I wasn't going to speak out in favor of Obama's statement on gay marriage, because I didn't think it needed saying.
But then a Facebook friend and self-identified Christian posted an appalling condemnation of Obama's statement and Obama himself, and a couple of her little troll-minded pals jumped right in.
So I'll say it again: The President of the United States just spoke out in favor of gay and lesbian marriage. That makes today a great day.
And I've unfriended that Facebook friend. I didn't really know her very well. She was just someone I went to high school with. She seemed nice enough, and I'm sorry she believes her definition of Christianity requires her to be a hateful nincompoop.
I think he's done a pretty good job so far. Given a second term, with the economy recovering (albeit too slowly and weakly), and the war in Iraq done and Afghanistan winding down, he might turn out great.
On the other hand, if he merely continues on his current course, well, pretty good is pretty good.
My vote for Obama is as much a vote against Romney as it is for Obama. A friend on Facebook wrote an eloquent argument in favor of voting for Romney. He said Obamacare is bad news; as bad as the medical situation is in the US, socialized medicine is worse. He's a European immigrant, so he speaks from personal experience. He says Romney's record in business will help him shrink government and get government running efficiently.
If I believed any of those things were true, I might vote for Romney. But he has, as the Democrats noted, changed every position he holds to its opposite just to get power. He used to be pro-choice, tolerant of same-sex marriage, and instituted a service in Massachusetts similar to Obamacare. Now he's pro-life, anti-same-sex-marriage, and hates Obamacare.
As for his business record: Look, it's an honorable record and he has good reason to be proud. But Bain didn't make anything or do any productive service. It moved money around. That's what drove the economic collapse of 2008: Too much of the economy was tied up in businesses that did nothing but move money around. And his record as a "job creator" is mixed.
(BTW, can we stop saying "job creator"? Nobody created my job. I create it myself every day that I get out of bed when I'd much rather be slumbering, and every night when I return to my desk after dinner. This job I do is not a handout from some billionaire somewhere.)
It's most likely to me that a Romney presidency, with the GOP controlling at least one branch of the legislature, will result in shrinking social services and a vastly expanded military, with billions flowing from the federal coffers into military contractors. We'll see thousands of Americans, and tens or hundreds of thousands of non-Americans, dying in unnecessary foreign wars.
As for Obamacare: I have misgivings about it, but what's the alternative? Stopping Obamacare will cut people with pre-existing conditions off from medical care and deny medical care to the unemployed. Any alternative to Obamacare has to solve those two problems before it's worth considering
Until literally this week, I was going to vote for a third-party candidate while hoping Obama wins. I had that luxury because I live in California, which is going to go for Obama no matter how I vote. But I changed my mind for two reasons: (1) His behavior, and the behavior of the federal government, during Superstorm Sandy. He and the feds have, quite simply, done their job. It's one of the basic reasons we have a federal government; to bring the whole country together when one region is hit by disaster. The federal competence during this disaster reminded me of how incompetent the federal government was under the Bush Administration. The feds just couldn't get basic things done then -- like bringing disaster relief to Katrina victims, protecting America against terrorism, and identifying real threats to America.
The second reason: If Obama wins by a narrow popular margin -- or worse, if he loses the popular vote but wins the electoral vote -- the GOP will spend the next four years claiming the White House doesn't have a legitimate mandate. They'll say that anyway, but I'd like to do my microscopic part to undercut that GOP message a much as I can.
I have many criticisms of Obama -- many, many criticisms -- but one of the reasons I admire him is because in the end he seems more interested in doing his job than in accruing power.
We're seeing that today in the White House reaction to Sandy.
He figures that if he does his job, the country will be better off, and therefore people will support him and vote him back into office. That has been his strategy since his inauguration. It's why he often doesn't get in there with fists and kicking when the political donnybrooks start (even when that's exactly what he should do -- his reluctance to brawl politically is sometimes a drawback).
And the Republican criticisms of his actions make no sense. They say he's taking strong, visible action on Sandy to distract from the election. That may be true? So what?
The Republicans are also trying to link Obama's reaction to Sandy and his reaction to Benghazi. Yes, it appears that the White House screwed up badly in Benghazi. Does that mean, therefore, that we should criticize Obama for failing to screw up twice?
And the fact that Michael Brown is stepping forward to criticize Obama underscores one of the reasons why I won't support Romney. The GOP toaday is the same bunch of assclowns who nearly wrecked the country during the Bush administration. The Democratic Party has a long way to go before it descends to the level of the GOP.
