essentialsaltes: (that's not funny!)
"The book is regularly listed as one of the best non-fiction books of the 20th century."

But I gave up. I couldn't take any more. (Speaking of giving up, I'm slowly figuring out what to do and where to go with the journal. I mean, just about everyone's gone already, and the new Russian TOS is not inspiring confidence.)

I really found the writing style(?) uncongenial. I think my main beef is that Arendt is primarily a political theorist and philosopher, and not a historian. So there are airy passages of theses and ideas, but I found it not tied enough to supporting factual detail. Often a reasonable story was being spun, but it all felt like a free-floating structure, moored only by tenuous lines to shore. And worse.

The book is organized in three main sections: Antisemitism, Imperialism, and Totalitarianism.

The most interesting idea I found in Antisemitism was that, in the feudal age, Jews could be categorized and understood as the Other. It was easy. Sure, there's an enclave of Jews in Paris. But we're Franks, and they are Jews. Or we are Teutons, and they are Jews. As the modern nation-state developed, suddenly everyone had to be categorized as citizens of some nation. What? We're all French? But they're Jews, they're not French! (I don't think Arendt mentions it, but it occurs to me that another state-less people that had maybe even more difficulty getting tied down to a world of 'nations' were the Romany.)
Many, many pages are devoted to the Dreyfus Affair, but I found it maddening that it mostly talks around the Dreyfus Affair, and not really about the Dreyfus Affair. I mean, it's a good thing I knew the basic details, because you will learn more about Zola than Dreyfus (the first foreshadowing of what ultimately made me throw the book across the... okay, okay, to snap my iPad shut quite forcefully).

The most interesting idea I found in the first 75% of Imperialism, was that one of the things that led to imperialism was there was excess capital in the major European countries, and there was nothing much to invest in. And there was some excess labor force in these countries with nothing to do. And imperialism is the outlet for this. Betraying some Marxist tendencies, Arendt sees this as an unnatural alliance of capital and mob-labor to go exploit the world.

There's a discussion of imperialism in Africa with a lot of focus on South Africa, but also long quoted passages from Joseph Conrad. As her attention turns to Asia, she delves a bit into The Great Game, and then inevitably to Kipling. And then it really started to bother me -- the discussion is light on facts, but heavy on allusions to works of fiction. However much they may reflect the zeitgeist of imperialism, I can't take this seriously any more.

Now it's time for the home game: what author is about to become inevitable? How long into the passage does it take you to identify him?

The Home Game! )
essentialsaltes: (islam)
A collection of short stories, about half set in distinctly Islamic settings, often a mix of the near-future and the 1001 Nights. Others range further, from the Old West to a more traditional sword and sorcery land. All very good stories, with strong character focus, with the possible exception of one supervillain-themed bagatelle that didn't quite work for me. Maybe just because it's fresh in my mind from being last, but I really dug the sword and sorcery milieu of 'Iron Eyes and the Watered Down World’. It starts as a love-letter to Fritz Leiber -- and you will always earn high marks from me for that -- and then wanders off into territory Fritz would never have trod in Nehwon.
essentialsaltes: (great)
Dr. Pookie and I travelled out to Anza Borrego Desert State Park to see the superbloom of desert wildflowers, much like our 2005 trip to Death Valley (q.v. (and photos)). Our original plans to drive out there involved the 91, but as it turns out, they were blocking the brand-new FastTrak (grrr) lanes and it was causing all sorts of havoc. Fortunately traffic was light and we went down the 405 and then cut inland on the Ortega Highway, which turned out to be scenic and twisty in all the best ways. We took a quick stop to take a nice photo as the highway dumps you over a ridge overlooking Lake Elsinore.

Click on through )
essentialsaltes: (empathyormurder)
It's a pretty game, and the story does a good job of showing the bond forming between you (as the kid) and the giant feathered cat with a chihuahua head. You can definitely see the influence of Ico on the gameplay, but instead of two equal human type people cooperating to traverse obstacles, there's a lot of freshness to having cooperation between big and small. Trico (the giant featered cat with a chihuahua head) can be an annoyance -- it moves slowly and even when you're trying to tell it where to go, the little hamster in a wheel brain (or rather the AI) is not very reliable. Not a hardcore game, but an enjoyable experience with some challenging puzzles.
essentialsaltes: (devilbones)
Creationist: Take a look at all you present, anything you think a 5 year old won't understand, explain it. Act like a teacher, Teach it first.

Endogenous Retroviruses

When mommies and daddies love each other very much, they make a recipe for a baby. They mix a copy of half of daddy’s recipe with a copy of half of mommy’s recipe to make a baby recipe. The recipe is so long that it takes nine months to make a baby!

And by looking at your recipe later, you can see that you are related to your mommy and daddy because you can see bits of their recipes in you! (Or you’re adopted, but your mommy and daddy still love you!)

