get no consolation prize for losing. No President Pence or President Ryan. No Speaker Ryan. If this turns out to be true, they must not get the consolation prize. They get nothing.___

2017-04-05 19:08:26 (14 comments; 0 reshares; 15 +1s; )Open 

You'll either find this funny or incomprehensible.

I was playing with my xmonad keymappings yesterday, and briefly made a mistake and had Alt bound to both xmonad and to Meta. I shortly thereafter fixed it.

But today when I tried to do a C-r (backward history isearch) in the shell for a command I hadn't run in awhile, my machine ground to a halt and the fan spun up to full capacity; I finally had to kill the shell.

With some experimentation I found that searching for very recent commands worked, but searching for commands older than a day or so caused the same system-thrashing.

I took a look at my ~/.histfile. Or rather, I tried to; less also thrashed. So I just did an "ls -l ~/.histfile": 560 megabytes.

Turns out, when the same key was bound to both xmonad and meta, I was in a terminal, then hunted around my workspaces (using... more »

You'll either find this funny or incomprehensible.

I was playing with my xmonad keymappings yesterday, and briefly made a mistake and had Alt bound to both xmonad and to Meta. I shortly thereafter fixed it.

But today when I tried to do a C-r (backward history isearch) in the shell for a command I hadn't run in awhile, my machine ground to a halt and the fan spun up to full capacity; I finally had to kill the shell.

With some experimentation I found that searching for very recent commands worked, but searching for commands older than a day or so caused the same system-thrashing.

I took a look at my ~/.histfile. Or rather, I tried to; less also thrashed. So I just did an "ls -l ~/.histfile": 560 megabytes.

Turns out, when the same key was bound to both xmonad and meta, I was in a terminal, then hunted around my workspaces (using meta-digit) looking for a window, then tried to type something into the new workspace. When I didn't get a response, I did the usual tapping enter and the system came back.

Apparently. I hit M-5 M-6 M-7 M-8 M-9 M-1 M-2 M-3 M-2, checking on all my workspaces then realizing I saw what I wanted in the prior one and backed up to it. I know this, because the thing that had gummed everything up was a line in my history containing just 567,891,232 (that is, over half a billion copies) of the same letter: 'fffffffffffffffffff...'.

That command attempt apparently killed the shell (or for some other reason the terminal exited) because I never saw it yesterday. But it made it into command history. Whee! And of course the letter was 'f". Just so that it'd be self-documenting, you know.___

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2017-04-05 13:17:39 (3 comments; 0 reshares; 5 +1s; )Open 

An Advanced Placement 'CS-lite' may be just the thing to give smart kids exposure to computation, and help them learn if they aren't cut out for coding.

I'd be curious for those of you who don't code to try this and (if you're brave enough) let us know how you did.

(If you code, try to do it quickly, without paper and without reading all the answers, that is, either figuring out the answer before looking or choosing the first answer you can't reject—though a warning: you'll want to glance at the form of the answers to #2 before answering, because you'll think the question is going to ask something that it isn't.)

Almost 20 years ago, a study in England showed that a quiz could be given to students on the first day of programming class that would predict with very great accuracy whether the student would pass thec... more »

An Advanced Placement 'CS-lite' may be just the thing to give smart kids exposure to computation, and help them learn if they aren't cut out for coding.

I'd be curious for those of you who don't code to try this and (if you're brave enough) let us know how you did.

(If you code, try to do it quickly, without paper and without reading all the answers, that is, either figuring out the answer before looking or choosing the first answer you can't reject—though a warning: you'll want to glance at the form of the answers to #2 before answering, because you'll think the question is going to ask something that it isn't.)

Almost 20 years ago, a study in England showed that a quiz could be given to students on the first day of programming class that would predict with very great accuracy whether the student would pass the class and proceed to future computer science classes or not. The authors theorized that there was a specific learning disability affecting at least a quarter of the population that simply made them incapable of learning to code because "functional mutable algebra"—the concept of manipulating registers in order to perform algorithms—was just something they couldn't get, even if they were otherwise technically-inclined and were good at maths.

I haven't seen any follow-up research since, but I think it's possible after having many times worked patiently (sometimes for years, in the cases of coworkers or people who I was personally close to) with someone and being utterly unable to get them past the cargo-culting (or "cut, paste, modify, and pray") stage—even though I've successfully taught programming classes and been told I'm good at it.

My first experience with this was as a first-semester freshman. I had Internet access in high school through the local college, and when I got to UNC, I asked how to get an account and was told only graduate students and undergrads with department jobs got that. So I did the only reasonable thing: I asked for a job. I ended up talking to the professor teaching the 101 programming class I was registered for, who after assessing my background, decided to kill two birds with one stone: move me from his class (using a Pascal-like imperative language) to the experimental honors class which was using Haskell¹, and make me a TA for his class. (Yes, teach the class I was previously supposed to be taking.)

In lab sessions I discovered that some students simply couldn't get their heads around the conception of programming. They'd show me a syntax error, and I'd try to lead them through it. Then I'd do it again, more slowly. Then I'd give them a hint, and another, until it got to the point where they were saying, "okay, is the problem here?" and I had to agree it was, and then they'd say, "so I need a close parenthesis? A comma? A semicolon? A brace? A new line? An 'end'?" But they were only showing an understanding of the form, not of the underlying algebraic structure.

This sort of thing makes me think a lot of students could benefit from this sort of code-light first-encounter. If they excel, they'll probably do well with "real grownup CS". If they struggle, it's very likely they'll have no chance at learning to code at all, but at least they'll have been exposed to basic concepts of the algorithmic and computational mindset without getting so tangled up in frustrations with the code in front of them that refuses to work that they lose all sight of the bigger picture.

(To be utterly, absolutely clear—and this may be necessary if you aren't familiar with the concept of "specific learning disability"—I'm not saying a quarter of people are dunces. Not even technical dunces—some of the most talented and brilliant sysadmins I've ever worked with have been, I think, in this category. Sysadmins as a community are familiar with this, too, as they will self-group into "admins who code" and "admins who don't code". And I'd say that most, if not all, admins who code don't look down on the skills or intelligence of admins who can't code—though many, I think, are perplexed as to why the person never took the time to learn such a valuable skill, not realizing that it's very possible it's not a matter of taking the time or putting in the effort but that they literally can't. Faulting them for it is no different from faulting someone who can't curl their tongue, and telling them to practice more often until they can—they never will, no matter how much they try.)

Several of the link's sample questions get at the "functional mutable algebra" thing. If you need a piece of paper to figure out the "sheep/goat" problem (or even have to use your fingers or make mental boxes in your head you move around in mental space or anything like that), it's almost dead certain you're in this non-coding category, so don't feel bad if you've ever been frustrated in efforts to code—it's probably biological!


¹ So yes, my first computer language was technically Haskell. Pre-monads. It was fun. Really! And it warped my brain forever; I can't tell you how many times I've had a code review that sounded (to me) like: "take that nice map/reduce pipeline, function currying, and lift-dispatch code and turn it into spaghetti, please".___

2017-04-02 21:12:20 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 0 +1s; )Open 

Chrome on iPad: taps on lower part of screen ignored?

This is a weird one that's been plaguing me recently and I wonder if it's just me: let's say I open a new tab in Chrome on iPad and do a search using the omnibox. When the Google search results page comes up, I can tap anywhere on or around a link on the lower ~70% of the screen, and nothing happens. (Scroll events still happen no matter where my finger starts to swipe.)

But if I scroll down so that the link is closer to the top of the screen, then I can tap on the link without problem.

This is sporadic but it affects many different sites. I just filled out an online insurance form and I had to scroll every page down until the "save and go to next page" button was within the top quarter-ish of the screen.

It's not just link taps, but taps to set the focus in an editable field,... more »

Chrome on iPad: taps on lower part of screen ignored?

This is a weird one that's been plaguing me recently and I wonder if it's just me: let's say I open a new tab in Chrome on iPad and do a search using the omnibox. When the Google search results page comes up, I can tap anywhere on or around a link on the lower ~70% of the screen, and nothing happens. (Scroll events still happen no matter where my finger starts to swipe.)

But if I scroll down so that the link is closer to the top of the screen, then I can tap on the link without problem.

This is sporadic but it affects many different sites. I just filled out an online insurance form and I had to scroll every page down until the "save and go to next page" button was within the top quarter-ish of the screen.

It's not just link taps, but taps to set the focus in an editable field, long-presses to open a new tab, etc.

Sound familiar to anyone? ___

2017-03-24 22:02:25 (9 comments; 0 reshares; 9 +1s; )Open 

I would seriously pay Cash Money to anyone who could get my phone to show a new notification at the top of the goddamned list whenever it makes the default notification noise.

Nested notifications with action buttons on Android are great and all, but when I get a sound and then hunt through a screenful of stuff and still don't find out why my phone just blurped at me the third time today I kinda want to hurl the thing out the window.

CASH. MONEY.

(I'm typing this on the desktop so my phone won't hear me type it and get even more balky.)

I would seriously pay Cash Money to anyone who could get my phone to show a new notification at the top of the goddamned list whenever it makes the default notification noise.

Nested notifications with action buttons on Android are great and all, but when I get a sound and then hunt through a screenful of stuff and still don't find out why my phone just blurped at me the third time today I kinda want to hurl the thing out the window.

CASH. MONEY.

(I'm typing this on the desktop so my phone won't hear me type it and get even more balky.)___

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2017-03-24 17:47:54 (11 comments; 1 reshares; 7 +1s; )Open 

As a linguist, how many languages do I speak? One: English.

On the JoCo Cruise I recently returned from, I frequently was asked, upon mentioning my training in linguistics, "how many languages do you speak?" As this article from 2014 illustrates, it's an annoying question for a lot of reasons.

In my case, one semester I switched from part-time to full-time just so that I could take all three languages I was in-progress on (Spanish, Russian and Japanese) and a linguistics class as well. (Linguistics majors had to take two semesters each of three languages from different language sub-families—at least one of which had to be from a different global family—in order to gain greater perspective on cross-language linguistic issues, and graduation required three or four semesters in a single language.)

That semester was pure hell. At one point during Spanishcon... more »

As a linguist, how many languages do I speak? One: English.

On the JoCo Cruise I recently returned from, I frequently was asked, upon mentioning my training in linguistics, "how many languages do you speak?" As this article from 2014 illustrates, it's an annoying question for a lot of reasons.

In my case, one semester I switched from part-time to full-time just so that I could take all three languages I was in-progress on (Spanish, Russian and Japanese) and a linguistics class as well. (Linguistics majors had to take two semesters each of three languages from different language sub-families—at least one of which had to be from a different global family—in order to gain greater perspective on cross-language linguistic issues, and graduation required three or four semesters in a single language.)

That semester was pure hell. At one point during Spanish conversation class, I said something that mixed together words from all three languages using Spanish and Japanese grammar. Everyone, including the teacher, just stared at me agog.

I could barely keep on top of it enough to pass all three classes; any hope at retention or increasing fluency was thrown out the window.

And this isn't including other semesters: the Latin I'd started with since it was my high school language or the Swahili I audited° because I'd had no exposure to African languages.

Today, with a dictionary I can read and write Russian and Japanese poorly and read Spanish fairly well. Spoken Spanish, I can just barely follow along. (Sometimes.)

A formal linguistics background is very helpful in studying for language-class exams: you have a structure to hang grammar concepts off of, and for Indo-European languages at least (for me as an Indo-European L1 speaker), linguistics can help in memorizing vocabulary when it has etymological relationships with other languages.

But linguistics isn't helpful in gaining fluency or general proficiency. If anything, it works against it—quite aside from the practical problem of trying to study so many different languages at once—because a key step in moving to "fluency" is being able to turn off the part of your brain that sees the foreign language as a mental puzzle, and start reprogramming a more subconscious part of the mind to work with the new language instead. Linguistics training makes the puzzle part so intuitive that it becomes easy to forget that's what you're doing, and that's not what you should be doing to build fluency.


° Auditing Swahili turned out to be a dumb choice: the point of auditing is to expand your knowledge without adding pressure to pass a class, but the professor only agreed to let me audit if I did the quizzes and maintained a passing grade in them, because otherwise I'd be a useless student when interacting. So I had to do almost all the work I'd have done if I'd taken it pass/fail but got no credit at all.___

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2017-03-24 17:15:07 (14 comments; 2 reshares; 8 +1s; )Open 

Obamacare is probably here to stay. But that's not a total win for us.

