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Celebrity Death Watch: Maurice Bluestein modernized the wind-chill index. Edie Windsor was an activist who played a major role in overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. J. P. Donleavy was a novelist, whose works included Fairy Tale of New York. Frank Vincent was an actor who sort of specialized in playing gangsters. Grant Hart was one of the founders of Husker Du. Harry Dean Stanton was a character actor who was in too many movies to attempt to single out a few to mention. Paul E. Gray was the president of MIT from 1980 to 1990.

Pete Domenici was a senator who represented New Mexico for many years. In general, I disagreed with his positions on environmental issues. He also got into trouble for reports about having fathered an illegitimate child and supposedly had pretty awful phone manners. However, he was a strong supporter of treating mental illness the same as physical illness.

Book Club: Book Club was on Wednesday. We had a pretty good discussion about Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. I like the central question at the heart of the novel, which is who should tell another’s story. But the reason I am mentioning this is that part of the novel involves one of the characters having an affair with a writer she admires. I made a comment to the effect of, "if Neil Gaiman showed up on my doorstep…" and was shocked that two of the people present were entirely unfamiliar with him. (I explained him as a writer of humorous fantasy with floppy hair and a British accent.) It also turned out that there were several people who had never read "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Philistines!

Christine Lavin: Friday night I went to see Christine Lavin at Jammin’ Java, one of my favorite local venues, not least for its proximity to home. Doug Mishkin opened for her and was thoroughly delightful, getting everybody singing his song "Woody’s Children." As for Christine, she was as funny as ever, with a mixture of old and new material. Many of her songs tell stories, e.g. one that described a dinner with a famous person with atrocious table manners. (I won’t reveal who it was, so you can have the joy of the surprise at the end.) During intermission, she taught members of the audience how to do some elaborate napkin folds. (I, alas, was in line for the facilities, so missed out on the lesson, though I saw the results.) All in all, it was a thoroughly delightful evening of folk song and laughter.

Loser Brunch: There were several things I could have done this weekend, but it had been a while since I’d been to brunch with the Style Invitational Losers and Devotees, i.e. fans of the Washington Post’s humor contest. This brunch was at Brion’s Grill in Fairfax, so reasonably convenient. The buffet was just okay, losing points from me for not having any fruit beyond a bowl of mixed melon. On the plus side, they did have cooked to order omelets. And they had French toast donuts, something I had never experienced before. This sort of thing is all about people, in my opinion, so I don’t really care much about the food. The conversation was lively and it was a good way to get out of the house for a couple of hours.

a conversation snippet

Sep. 16th, 2017 10:36 pm
cellio: (shira)
[personal profile] cellio
Tonight at our s'lichot service (something tied to the high holy days), a fellow congregant greeted me and said "I haven't seen you in hours!". (We'd both been there this morning.) I said "hours and hours!". He complained that I was getting carried away.

I responded by saying: "hours" means at least two; "hours and hours" therefore means at least four; it's been longer than that since this morning, so "hours and hours" is not inappropriate.

It was at this point that somebody standing nearby said "oh, that's where I know you from!". We'd both been in a talmud-heavy class a while back.

There are worse things to be remembered for. :-)

Anniversary Dinner at O Ya

Sep. 16th, 2017 09:19 pm
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[personal profile] lillibet
Today was the twentieth anniversary of our first date and our seventeenth wedding anniversary, so Jason booked us an early dinner at O Ya. We've been there twice before. The first time we had the omakase (chef's whim) of seventeen courses, just to see what they were about. The second time we sort of wanted to order a la carte, but their menu is extensive and the portions are small and trying to figure out a dozen or more courses on the fly seemed overwhelming. So this time I sat down with their online menu several days in advance and made notes on what we wanted, not really a solid plan, but enough so that we were able to come up with an order on the fly. Here's what we ended up with:

KUMAMOTO OYSTER watermelon pearls, cucumber mignonette

ORA KING SALMON Vietnamese dashi caramel, spicy rau ram salsa

BLUEFIN MAGURO Republic of Georgia herb sauce

SANTA BARBARA UNI TOAST "NIGIRI" smoked trout roe, truffle honey

HAMACHI TARTARE ginger verjus sauce, spiced chile oil

WARM EEL Thai basil, kabayaki, fresh kyoto sansh

BLUEFIN TORO TARTARE ginger kimchee jus

LOCAL SHRIMP TEMPURA bacon truffle emulsion, scallion ginger oil

MARTHA'S VINEYARD SMOKED BLUEFISH rainbow trout roe, wasabi vinaigrette, micro celery