And this can go back through the generations. If half of grandpa’s recipe goes into your mom, and half of mom’s recipe goes in you, then one quarter of your recipe comes from grandpa!

Now, if you have first cousins, that means one of your parents was the brother or sister of one of theirs. And those siblings had the same parents… your grandparents. By comparing your recipe to the recipe of your first cousin, you can see that you share a common grandparent. This is called common ancestry. Since recipes get shared in an unbroken chain from ancestor to descendant (that means a baby!), if you have enough information, you can determine whether two recipes have a common ancestor. Fortunately, those recipes are really long, so there is a lot of information.

But sometimes little accidents happen to the recipes. This is really important, but we’ll save that for when you are six. But one particular kind of accident is when you get sick. Sometimes a germ will leave its cooties in your recipe. Ew!

Before, maybe your grandpa had a recipe with a line that said:

Step 146734 Make five itty-bitty toes on the end of each foot.

And afterwards, it might read

Step 146734 Make five itty-bitty toeGERM COOTIESs on the end of each foot.


And now that might be part of your recipe! Because he is your ancestor.

Your friend on the playground might have this in her recipe:

Step 146734 Make five itGERM COOTIESty-bitty toes on the end of each foot.

Do you have a common ancestor with her?

Did you say no? Because the cooties are in the wrong place? Haha, the joke’s on you. The answer is actually yes. All human beings are related. But looking at this one tiny piece of the recipe, we don’t have any evidence that your friend descended from your grandpa. (Don’t ask him about it in front of your grandmother.)

Since grandpa got the cooties in his lifetime, it can only show up in that exact spot in his descendants, or in someone else who coincidentally got the cooties in the same exact place in the recipe. But the recipe is so long this is very unlikely.

But if we look at the whole recipe, you and your friend actually have a lot of recipe cooties in common. Ew! I know. But it’s pretty harmless. Everyone has them. Thousands of them. And because a lot of them are in the same place, we know you share common ancestors. But since a few of them are different (like the one from your grandpa) we know that your common ancestor was further back in generations than your grandpa.

So by comparing the number of shared cooties to the number of unshared cooties, you can see how closely related you are.

And when we compare your cooties to those of a chimpanzee, we find a lot of cooties in different places, but a lot of cooties in the same place! We also have common ancestors, but it wasn’t in your grandpappy’s day or your great great great grandmammy’s day. It was 5 million years ago.

In fact, orthologous cooties fall into a nested hierarchy among primates.

DC

Feb. 12th, 2017 05:58 pm
essentialsaltes: (poo-bush)
I went for a quick business trip to Washington DC.

Pictures here.

The flight out was pretty rocky. Coming in for landing at Dallas, the lady next to me had her airsickness bag out. It was a near thing, but we made it through together. Alas, my bag was so frightened, it stayed in Dallas. But it was coaxed onto the next flight so it arrived at my hotel at midnight. So much for getting an early night to help with the time change.

The business stuff was successful, and (as the photos show) I had some time to walk around the national mall before heading back to the airport. I was surprised there were no protestors at the White House. Just a small gaggle of tourists.

On the flight back, I couldn't help but notice the guy next to me with his e-reader set to blind-bat text size, especially when the screen read:

"aggressively sharpened on the whetstone of her sex"

Which reminds me... there was some commercial for something quoting Dylan Thomas - "Do not go gentle into that good night". Seems to me James Bond uncharacteristically missed an opportunity for a witticism in The Man with the Golden Gun.
essentialsaltes: (pKD)
A mystery novel set in an alternate (hopefully) universe in which the Earth is destined to be smacked by a large asteroid a few months in the future. This situation naturally has a great impact (er) on the way people think about their lives, and what they're worth, and what other people's are worth. There are a lot of suicides, and our titular detective investigates one such, an insurance actuary hanged in a McDonald's bathroom. Something doesn't sit right, and when you come to think of it... in a world where suicide is very common, what better way to hide a murder? Red herrings and revelations pull our hero by the nose through comedy and tragedy until the case is cracked. There aren't a lot of viable suspects, but Winters gives just about the right amount of hints and misdirection to keep the mystery mysterious.

I liked it a lot. Not quite love, but a lot. The book won the Edgar, and the followup won the PKD award, so I will probably make my way through the trilogy.
essentialsaltes: (muslin)
Know Your Values and Frame the Debate

This is an updated (2014) version of the 2004 original by Lakoff, a cognitive scientist at Berkeley.

Basic idea: conservative leaders have been better at framing issues than liberal counterparts.

Frames are embedded deeply enough in people that rational argumentation and facts are useless.

Voters have had these frames imposed upon them so that their kneejerk reactions are predictable.

e.g. describing a bill to lower taxes as 'tax relief' builds up the concept that taxes are (always) a burden. And inherently bad.

If liberals fight against these frames by mentioning them, this only reinforces the frame. Liberals may talk about tax relief for the middle class, but this leans on the idea that taxes are inherently bad.