The Slate piece by Jordan Weissmann linked below is a very good analysis focusing on the things that actually matter here.

The current AHCA bill is absolutely incoherent as health policy; it is purely a bill written to game the reconciliation process. Today, the administration is saying to House members, "if [AHCA] doesn't pass, Obamacare [the ACA] is here to stay". Even for Republicans, that may not be the cudgel of an ultimatum it's meant to sound like: they'd rather keep the ACA.

The unfortunate part of this is that now not only will Congress continue its obstinance in passing any of the much-needed improvements and tweaks that were originally envisaged as part of the ACA's framework, but Tom Price's HHS and other executive-branch agencies will take no... more »

Obamacare is probably here to stay. But that's not a total win for us.

The Slate piece by Jordan Weissmann linked below is a very good analysis focusing on the things that actually matter here.

The current AHCA bill is absolutely incoherent as health policy; it is purely a bill written to game the reconciliation process. Today, the administration is saying to House members, "if [AHCA] doesn't pass, Obamacare [the ACA] is here to stay". Even for Republicans, that may not be the cudgel of an ultimatum it's meant to sound like: they'd rather keep the ACA.

The unfortunate part of this is that now not only will Congress continue its obstinance in passing any of the much-needed improvements and tweaks that were originally envisaged as part of the ACA's framework, but Tom Price's HHS and other executive-branch agencies will take no regulatory action to keep markets (and patients) healthy under Obamacare.

For the past seven years since Republicans gained the House majority, Congress has essentially been committing legislative sabotage of Obamacare. Now we'll have the executive branch committing regulatory sabotage as well. This will be pure politics of spite, and will be very bad for patients and for the overall American health care system.

(News just over the transom: Ryan has rushed over to the White House to tell Trump he does not have the votes.)___

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2017-03-24 15:54:43 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 5 +1s; )Open 

Don't let David Duke frame your thinking about advertiser control and "controversial" YouTube content.

Let me ask this honestly: we know from research that young children get confused by the distinction of commercial content from entertainment content on television. But is there any significant proportion of teenagers or adults who fail to understand that preroll advertising is advertising bought from the hosting site, and not from the producer of the video that follows?

(The situation is complicated by embedding; as a YouTube Red subscriber who ordinarily doesn't see YouTube preroll, I'm actually not sure how advertising in embedded content works. Almost all the commercials I see online are embedded because of this, but they're from non-YouTube embeds. [Which, by the way, are all terrible. For God's sake, let me mute and toggle fullscreen while the... more »

Don't let David Duke frame your thinking about advertiser control and "controversial" YouTube content.

Let me ask this honestly: we know from research that young children get confused by the distinction of commercial content from entertainment content on television. But is there any significant proportion of teenagers or adults who fail to understand that preroll advertising is advertising bought from the hosting site, and not from the producer of the video that follows?

(The situation is complicated by embedding; as a YouTube Red subscriber who ordinarily doesn't see YouTube preroll, I'm actually not sure how advertising in embedded content works. Almost all the commercials I see online are embedded because of this, but they're from non-YouTube embeds. [Which, by the way, are all terrible. For God's sake, let me mute and toggle fullscreen while the ad's running—and if your controls for that are hidden until clicked/tapped, it should take two clicks/taps to go to the advertiser's site; the first should bring up those controls. And if I do tap/click on your advertising—whether by accident or choice (hey, sometimes it happens!)—give me some fucking way to get the embedded video I wanted to watch going again when I return so I don't have to hit reload and watch another ad. And stop showing me the same ad again and again—don't you realize that any commercial turns into parody when repeated every 3 minutes, or worse, when repeated back-to-back with itself?!? Feh.])

I generally assume that web advertising has no relationship to anything but me and the advertiser. That's easy for me, because I understand how advertising networks and ad-targeting work, but am I taking this knowledge for granted?

Of course, for monetized content — that is to say, for content where the video uploader is getting a share of the money and the preroll ad isn't simply to defray the costs of hosting — there's an ancillary issue: if a company can potentially have a percentage of its advertising dollars diverted from YouTube to the channel on which their ad is played, and they do not want their money going to David Duke, they can reasonably demand that YouTube ensure they be able to prevent that.

But David Duke, qua David Duke, isn't the problem; he'll be blocked from monetization by any reasonable scheme providing for content-sensitive advertiser targeting, including simple human flagging and human-maintained per-channel black-lists. The issue is with algorithmic blocking of large swaths of "potentially controversial" content, as we've seen in the past couple weeks with sexuality educators and even LGBT coming-out stories being so flagged.

And so this feels to me like something we on the civil libertarian left should be very wary of getting too worked up about merely because the right-wing and terrorist extremists are the ones getting the lion's share of the press right now, because a "better safe than sorry" response on YouTube's part will stop advertising support for as many earnest content creators of (erm, "edgy") videos that we care about as it does actual extremists.

I may be wrong here, but I think for most of us, we're willing to overlook the random wannabe-David Dukes of the world getting a few bucks in monetization if it means that folks who provide solid information about health, science, sexuality and politics can be supported even when a small minority consider the content controversial or a moralist campaign is launched.

(Here's something interesting that I've observed over the years about Google's politics: Larry and Sergey and Eric and Sundar are more than willing for the company to support progressive issues, and they do so in overt and subtle ways. But when engineers are designing algorithms that need to mimic human sensitivities, they try to make them as politically neutral as possible, even when it results in considering a racist's or homophobe's objections to be of equal weight to objections by scientists against denialism, or even of equal weight to any random person in the population. I'm not entirely sure if that's because they feel an ethical need to make their algorithms not have political views or because this neutrality has better outcomes than attempts to encode mildly progressive sentiments have been in testing. Probably, a bit of both.)

___

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2017-03-24 15:13:59 (12 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s; )Open 

#psychology #truth

#psychology #truth___

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2017-03-23 20:15:27 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 9 +1s; )Open 

This has left the realm of satire. We've now firmly entered surrealism.

"Nunes is asked if he got the info he briefed the White House on from the White House. He doesn't dismiss it."

This has left the realm of satire. We've now firmly entered surrealism.

"Nunes is asked if he got the info he briefed the White House on from the White House. He doesn't dismiss it."___

2017-03-21 17:45:44 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 9 +1s; )Open 

Your "login's printer is jammed"? Come again?

I was just at Duane Reade° and overheard a cashier saying to her manager, "can I use a different login? This login's printer is jammed."

After a bit of confusion I figured it out: the cashier was using "login" to mean "cash register station" (or POS device, if you like confusing acronyms). That usage of "login" seemed so odd to me, that I thought about it as I went home.

I think I figured it out. I think it's just an effect of perspective: the cashiers log in to the register at the start of the shift. That lets them do their job. For them, that's the most important interaction with the device, so its login capability becomes a synecdoche for the entire station.

I remember in university when a common question asked if someone found themselves in... more »

Your "login's printer is jammed"? Come again?

I was just at Duane Reade° and overheard a cashier saying to her manager, "can I use a different login? This login's printer is jammed."

After a bit of confusion I figured it out: the cashier was using "login" to mean "cash register station" (or POS device, if you like confusing acronyms). That usage of "login" seemed so odd to me, that I thought about it as I went home.

I think I figured it out. I think it's just an effect of perspective: the cashiers log in to the register at the start of the shift. That lets them do their job. For them, that's the most important interaction with the device, so its login capability becomes a synecdoche for the entire station.

I remember in university when a common question asked if someone found themselves in an unfamiliar building or floor was, "is there a login terminal nearby?" What they were asking for was almost always a public computer connected to the campus Internet. (Every so often—if they were in the CS building, anyway—the nearest "login terminal" would actually be a small Unix workstation or an actual graphics terminal.) But they didn't care about the computer's other functions, they just wanted to login, so the device reduced itself to that. I can totally imagine some student eliding that into, "that login's screen is blurry".

So what seemed like peculiar—bizarre, almost—parlance at first blush actually seems perfectly reasonable if you change your framing perspective to match the speaker's.

Still, I found it interesting. (I'm well aware that my linguistics background makes some things about language usage interesting to me when nobody else would find them interesting at all; hopefully this isn't a case of that.)


° For those unfamiliar with Duane Reade, it's the omnipresent drugstore that serves NYC and (AFAIK) nowhere else. It's a subsidiary of Walgreen's now, but remains the drugstore chain with the most city locations by a huge margin. There are probably about as many Duane Reades in the city as there are Starbucks.___

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2017-03-20 20:17:03 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

On customization, tidiness, efficiency and reliability

I feel like I could write a fairly long piece—in a "Wait But Why", Joel Spolsky or David Allen vein, depending on where I went with it—on this subject, but I feel like someone (someone besides Randall Munroe, as it's a favorite xkcd theme; I mean in prose form) has to have written about it usefully before, I think, and if so I'd at least like to build on prior art:

Why does every problem I try to solve seem to inevitably devolve into:
1. Fiddling with my config files
2. Finding a bug
3. Researching the bug—which, nearly inevitably, would not pertain were it not for my particular use case—and finding a solution
4. Attempting (and sometimes succeeding) to submit a patch, and then get it mainlined?

Note that each of these steps has the potential for fractalrecursi... more »

On customization, tidiness, efficiency and reliability

I feel like I could write a fairly long piece—in a "Wait But Why", Joel Spolsky or David Allen vein, depending on where I went with it—on this subject, but I feel like someone (someone besides Randall Munroe, as it's a favorite xkcd theme; I mean in prose form) has to have written about it usefully before, I think, and if so I'd at least like to build on prior art:

Why does every problem I try to solve seem to inevitably devolve into:
1. Fiddling with my config files
2. Finding a bug
3. Researching the bug—which, nearly inevitably, would not pertain were it not for my particular use case—and finding a solution
4. Attempting (and sometimes succeeding) to submit a patch, and then get it mainlined?

Note that each of these steps has the potential for fractal recursion.

With just a bit of introspection, I recognize a few things that make me want to write something:

• Some of this is clearly cognitive bias on my part: negativity bias makes me more vividly recall times I get stuck in this sort of cycle; the availability heuristic causes me to miss all the times I do something and nothing goes wrong, which inarguably far outnumber the times I run into problems. The stress above really should have been on "seem", rather than on "every".

• But it is undoubtedly true that most machinery, including hardware/software systems, are most stable in operation when unmodified from their "factory default". Customizations lead to instability. I like to customize things; therefore, I suffer from greater instability compared to those who customize nothing.

• Yet, I can identify customizations--some now with literally decades of experiential proof¹ of use behind them—that are undoubtedly things that make my activities and work better, more efficient, more pleasant, more useful to others, or all of the above.

• I can identify other customizations whose complications have hung around my neck like a weight for nearly as long. But I feel I can't simply jettison them. For some, I've simply gotten used to some facet of the custom experience and going back seems either intolerable or will just create a relearning period I find unacceptable. It's the inverse of the old engineering problem, "I can never automate this task, because doing it manually is just fast enough so that automation only ever seems like a gain in retrospect."

I feel like there's something like a KonMari decluttering method here if I stop and take the time to carefully consider actual cases (meaning archaeological digs into my old logs and commit histories) and figure out how to differentiate the customizations that continue to serve me versus the ones that have no net benefit and which I need to throw away.²

I've got enough ideas—and several thousand words of notes taken over the years—that I could write something useful about this, I think. But it feels incomprehensible to me that no one's written the definitive essay on this.

So please, either point me at it so I can learn, or tell me to start writing the damn piece already?


¹ Yes, "experiential proof" == "anecdotal evidence". But for customizations, like most lifestyle changes that aren't taken up by a large enough set of people to build a statistical universe and/or that haven't been studied independently, it's the best we can go on in deciding whether a change was worth it or not.

² And perhaps a third category, "the ones that are neutral, or perhaps even slightly malign, but for which the cost of getting rid of the customization and conforming to the default would be highly unpleasant." I happen to think that my use of the Dvorak keyboard for the better part of three decades now has had positive effects, but even if I could be convinced that it didn't, switching back to QWERTY now would be far too painful—even though I do touch-type at a respectable rate in both since sometimes I don't have a choice. Dvorak for me is about physical comfort, not efficiency. (Though the two often overlap when one has rheumatological issues.)___

2017-03-18 19:45:42 (8 comments; 0 reshares; 1 +1s; )Open 

Purpose of Ubuntu .deb packages with no real contents?