P.S. Chris Christie seems to be another mainstream politician with that same quality: Doing his job seems to be his first priority. Although unlike Obama he seems to like the fisticuffs too.
The best minds in the world are paid handsomely to make people fat.
The New York Times reports in depth on how the junk food industry works.
Howard Moskowitz, trained in mathematics and with a Harvard Ph.D. in experimental psychology, made his mark in the food industry by making Prego pasta sauce a blockbuster hit. He's optimized soups, pizza, salad dressing, and pickles. He's a self-described food industry game changer. And he got his start working for the Army.
"The military has long been in a peculiar bind when it comes to food: how to get soldiers to eat more rations when they are in the field. They know that over time, soldiers would gradually find their meals-ready-to-eat so boring that they would toss them away, half-eaten, and not get all the calories they needed. But what was causing this M.R.E.-fatigue was a mystery. “So I started asking soldiers how frequently they would like to eat this or that, trying to figure out which products they would find boring,” Moskowitz said. The answers he got were inconsistent. “They liked flavorful foods like turkey tetrazzini, but only at first; they quickly grew tired of them. On the other hand, mundane foods like white bread would never get them too excited, but they could eat lots and lots of it without feeling they’d had enough.”
"This contradiction is known as “sensory-specific satiety.” In lay terms, it is the tendency for big, distinct flavors to overwhelm the brain, which responds by depressing your desire to have more. Sensory-specific satiety also became a guiding principle for the processed-food industry. The biggest hits — be they Coca-Cola or Doritos — owe their success to complex formulas that pique the taste buds enough to be alluring but don’t have a distinct, overriding single flavor that tells the brain to stop eating."
Among the junk food industry's tools: a $40,000 machine that simulates a chewing mouth, with which researchers discovered that people like chips that snap with about four pounds pressure per square inch.
The junk food industry's science has deep roots. Frito-Lay hired psychologist Ernest Dichter, who prepared a 24-page report in 1957:
"The company’s chips, he wrote, were not selling as well as they could for one simple reason: “While people like and enjoy potato chips, they feel guilty about liking them. . . . Unconsciously, people expect to be punished for ‘letting themselves go’ and enjoying them.” Dichter listed seven “fears and resistances” to the chips: “You can’t stop eating them; they’re fattening; they’re not good for you; they’re greasy and messy to eat; they’re too expensive; it’s hard to store the leftovers; and they’re bad for children.” He spent the rest of his memo laying out his prescriptions, which in time would become widely used not just by Frito-Lay but also by the entire industry. Dichter suggested that Frito-Lay avoid using the word “fried” in referring to its chips and adopt instead the more healthful-sounding term “toasted.” To counteract the “fear of letting oneself go,” he suggested repacking the chips into smaller bags. “The more-anxious consumers, the ones who have the deepest fears about their capacity to control their appetite, will tend to sense the function of the new pack and select it,” he said.
"Dichter advised Frito-Lay to move its chips out of the realm of between-meals snacking and turn them into an ever-present item in the American diet. “The increased use of potato chips and other Lay’s products as a part of the regular fare served by restaurants and sandwich bars should be encouraged in a concentrated way,” Dichter said, citing a string of examples: “potato chips with soup, with fruit or vegetable juice appetizers; potato chips served as a vegetable on the main dish; potato chips with salad; potato chips with egg dishes for breakfast; potato chips with sandwich orders.”
This is a failure mode built into capitalism. We see it in the junk food industry, as well as the gun, tobacco, alcohol, and casino industries. The human race has hard-wired death drives, and companies can make a lot of money serving those destructive impulses.
We reduced the problem enormously with smoking, but it required a combination of law and public opinion. It's taken 50 years, and and the job isn't done yet.
Next week it'll be back to my usual routine of listening to the podcast while walking in the park, hearing something I want to respond to, speaking up to respond, and remembeingr after people start looking at me funny that I'm not actually a guest on the show and none of the people on the show can hear me.
It's Romney's fault -- he wasn't conservative enough.
Obama is a lying liar and Americans fell for his lies.
America is a nation of freeloaders.
The final point is the one that really pisses me off. I voted for Obama enthusiastically twice, and I've spent the last part of my life trying to figure out how to not be such a damn workaholic.
Protip: When you're having trouble getting people to agree with you, calling them freeloaders is not a good start. It's not even a good idea to do it when you think the people who disagree with you aren't listening.