Liberals need to find their own frames to use. 'Taxes contribute to the many valuable services we all make use of. They are investments in our future happiness and the happiness of our children. They are the 'membership fees' of citizenship.'

And then I start to get an itchy feeling.

"These are accurate views of taxes, but they are not yet enshrined in our brains. They need to be repeated over and over again, and refined until they take their rightful place in our synapses. But that takes time. It does not happen overnight. Start now."

Lakoff would like us to please brainwash ourselves.

This is not an exaggeration of his position. One of the strange things about the book is his frequent discussion that these frames are physical 'structures' in our brains. I mean, I too believe that mental states supervene on physical states in the brain, and there is no soul making 'free' decisions. But, unlike Lakoff, I don't think that makes rational argument useless.

“You might think that the world exists independently of how we understand it. You would be mistaken. Our understanding of the world is part of the world--a physical part of the world. Our conceptual framings exist in physical neural circuitry in our brains, largely below the level of conscious awareness, and they define and limit how we understand the world, and so they affect our actions in the world."

Inasmuch as he promotes frames as a weapon, he literally wants us to circumvent thought and react unconsciously to stimuli. [We will set aside his apparent disregard for the existence of an external world independent of ourselves.]

In discussing climate change, he notes that scientists are terrible at framing:

"The crucial words here are high degree of confidence, anomalies, consequence, likelihood, absence, and exceedingly small. Scientific weasel words! The power of the bald truth, namely causation..."

Those are not weasel words. Those are the correct ways to phrase these scientific results. If some treehugging granola-eater wants to wave a sign saying "Climate change caused Hurricane Sandy," that's fine, but it is not a scientific fact. Nor is it "the bald truth". It is irresponsible to ask scientists to say anything other than something like "it's unlikely for an event like Hurricane Sandy to have occurred without the influence of anthropogenic climate change." I know, it doesn't fit well on a placard. It's complicated. But it's what the science shows.

"The issue of "immigration" is about a new generation of such refugees. President Obama, in a speech ... beautifully states his moral understanding of the issue. His words showed that the current wave of refugees, referred to as 'undocumented immigrants' are in many ways already citizens --they contribute enormously to American society."

This has a couple things I want to mention. First, undocumented immigrants are not (in general) refugees. So Obama was right to so characterize them. Lakoff is indulging in spin, to put it most favorably. Second, Lakoff was hoping that by describing them as refugees, it would arouse feelings of compassion that would make us more likely to help rather than harm these people. Of course, Lakoff wrote his book in 2014. Right now, Americans are probably more afraid of 'refugees' than of 'illegal aliens'. I mean, that is perhaps a demonstration of the whole point of his book -- that there are different ways of framing the issue to cause kneejerk responses. But he has once again caused me some pause, since he starts his own framing exercise by lying, to put it less favorably.

In a FAQ at the end, he tries to distinguish between frames and euphemisms, spin, or propaganda. I wasn't really satisfied by his answer. Frames are not very different from euphemism, spin, or propaganda. These certainly have their place in politics.

His vision seems to be of two large masses of primates mindlessly shouting slogans at a small band of undecided primates in the middle, each hoping to inculcate the middle group with its slogan. While this is not an unfair description of American elections, I think we can do better. The way to fight propaganda is not (only) with propaganda of our own, but by exposing propaganda for what it is.

But possibly I'm wrong and brainwashing ourselves and others is the only route forward to victory.

Fortunately, it appears I'm not alone in being leery of Lakoff. I found a great point/counterpoint between Stephen Pinker and Lakoff. Skip to Pinker's Salvo to see his review of Lakoff's ideas from a different (but similar) book and a really good yo mama joke. This is apparently an outburst in a decades long intellectual war between the two, and I'm not qualified to judge the more technical aspects of their discussion of linguistics and cognitive science, but when it gets down to the political applications, I think Pinker is in the right:

But Lakoff’s advice doesn’t pass the giggle test. One can just imagine the howls of ridicule if a politician took Lakoff’s Orwellian advice tried to rebrand “taxes” as “membership fees.” Surely no one has to hear the metaphor tax relief to think of taxes as an affliction; that sentiment has been around for as long as taxes have been around. ... And even if taxes were like membership fees, aren’t lower membership fees better than higher ones, all else being equal? ... In defending his voters-are-idiots theory, Lakoff has written that people don’t realize that they are really better off with higher taxes, because any savings from a federal tax cut would be offset by increases in local taxes and private services. But if that is a fact, it would have to be demonstrated to a bureaucracy-jaded populace the old-fashioned way, as an argument backed with numbers–-the kind of wonkish analysis that Lakoff dismisses.
...
The problem with this burlesque is not that its targets don’t deserve criticism. It’s that it will backfire with all of its potential audiences. Any of Lakoff’s allies on the left who think that their opponents are such imbeciles will have their clocks cleaned in their first debate with a Young Republican. The book will be red meat for his foes on the right, who can hold up his distortions as proof of liberals’ insularity and incomprehension.