I feel like this is something I knew at one point but I've lost it...

There are a lot of packages, particularly in the linux-* space, where the entirety of their contents are:

./
./usr/
./usr/share/
./usr/share/doc/
./usr/share/doc/linux-$whatever/
./usr/share/doc/linux-$whatever/changelog.gz
./usr/share/doc/linux-$whatever/copyright

(See, for instance, linux-image-virtual.)

I'd assumed they did their "work" in the control files with pre- and post-install scripts. But examining them directly, they have no scripts. If I explode the archive and untar the data and contents, all I get are the files above, the metadata, and the checksum files.

So what's their purpose in being? To be the "abstract base class" of sorts in a... more »

Purpose of Ubuntu .deb packages with no real contents?

I feel like this is something I knew at one point but I've lost it...

There are a lot of packages, particularly in the linux-* space, where the entirety of their contents are:

./
./usr/
./usr/share/
./usr/share/doc/
./usr/share/doc/linux-$whatever/
./usr/share/doc/linux-$whatever/changelog.gz
./usr/share/doc/linux-$whatever/copyright

(See, for instance, linux-image-virtual.)

I'd assumed they did their "work" in the control files with pre- and post-install scripts. But examining them directly, they have no scripts. If I explode the archive and untar the data and contents, all I get are the files above, the metadata, and the checksum files.

So what's their purpose in being? To be the "abstract base class" of sorts in a dependency tree, I assume, but how can I query my system for the function any particular one is serving?___

posted image

2017-03-16 22:22:17 (8 comments; 1 reshares; 16 +1s; )Open 

Obligatory selfie¹ from JoCo Cruise 2017

More photos to come once I've finished sorting through them, but here's one with John Scalzi, from sunset happy hour on "Pajama Day" (hence my bathrobe and unkempt hair and generally looking like I just got out of bed—I was supposed to look like that).

The prior evening had been Cosplay Night. I wore the shirt you see here along with a grey hoodie. No one recognized that I was even cosplaying.

I'd expected that; the costume was pretty obscure, and looked perfectly reasonable as something I might wear if I weren't cosplaying. But I kept saying to my husband, "if only Scalzi sees me, he'll recognize me...." But I didn't see him that night (well, except during a podcast recording, with him on stage, so he didn't see me). So I took advantage of the next day's theme to keep thesh... more »

Obligatory selfie¹ from JoCo Cruise 2017

More photos to come once I've finished sorting through them, but here's one with John Scalzi, from sunset happy hour on "Pajama Day" (hence my bathrobe and unkempt hair and generally looking like I just got out of bed—I was supposed to look like that).

The prior evening had been Cosplay Night. I wore the shirt you see here along with a grey hoodie. No one recognized that I was even cosplaying.

I'd expected that; the costume was pretty obscure, and looked perfectly reasonable as something I might wear if I weren't cosplaying. But I kept saying to my husband, "if only Scalzi sees me, he'll recognize me...." But I didn't see him that night (well, except during a podcast recording, with him on stage, so he didn't see me). So I took advantage of the next day's theme to keep the shirt going, just in case.

So you can guess how pleased I was when he suddenly showed up in front of me on the aft Lido deck just after the LGBTQ* mixer, asking if he could snap a picture. I was a bit starstruck—I had talked to several of the "celebrities" onboard already, but this was the first time one I hadn't previously met talked to me—but I had the presence of mind to ask him if I could get one of both of us.

I asked him what had become of my character—the show in question, which he worked on, was cancelled on a cliff-hanger involving the character. The last-ever scene of the show had just the one character in it, wearing that shirt.²

He said he was under an NDA so couldn't tell me (boo, hiss). Then he added, "But, I promise you, you would have gone, 'oh shit, can they do that?'" I appreciated his talking to me, but this was not a helpful answer. :-)

(And, oh, yeah, that's Wil Wheaton behind me over my right shoulder, wearing sunglasses and looking out to sea. And if you had swung the camera around to see where I was facing, you'd see Cameron Esposito, Rhea Butcher and Jean Grae. And just off the right edge of the photograph were Rebecca and Steven Sugar.)


¹ Actually, my husband took it. But it's a photo on my phone that includes myself, so close enough. I was mostly taking pictures with my "real" camera, whose close-up distance is a bit further than my arm can reach, so I kept forgetting that selfies (or close simulacra) were something I could do too....

² I'm not saying the character or show so you can try to figure it out. Do me a favor, and rather than commenting with the answer and ruining it for others, do a reshare tagging me with your guess and comment below with "Got it" if you're sure or "Am I right?" if not and I'll answer below. First one right gets a prize!³ (If you actually want to reshare it—maybe because you have friends who are Scalzi and/or REDACTED fans—you can do that too; just don't give it away in that one.)

³ There is no prize.___

2017-03-02 20:24:11 (4 comments; 1 reshares; 9 +1s; )Open 

No! 'Trump' is our word, you don't get to use it.

As I packed for a trip this afternoon, I had a live stream from the Cambridge-based developers of the space-sim Elite: Dangerous playing in the background. The devs mentioned they were about to leave for America for PAX just as I happened to go over to the computer to look at something.

So there I saw the live chat, filled with a bunch of dumb¹ off-the-cuff live-chat jokes like "will the Americans let you in?" and "don't let Trump tweet about it" and "Trump's right: multi-crew [a game feature that was briefly added to a beta this week and then rolled back] is fake news". These were largely (from the ones I stopped to look at profile details) from British, Irish and other European viewers.

I had the oddest unbidden emotional reaction: the... more »

No! 'Trump' is our word, you don't get to use it.

As I packed for a trip this afternoon, I had a live stream from the Cambridge-based developers of the space-sim Elite: Dangerous playing in the background. The devs mentioned they were about to leave for America for PAX just as I happened to go over to the computer to look at something.

So there I saw the live chat, filled with a bunch of dumb¹ off-the-cuff live-chat jokes like "will the Americans let you in?" and "don't let Trump tweet about it" and "Trump's right: multi-crew [a game feature that was briefly added to a beta this week and then rolled back] is fake news". These were largely (from the ones I stopped to look at profile details) from British, Irish and other European viewers.

I had the oddest unbidden emotional reaction: the same one I get when a well-meaning straight person makes a non-hateful but cutting gay joke—the kind of joke that would be perfectly acceptable from any drag queen: "No! You don't get to do that; that's our word!"

In reflection, totally irrational. Maybe if we had a president where there was a big discrepancy between how domestic critics and most of the rest of the world viewed him—like, say, Ronald Reagan in his first term—I could understand it; "our jokes come from a place of loyal opposition and patriotism; your jokes target us by association, too."

But that's not the case here—I feel no patriotic duty to defend Trump from foreign smears. (His stratospheric level of buffoonery—the fact that most Americans do say he embarasses us on the world stage—combined with the questions raised about his own loyalties change things. He refused to let "politics stop at the water's edge", so he doesn't get the boons that come from the usual "we're all in this together" framing of the national endeavor.)

Is it the "shared pain" model that's been used to explain why Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock could make jokes that would unquestionably be branded as racist made by a white person? Americans have gone through this ordeal together ("trauma" is a word that's come up a lot since Nov. 9), so I'm reacting against people who didn't go through that shared trauma making fun?²

It was a weird reflexive emotional reaction, though, and I'm still not sure how to explain it.³


¹ I mean "dumb" in the most loving way—it's just what happens when people who don't do improv or regularly participate on panel shows try to make jokes on the fly. :-)

² Didn't go through it directly; I know that many citizens of our democratic allies went through similar emotions.

³ And yes: the title line above is inaccurate because it's jokey. I didn't really react to their using the name "Trump", but to the jokes.___

2017-03-01 19:56:33 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s; )Open 

I am so tired of Republicans who say "the biggest problem" with business regulation is "uncertainty".

When examining the effect of federal regulations in isolation—and especially for extraction, high-capital-cost manufacturing, and health care industries—this may be economically true. (For most economic activity, though, local regulations have much greater effect. For construction and utilities, the "biggest problem" is not uncertainty, but having to deal with a patchwork of conflicting and often irrational zoning and special district regulation.)

But regulatory uncertainty is neither secular nor cyclic; Democrats may be, by default, the party of greater regulation, but they're not the party of greater regulatory uncertainty. There are "ratcheting" effects in some regulatory frameworks (such as cause the move towardssta... more »

I am so tired of Republicans who say "the biggest problem" with business regulation is "uncertainty".

When examining the effect of federal regulations in isolation—and especially for extraction, high-capital-cost manufacturing, and health care industries—this may be economically true. (For most economic activity, though, local regulations have much greater effect. For construction and utilities, the "biggest problem" is not uncertainty, but having to deal with a patchwork of conflicting and often irrational zoning and special district regulation.)

But regulatory uncertainty is neither secular nor cyclic; Democrats may be, by default, the party of greater regulation, but they're not the party of greater regulatory uncertainty. There are "ratcheting" effects in some regulatory frameworks (such as cause the move towards state-mandated professionalization of previously non-professionalized services like nail styling), but those are usually driven from Republican-leaning lobbies trying to solidify market captures and rents.

But let's be honest, here: Republicans are the ones using "burn the whole thing down" rhetoric. "Deconstruction of the administrative state" — to quote Steve Bannon! — is now the explicit policy of the White House.

Let's take just two examples. Net neutrality has been a fact for sixteen months or so and the providers had largely adapted (even as some continue to fight it in court without injunction—in other words, they're fighting for uncertainty!). There's no longer any uncertainty on net neutrality unless you plan to tear it down — which Republicans do.

And the most obvious example: the thing most likely to cause Obamacare markets to collapse is the uncertainty of whether and how it will be replaced. Marketplace insurers have to decide this month the plans to offer in the next open enrollment. Is the likelihood that these plans will have yet-higher rates and deductibles and yet-lower coverage (and, in many cases, insurers exiting the marketplaces altogether) due to anything other than the uncertainty caused by Republicans' having had so little foresight that they can't say anything about what they want to do on health care except: a) it's going to be something, and b) whatever that something is, it's going to be a big change?¹

There are only a small portion of industries, and a very small number of corporations, in a position to benefit from sudden deregulation. For the particular types of deregulation being talked about, those businesses are largely ones that have already-captured markets, and would like to turn from investment to profit maximization. No new Apple or Google is going to emerge from erasure of any of the regulations being targeted.²

To put it simply, the only harms of "uncertainty" are self-inflicted.


¹ To be perfectly honest, there is also another reason for the poor condition of the ACA marketplaces: at its inception, the authors of the ACA were attempting to be honest about the dynamics of the health insurance market by structuring it assuming its being tweaked with numerous small amendments by Congress as it was implemented and theory met reality. The lack of those amendments' passage have caused a lot of marketplace insurer problems as well.

But, really, can you blame that on a single Democratic congress in 2010 for writing the bill that way in the first place to assume future legislative fixes rather than enshrining almost certainly incorrect predictive specifics into statute — or, can you blame that on Republican congresses from 2011 to today for never allowing any fixes to be passed—even fixes that were so uncontroversial that their obstruction constituted legislative sabotage?

² Since that's a predictive statement, I need to hedge in the following way: an FDA that basically stops doing its job may allow an innovative new drug company that today wouldn't be able to find the capital or partners for mandated testing protocols to introduce a blockbuster drug anyway and become hugely successful. But the chances that snake-oil corporations will do the same selling unsafe and/or ineffective products are at least as high.___

2017-03-01 18:42:43 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

Yeah, sorry... I never got to that article you recommended. See, I went to the site it was on by mistake....

I know I'm not the only one who has problems with going down link chains on news sites, being unable to resist just that one... extra... story... that'll give that crucial bit of context to a story I already know about or that will introduce me to something that's going to be the new thing I'll want to know about.

But does anyone else have this particular problem: you load a site, see the big story (or maybe special feature or maybe just something that catches your eye), and something in your brain goes, "well, that's dessert, so I need to eat my vegetables first", and so you open four or five other links and often never get to the big story at all?

No, I didn't think so. Nobody would be that crazy. Forget I asked.

Yeah, sorry... I never got to that article you recommended. See, I went to the site it was on by mistake....

I know I'm not the only one who has problems with going down link chains on news sites, being unable to resist just that one... extra... story... that'll give that crucial bit of context to a story I already know about or that will introduce me to something that's going to be the new thing I'll want to know about.