As to the point about my voting for Obama enthusiastically twice: Careful readers might recall my saying that I didn't really support Obama so much as oppose Romney. I meant it when I said those things, and I'm sure I'll mean it again. I don't agree with everything Obama does. But in the past couple of weeks, he sold me. And, yeah, Sandy had a lot lot to do with it; I saw that Obama is a man who takes his job seriously. He understands that there's an ideological component to the Presidency and a part of the Presidency that involves just plain logistics and management. The Republicans have not demonstrated they understand that. They are a party that is obsessed with ideological purity over practical work. Not all Republicans are that way, but the party as a whole presents that face.
You know that thing about how ACORN was busted for signing up voters illegally?
That thing where a guy dressed up as a pimp and caught ACORN staffers on video cooperating in felonies?
They were complete lies and fabrications.
The ACORN employee caught on tape doing the dirty deed actually called the cops on the fake-pimp, James O'Keefe, right after O'Keefe left the office. The employee got fired from ACORN anyway. Now, O'Keefe has agreed to pay a $100,000 settlement.
"O’Keefe’s other videos have been exposed as either complete lies or deceptively edited. ThinkProgress reported last year that O’Keefe’s attempt to expose voter fraud by non-citizens actually featured US citizens. The conservative activist has also been arrested for trying to bug a Senator’s phone."
Also, he wasn't actually wearing a pimp costume when he went to the ACORN office. He was wearing a suit and tie. He deceptively edited himself wearing the pimp-costume into the video later.
"O’Keefe’s settlement is the latest blow to the credibility of conservative media. Breitbart.com made a stir by accusing now-confirmed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel of taking money from a shadowy organization with the outlandish name “Friends of Hamas” — a group that turned out to be fictional. Soon after, allegations by the Daily Caller that Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) had hired a prostitute turned out to be entirely fabricated. The fake scandal had also been shopped around to the New York Post and the Star-Ledger Time, but neither could find any evidence to publish the story. Larger conservative media outlets like the Drudge Report, however, enthusiastically amplified these stories with little or no scrutiny."
I don't usually pass along these conservative-liberal pissing-contest stories, or even read them. But I know a few intelligent people who actually believe the bullshit about ACORN, Menendez, and read Breitbart.
I just sent more-or-less the following in an email to a friend and colleague:
On a personal note: I'm impressed that you're letting yourself go gray (you look great, btw), and are bragging about having professional experience since 1992. For the past couple of years, I've carefully internalized the advice you read about distracting people from one's age. I listed my experience on LinkedIn as "more than 15 years" and I was careful to avoid pop culture references that might date me. Then a month or two ago I decided I didn't want to be that guy anymore. I even made a Phil Donahue reference at a company all-hands meeting.
It helps that I've gotten fit. If some 25-year-old ectomorph wants to make wisecracks about my age, I can trounce him. Or if he proves tougher than he looks, I can run away and not get all winded and stuff.
My college paper used manual typewriters, and on my first job out of college, I worked for a newspaper that used a minicomputer-based system with 8" floppy disk and greenscreens. Now I'm an Internet professional. That's not a liability, it's my superpower.
Movie posters reimagined as if the films were made in past decades
Peter Sellers and Mary Tyler Moore star in Groundhog Day.
Charlton Heston and Harry Belafonte in Pulp Fiction, with Kim Novak, Laurence Olivier, Yul Brynner, and Burt Lancaster.
I guess Heston and Belafonte get the Travolta and Jackson roles, Kim Novak subs for Uma Thurman, and either Yul Brynner or Burt Lancaster plays the boxer who was played by Bruce Willis in the real movie.
But who does Olivier play? I'm thinking the Wolf, played by Harvey Keitel in real life.
And who plays Marsellus Wallace? Belafonte is the only African-American actor I recognize on that list, although there are a couple of names I don't recognize.
I want to see all these movies. Frank Zappa as The Big Lebowski! Richard Kiel as The Terminator, with Faye Dunaway as Sarah Conner! And check out who plays John Connor in The Terminator II: Judgment Day.
Introducing the hot gadget of 2013 -- bigger than the iPhone or iPad -- and it's not from Apple.
The Leap device lets you use hand gestures to control a computer and other services (one guy even hacked a prototype to control a quadcopter). The inventors envision it being used in surgeries, fighter jet cockpits, semiconductor clean rooms, fast food kitchens, and more.