Overall:

B+ for showing how conservatives have used framing successfully.
F for suggesting that the liberal's only hope is to fight fire with fire, brainwash ourselves, and lay off the facts and rational thought.
F for not really exploring the liberal frames that already exist. The shortcuts to careful reasoning. Diagnosing police brutality, racism, sexism, without the full facts. Nazipunching. Reading the book, you get the impression that only wicked conservatives have frames to manipulate people, while the benevolent, wise, but prone-to-losing liberals are stuck with only useless tools like facts and rationality.
essentialsaltes: (cocktail)
The Business recounts a slice of life in an up-and-coming executive in the eponymous organization. It's a fictional(?) millennia old organization devoted to making money and amassing power. Not particularly secretive, but they don't make waves. Given its age and the nature of compound interest, The Business is well-funded and thinks big. On the current business plan is to find a modestly sized country and acquire it for business purposes. Being a Banks novel, it's populated by oddballs, strange details, and crackling turns of phrase. Lots of Machiavellian plots within The Business as different executives jockey for benefits both business-related and personal (and many of them can barely distinguish the difference). I enjoyed it, but felt the loose ends got wrapped up much too rapidly at the end.
essentialsaltes: (facegouge)
My rhetorical question appears to have been answered.

If one cannot bring oneself to punch a lady Nazi in the face, you should pepperspray her in the face.

Now, it's almost too good to be true that she had just finished saying "I'm looking to make a statement by just being here and I think the protesters are doing the same. Props to the ones who are doing it non-violently, but I think that's a very rare thing indeed."

So, if you're of a conspiratorial bent, this is a false flag operation or something. But I think it's fair to say that there were plenty of anonymous violent troublemakers there. The police are of the opinion that they were 'outside agitators' (a phrase I knew we would see more and more of) and not Berkeley students. Which is probably the case, since I'm now hearing all about these experienced antifa activists. Who are these experts all of a sudden and where did they get their expertise? There hasn't been a fascist state to fight in some time, and never in the US, so I find myself suspecting that these are just people who like to have fistfights with skinheads. Whoever they are and whatever their movement is about, they know squat about working against the excesses of a Trump Administration.

Instead, of course, they are falling into the trap.

Now some have correctly pointed out that neo-Nazis can be experts at using 'the System' to quash opposition. "Oh, we're the victims, save us, save us, Law & Order!"

So then I ask: Why the fuck would you fall into their trap by punching people on the street? Are you stupid?


Berkeley was literally the origin of the Free Speech Movement and Sproul Plaza is Free Speech Central.



The university did the right thing in not preventing the speech, and they (or the UCPD who made the call) did the right thing in shutting it down for safety reasons.

Of course the Donald had to weigh in on Twitter:

"If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?"

This is literally one of the stupidest things I've ever read. Even among Trump tweets, this is a doozy.

But remember my warning "Fortunately, we on the left are waaaaay too smart to be manipulated by Russian propaganda. Right? Right? No one would be suckered in by the idea that democracy or free speech are inherently flawed concepts"

Don't be down on Free Speech, just because Trump says he likes it. This is exactly the kind of emotional response thing that Trump apparently uses to perfection. Of course, it only works on stupid people. So don't be a stupid person.



Anyway, I'm reiterating my distaste for Nazipunch and the flawed philosophy behind it.

And again I'm warning against falling into the trap.

Because if not, something terrible is going to happen, and years from now, some kid will be walking with his grandfather on the campus, and grandpa will point to the pocks of bullets in a wall and say something like, 'And over there in that field is where it happened. It was a terrible thing those kids died. But these outside agitators (communists or anarchists or some such) came in and caused a lot of trouble, and stirred things up. Setting fires and so forth. Had to restore Law & Order.'

Because no shit that's exactly what my grandpa told me 40 years ago as we visited Kent State.
essentialsaltes: (larpies)
We took a hike this morning to climb up and down some of the stairs in and around the original Hollywoodland development. There's a nice guide to the trail here (and a couple other hikes on the site).

All the pictures.

You do get a bit of a work out.

Stairs Hike

Lots of crazy castles and castle-esque stuff up there.

Stairs Hike

Views of the Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, the Ocean, and a few spots for DTLA.

Stairs Hike

Going down is less work, but reminds me of the dangers of climbing down Mesoamerican pyramids.

Stairs Hike


The guide describes this as Prince Valiant.

Stairs Hike

But surely Valiant is raven-haired! This is more Ivanhoe.



The grandest stair had two staircases. Originally, the middle had a stream that ran down it, now replaced by planters.

Stairs Hike

The sun was difficult for many shots in the early morning, but I still like this of DTLA through a tree.

Stairs Hike

Also ran into the Theosophists.