But does anyone else have this particular problem: you load a site, see the big story (or maybe special feature or maybe just something that catches your eye), and something in your brain goes, "well, that's dessert, so I need to eat my vegetables first", and so you open four or five other links and often never get to the big story at all?

No, I didn't think so. Nobody would be that crazy. Forget I asked.___

posted image

2017-02-28 02:18:27 (7 comments; 0 reshares; 13 +1s; )Open 

Fortuitous timing.

(I don't understand why I can't share this tweet as a link, but I can't, it says "invalid URL", even if I use the mobile or HTTP versions. So I screen-shotted it below and here's a link https://twitter.com/treyethan/status/836106391777587200 you can use if you want to like or retweet.)

I avoid social media when I want to avoid spoilers, and I generally watch things like the Oscars on a bit of a delay so I can fast-forward through the boring bits, so I opened the Twitter app for the first time since Saturday evening early this morning only after the Oscars were over.

The app hadn't updated yet, and this tweet from Pookleblinky—over 24 hours old at that point—was one of the last tweets that had popped up in my stream, so there it was, until I refreshed for post-Oscars content.

It was just so perfect. Isti... more »

Fortuitous timing.

(I don't understand why I can't share this tweet as a link, but I can't, it says "invalid URL", even if I use the mobile or HTTP versions. So I screen-shotted it below and here's a link https://twitter.com/treyethan/status/836106391777587200 you can use if you want to like or retweet.)

I avoid social media when I want to avoid spoilers, and I generally watch things like the Oscars on a bit of a delay so I can fast-forward through the boring bits, so I opened the Twitter app for the first time since Saturday evening early this morning only after the Oscars were over.

The app hadn't updated yet, and this tweet from Pookleblinky—over 24 hours old at that point—was one of the last tweets that had popped up in my stream, so there it was, until I refreshed for post-Oscars content.

It was just so perfect. I still love it.___

2017-02-26 17:48:45 (21 comments; 0 reshares; 5 +1s; )Open 

Need help finding Internet-controllable power for rebooting equipment?

I'm going on the JoCo Cruise starting next weekend, and, just like every time over the past few years my husband and I are traveling together for a longer trip (i.e., so that nobody will be home), I just searched for remote-controlled AC switches. (Yes, I should have done this earlier. I forgot.)

I have to power cycle my router and/or my cable modem and/or my server often enough that I do worry about losing access to something that I'll suddenly decide I need while away.

In the past, they've been too expensive and/or would require lots of additional work (like RS-232-addressed models that would require another device to control them).

Well, this time it seems like there's a wealth of options— too many for me to make a good decision in the time allotted. What I'dl... more »

Need help finding Internet-controllable power for rebooting equipment?

I'm going on the JoCo Cruise starting next weekend, and, just like every time over the past few years my husband and I are traveling together for a longer trip (i.e., so that nobody will be home), I just searched for remote-controlled AC switches. (Yes, I should have done this earlier. I forgot.)

I have to power cycle my router and/or my cable modem and/or my server often enough that I do worry about losing access to something that I'll suddenly decide I need while away.

In the past, they've been too expensive and/or would require lots of additional work (like RS-232-addressed models that would require another device to control them).

Well, this time it seems like there's a wealth of options— too many for me to make a good decision in the time allotted. What I'd like is:

• Three or more controllable outlets (though two would be acceptable if it were the only affordable option meeting the other requirements, since I could gang the cable modem and router together, though I'd really rather not)
• Open-protocol non-proprietary access (most of them seem to use iOS and/or Android apps from the manufacturers as the only way to control them—this is unacceptable) via something I can get at via a simple port mapping on the NAT or from a Linux machine on my LAN I can SSH into ⁰
• Secure¹ access, both from attackers doing port scanning and if I must connect to it from an open WiFi network²
• Cost below ~$100
• Immediate availability—we leave on Friday and I should have already dealt with this, I just forgot until today.

Plus, nice to have:
• A receptacle-configurable watchdog auto-power-cycle, since it won't do me much good for the cable modem and/or router to be addressable on the Internet if my Internet connection is down³
• Surge protection, since I don't have any 1-outlet surge protectors and those I see online seem to be designed to cover a wall outlet so might not work well in this application
• On Amazon Prime, or otherwise free ≤ 2-day shipping.

Now, I realize that an option I may be overlooking here is a small UPS. I'd like to hear recommendations of those if any meet all my requirements above, even if the cost is higher. I've seen a couple small UPS's with a single network-controllable outlet, but not any from the providers I'm familiar with that have three, and if I'm going to spend that much money I don't want to make compromises here.

Any help (soon!) greatly appreciated.


⁰ Updated: as I realized in comments below, since I only have one hard server on my LAN, all my Linux shells are virtuals that would go down together and be inaccessible if I needed to power-cycle the host.

¹ By "secure" I mean, "by inspection, apparently secure knowing what can be known"; I understand that, as with any embedded product, true security can never be known and can only be estimated after a careful independent audit.

² Though I'm willing to budge on the latter; if it just offers HTTP, I can use a VPN or SSH from my phone to a host elsewhere to poke it.

³ Another feature I'm willing to budge on, since I can write such a watchdog on a server in my LAN since they'll be on the same wired Ethernet switch.___

posted image

2017-02-25 17:19:55 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 15 +1s; )Open 

As Steven Levy writes: the leather jackets represent belonging to an elite group; so refusing women the jackets is much more than a denied perk, and something that shouldn't get lost here.

I'm unsure to what level Uber has a similar esprit de corps as Google SRE, but if it is comparable, it's a very important point.

I still wear my Google SRE jacket in weather that allows it. Mostly because it's the nicest piece of outerwear I own (I've had it re-lined once, in fact, and will probably do so again). But I haven't removed or replaced the patch.

It was almost two years between jacket distributions. I've heard (but cannot confirm) that this is because that's how long it took to get enough new women SRE's to qualify for a bulk discount and they weren't going to let men get them any quicker, so they made the whole order at once.

As Steven Levy writes: the leather jackets represent belonging to an elite group; so refusing women the jackets is much more than a denied perk, and something that shouldn't get lost here.

I'm unsure to what level Uber has a similar esprit de corps as Google SRE, but if it is comparable, it's a very important point.

I still wear my Google SRE jacket in weather that allows it. Mostly because it's the nicest piece of outerwear I own (I've had it re-lined once, in fact, and will probably do so again). But I haven't removed or replaced the patch.

It was almost two years between jacket distributions. I've heard (but cannot confirm) that this is because that's how long it took to get enough new women SRE's to qualify for a bulk discount and they weren't going to let men get them any quicker, so they made the whole order at once.___

2017-02-25 17:03:05 (13 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

Virtual Linux dev workstation: how to recover from crashes?

I've been moaning a bit lately about Win 10 instability, but it just occurred to me that I largely don't give a damn about Windows crashing—it usually seems to happen when the machine isn't in active console use, and between auto-save, RAID and filesystem journaling, I haven't lost any data I care about.

What screws with me every time is that my Linux virtuals have effectively been power-yanked, which isn't a big deal for the servers, but for the one I use as my development environment, it sucks so much.

Of course, between Linux's own filesystem journaling and editor crash recovery checkpoints, data loss isn't usually a problem there either. What sucks is my loss of context.

Returning to my workstation after a break can take maybe 3–5 minutes of reorienting myself:&qu... more »

Virtual Linux dev workstation: how to recover from crashes?

I've been moaning a bit lately about Win 10 instability, but it just occurred to me that I largely don't give a damn about Windows crashing—it usually seems to happen when the machine isn't in active console use, and between auto-save, RAID and filesystem journaling, I haven't lost any data I care about.

What screws with me every time is that my Linux virtuals have effectively been power-yanked, which isn't a big deal for the servers, but for the one I use as my development environment, it sucks so much.

Of course, between Linux's own filesystem journaling and editor crash recovery checkpoints, data loss isn't usually a problem there either. What sucks is my loss of context.

Returning to my workstation after a break can take maybe 3–5 minutes of reorienting myself: "oh, right, I had this debugger session open and I was working through this code path from this client code into this library code, and I was watching that log file as I stepped through, and I had these browser tabs open from Stack Exchange and the docs because I thought the problem was X, so I now I just need to..." and I'm back in business. The context of the windows, their contents, their placement—these things all serve as cues to get my mind back into the state it needs to be into to continue work. (It's a recording of a "memory palace", if you will; seeing the layout puts my mind quickly back in the state it was when I was last looking at the same layout.)

After a crash, though, getting back to the same point could take a half-hour or longer without aids: "uh, right, I had a problem that had to do with something blocking the event loop... and it was because of a global lock in... some resource... that I was using through... some library?" Even if I have a very good and concrete memory of what the issue was, I'm not going to remember the filenames and line numbers, if I was running a debugger or stress test or test case or benchmark I'm going to have to figure out exactly what it was and start it over.

Luckily I don't have to start from zero. But where I can start from isn't anywhere near the point of getting me past the reorientation hump, either:

My editor (Emacs; I'm sure vim and other editors have this too) has good crash-resilient session support, so when I restart it I get my open files and cursor locations back. It can't (AFAIK) talk to my Xmonad window manager, though, if I had multiple frames open in different geometries and on different workspaces.

My browser, Chrome, has session recovery, so I can get my tabs back, so that's something. I don't usually type long stuff (like this post) into Chrome windows, so losing that doesn't hurt (and lately I've noticed that a recovered Chrome sometimes can re-fill form fields, which is nice). The only time it's really painful is when I was using Chrome to connect to some servlet or monitor that is now gone or reinstantiated; those URL's frequently can't be re-used after a crash.

My shells are another matter entirely. On the Mac—where I was doing almost all development for the past twelve years or so—I was using tmux's control-channel integration with iTerm2, so that I had session management that integrated nicely with overlapping GUI windows. That feature of tmux is an iTerm2 exclusive, though (although searching now, I see that until December of last year at least, Andrea Fagiani was working on mods to Terminator to do the same; though it appears to be work-in-progress not supported by the core Terminator team, maybe I should give it a try).

Combined with the nice tmux-resurrect and tmux-continuum plugins, I would at least be able to see where I'd left things off—if I had a debugger session crash, I'd see the line and file number and the rest of the scrollback so I could get back relatively quickly.

But I don't tend to use tmux in conjunction with Xmonad since they don't interoperate—I run a tmux session in my "primary" shell window because I connect to it remotely via SSH, but if I'm on the console I prefer to use secondary windows so I can see the debugger and log at once, for instance. If this Terminator patch works, maybe I could return to this one—running all my shells in a single tmux session with resurrect/continuum and connecting to them with various Xmonad shell windows would be nice.

But here's the point: this is not a scalable solution. For each thing I have to work with in my tool chain, I have to find and integrate a different crash-resiliency mechanism. As it is with three of them (editor, browser, shell), it's just barely manageable, but since they don't interoperate, I don't get the "memory palace" cues like how the windows are located and sized. (The act of recreating the environment—for me at least—seems to wipe clear the "memory palace" cues; remembering how everything was situated and restoring it has now sort of instantiated a new isomorphic memory palace with nothing hanging off its hooks.)

So here's what I've been thinking: what if I checkpointed my Linux workstation every minute, and configured things so that in the event of a crash I automatically restart from the prior checkpoint?

It seems like this would be a gimme with VMware: both scheduled checkpointing and always restarting from most-recent checkpoint are easily-accessed features. But I'm using Hyper-V, and Hyper-V includes neither frequent scheduled checkpointing nor default restarting from a checkpoint. And when looking into why this is, I read that it's because the performance of the running systems (both host and guest, if I'm reading correctly) are badly impacted both by frequent checkpointing and by running off a checkpoint (until the checkpoint fully converges the delta, I assume—if the performance hit is forever after booting off a checkpoint... well, that would be bad).

So... I've got the following choices:
1. Grin and bear it.
2. Buy VMware and use it to do periodic checkpointing and automatic restart from latest checkpoint.
3. Manually configure a periodic task for checkpointing Hyper-V and turn off automatic VM startup; then start the VM from the checkpoint manually after any Windows crash.¹
4. Switch to a bare-metal hypervisor and run Win 10 alongside Linux, as I'd wanted to do before I got this box but people talked me out of because "it'll be so unstable compared to Win 10 on the bare metal—hypervisors aren't designed to run on graphics workstations, and graphics-heavy workstation OS's aren't designed to run as hypervisor guests!"²
5. Try using the Terminator patch to whip up some complicated Haskell magic that will tie Emacs, my browser, tmux, and Terminator together to do the nearest thing to full-session crash-resiliency I can manage.³
6. Other...?