AVOCADO TEMPURA kabayaki, truffle salt, yuzu zest

CHICKEN BROTH foie gras shumai, Tokyo leek, shitake

WAGYU TSUKUNE 2 oz., confit egg yolk, green onion, dried mushroom

CRISPY PORK BELLY Akashi glaze, celery root purée

We declined to order dessert, but they decided that our anniversary merited something sweet, so they gave us coconut tapioca with lime granita and yuzu sesame dice and moshi donuts with jasmine caramel dipping sauce.

We decided that the next time we go--in another few years--we will concentrate more on the nigiri portion of the menu, because those were our favorites, but everything was delicious and fascinating and special.

Gee, Six

Sep. 16th, 2017 10:24 am
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[personal profile] cahwyguy

(to the tune of “The Saga Begins” “American Pie”)

About a week ago
At Verizon in the mall
My phone was starting to die…
And I thought me and my picks
Could talk Verizon into
A deal on an LG G6
But their response, it didn’t thrill me
They called mall-cops, and tried to shill me
I escaped from that fight
Called *611, and made it right
I checked again, redid the order
Picked it up at a Ranch called Porter
They behaved like they orter
That’s where I got this phone…

Oh my my Verizon Cellphone
You’ve the only brand I ever have owned
Northridge Mall sucks, but Porter Ranch pwned
And now I’ve got the latest smartphone
Now I’ve got the latest smartphone.

This has been an interesting week. Back in August, while we were on vacation, I had a problem with my 4+ year old, 1st generation, Moto X. Driving through Aspen to Colorado Springs, my phone had trouble finding signal after we got out of the canyon, even after multiple reboots, when my wife’s newer Droid Turbo was doing fine. I had been having significant battery life problems, and we noticed the sides of the phone were starting to crack — indicating potential battery expansion. Given my contract was long up (meaning, given our old plan, I was essentially making payments for nothing), the conclusion was: replace the phone.

Doing research during and after the trip, I settled on two primary candidates, as the Moto X4 (though just announced), wasn’t at Verizon yet: The Moto Z2 Play and the LG G6.  Both were running Android Nougat, and both had the right mix of features. Although I was leaning to Moto because I liked their Apps, the smaller size of the G6 (the G6 was 5.86 x 2.83″, and the Z2 was 6.15 x 3.00) combined with the larger battery (the G6 was 3300 mAh, the Z2 was 3000 mAh) led me to the G6. Both were in my price range: under $25 a month. That number derives from the fact I was paying $40 a month for line access, and with the new phone, I’d be paying $15 with a $25 credit towards the phone: thus my overall bill would not increase. I planned to get the new phone once our current billing cycle ended.

Checking online, of the two Verizon Wireless stores closest to our house, only the Northridge Mall had them in stock. So I went over there. I dazzled them with my data, and we sat down to discuss the G6. They said the price was $28/month. I said it was $20/month online. They said, “Well then buy it online.”. I got on my phone and attempted to do so. However, I got to a screen instructing me to scan a barcode, with no other options. I asked them for help — they had no clue. I asked for a supervisor — he was out. I asked if anyone else knew what this screen meant. They didn’t, and they refused to tell me if the order had actually gone through. I gave a loud “Harrumpf” of exasperation… and they told me to leave the store and that they were calling mall security to escort me out. That got me even more frustrated (and when that happens, I tend to trip). I tripped over a chair, went flying, and they kept insisting security was on their way. I finally got out of the store, sat outside, and tried to call customer service (with the mall cops standing over me watching). After 1/2 hour on hold with my phone about out of power, I called my wife. She came over, went in the store (because they wouldn’t let me in), confirmed the order was not placed, and we went home.

Once home, I called customer service and placed an order for the phone — at $20/month, no problem — through customer service. Receiving the request to pay the sales tax online, I went to their website to do so. However, the plan price confused me, so I called them back. We sorted things out and I entered the card, thinking the order was placed.

Checked the next day at work, and the order was still “pending, call the credit department”. Evidently, the card didn’t go through for some reason, and they couldn’t fix the order. They cancelled it (which took a day to show up in their system as cancelled), and we redid the order.