Stairs Hike

After the hike, we jetted down Sunset to an estate sale in Santa Monica, where we picked up a new desk chair for me, in which I now sit.
essentialsaltes: (that's not funny!)
Many people have recently opined about the justifiability of punching a Nazi(*) in the face. A surprising (to me) number of people are for it.

(*)To clarify, unless we're talking about these six Nazis, at best there are 'neo-Nazis' these days, or 'jerks with hateful ideas who are dangerously close to the levers of power'.

I test the Nazi punch hypothesis out in my own mind, and I just find it hard to accept. I mean, what if it was a lady Nazi? In Romeo Must Die, Aaliyah wisely observes that "in America, if a girl is kicking your ass, you do not have to be a gentleman." Honestly, I'm egalitarian enough that if a boy or girl is kicking your ass, you do not have to be a gentleperson.

And yes, if a boy or girl is kicking that helpless person over there's ass, this probably requires some intervention.

But these rules are not just about kicks and asses. They should be good for punches and faces. "Hey you! Anonymous coward punching an unsuspecting guy in the face! What's wrong with you?"

Anyway, some dudes may have some archaic patriarchal misgivings about punching a lady Nazi. Perhaps they could do something else generally considered illegal or antisocial? Maybe they could throw rocks at them or grab their pussies? This new moral hypothesis opens up so many interesting questions!

But it's fraught with so many logistical difficulties. I mean, not every neo-Nazi will go to the trouble of tattooing 88 on his forehead. They might look like anybody! If only we could form an organization that could identify them based on objective criteria and make them wear distinctive clothing or something, so we'd know who to punch.

But there seem to be deeper flaws that worry me. A lot.

If we decide that, for a certain class of people, we no longer have to treat them with the usual rules of civility and humanity, it would seem (to avoid being hypocrites) that other people could use this same hypothesis to justify treating other classes of people as sub-human.

Wait a moment! Have I fallen into Bizarro world? Nazis treating certain classes of people as sub-human is one of the justifications for treating them as subhuman. I have it all backward! It's not that we would be hypocrites to NOT allow other people to think this way in the future. It's that other people thinking that way in the past made US start to think like them.

You can't fight an ideology by implicitly accepting its tenets. You are strengthening it by making it the only way of looking at the world.


Now some have correctly pointed out that neo-Nazis can be experts at using 'the System' to quash opposition. "Oh, we're the victims, save us, save us, Law & Order!"

So then I ask: Why the fuck would you fall into their trap by punching people on the street? Are you stupid?

The good guys also have some experts at using 'the System', from politicians to judges to civil rights lawyers. I'm neither, but I expect they would advise you to refrain from punching people in the face.

Because it does play into their trap. Punch a few Nazis, set fire to a building, and the system might restrict the rights to "habeas corpus, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, the right of free association and public assembly, the secrecy of the post and telephone". In the name of security. To protect the crybabies.

And what is the goal of Nazipunch? What positive result is achieved?



When Obama was elected, the racists were gnashing their teeth, and afraid, and the left held out its hand and said:



And the dummies on the right were afraid Obama was going to grab their guns and put them in FEMA camps.

And so they hid in their bunkers, clutching their guns and bibles, despising the left, falling into their own groupthink, biding their time until... well, until their savior appeared. And they voted for him, to the astonishment of all those who thought they were safely and silently encapsulated in gun-lined bunkers where their unchallenged ideologies couldn't possibly hurt anybody.

And you know what? As dumb as they are, they played by the rules. In the state houses, the governor's mansions, the House and Senate, and now the White House. It's true that "democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time".

Now the shoe is on the other foot.



And the other side is afraid Trump is going to grab their pussies and put them in death camps.

It's all very familiar. Not all that different.

Now this is not to say that everything is fine. Trump's actions have real effects on pussies and Syrians and so on. But do you know how many pussies get contraception coverage on their insurance when you punch a Nazi?

Zero.

If anything, it plays into the hands of crybaby Nazis.


If you are conspiracy minded, well... probably you have already written me off as a closet Nazi, but consider this.

We know the Russians want to create chaos in our country.

We know the Russians have worked hard to get the dumb-dumb right to distrust the government, distrust the mainstream media, and listen only to RT.com and Breitbart.

Fortunately, we on the left are waaaaay too smart to be manipulated by Russian propaganda. Right? Right? No one would be suckered in by the idea that democracy or free speech are inherently flawed concepts, and are better replaced by punches in the face. Angry moron Trump voters wanted to blow up the system. Only idiots would want to blow it up bigger.
essentialsaltes: (diversity)
A well-known Greenwich Republican called a town worker "nothing but a bloodsucking lazy union employee" and later reached in from behind to place his hand between her legs and pinch her in the groin area, according to the police arrest warrant.

He allegedly replied: "I love this new world, I no longer have to be politically correct," according to the warrant.