You know the old saying about how if you can't quickly retrieve your gym shoes, you won't go to the gym? That's how this feels to me. I can be happily humming along in "developer flow" for days, finding it easy to return to whenever I open that Linux window, but then when I wiggle that mouse and find Windows unresponsive, it just leaves me deflated, and can keep me from wanting to resume work on my project without expending a lot of willpower. I'd love a better answer.


¹ Not only am I going to have to hope the performance hit isn't as great as hyped (pun not intended)—I am doing VR development and I can't afford to drop frames—but right now I rely on the Linux virtual even when I'm away from home, and remote access to Windows after restarts has been... spotty, at best—so I'd really rather let the Hyper-V manager automatically restart all virtuals. I suppose I could figure out how to run a PowerShell SSH server and write a batch script to do the startup from there, but that's beginning to sound like real work.

² Also, beginning to sound like real work— but, work that would pay off a lot of dividends if it works out. (And would have to be entirely jettisoned if it didn't work out...)

³ Again, real work.___

2017-02-25 03:35:13 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 0 +1s; )Open 

Chrome for iOS—where's the Share item?

This is better than it was even a year ago, but there are still places where the iOS "share" button on a web view or URL item in an app contains a choice for Safari and a choice for Firefox, but no choice for Chrome.

The Wikipedia app for iPad is a great example—as far as I know, the only way to open a link from a Wikipedia page in Chrome is by opening the page in the Wikipedia app-embedded browser, tapping the Share icon, and choosing "copy link", then switching to Chrome and pasting the link into the Omnibox. Unlike, say, Twitter, where Chrome is a button in the second (monochromatic) row of buttons. (Safari and Firefox get colorful icons in the top row of sharing actions.)

Yes, I know there's a More... choice that lets you add more services to the share pop-up, but so far I haven't seenChr... more »

Chrome for iOS—where's the Share item?

This is better than it was even a year ago, but there are still places where the iOS "share" button on a web view or URL item in an app contains a choice for Safari and a choice for Firefox, but no choice for Chrome.

The Wikipedia app for iPad is a great example—as far as I know, the only way to open a link from a Wikipedia page in Chrome is by opening the page in the Wikipedia app-embedded browser, tapping the Share icon, and choosing "copy link", then switching to Chrome and pasting the link into the Omnibox. Unlike, say, Twitter, where Chrome is a button in the second (monochromatic) row of buttons. (Safari and Firefox get colorful icons in the top row of sharing actions.)

Yes, I know there's a More... choice that lets you add more services to the share pop-up, but so far I haven't seen Chrome there.___

2017-02-25 02:04:48 (3 comments; 1 reshares; 11 +1s; )Open 

Not only do we not know what kind of investigations are happening, we can't be sure investigations are happening at all.

+Yonatan Zunger and others who pay attention to details of what (we know, think, or have reason to believe) the Intelligence Community is doing:

Evan McMullin made some very interesting comments on television tonight, and he specifically asked a question that made me bolt upright: What proof do we have that there even is an FBI counter-intelligence investigation into possible Trump campaign Russian ties?

He basically was pointing at that because we're used to most things a presidential administration says to the press being mostly true, spin notwithstanding, we're not equipped intuitively to handle the possibility that we are being manipulated with information that seems to reflect negatively on the regime. For instance, we may have been... more »

Not only do we not know what kind of investigations are happening, we can't be sure investigations are happening at all.

+Yonatan Zunger and others who pay attention to details of what (we know, think, or have reason to believe) the Intelligence Community is doing:

Evan McMullin made some very interesting comments on television tonight, and he specifically asked a question that made me bolt upright: What proof do we have that there even is an FBI counter-intelligence investigation into possible Trump campaign Russian ties?

He basically was pointing at that because we're used to most things a presidential administration says to the press being mostly true, spin notwithstanding, we're not equipped intuitively to handle the possibility that we are being manipulated with information that seems to reflect negatively on the regime. For instance, we may have been taking for granted that leaks were coming from the Intelligence Community because it makes sense to us and it follows what Trump's claiming—but that isn't a factual basis to work from.

If we jump on shaky information that seems to confirm our hypotheses and think it's more solid than it actually is merely because it's a "statement against interest", we can later be called on it if the information is disproved and our entire hypothesis can seem suspect, even if the supporting datum we used that turned out to be false was in no way necessary to reaching the conclusion.

This is fascinating and led me to wonder about the ethics (and etiquette) of being a former spy in the public sphere. If McMullin knew something from friends still in government, could he use that information to raise questions in public, using information that was in open source to bolster those questions?

(And, in order for my analytical faculties to be able to work, I have to ask the opposite question as well: if there were an argument that he found politically useful to make, but that was contradicted by information he knew but was unknown to the public, could he make the argument anyway? It would be a sort of lie, and it might get him in hot water with a friend who had divulged something to him, but are there other reasons to think he would or would not feel free to argue in such a way?)___

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2017-02-24 22:35:25 (5 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s; )Open 

The Trump administration's FCC is rolling back ISP privacy and security protections.

Former Democratic FCC chairman Tom Wheeler worked to put in place a number of regulations to deal with the reality that most people in America do not have much market choice in Internet providers, so net neutrality and consumer protections needed to be enforced on all providers since consumer leverage against monopolists controlling a necessary utility is so low.

New Republican chairman Amit Pai has said he intends to roll back almost all of these provisions because market forces should make these decisions rather than government regulatory agencies.

I'm curious: how many of you live in locations where you can "vote with your feet" and switch ISP's because of their business practices without requiring you make a significant sacrifice in service quality, speed,... more »

The Trump administration's FCC is rolling back ISP privacy and security protections.

Former Democratic FCC chairman Tom Wheeler worked to put in place a number of regulations to deal with the reality that most people in America do not have much market choice in Internet providers, so net neutrality and consumer protections needed to be enforced on all providers since consumer leverage against monopolists controlling a necessary utility is so low.

New Republican chairman Amit Pai has said he intends to roll back almost all of these provisions because market forces should make these decisions rather than government regulatory agencies.

I'm curious: how many of you live in locations where you can "vote with your feet" and switch ISP's because of their business practices without requiring you make a significant sacrifice in service quality, speed, and/or cost?

I live in Manhattan, so I have much greater competition than most markets—but I could still only get the level of service I have now from three companies. (If I were willing to switch television and mobile phone providers at the same time, the costs would be comparable, but if I weren't, the cost would be much higher if I switched.) I think most Americans have even less choice.___

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2017-02-24 21:10:08 (6 comments; 0 reshares; 7 +1s; )Open 

This is exciting.

For the nontechnical reader the docs at https://upspin.io/ may be confusing, but I should note that when it says it's designed for "personal" rather than "business" use, they mean mainly for personal use of files stored in the cloud; the example they give is posting a photo from your Facebook account in a tweet without having to download it to your local drive first.

I'm sure someone will quickly come out with shims to make Upspin work for desktop file sharing, but for now, don't be surprised that the upspin.io website doesn't have anywhere to "sign up". (They have a technical document on how to sign a service's users up, but that's not the same thing.)


Something which may be of interest to various security- and open-source minded folks: we just open-sourced a distributed, secure file-sharing system. Full technical details at https://upspin.io/ .

(I know most of its authors, and they're very, very, good at what they do)___This is exciting.

For the nontechnical reader the docs at https://upspin.io/ may be confusing, but I should note that when it says it's designed for "personal" rather than "business" use, they mean mainly for personal use of files stored in the cloud; the example they give is posting a photo from your Facebook account in a tweet without having to download it to your local drive first.

I'm sure someone will quickly come out with shims to make Upspin work for desktop file sharing, but for now, don't be surprised that the upspin.io website doesn't have anywhere to "sign up". (They have a technical document on how to sign a service's users up, but that's not the same thing.)

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2017-02-24 20:56:13 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 5 +1s; )Open 

Anachronisms in film, and a little history of signage typography.⁰

In my earlier post on Hidden Figures, I wrote that the only anachronism that bothered me was a missing piece of equipment in the mainframe machine room.

+Daniel J. Stern replied saying he was very bothered because he saw lots of anachronistic cars—something I hadn't noticed.

I guess it shows what you have an eye for depends on what you're interested in and have knowledge of the history of (or have lived through and have memory of the period).

I tend to notice computer, communications, and some technology anachronisms, but not car-model anachronisms. (The ones that tend to drive me a bit bonkers are the not-definitely-anachronistic cases like "well, yes, Cuisinarts did exist in 1980, but they were really rare and very expensive, so I doubt that family would have one, and ifthe... more »

Anachronisms in film, and a little history of signage typography.⁰

In my earlier post on Hidden Figures, I wrote that the only anachronism that bothered me was a missing piece of equipment in the mainframe machine room.

+Daniel J. Stern replied saying he was very bothered because he saw lots of anachronistic cars—something I hadn't noticed.

I guess it shows what you have an eye for depends on what you're interested in and have knowledge of the history of (or have lived through and have memory of the period).

I tend to notice computer, communications, and some technology anachronisms, but not car-model anachronisms. (The ones that tend to drive me a bit bonkers are the not-definitely-anachronistic cases like "well, yes, Cuisinarts did exist in 1980, but they were really rare and very expensive, so I doubt that family would have one, and if they did, every scene set in the kitchen would have to include showing it off, because that's what you did if you had one..." OTOH, the KitchenAid mixer has been mostly unchanged since 1930, and you'd have to be a serious collector to know when certain colors and attachments were available, so usually it's unobjectionable — except that they had a serious drop in popularity in the late 70's through the mid-90's, when they had a resurgence, so seeing one on a countertop in an 80's kitchen of a young couple would not be impossible, but unusual.)

I think filmmakers tend to at least get the decade or so right with cars, aside from indy filmmakers who can't afford CGI post and catch an unfortunate modern car in the background. The only time I've ever noticed an anachronism is when a movie was set in a year I owned a car (a Mazda Miata, in the mid-90's) and the version shown in the film was the next model. God help people who will try to do period pieces set in Fidel-era Cuba—you could go overboard and just do full pre-embargo American cars everywhere, but try to show the realistic diversity and you'd run into huge trouble getting the right cars from the right years fast.

But as a former graphic artist, typeface anachronisms just destroy me. Hidden Figures was good on this point, but that may just be because both NASA of the 60's and filmmakers through the decades loved Futura. I remember seeing Futura "MEN'S ROOM" signs with painted-over "COLORED" lines in public buildings as a kid in small-town North Carolina.

But most period films and TV shows are not so blessed by cinematic aesthetics aligning with typographic timelines. In the first or second season of Downton Abbey, a character in prison is visited, and the entrance of the prison has a large sign listing rules for visitors — in Helvetica! This is an anachronism by at least 45 years. The first grotesque typeface that could reasonably be mistaken for Helvetica by the untrained eye (say, one today who couldn't distinguish Helvetica from Univers unless they were side-by-side) wouldn't even come out for 25 years.¹

Don't get me started on how it makes my brain scream when I see filmmakers using Microsoft's knockoff fonts in period pieces—whether or not the original like Helvetica was available at the time of Argo (it was), Arial most certainly was not!

I can abide small deviations like using Helvetica (not Arial) for the NYC Subway system during the technically anachronistic period from 1960 to the mid-80's, because the actual NYC Subway after 1960 used a signage variant of Akzidenz-Grotesk called Standard Medium that looks very similar to Helvetica even to the casually trained eye (have a look at the cover of the below book² on this history—the cover font is not Helvetica), Standard Medium is hard to come by (and you simply can't get a license from the foundries for its use in film; though probably—for the same reason—you wouldn't get sued if you used it anyway), and it appeared mostly in hand-stenciled signage anyway, so it would never look exactly the same.

The MTA first actually used Helvetica proper in 1980—but only for the capital letter J for the line of that name, because the Akzidenz-Grotesk version of J (which can be seen in the QJ of the book cover below) had an odd, near-horizontal tail that could be mistaken for a capital I.