The price: $70. -------------------- Basically the engineers at Leap Motion have invented the 3D user interface of the future. You don’t use a keyboard and mouse; you don’t even use a touch screen. You just move your fingers in the air, and, as if by magic, with zero latency and pinpoint accuracy, stuff happens on your screen. Think of Microsoft’s Kinect controller, but way better. Leap Motion claims its device is 200 times more accurate than anything on the market and can track your finger movements down to 1/100th of a millimeter.
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
Google Glass is "a natural extension of your phone. It’s like headphones for your eyes."
That's my sense of it too, and I can see the value.
On the other hand, I already have trouble resisting the tug of the Internet. I'm concerned about putting the Internet an inch from my brain. Maybe it would be like an alcoholic moving next door to a bar.
Splitsider's Bradford Evans combed through Louis C.K.'s stand-up specials, TV shows, interviews, talk show appearances, and Reddit AMAs to collect his best quotes. Here are a few:
"The only road to good shows is bad ones. Just go start having a bad time, and if you don't give up, you will get better."
"I just don't trust any of it. Every time I read something about how there's been another ridiculous climb of the Dow Jones, there's a part of me that goes, “This can't be good.” None of this is real money. You know what I mean? It's not like there's actually more of anything. It's just ideas. When people are getting richer and richer but they're not actually producing anything, it can't end well."
"Even after 9/11, during the darkest moment of our recent history, the President told us, “Go shopping.” That's how we were told to uphold American values; go out and fucking buy more shit. So what were we supposed to do?"
"When you write from your gut and let the stuff stay flawed and don't let anybody tell you to make it better, it can end up looking like nothing else."
"Bill Gates has 90 billion dollars … If I had 90 billion dollars, I wouldn't have it for long because I would just dream of all the crazy stuff I could do with it. This guy, 90 billion dollars. He could buy every baseball team and make them all wear dresses and still have 88 billion dollars."
There is no asterisk next to mine and Julie's marriage. And that's why I support same-sex marriage.
Well, that's one of the reasons. And it's not a big reason, because I don't really think the government is seriously going to try to come after me and Julie and declare us less married than other people.
The real reason I support same-sex marriage is fairness and principle.
No, actually, that's not true either. I'm no better than most people when it comes to fairness and principle. When injustice is being done to total strangers far away, well, I think it sucks, but I'm a busy guy. I get distracted from actually doing anything about it.
The real reason I support same sex marriage is because I, personally, can think of at least three friends who are gay or lesbian, in committed long-term relationships. I can't think of any good reason to deny them the benefit of marriage. It certainly doesn't cost me anything -- not a nickel, not a moment of care or work. So why not?
Wait, I just thought of a fourth gay friend. Wait, a fifth. But I think she self-identifies as bisexual. Wait, a sixth. She's trans. I'm not sure how that fits into the categories of gay vs. hetero.
So that's four gay friends -- or six, depending on how you count.
And Julie and I don't lead particularly bohemian or alternative lifestyles. We're monogamous. We live in the suburbs. She's retired, I work as a middle-manager for a midsized multinational corporation. I wear loafers and we drive a Subaru Forester. We have many channels of cable television.
Also, I don't actually have a lot of friends -- I'm a bit of an introvert.
And yet despite these limitations on my social pool, I can still can count four gay friends. Or six. Without even trying very hard.
And I think they should all have a right to marry.
Wait. I just thought of a seventh.
So that's the main reason why I support same-sex marriage: My friends should enjoy the same rights I do.
But today's Supreme Court arguments bring up another reason for me to support same-sex marriage, one even more personal to me. It's this crazy notion that marriage is primarily for the purpose of procreating and having children. That if we let people who can't have children marry, why, society is somehow jeopardized by it.
There is no evidence for this. Sure, that is one of marriage's primary purposes. But marriage has other purposes as well, and the main one is for two people to look out for one another.
Julie and I don't have kids. We are childless by choice. We decided that before we got married 20 years ago.
And I take it personally when people suggest that our marriage is somehow less real than the marriage of people who do have children.
And that's one of the reasons I support same-sex marriage: To stop those religious nutters well before they come after me and Julie.
Bruce Willis's career: How a 30-year-old bartender became one of the great American movie stars.