Santa Paula

Jan. 8th, 2017 05:28 pm
essentialsaltes: (yellowstone Falls)
Photos from a quick, last-minute trip out to Santa Paula.

We didn't quite make it to the Punch Bowls before we got too hungry, but we enjoyed hiking up Santa Paula Canyon. The recent rains made a few parts slow going and mucky, but not too bad. The hike starts out along the side of Thomas Aquinas College, with lovely views of the campus... generally obscured by temporary trailers set up on the periphery of the campus. Then it takes you around oil fields, and alongside avocado farms, where they are deadly serious about avocado poaching.

Had a fine lunch at Los Arcos, where I made use of my legal right to use the women's bathroom if I so identify (and possibly also because they were redoing the tile in the men's). A little vintage/thrift shopping, where Dr. Pookie found a nice water lily-patterned bit of uranium glass. And then back down the freeways to home.
essentialsaltes: (city Hall)
From a few nights ago.

Santa Paula
essentialsaltes: (laika)
I found Revelation Space tough going. It's a pretty big book, but even so, I found attention wandering, and it's taken me quite a while to get through. The prose is perfectly functional, but it plods rather than sparkles(*). Lots of big space opera-y action, and some interesting ideas, but the motivations of the characters grow increasingly obscure; seemingly they are wired to seek out the next idea Reynolds wants to reveal, no matter how obviously dangerous that would be. One character is basically on a relentless quest from page one to pick up Chekhov's gun.

* Actually, the most amusing phrase is (I assume) a happy mistake -- "It was like gazing into the moonlit depths of an arboreal forest." I mean, what other kind of forest can there be? And then I started pondering a tiny forest that lives in a tree. And cracked myself up.
* The second most amusing mistake is the misuse of etymology where entomology was meant.
essentialsaltes: (city Hall)
Morning from a few days ago.

IMG_4297


New neighborhood signage

IMG_4299

IMG_4300

DTLA with a hint of snow. Nice view of the Wilshire Grand and its bullshit spire to make it the 'tallest' building in LA.

IMG_4301
essentialsaltes: (you're a Kitty)
A $1 find from an estate sale. My eye caught the name of Shirley Jackson (of "The Lottery" and The Haunting of Hill House fame). But this did not seem to be in the same vein...

It's novel-length, but clearly is stitched together from short stories originally "published individually in women's magazines such as Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, Mademoiselle, and others."

They are amusing vignettes of domestic chaos that are semi-autobiographical, definitely with a women's magazine tinge. Perhaps the oddest thing about this particular book is that it was published by Scholastic and the blurb is pitched at the younger set. I mean, certainly there are children in the stories, but everything is from mom's viewpoint (rather than that of the savages). As I said, amusing and interesting as a mid-century artifact and a very different look at an author whose eponymous award is given for works of "psychological suspense, horror and the dark fantastic".

I think Dr. Pookie's mom might enjoy it.
essentialsaltes: (space invader)
Each year, The Strong National Museum of Play inducts a new group of toys to the National Toy Hall of Fame. This year, the museum inducted three new toys: Dungeons & Dragons, Fisher-Price’s Little People figures, and the classic swing. The recognition for fantasy roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons is long overdue, as its innovative approach to playing complicated, creative games has had an outsized impact on the larger gaming world.


I love the inclusion of a non-commercial thing like the swing. It's also adorable that one of the previous inductees is the cardboard box.

But I confess this is the first I can recall hearing of the Strong. Or its benefactress, Margaret Woodbury Strong, who may well have married into some distant part of Dr. Pookie's family.

"Developing her youthful interests, Margaret became a skilled competitor in golf, archery, bowling, flower arranging, and collecting. She recalled later that her collecting began with miniatures, when she was allowed “to carry a small bag to put my dolls and toys in, and to add anything I acquired on the trips.” That small beginning led to an expansive task that dominated her later life. Margaret’s collecting included everything from fine art to the ordinary, all linked by the common themes of play, imagination, “let’s pretend,” and fun."

Another great detail is her father's perspicacity in selling high: "Margaret travelled the world with her parents beginning around 1907 after her father retired and sold the business started by Margaret's grandfather, The Strong and Woodbury Whip Company."

Buggy whips have become one of the go-to examples for product obsolescence. Getting out in 1907 was a pretty good move. (As was subsequently investing in Eastman Kodak.)

Anyway... field trip? Rochester, NY is a ways away, but maybe someday.
essentialsaltes: (beokay)
Why Violence Has Declined takes a long, long, too-long look at rates of violence over the past umpty-thousand years from our hunter-gatherer forebears to today. Pinker has marshalled a shitload of facts and statistics, and though there may be some niggling details here and there, on the whole, he's pretty convincing that rates of murder, war, and violence have declined per capita. This does require an explanation, and I think Pinker certainly outlines many ideas that contribute, but he doesn't seem to present a very strong thesis for an explanation. Rather he takes us on a plodding journey through the museum of ideas that every political philosopher has considered. The book plods so much that I found much of it a chore to get through. Reading through the outline in Wikipedia is good enough -- just feel certain that each point is held up by a few hundred footnotes each.