That evening, I received mail that the phone was ready for pickup (within 3 days, although the website said 7). I called the store that evening to make sure I had all I needed to transfer, and to talk to a representative. Nice as could be. Driving home the next day, I got a call the phone was ready. I went up there yesterday evening. Francisco Linares helped me, and was as nice as could be. He helped me start the initial transfer, told me what I needed to do when I got home, and we confirmed that my current plan was just fine and the monthly pricing would be as I thought it would be (I’ll need to check that on the next bill). I picked up an extra Micro-USB to USB-C dongle, and I was home in under 40 minutes, when I thought it would take 3 hours. Yet again, the Porter Ranch store demonstrated that they understand customer service: they did it right.

Later that evening I ordered more USB-C stuff: a new power brick, a wireless charger, and cords and such.

I’m now the owner of a new LG G6, just waiting for the cases and cords to arrive. Comfortable in the hand and easy to use.

And that, friends, is the Saga of LG. Kudos and stars to the Verizon telephone personnel that helped, and to Francisco and the staff of Verizon Wireless in Porter Ranch for doing it right. Boos and 💩💩💩 to the staff of the Northridge Mall store, who care more about sales than customers. If you have a choice between the two, go to Porter Ranch.

Two final notes: People ask: Why Verizon? We’ve been with them since they were Airtouch Cellular, meaning about 20 years. We have 3 phone lines and 2 tablets, and in general they’ve been good. People ask: Why not an iPhone? I’m a big iPod Classic user, and I don’t want to pollute the iTunes ecosystem.

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The Story Behind…

Sep. 15th, 2017 12:12 pm
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[personal profile] cahwyguy

Over the last few weeks, I’ve accumulated a number of news stories that tell “the story behind the story”. I hope you find them as fascinating as I have:

  • The Story Behind… Damaged Voices. An interesting article from the Guardian explores why so many singing stars have been losing their voices. The answer, on the surface, is that they have damaged their vocal cords. The solution is microsurgery and vocal rest while things heal, and they hope that their voices return to normal. But is that the cause? According to the article: “The rise in vocal injuries is linked to a change in what we consider good singing. Across all genres, it has become normal to believe that louder is better. (One reason that Adele is such a big star is because her voice is so big.) As a result, singers are pushing their cords like never before, which leads to vocal breakdown.” Why didn’t this happen earlier? Artists were taught to sing differently. Two artists quoted in the article, Brilla and Paglin, have been saying this for years. “You cannot solve the problem by simply relieving the symptom,” Brilla said. “It’s a motor problem. The singer has to understand it’s the way you’re running your engine” – the techniques they’re using to sing. “If you don’t fix the engine, it’s going to happen again.”
  • The Story Behind… The Brooklyn Dodgers Moving to LA. Los Angeles celebrates some of its sports teams such as the Lakers and the Dodgers. But neither started in LA. An article from the NY Daily News explores the Dodgers move to Los Angeles. The person to blame: Robert Moses, who designed much of New York’s highways, who didn’t want the new ballpark proposed by the boys in blue.
  • The Story Behind… Jewish Codebreakers. Many folks — especially cryptographers — are familiar with the story of Alan Turing and Bletchley Park (told in the recent movie “The Imitation Game”). But Turning wasn’t alone, and much of the hard work at Bletchley breaking the code was performed by a cadre of Jewish cryptographers. Here is their story. It is written by a former director of GCHQ, who notes: “Their role in codebreaking and in our “signals intelligence” mission was out of all proportion to the size of the Jewish community in Britain at the time. In turn, Bletchley’s contribution to winning and shortening the course of the war and therefore bringing to an end the Holocaust in Europe is clear. Less well known is the role of some of these staff in establishing and building the new state of Israel. This is a fitting time in which to remember and to celebrate their story, and to remind ourselves of the enduring values and unbroken line which links these great individuals and our work today.”
  • The Story Behind… Civil War Statues. Most of us (OK, well a few folks) believe that the civil war statues in the news today were erected to commemorate the civil war, and were put up right after the war. That’s not as true as you think. The reality is that the civil war statues were mass-manufactured, often with generic soldiers, erected half a century after the war (in the first two decades of the 1900s) when organizations like the United Daughters of the Confederacy were looking to reframe and glorify the Confederate cause, and in many states, the descendants of slaves had been stripped of the right to vote, which impeded their ability to effectively voice opposition.
  • The Story Behind… Hurricane Reporters. This really interesting article is a collection of tips for reporters reporting from inside or near a hurricane. My favorite? “Don’t stand in standing water. Let the other idiots get electrocuted — we don’t need them anyway. You, we can’t replace because we’re in a hiring freeze. Also, if you die, we need to fill out a lot of messy paperwork.”
  • The Story Behind… Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse. This is a really interesting article that explores common behaviors in those who have experienced emotional abuse as a child.