"Die Hard is just about perfect — a resolutely human-scale blockbuster as elegant in its bombast as the "Ode to Joy" quotations director John McTiernan asked Michael Kamen to thread into the score, so that the terrorists would remind us subliminally of Droogs. Willis shot the movie at night, working around his Moonlighting schedule; he got $5 million for the film, which seemed like an absurd payday for a TV goofball stepping into a role that Richard Gere and Burt Reynolds had reportedly turned down. Watch the movie, of course, and it seems like a bargain: As the man caught up in the gears of the story, Willis cracks mordant jokes about his predicament, feels fear, bleeds, and calls himself an asshole. Over 35 minutes go by before he points a gun or throws a punch, during which we get to know Willis as a warrior with a broken heart, a cynic whose love for his estranged wife (Bonnie Bedelia) undercuts everything he thinks he's learned about human nature from a life spent putting New York scumbags behind bars, and a nervous flier.
"Think of McClane in the airport, watching the girl in the white stretch pants leap squealing into her boyfriend's arms and saying to himself, "California," as if physically demonstrative affection were some kind of weird New Age/Tantric thing. McClane is judgmental of the world like someone who knows it's passing him by. Willis was 32 when the film was shot, but seems older in it. McClane has a wife and two kids, a receding hairline — he's unmistakably an adult. He looks burned-out even before he spends the night crawling through air ducts and getting knocked around by Alexander Godunov. This is only his third movie, and he's already playing a guy who's lived a life; one of the reasons Willis seems to have aged so well is that he's never really played a young man, and we don't really have a young Bruce to compare old Bruce to." __
A career that spans Willis's roles in Die Hard, Nobody's Fool, Pulp Fiction, and Moonrise Kingdom is a good one. He plays winners like John Maclane and dignified losers like the cop in Moonrise Kingdom with equal grace.
Short description: "In a far-future medieval world, Aleksei Feodorov Bychkov fights goblins to restore his honor."
Long description: -------------------- Aleksei Feodorov Bychkov once had a beautiful family, and a place in the elite Cerulean Corps.
But that was a long time ago. Now, Bychkov wears the Iron Star, a symbol of disgrace.
Bychkov prowls Stalitsgrad, the capital city and jewel of the Nyebastrov Archipelago. His self-imposed mission: Hunt the goblins who stalk the city, preying on its human inhabitants.
Like Bychkov himself, the Nyebastrov Archipelago has seen better times. A terraformed bubble floating high in the atmosphere of Saturn, the Archipelago was once an outpost of an advanced human civilization. But Bychkov and its other inhabitants now fend for themselves in a medieval society. Some of the artifacts left by the Predecessors who built the Archipleago are tools that are still powerful -- when they work. Others, like the goblins, are dangerous threats.
Join Bychkov's adventure as he searches for honor, companionship, and love in the distant future. Read IRON STAR now! -------------------- The next step is to get the novel copy-edited. Fortunately, I have a copy editor in the house, who's graciously agreed to go through it.
I plan to have the book up for sale on your favorite online bookstore as soon as the copyedit is complete. I'm also thinking about doing a print version, using [CreateSpace https://www.createspace.com/ or something like it.
The artist formerly known as Fake Steve Jobs says the iPhone -- and Apple -- have gotten boring.
"To use a car analogy, six years ago the iPhone was like a sexy new flagship model from BMW or Porsche. Today it's a Toyota Camry. Safe, reliable, boring. The car your mom drives. The car that's so popular that its maker doesn't dare mess with the formula."
I don't know if I agree with this. I just feel like pissing people off.
Certainly, the work I'm hearing about from Google sounds a million times more interesting than Apple. Self-driving cars! Virtual reality glasses! And what's Apple got? A new TV? Yeah, I suppose that's nice but you know I'm pretty happy with the TV I have. 7-inch tablet? I already have one, thanks -- love it.
I was out walking yesterday and had barely left the house when I saw a woman walking ahead of me with a small dog. It was a funny-looking little dog, with pink legs and hindquarters.
They turned to climb an embankment to the lawn of a house, and I passed them and took a good close look at the dog. The face didn't look very dog-like. It looked piggy.
"Excuse me," I said to the woman. "That's not a dog, is it?"
"It's a pot-bellied pig," she said.
She let me hold the pig. When she handed the pig over to me, the pig squealed very loudly. It didn't like that one bit. Then I handed the pig back, and the woman put her down on the floor, and the pig ran around the lawn, rooting at things with her snout, eating flowers and stuff, and snuffling happily, its tail gyrating in circles.