One of the ideas that did stick with me was that many violent acts are considered acts of justice by their perpetrators. They are not doing wrong, they are taking justice into their own hands. That bitch stole my man -- smack. That driver cut me off -- blam. Obviously, these solutions are not terribly rational, and generally frowned upon by Leviathan. I think it could extend to larger actions -- riots in Watts and LA. It doesn't make any fucking sense, but there was some ache for a justice that was not going to come from traditional channels.

Now, I have plodded so slowly through the book that that idea lodged some time ago. And then as I mulled it over in my mind, I considered the Trump voters in the lead-up to the election. Can a vote be an act of violence? A stupid plea for justice when you're aching for a justice that was not going to come from traditional channels? Mmmmm... no, I can't quite bring myself to consider a vote for Trump to be an act of violence. And then the vote actually happened, and Trump won. I still can't quite elevate it to an act of violence. But I think a lot of my friends may consider it to have been an act of violence. And certainly we have seen (even given some level of pernicious fakes) that some Trump supporters have been emboldened to enact actual violence. And we've also seen protests of Trump that have also risen to the level of violence.

Now I have to tread carefully here, because I think there are significant differences between the two sides. It is not just that I am trapped in my bubble and not their bubble (and I'll get to the bubble later, especially since almost everyone who will read this is in my liberal bubble). At the same time, the people (considered as people) in the two camps. Are not all that different.

Now apparently the worst thing I could possibly do is to suggest that we should reach out and hug the other side and unite. Which is fine, because I'm not suggesting that. When Trump has rotten plans, they should be fought. And many of his plans are rotten.

But possibly I'm saying something even worse. That people are people. And people on both sides are not all that different. And to realize that, it definitely helps to spend time outside your bubble.

Many of you know of the long years I've spent in the mission fields of Christian websites, spreading the good news of rationality and fact-based argument. It is not easy work, because they are beset by demons that deceive them. And again, it's not about compromise -- I think the earth is 4.5 billion years old, and they think it's 6,000 years old. I'm not looking to compromise at 2,250,003,000 years old. Wait, I'm rambling a little too much, but maybe we'll come back to this.

Another bit of bubble escape was listening to the infuriating drive-time talk show on a Christian radio station, though I haven't in many years. Until election night. As I drove home, feeling pretty confident that it was going to be close (my prediction: Hillary 278 EV) but would go blue, I turned that station on hoping for election news and... delicious Christian tears. Because that's a thing now. Enjoying people's tears. And because I'm a bad person.



And I got those tears. But I did not find them enjoyable. pout

A young Latina called in to the show. Her voice shook with raw emotion, clearly crying. Hillary was going to win, and as everyone in the conservative Christian bubble knew (as did I since I'd been visiting), Hillary believed that "deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs have to be changed". And as it was being spun in the bubble, this young woman knew that President Hillary was going to forcibly change religious beliefs in America. She was genuinely, fearfully afraid that hers was the last generation that was going to hear the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

All bullshit, of course. But the tears and pain in that bubble were real. Just like they were real when Obama was elected in 2008 and was going to take everyone's guns.

Anyway, fast-forward a few hours, and suddenly the tears were on the other foot. (Shut up.) There were organized cry-ins. And, and... the other side mocked it. They were enjoying those tears! How could they be so cruel?



Not all that different.

But they're all racists!

Yes, half of Trump voters hold implicit bias against POC. And only a third of Hillary voters do.

Not all that different.

But Trump's spouting ugly racism!

Well, yeah. Again, I don't want to rest on any false equivalencies. But if you want to characterize the GOP as full of racists, then you should step inside the other bubble and look at yourself.

You support murdering babies. You literally want doctors to crush the skulls of infants with forceps.
You want perverts to molest our delicate American girlhood in the bathroom at Target.
You want religious expression to be locked inside the walls of churches.
You let the biased(*) lame-stream media do your thinking for you.

[* I'm too tired, but to its credit, the media finally decided that he said/she said journalistic equivalency was no longer valid. Trump was lying. They called him on it. They endorsed Hillary. But... it does feed the narrative that the media is biased against Trump.]

You want them to stop being racist and join the correct party? Well, maybe you should stop killing babies, and join the correct party.

You scoff when people say they aren't racist, but voted for Trump? Well, what do you think of Tim Kaine, who personally opposes abortion, but stood for VP of the Democrat Party? And he's by no means alone. There are Democrats who think abortion is murder. If you can be against baby-murdering, and vote for a baby-murdering candidate, then surely you can be a non-racist and vote for a racist candidate. Sure, it must be a terrible internal conflict. Sucks to be them. But they got their racism/baby-killing just like the people-of-yesteryear got Skinemax with the package.

Not all that different.

But they are so very fact-challenged!