Between 1980 and 1989, the MTA style manual slowly transitioned from Standard Medium to Helvetica since more and more of its usage were in cases where a Linotype (which had Helvetica, not Akzidenz-Grotesk) was used. But even beyond that point up until 1995, when the signage shop stopped using equipment that stenciled in Standard Medium, a mix could be found even in new signage, and I sometimes see some of the old Standard Medium signs today! (They're hard to find, and when I spot one, I always get excited and point them out to whomever I'm with. They're usually a lot less excited, if they can even see the difference with a comparable adjacent sign in Helvetica.)

Given that, I don't fault anyone from using Helvetica in a period piece for subway signage after 1960—it's close enough.

But for signage in general before 1990 or so, filmmakers really should use signage fonts. Today, almost all signs are designed on a computer, so the fonts used are the same typefaces used for display text in print.

But it wasn't always that way. Until the 90's, almost all signs were made using stencils (or in some cases hand-drawn), and the fonts in stencil collections were usually not fonts from print typefaces. To see what I mean, have a look at one of the many "Sign Songs" from Children's Television Workshop's The Electric Company (for example at https://youtu.be/cjMHQd1-7DY or another in my prior post at https://goo.gl/UoytpE). In those videos I recognize Franklin Gothic and some FHWA Highway Gothic fonts; otherwise they're mostly idiosyncratic.

So unless they're exactly trying to reproduce an actual sign from the past—which can be difficult if not impossible with foundry-licensed typefaces—they should use a signage font, not a display typeface. There are many good, authentic, late-19th and early-20th century signage-font typefaces available in modern digital form from major foundries.


⁰ Expanded from a comment in the post https://plus.google.com/u/0/+TreyHarris/posts/PqnTJA68E1R.

¹ Well, I hear some people think Franklin Gothic (c. 1902) looks like Helvetica. I hear some of them aren't even legally blind. So if you go to MoMA and think, "Helvetica", then maybe Downton Abbey worked for you.

² A fantastic book if you're a font, design, or transit geek, and the kind of coffee-table book that people at parties will actually pick up and start conversations over, rather than simply serving as a signifier of the kind of person you'd like to appear to be.___

2017-02-24 02:33:34 (5 comments; 1 reshares; 6 +1s; )Open 

One thing bothered me about Hidden Figures...

I loved the movie, except for one thing: every time they showed the machine room with the IBM 7090, there was a punch card reader (I think a high-speed model which would have been from 1964, two years later than Glenn's flight, but that's a minor detail)... but no reproducing punch.

They couldn't have done backup calculations without one. I can't find any photos of a machine room at Langley from that period, and technically a reproducing punch wasn't part of the mainframe so could be located elsewhere, but they must have had one, and it would definitely be placed next to the reader if possible—and certainly if they were starting with an empty machine room as the film showed. Every time they showed that machine room I was looking for one and never saw it; it was like a movie set in present days... more »

One thing bothered me about Hidden Figures...

I loved the movie, except for one thing: every time they showed the machine room with the IBM 7090, there was a punch card reader (I think a high-speed model which would have been from 1964, two years later than Glenn's flight, but that's a minor detail)... but no reproducing punch.

They couldn't have done backup calculations without one. I can't find any photos of a machine room at Langley from that period, and technically a reproducing punch wasn't part of the mainframe so could be located elsewhere, but they must have had one, and it would definitely be placed next to the reader if possible—and certainly if they were starting with an empty machine room as the film showed. Every time they showed that machine room I was looking for one and never saw it; it was like a movie set in present day showing a keyboard inexplicably missing the space bar.

(There were also no key punches anywhere I could see, but you could explain that away by saying punching went on in some room that was never shown, though I imagine they would have been in the (human) computer room that was prominently shown.)

I hate it when I fixate on something like that and it keeps pulling me out of a movie. (I can usually manage with present-day pretend computer interfaces by imagining the movie's actually set in a near-future when for some reason we've all collectively decided we love interfaces with plenty of useless graphics, and text saturation-contrast that makes our eyes bleed.)

I've heard some folks guffawed at the line, "Euler's method? But that's... ancient." It didn't sound that strange to me. "Ancient" was maybe a strange word to use, but what word would be right? "Something you learn in school and never use again?" "Crufty?" "Inapproximate as compared to more modern algorithms, but well within the tolerances needed for this application?" I think "ancient" seems plausible, at least.___

2017-02-23 18:36:28 (5 comments; 0 reshares; 0 +1s; )Open 

Win 10 PC won't wake up display but otherwise is running normally?

This is an odd one that's happened at least once before, so since I'm not dying to get use of it right away I figured I'd try to find the answer rather than power-cycling it.

This morning I logged my husband out, and because I didn't need to login yet, put the machine to sleep (using the login screen icon), and when I returned, moved the mouse and touched a key, which got the fans spinning and the interior lights lit up through the side panel, and caused the NumLock and CapsLock LEDs to toggle when those keys were pressed, but no signal to my display (connected via DisplayPort to the GTX 1080).

From other devices on the same LAN, I can SSH into the Linux virtuals running on the machine and can see the Windows fileshares. So the machine seems to absolutely be running... more »

Win 10 PC won't wake up display but otherwise is running normally?

This is an odd one that's happened at least once before, so since I'm not dying to get use of it right away I figured I'd try to find the answer rather than power-cycling it.

This morning I logged my husband out, and because I didn't need to login yet, put the machine to sleep (using the login screen icon), and when I returned, moved the mouse and touched a key, which got the fans spinning and the interior lights lit up through the side panel, and caused the NumLock and CapsLock LEDs to toggle when those keys were pressed, but no signal to my display (connected via DisplayPort to the GTX 1080).

From other devices on the same LAN, I can SSH into the Linux virtuals running on the machine and can see the Windows fileshares. So the machine seems to absolutely be running "normally" but for the display.

What should I try next? The answers I've found searching on the web sound like voodoo°.

My long experience with Linux and Macs tends to make me overly confident about technical issues, which I try to correct for by being abundantly cautious when messing with Windows. I worry from previous experience that doing the things that would come naturally to me on Linux and Mac, like pulling and reseating the DisplayPort cable, are actually more likely to hard-crash the box than get things working again.

(Update because I forgot to mention it before posting: I tried to connect via Remote Desktop on a Mac and a tablet. Both times I got some sort of communications with the machine—it could distinguish an intentionally-incorrect password from the correct one—but after entering the right password, would hang for 90 seconds or so showing a black screen, then fail with error code "0x1108". Searching Google for that error code is amusing because if you don't quote the number and just search "error code 0x1108", it shows you lots of stuff about Remote Desktop — none of which contain that error code. OTOH, if you quote "0x1108", to force Google to give you pages containing that term, you get a lot of useless stuff, like forum questions without answers. So apparently Google's learned "0x1108" as a synonym for RDP. 🤔)

Any suggestions?


° One I've just got to hope was a particularly malicious troll suggested removing the RAM, waiting ten minutes, then reseating it — while the machine was running!___

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2017-02-22 20:04:02 (6 comments; 1 reshares; 8 +1s; )Open 

A first-person account of traveling with Milo: it's just as nauseating as it sounds.

The fantastic writer Laurie Penny recounting her first-hand experiences riding on the Milo tour bus.

Milo is someone who, I think, does a good job of baiting free-speech-absolutist° liberals like me into entertaining the idea that people trying to shut him up are better-intentioned than Milo but politically more dangerous.

This piece, along with another I read by Penny she wrote after accompanying Milo at the RNC (https://medium.com/welcome-to-the-scream-room/im-with-the-banned-8d1b6e0b2932), shows how this faux-"free speech" manipulation is an explicit part of the game he (and many of his compatriots) play. And they do treat it, and even call it, a "game".

He didn't deserve any of the platforms he got in the past year (at least). Their... more »

A first-person account of traveling with Milo: it's just as nauseating as it sounds.

The fantastic writer Laurie Penny recounting her first-hand experiences riding on the Milo tour bus.

Milo is someone who, I think, does a good job of baiting free-speech-absolutist° liberals like me into entertaining the idea that people trying to shut him up are better-intentioned than Milo but politically more dangerous.

This piece, along with another I read by Penny she wrote after accompanying Milo at the RNC (https://medium.com/welcome-to-the-scream-room/im-with-the-banned-8d1b6e0b2932), shows how this faux-"free speech" manipulation is an explicit part of the game he (and many of his compatriots) play. And they do treat it, and even call it, a "game".

He didn't deserve any of the platforms he got in the past year (at least). Their withdrawal is right and good. But it still leaves me with this nagging feeling that what's happened to him (particularly since it was due to his finally saying something that triggered conservative moral panic) will make it easier in the future to suppress the speech of people expressing wildly unpopular but valid ideas.

That's one reason why his (and the whole alt-right/Gamergate/etc.) "game" is so deadly serious.


° "Absolutist" in the "tempered by sanity" sense; I'm not in favor of protecting dangerous speech acts like directed hate speech or shouting "fire" in a crowded theater.___

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2017-02-22 17:51:01 (23 comments; 0 reshares; 1 +1s; )Open 

Can my ophthalmalogist charge a fee for an updated copy of my prescription?

I had a strange thing happen at my last annual checkup that I can't recall before... my prescription hadn't changed, but I asked for a new copy because if I want to get a new pair of lenses, most (all?) opticians require a prescription less than a year old.

The technician gave me the paper while I waited for the doctor. (I should have taken a photo of it while I could, but, oh well. My eyes were dilated so I wouldn't know if it was in focus or not anyway. 😜)

When I checked out, in addition to my regular copay, the receptionist said there was a $35 fee for a second copy of a prescription. "I just wanted one copy", I said, but was told since the values hadn't changed, the fee applied. I handed the paper back, since if I decide to buy a new pair of lenses, I canal... more »

Can my ophthalmalogist charge a fee for an updated copy of my prescription?

I had a strange thing happen at my last annual checkup that I can't recall before... my prescription hadn't changed, but I asked for a new copy because if I want to get a new pair of lenses, most (all?) opticians require a prescription less than a year old.

The technician gave me the paper while I waited for the doctor. (I should have taken a photo of it while I could, but, oh well. My eyes were dilated so I wouldn't know if it was in focus or not anyway. 😜)

When I checked out, in addition to my regular copay, the receptionist said there was a $35 fee for a second copy of a prescription. "I just wanted one copy", I said, but was told since the values hadn't changed, the fee applied. I handed the paper back, since if I decide to buy a new pair of lenses, I can always ask for the copy and pay the fee then.

I'm wondering if this is something that's common with ophthalmalogists, or if his practice is nickle-and-diming me? (I've seen him for fifteen years, and haven't felt this before—he's never pushed me to do a procedure, he's been happy discussing cost/benefit when I've needed something done, and he's never quibbled with my doing a free trial whenever a new contact lens material has come out—even though I've never found a contact lens that's comfortable with the constant minor iritis I have from my chronic rheumatological condition, so it's always been a bunch of time wasted for two or three free appointments that never turned into profitable lens-buying.)

My reading of the law (summarized in the link—that at this moment hasn't yet been purged from Trump's FTC; if the link's broken when you see this, check the Wayback Machine) is that this may be a loophole that only applies if your prescription doesn't change from your prior visit. The law is vague on that point.

It's clear that if the prescription changes or it's a new doctor you get at least a single free copy of the prescription at the end of the exam, though a fee may apply for the pupillary distance measurement you need if you want to order lenses online.___

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2017-02-20 19:00:52 (4 comments; 1 reshares; 9 +1s; )Open 

You think you know it's bad, because you've been paying attention? Paying attention has probably blinded you to how bad it actually is.

A piece by Michelle Goldberg well worth reading. Ever since I posted Masha Gessen's piece a week after the election, and more so since the inauguration, I've been wrestling with a difficult post dealing with these same issues. I gladly scrap it and just point you at her piece instead.

I find I'm already entering a sort of oscillating pattern where I am very engaged with the news for a while, and then I'm less engaged for a little while.

I don't disengage completely, as some of my acquaintances have taken to doing for "mental health days", but that's for my ability to write about this stuff efficiently; my memory of news events is usually great when I'm keeping abreast of events, and dismal... more »

You think you know it's bad, because you've been paying attention? Paying attention has probably blinded you to how bad it actually is.

A piece by Michelle Goldberg well worth reading. Ever since I posted Masha Gessen's piece a week after the election, and more so since the inauguration, I've been wrestling with a difficult post dealing with these same issues. I gladly scrap it and just point you at her piece instead.