 

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Hatred and Jews

Sep. 15th, 2017 05:08 am
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Two articles that have crossed my feeds of late both highlight the issue of hatred: one of hatred of Jews, the other of hatred by Jews. Both demonstrate significant failures of our society.

The first was brought to my attention by Rabbi Barry Lutz of our congregation. Titled “Reform is Not a Four-Letter Word“, it describes a problem that is growing in Israel these days: the divide between the “ultra-Orthodox” (note that I do not put all Orthodox in this category) and the more progressive movements within Judaism. I’m familiar with this divide, for it isn’t a new one. Back in the early 1990s I started a mailing list where we explicitly prohibited that device, as the RCO fights (as well called them) were taking over soc.culture.jewish (the Usenet group) with their invective and hatred. It seems this hasn’t gone away: some ultra-Orthodox are using “Reform” as an insult. As the author of the opinion piece writes:

Still, I’d probably not have gotten around to writing this piece had Deri’s remarks not been echoed – almost drowned out – by those of Shlomo Amar, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem and past Sephardic Chief Rabbi, who proclaimed a few days later that Reform Jews are worse than holocaust deniers.” You can catch his remarks, word for word, on the ultra-Orthodox Haredi website Kikar Shabbat as he responds to the latest appeal of progressive Jewish groups to the Supreme Court regarding the Kotel (Western Wall). “They don’t have Yom Kippur or Shabbat but they want to pray [at the Western Wall]. But no one should think that they want to pray, they want to desecrate the holy,” was Amar’s take on the matter. “Today there was a hearing on the Kotel on the petition of the cursed evil people who do every iniquity in the world against the Torah,” he added, including both Conservative Masorti Jews as well as the Women of the Wall (original and otherwise) as objects of his wrath as all were party to this litigation.

Did you catch that? Reform Jews are worse than holocaust deniers. Who needs Nazis in the streets when we have the ultra-Orthodox to hate us (without ever knowing what Reform really is, just like many of the Nazis know Judaism only from false stereotypes like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion). Hatred built on fake news and fake information is not new, folks; it has long been the domain of the ignorant, uninformed, and more importantly, those who do not want to be informed.

The current alt-Right and neo-Nazi — hell, Nazi — movements are bringing this all back to America. I met Shmuel Gonzalez when he recently gave a talk to the San Fernando Valley Historical Society on the community of Boyle Heights. This was an ethnically mixed community east of DTLA that — in the days of red-lining — brought together Jews and Latinos and Russians and Japanese and Blacks and all sorts of ethnicities into a loose coalition that worked for the rights of workers and the rights of people. Those Jewish Community Centers you see these days where nice economically advantaged families bring up their children outside of the horrid public schools were once Yiddishist centers fighting for workers and teaching English to immigrants. Shmuel, a very nice and gentle fellow, talks about this history all the time and preserves the Jewish heritage of those communities while celebrating both his hispanic and his Jewish background. Shmuel describes himself as follows in a recent post on his Barrio Boychik blog: “I am an activist historian and community organizer from Southern California; many of you might know me as the author of the Barrio Boychik blog, which is dedicated to presenting our local heritage of civil rights activism, with special focus on the historical and present inter-section of Jewish and Latino civil rights organizing. As a Mexican American of the Jewish faith, I also proudly serve the as teacher of Jewish education and leader in sacred Hebrew ritual, serving Southeast Los Angeles and North Orange County.”