Well yes. That's what I combat the most. You give them a snopes link, and they don't believe snopes. You provide the links on the snopes page to the NYT, and they don't believe the NYT. There are some people there whose solitary (it appears) information source is infowars(*). They were primed and ready to believe crap like a Kenyan born Obama, or a Jade Helm takeover of Texas. Because it fits their narrative.

(* I'm too tired, but if you're getting info from occupydemocrats or Huffpo... Not all that different.)

In our bubble, the narrative is that Trump is a sexual predator. And I'm morally certain that Trump has grabbed more unwilling pussies than trans people have assaulted anybody in a bathroom. So the woman who accused Trump of raping her when she was a teenager fits the narrative. But when the press conference was announced, my baloney detector started beeping. Because (for better or worse) before I am a Democrat or a liberal, I am a skeptic. A court of law is where these things are decided, not at press conferences or FBI memos. And when the press conference was cancelled due to 'threats', my suspicion grew. It was not impossible that threats had deterred some poor woman, but I was not buying it at this point. But a lot of other people were. They railed against the Trumpeters who had cowed this woman. Maybe Trump had bought her off. How many millions did it take him? And then two days later, she dropped the suit. No cause given. Bought off? Full of shit? We may never know. But a retracted anonymous accusation is not much to hang something on, unless the narrative is more important than evidence.

And if you point to snopes articles showing that some cases of 'postelection Trump supporter racism' are imaginary... some people don't want to hear that shit. It doesn't fit the narrative.

I've showed dozens of snopes articles to conservatives, and know what it feels like to be ignored. So when it comes from the other side, it just shows that...

Not all that different.

We all laughed (I did, I'm a bad person) at that stupid bint who cut a backwards B on her face.



But we were also mad. She perpetrated a pernicious lie to denigrate a particular political candidate.

We were furious. She lied to say a black man did this. I hate her.

And now Trump supporters tore the hijab off a woman. Stole her wallet. That feeds the narrative.
But it's bullshit. All a lie.

C'mon now, everyone. Let's laugh at her. And hate her. C'mon. She made a pernicious lie to denigrate a particular political candidate. She lied to say white men did this to her. I hate her. I really do. But more importantly...

Not all that different.

As promised, this book review has devolved. Let me pull it back, at least briefly.

"According to Hofstede's data, countries differ along six dimensions. One of them is Long-Term versus Short-Term Orientation: 'Long-term oriented societies foster pragmatic virtues oriented towards future rewards, in particular saving, persistence, and adapting to changing circumstances. Short-term oriented societies foster virtues related to the past and present such as national pride, respect for tradition, preservation of 'face' and fulfilling social obligations.'"

Those are not bad descriptors of the two societies living in their bubbles that exist within America. The liberal and the conservative.

One of my regrets about the election is that so much was about the personalities and less about the issues. I have read that the Clinton campaign gamely released insightful policy statements to the media, but they never reached me. Since the Donald sucked all the oxygen in the primary fight, one would have thought that the Clinton team would strive harder in the general to make sure its message got out, but it didn't. Honestly, perhaps I'm giving them credit for having a message, because from my standpoint, most of what I heard from the Hillary campaign was...

It's her fucking turn. She cashed in her chips to keep the competition away. Only that asshole Sanders and McWhatever didn't get the memo. "Trump is awful. I'm not Trump."

Though true, this is not compelling. She could've done better with "I will be the third Obama term."

Anyway, one of the few policy things that did come out (because I watch closely) is for the coal miners of America.

HuffPo:

"Hillary Clinton has a $30 billion, 4,300-word plan to retrain coal workers that covers everything from education and infrastructure to tax credits and school funding.

Donald Trump’s coal plan is a duckface thumbs-up in a miner’s hard hat and a rant about hair spray, President Barack Obama and China."

Retrain coal workers? That's "adapting to changing circumstances". That's a Long-Term society strategy. And it's right.

A duckface thumbs-up? Well, if you can see through the HuffPo bias, that's a strategy oriented on today. Short-term. For the white working class families that are struggling.

And now, for you in my liberal well-informed bubble. Surely you are cognizant of the current spot price for coal.

No? Well, there are lots of reasons for it, but coal prices have tripled recently. And although US miners have not (yet) seen much of a boon, due to the horrible EPA, and Obama rules about coal-fueled power plants, a Trump presidency is clearly going to change that. Yes, there are certainly problems with burning coal like there is no tomorrow, but... if you are a part of an unemployed coal-mining family in Pennsylvania or Ohio focused on today... then you are part of the Short-Term Society, and I can see reasons other than racism to vote for Trump. And they did. And they are legitimately mad when we say their votes were racist.

In conclusion:

WE'RE ALL A BUNCH OF APES WHO ONLY RELATIVELY RECENTLY LEARNED TO WEAR CLOTHES AND NOT KILL EACH OTHER SO MUCH.

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