I find I'm already entering a sort of oscillating pattern where I am very engaged with the news for a while, and then I'm less engaged for a little while.

I don't disengage completely, as some of my acquaintances have taken to doing for "mental health days", but that's for my ability to write about this stuff efficiently; my memory of news events is usually great when I'm keeping abreast of events, and dismal when I try to catch up after a disconnection¹, so I'd prefer to stay just connected enough to not have to research every last sentence I write. (We're going on the JoCo Cruise in a couple weeks, so we'll see how I manage after eight days offline—the only other time I took a cruise, I discovered after some confusion that the CNN "channel" on the cabin TV was actually a videotaped loop of a few hours of coverage from our last shore day.)

But what I am doing is this: when the news is slow, I don't even look at Twitter except for the highlights that have been liked by at least half a dozen voices whose reputation I respect. I only look at certain circles on G+. That insulates me from the really mentally taxing crap. Then when the news is happening, I reconnect to get a sense of the larger picture with the mental reserves necessary to deal with, for example, Breitbart nonsense.

Looking at my own post stream, I see that when I'm posting frequently, I'm doing shallow "hot takes" while when I post less frequently I'm writing more analytical stuff. The quick takes can be fun — I've especially enjoyed the little dabbles into faux screenwriting I've used to illustrate what the reality of particular alternative facts would look like — and I'd be lying if I didn't say it gives me a certain frisson when I see that a random prediction I threw out in the moment something hit the news turned out to be proven right much later.

But I don't ultimately think such posts are as useful as the analysis. At least, not as useful to me in getting my head around what's going on and what's coming next. (I'm curious what those of you who read my posts think about what's most useful.)

The present post you're reading is simultaneously a third and fourth type, both of which I try to keep to a minimum: the "go read this link" post without much additional content of my own to add, and the meta-analytic post about the mechanics of how I'm thinking about how I'm thinking and writing about the news.²

But Michelle Goldberg's Slate piece linked here is very much worth reading beginning to end; she covers a lot of good and useful territory on how I think we need to be thinking about this stuff, and an important reminder that we all absolutely must regularly (every couple days, at minimum!) back up, take a breath, and look at the big picture to remind ourselves both of what matters and how abnormal this all is.

The current regime has rapidly weaponized the "shiny object" technique of press manipulation. By that, I mean the strategy of throwing chaff in the form of outrageous but, in the larger scope, unimportant statements because they know the press has no choice but to make a story out of them; the press has certain obligation due to institutional factors that make them like sentient heat-seeking missiles; they may "know" individually as reporters that things like the "Swedish terrorist attack that wasn't" is chaff, but they still have to head straight for it because it's how their business works.

I remain uncertain to what respect this tactic is a conscious decision of the regime. If I had to guess based on the limited evidence available, I'd say I think Donald Trump does it himself intuitively and spontaneously without direction from advisers³, but that at least Bannon and Miller know how to disperse the chaff once the Donald's got it out there, and Reince and Kellyanne know how to manage a news cycle. So it's probably true to say both that the "shiny object" strategy is not a "deliberate White House strategy", and that it is an ongoing tactic that the entire political apparatus will remain committed to.

In any case, at the moment the White House press corps cannot extract itself from what amounts to an abusive relationship. Even though most of them are becoming cognizant ("woke") to the dysfunction, they are stuck replaying the dysfunctional behavior again and again. How they might break the cycle is an interesting question that a number of journalism writers have been thinking about, but it will require the press to do some norms-flouting of its own. Our independent press is largely built around norm preservation, so when it happens, it will happen with a bang, much bigger than that of past norms-rejection such as outlets announcing they were no long participating in the White House Correspondents Dinner or reporting out of "on-background" briefings.

(I'll get into this more in a later post as it deserves much more space. But to explain it simply: "man bites dog" is a story because it upends the norm. Since coverage of politics is frequently adversarial, "man bites dog" coverage tends to frame the norm-breaker as the villain. Thus, the press unwittingly ends up being the institutional keepers of norms, and figuring out how they break out of a cycle where the norms have made them unwilling flunkies of the regime is a difficult question.)

To give you an idea of the kind of bang I'm talking about: more than one journalism ethicist has suggested that the entire White House press corps⁴ needs to boycott daily briefings, send interns in their stead with questions to read and keep re-reading until answered or the press secretary refuses to answer and moves on, and stop showing the briefing live. It's hard to imagine any one of our outlets doing that on their own, and this is a prisoner's dilemma that can only be solved by before-the-fact collusion, something that the flagship news outlets would bristle at.

But until the press can figure out how to deal with the new alternate reality, we as individual "news consumers" (i.e., responsible citizens) have to do as much as we can ourselves. And so yes, a very important part of that is to frequently take a step back, look at the big picture, and remind ourselves, yet again: this is not normal.


¹ To give you an idea what I mean: when comedy and politics shows play the montages of politicians saying self-contradictory things, something that's become a staple of such shows lately, I not-too-infrequently see the purported date on-screen in the corner of the footage and think, that's not right, check it and see the date is off.

This is an important skill right now in doing the "when this thing happened, who knew what at the time and what had they said before" detective work necessary to indicate a problem with the purported narrative. Having to dig out when things were first said on the record is a royal pain in the ass; it's much easier to index the other way and check yourself, but you can't do that if you haven't committed these events to your own memory.

² I try to keep them to a minimum because there are much better curators than me from whom you should be getting good things to read, and because it's ultimately just self-indulgent for me to write often about how I analyze the things I write about.

³ My evidence for this: he frequently throws out chaff that is so bizarre it's hard to imagine anyone in a political or policy role at the White House envisaging it; the various people who speak for the president are often at a loss to explain these things immediately after, suggesting there was no strategy session or briefing or talking-points email; and the White House (until today at least) remains without a full-time Communications Director aside from double-hatted press secretary Shawn Speicer.

⁴ I refer here to the traditional press corps; the new, expanded "press corps" consisting of right-wing bloggers, conspiracy theorists, and random people dialing in on Skype aren't included in whom I'm talking about here.___

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2017-02-19 20:43:57 (1 comments; 6 reshares; 15 +1s; )Open 

No, "privilege" is not an "accusation". "Racist" and "anti-Semite" are not "slurs". And calling out systemic bigotry is not a personal attack.

There was a very illuminating moment yesterday on one of the politics shows that got to the heart of the reason for some of the president's most bizarre answers at this week's press conferences.

Yesterday on MSNBC's AM Joy, former Republican congressman and Newsmax TV host J. D. Hayworth claimed his own first-hand experiences answering questions from CBP (in returning to the country in airports and in driving near the Arizona-Mexico border) showed the other members of the panel (Latinas journalist Maria Hinojosa, a naturalized citizen, and actress Rosie Perez, a natural-born citizen) were engaging in "hysterics" when they described themselves and their loved ones... more »

No, "privilege" is not an "accusation". "Racist" and "anti-Semite" are not "slurs". And calling out systemic bigotry is not a personal attack.

There was a very illuminating moment yesterday on one of the politics shows that got to the heart of the reason for some of the president's most bizarre answers at this week's press conferences.

Yesterday on MSNBC's AM Joy, former Republican congressman and Newsmax TV host J. D. Hayworth claimed his own first-hand experiences answering questions from CBP (in returning to the country in airports and in driving near the Arizona-Mexico border) showed the other members of the panel (Latinas journalist Maria Hinojosa, a naturalized citizen, and actress Rosie Perez, a natural-born citizen) were engaging in "hysterics" when they described themselves and their loved ones feeling "terrified" by encounters with immigration forces.

The skewed Republican mindset was not unmasked in that comment, though. It came after Hinojosa's response: "You can say that, because of your position of privilege… as a white man."

The illuminating moment: when Hayworth shot back, "I'm accused of privilege and I'm accused of all these things..."

Calling out privilege — white privilege, male privilege, straight privilege, cisgender privilege, whatever it may be — is not an 'accusation'. Pointing out systemic, societal, and institutional bigotry is not an 'accusation'.¹

Privilege exists. It just does; there's no point in arguing it. Whether a particular moment in someone's life experience is a moment they benefitted from privilege or was a moment they were harmed because they lacked privilege can be arguable; most often, it's simply unknowable. The same goes for systemic bigotry: it exists, even if it may not explain every negative encounter an oppressed group has with the system in question.

Saying someone "accused" you of "white privilege" is like saying someone "accused" you of being white—it makes no sense, and saying it reflects a profound misunderstanding of the issues involved.

On Wednesday's and Thursday's press conferences, we saw President Trump exhibit the same reaction to factual questions having to do with societal anti-Semitism and racism: he treated them as accusations against him personally.

This is a pernicious attitude that cannot go unchallenged.

"Racist" is an ugly word, one that no (mainstream) politician wants to be called. But as ugly as it is, as charged as it is, as cutting as it is, "racist" is not a slur.²

Let me demonstrate the difference: I am a male homosexual. Imagine someone called me by the slur "faggot".

I could take exception to this in a number of ways. I could say "that's offensive"; I could cut off further contact with the person; I could make an offensive gesture at the person or swear at them. Depending on the context, there are lots of possible responses. Anger would generally be considered justifiable on my part.

And if I wanted to continue the discourse, it would be reasonable for me to demand an apology before continuing. And I need do nothing to prove the legitimacy of my demand; the simple fact of the slur having been uttered at me is sufficient to warrant an apology.

But there's one particular response I could give to my being called a "faggot" that would be insane:³ "no, I'm not". Going on to give reasons why I'm not a "faggot" would be even more bizarre. I should feel no need to do so, and no rational person listening to the exchange would think I needed to mount a defense. That's what it means for something to be a slur.

Being called "racist", on the other hand, is nothing like being called a "faggot". You can honestly respond "no, I'm not", and give reasons why you believe that to be the case.⁴ If the accusation is false (and, yes, calling an individual "racist" is usually an accusation), that's not only an available avenue of response; it's the only legitimate response other than stopping the conversation (or attempting to continue the conversation while "agreeing to disagree" on the charge of racism). Thus, "racist" isn't a slur.

But many on the right treat "racist" (and "anti-Semite", "homophobe", etc.) as if they were slurs. They feel no need to respond or explain, they demand apologies from those who dare call them that (even without any explanation of why their statements and/or behavior isn't racist), they feel justified in cutting off the discussion as if the other person delegitimized themself. The only bone they throw to show they're aware they weren't actually slurred is arbitrary pronouncements like, "I'm the least racist person you've ever met."

And—at least recently; this feels like a fairly new rhetorical trick to me, but I haven't researched the question—they treat observations of privilege or of institutional racism, etc., as if they were equivalent to calling the individual by that false "slur".

As a rhetorical trick, it's understandable: often people like Hinojosa bring up privilege or institutional bigotry when their interlocutor has benefitted from it or has a hand in furthering it. Acting as if they've been personally slurred allows them to short-circuit the discussion before it can draw the explicit connection between the systemic and the personal. By getting their hackles up early, they avoid the most damning part of the argument, the part where they would have to face personal responsibility.

Allowing people to get away with this erodes our understanding of systemic oppression and of why names for bigots are not slurs. That's why I wrote it's pernicious.

Yes, being called a bigot when you're not is offensive. But being called a true slur is offensive even when you are. We can't allow the two to be equated.


¹ I'm not making anything like a new point here—it's been widely-discussed in progressive circles for years if not decades—but this moment was a nice crystallization of the issue.

² In and of itself, I mean. Being called a racist when you're not is an insulting allegation, which could fit some definitions of "slur".

³ Or dishonest, or closeted, but let's assume I'm out and am being honest.

⁴ I'm talking about "racist" in the way it's ordinarily understood when applied to someone, i.e., of describing particular bigotry. All of us in participating in a society with a racist history being racist (and homophobic, etc.), even if it's internalized or subjugated, isn't what I'm talking about here.___

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2017-02-18 18:40:03 (9 comments; 0 reshares; 13 +1s; )Open 

A little story about Lima Oscar Victor Echo

An aside about a favorite memory: I was entertaining a friend who'd never been to New York, so I took him to the roof of 30 Rock (which, should you ever visit NYC, is a better sightseeing choice than the Empire State Building, especially in fine weather, because you get to go outside and you can see the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings). About 45 minutes before sundown, of course, because then a 90-minute visit encompasses the entire period from sunlight to night. (I think a single ticket will admit you twice, so you can make it two shorter trips if you just want to have the daytime and nighttime experience, but you really want to actually see sunset.)

Anyway, while my friend was zipping about snapping pictures, I had taken station in a corner to watch the sun go down. Like all the roofs of the 14-building Art Deco complex at... more »

A Google dictation/voice recognition feature request: NATO alphabetic spelling.

You may have run into this situation: you say, "Okay, Google, define <word>", for some particularly uncommon word, and Google "hears" the wrong, more common, word. So you try again with more careful enunciation, yet the weight attached to the wrong word's commonness is too great to overcome even with the most careful pronunciation.

This is where it would be really useful to be able to spell words. And you can do that using the regular "eh bee see dee" alphabet, but it's hit-or-miss since many of those strung together sound like words themselves.

Enter the NATO alphabet: Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliett, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whisky, X-Ray, Yankee, Zulu. Every professional dictation system uses these for letter-by-letter spelling because they're so distinctive, they both increase recognition and serve as a "mode change" signifier to let the system know you're spelling now.

Since I had my hands crap out once due to RSI and had to rely on voice dictation systems, I got to where I can use the NATO alphabet without conscious thought (it was pretty much the only way to drive a Unix command line), and I really miss it. I wish Google's voice recognition supported it.___A little story about Lima Oscar Victor Echo

An aside about a favorite memory: I was entertaining a friend who'd never been to New York, so I took him to the roof of 30 Rock (which, should you ever visit NYC, is a better sightseeing choice than the Empire State Building, especially in fine weather, because you get to go outside and you can see the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings). About 45 minutes before sundown, of course, because then a 90-minute visit encompasses the entire period from sunlight to night. (I think a single ticket will admit you twice, so you can make it two shorter trips if you just want to have the daytime and nighttime experience, but you really want to actually see sunset.)

Anyway, while my friend was zipping about snapping pictures, I had taken station in a corner to watch the sun go down. Like all the roofs of the 14-building Art Deco complex at Rockefeller Center, the 30 Rockefeller Plaza roof deck is terraced, so there are lots of unobstructed views, and as I settled in I could clearly hear a young man above me romancing a woman he'd obviously just met that day.

It was Fleet Week, and as he talked I learned (sorry, eavesdropping shamelessly on strangers is something New Yorkers just can't turn off) he was fairly recently enlisted, and talking about Parris Island. His lady friend was asking him the expected questions ("how much sleep did you get? Did you lose weight?"), and he gave the expected answers, until she asked him, "what's the hardest thing so far?" to which he gave a surprising answer.

He said it was his test in radio voice procedure. He was telling her "you had to learn specific words for things" and "you had to decide exactly what to say before transmitting, because you couldn't stop and say 'uh', that's not allowed" and the hardest part—"it was so hard, I thought I was gonna lose my mind I was studying so much for it"—was "this weird alphabet you had to use whenever you said letters."

"Like what?" she asked. "Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India... uh... India..." He giggled—I couldn't see his face, but I could hear it turning red. "Uh, I had to get 100%, so I know I know it, I just can't... it's Hotel, India...."

"Juliet," I called out to him. (Marines spell it that way. I'm not sure why.) By this point it was completely dark, and being on the higher tier, he'd have had to lean over the wall blocking us to see me, so to him it was probably just a voice echoing from nowhere in particular.

"Yeah, Juliet... Kilo, Mike, November... uh..."

"Oscar," I prompted.

"Oscar..."

"Papa," as he joined in and we finished together, "Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whisky, X-Ray, Yankee—"

And then he said "Zebra" as I said "Zulu".

"Zulu! No excuse, sir, Thank you, sir!" he barked.

After this little prompting session had begun, I had planned to come around, climb the stairs and say hi. But with that I realized the last thing he (and his lady friend) needed was to see a nebbish bearded longhair like me. I figured he needed to convince himself (and his companion) that an angry drill sergeant (or maybe even an officer?) had taken pity on him.

"Good evening, Marine", I said.

"Good evening, sir!" he called out, as I hastily got around a corner.

I really hope he got laid.

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2017-02-18 03:06:19 (0 comments; 2 reshares; 22 +1s; )Open 

A Google dictation/voice recognition feature request: NATO alphabetic spelling.

You may have run into this situation: you say, "Okay, Google, define <word>", for some particularly uncommon word, and Google "hears" the wrong, more common, word. So you try again with more careful enunciation, yet the weight attached to the wrong word's commonness is too great to overcome even with the most careful pronunciation.

This is where it would be really useful to be able to spell words. And you can do that using the regular "eh bee see dee" alphabet, but it's hit-or-miss since many of those strung together sound like words themselves.

Enter the NATO alphabet: Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliett, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whisky, X-Ray,... more »

A Google dictation/voice recognition feature request: NATO alphabetic spelling.

You may have run into this situation: you say, "Okay, Google, define <word>", for some particularly uncommon word, and Google "hears" the wrong, more common, word. So you try again with more careful enunciation, yet the weight attached to the wrong word's commonness is too great to overcome even with the most careful pronunciation.

This is where it would be really useful to be able to spell words. And you can do that using the regular "eh bee see dee" alphabet, but it's hit-or-miss since many of those strung together sound like words themselves.

Enter the NATO alphabet: Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliett, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whisky, X-Ray, Yankee, Zulu. Every professional dictation system uses these for letter-by-letter spelling because they're so distinctive, they both increase recognition and serve as a "mode change" signifier to let the system know you're spelling now.

Since I had my hands crap out once due to RSI and had to rely on voice dictation systems, I got to where I can use the NATO alphabet without conscious thought (it was pretty much the only way to drive a Unix command line), and I really miss it. I wish Google's voice recognition supported it.___

2017-02-17 17:35:12 (4 comments; 1 reshares; 15 +1s; )Open 

And, on the circular firing squad front...

Still Not Commenting on the travails of the regime for now. But let me turn and offer some gentle criticism of some ideas I've seen toyed with on our own side that I think are really problematic and that we'd do well to eschew. Yeah, I know, Democrats can never hold it together, we're always turning on one another, yadda yadda. But these three in particular, I think, are such awful ideas—yet all demand a bit of nuance and explanation lacking in the twittersphere, and have a certain populist appeal—that I think it's important that the more analytical among us speak out against them:

Suggesting that the president's family shouldn't receive Secret Service protection. It's a fact—and a disturbing one—that the nature of the Trump family business means that American taxpayers will be paying far morethan in... more »

And, on the circular firing squad front...

Still Not Commenting on the travails of the regime for now. But let me turn and offer some gentle criticism of some ideas I've seen toyed with on our own side that I think are really problematic and that we'd do well to eschew. Yeah, I know, Democrats can never hold it together, we're always turning on one another, yadda yadda. But these three in particular, I think, are such awful ideas—yet all demand a bit of nuance and explanation lacking in the twittersphere, and have a certain populist appeal—that I think it's important that the more analytical among us speak out against them:

Suggesting that the president's family shouldn't receive Secret Service protection. It's a fact—and a disturbing one—that the nature of the Trump family business means that American taxpayers will be paying far more than in past administrations for protective services; that much of that increased spending will be due to Trump's children engaging in business activities that will enrich Trump; and that the particulars of the necessary protective services mean that taxpayer money will be funnelled directly into the Trump Organization as "reimbursements" whose fair-market value the Trump Organization gets to unilaterally dictate.

But all that is reason to question Trump's business ties, his nepotism, his failures to dispense with conflicts of interest in any concrete fashion. It isn't reason to demand the Secret Service cut family protective details. Consider: part of our current angst is around the frightening possibility that our president is beholden to a foreign power. Secret Service protection for the president's family is to protect us, the entire country, from a president engaging in behavior contrary to the nation's interest in the name of his family's personal safety.

(I'll posit that if you're of particularly Machiavellian strategy, one could argue that a member of Trump's family being taken hostage would almost definitely trigger the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. But that's not a place anyone should argue from, any more than we should argue for assassination. And consider what a president whose family was under immediate threat who did not allow the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to be triggered might do, if you want to imagine frightening possibilities.)

Using the debt ceiling as a negotiating chip. In 2013 we decried Congress for taking us to the precipice of default¹ to try to get something out of President Obama. It was a dangerous, stupid strategy then, and it's a dangerous, stupid strategy now. If you weren't paying enough attention then to understand why, educate yourself. Whether or not it might work is irrelevant. We don't play games of chicken, even if we know the other side will flinch.

And we don't know the other side will flinch. The remedies available to Obama, had the Congress refused to raise the debt ceiling, were dismissed as "looking silly" (like minting a trillion-dollar platinum coin just to deposit it into the Fed) or "dangerous overreach that could lead to constitutional crisis" (pretty much every other option available to the president). We know now, after the fact, that Obama had his team ready to pursue these if necessary. Do you really think Trump is less likely than Obama to do the same out of fears of looking silly or wading into executive overreach?

Demanding intransigence as a blanket strategy from Democrats. "Just say no to everything" is a powerful argument—one that, we must admit, worked for the Republicans handsomely—but it's a dereliction of our duty and a betrayal of our principles. We believe that a government that works is a good thing. Republicans believe government is a bad thing. These are not symmetrical. The asymmetry works against us, but we can't lash out against the fact of that asymmetry by pretending it doesn't exist. We have to push for amendments to make things incrementally better. If this president somehow survives long enough to where he's looking for a legislative agenda to build a legacy on, he could very well find Leaders Pelosi and Schumer more amenable than Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell on legislation that would sound to him like things to hang a big shiny TRUMP sign onto. Do I think that's likely? No, of course not. But should we dismiss it out of hand because we've decided on a strategy of obstruction? That would betray our own values.


¹ And, technically, past it; Treasury was doing the equivalent of building a cantilevered platform out in front of us to keep us from falling.___

2017-02-17 16:34:45 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 3 +1s; )Open 

A funny from the Morning Mika Coffee Show

Okay, so this was pretty good:

Joe Scarborough: You gotta cut [Trump] some slack because it's very hard to stay focused when the crime rate—Willie and I talk about this all the time—it's the worst it has been—Willie, I think, since 1783?

Willie Geist (in his best newsreader voice): Most people are being murdered in America, according to the latest studies.

A funny from the Morning Mika Coffee Show

Okay, so this was pretty good:

Joe Scarborough: You gotta cut [Trump] some slack because it's very hard to stay focused when the crime rate—Willie and I talk about this all the time—it's the worst it has been—Willie, I think, since 1783?

Willie Geist (in his best newsreader voice): Most people are being murdered in America, according to the latest studies.___

2017-02-17 14:15:42 (6 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s; )Open 

Pour votre information...

I think what the press were quoting from yesterday's press conference as President Trump's saying "Russia is a ruse"—which, obviously, would be a clearly unhinged thing to say—was mistranscribed.

See, he actually momentarily broke into French (primed, perhaps, from his press conference with Canadian PM Trudeau earlier in the week): « Russia » est-elle russe?

"[That English word] 'Russia'... is that Russian?" It was a digression, a musing on the etymology of exogenous demonyms, his wondering if our word Russia actually comes from Russian, or if it's like "Chinese" or "German", which comes into English from a non-indigenous source. Of course it would be confusing to have that discussion in English, and French is the natural language for such high philosophical discourse.(Espe... more »

Pour votre information...

I think what the press were quoting from yesterday's press conference as President Trump's saying "Russia is a ruse"—which, obviously, would be a clearly unhinged thing to say—was mistranscribed.

See, he actually momentarily broke into French (primed, perhaps, from his press conference with Canadian PM Trudeau earlier in the week): « Russia » est-elle russe?

"[That English word] 'Russia'... is that Russian?" It was a digression, a musing on the etymology of exogenous demonyms, his wondering if our word Russia actually comes from Russian, or if it's like "Chinese" or "German", which comes into English from a non-indigenous source. Of course it would be confusing to have that discussion in English, and French is the natural language for such high philosophical discourse. (Especially about linguistic philosophy. As a linguist, I can tell you all the best linguistic philosophy is done in French.)

We know the president is an unrecognized polyglot, as his not wearing his translator's earpiece for the entirety of Naikaku Sōri Daijin Abe Shinzō's speech last Friday showed. Obviously, his skills extend not just into Nihongo but la langue française as well.

I just wanted to clear that up before we malign the poor man any further.___

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