Shmuel was recently at a counter-protest of the America First Rally – an anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rally organized by the so-called “alt-Right” – at Main Beach in Laguna Beach, California on Sunday, August 20, 2017. As he writes on his blog:

On this day I was in attendance to stand with local friends and business people as they stand against hate. Among them my good friend and a father figure to me, Irv Weiser; whose family came to this country as refugees following the holocaust. I came to stand shoulder to shoulder with him as he protested against this nationalist hate rhetoric. There were just a few dozen anti-immigrant/refugee protesters that day, a mixed race group of far right extremists that noticeably even had neo-Nazis and white supremacists participating in the event; while there were several hundred counter-protesters in attendance. After the right-wing protesters group dwindled they started making incursions into the counter-protest, to get in people’s’ face and to agitate the crowd; they caused some minor scuffles and were shooed back by the police. While documenting the event on video, I followed the right-wing group back. By this time the right-wing protesters on the other end were encircled and engaging a crowd. I engaged the right-wing protesters in their rhetoric angering them several times with just verbal rebuttals, while also taking video of the protest.

He continued:

As I was still documenting this event on video with the camera running, I went in for a close-up shot as we argued, and one of them quickly approached and hit my hand, sending my camera flying. At that point I was immediately arrested by five officers in riot gear from the Laguna Beach Police department. I was arrested, instead of these nationalist extremists who wanted to assault me. And that was just the begin of a long ordeal. I would be arrested, taken to central jail – where I would be subjected to racist and anti-semitic treatment by the jailer.

His blog provides all the details of this, and he has a court date this coming Monday. Why they arrested a counter-protestor, and not the perpetrators of hate is beyond me.

The reason I bring up Shmuel’s story (in addition to bringing it the attention it deserves) is to highlight the hate aspect of it. Both stories — the one from Israel, and the one from Orange County — deal with hatred of Jews. One is from the ultra-Orthodox (many of the same folks who, in America, are still supporters of Trump). One from the alt-Right — again, a supporter of Trump. Further, as I write this, a bipartisan group in Congress has sent a resolution to Trump condemning such behavior . Why did Congress send it? According to the Washington Post: “Trump was roundly criticized by lawmakers of both parties last month after he blamed “both sides” for the Aug. 12 violence that resulted in the death of counterprotester Heather Heyer, as well as his suggestion that some “very fine people” were among the white-nationalist marchers.” Of course, the White House is saying he will sign it but the reason why is unclear: political expediency, or because he really believes in it. I guess we’ll find out in the after-the-fact tweets.

Whether the behavior is from our fellow Jews or from the alt-Right/neo-Nazi groups: we must fight hatred in any form. Further, as in the early days of Boyle Heights, we must remember that our cause is tied up with the immigrant — be they be from South of the Border, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, or Africa. Hatred of minorities in any form eventually turns to us Jews, and we have to stop it before it starts. Both of these stories are lessons and poignant reminders of where things can go.

 

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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Sep. 14th, 2017 03:18 pm
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[personal profile] firecat
Saving to read later, Krebs's take on the Equifax security breach

https://krebsonsecurity.com/2017/09/breach-at-equifax-may-impact-143m-americans/

daf bit: Sanhedrin 60

Sep. 14th, 2017 09:00 am
cellio: (talmud)
[personal profile] cellio

Blasphemy is a capital offense. Conviction for a capital offense requires careful testimony of two direct witnesses. This poses a problem, as they must testify to what exactly the person said. To minimize the damage, the court sent everybody out except for the witnesses and then told the first witness: tell us literally what he said. The witness did, and the judges tore their garments. The second witness then said "I heard this too" without repeating the testimony. (The mishna then says the third witness does likewise. I'm not sure where the third witness came from, as only two are required.)

The g'mara discusses tearing one's garments when hearing blasphemy. Rav Yehudah said in the name of Shmuel that one tears only when hearing a curse of the tetragramaton, but not when hearing other divine names. Rabbi Chiyya says that one who hears God's name in a blasphemous context today doesn't tear his garments, because if he did the garment would be torn to shreds. But who is R' Chiyya talking about? If we say that he hears this blasphemy from Jews, are Jews so irreverent as to frequently demean the name of God? No, he must be talking about hearing it from gentiles. But do gentiles know this specific name? No, if we're talking about gentiles it must be in regard to any name, and there'd be enough of that to leave one's garments in shreds. The g'mara concludes that nowadays one is not obligated to tear his garments when hearing the curse of a gentile and a curse using another name, but originally one was obligated to tear for both, contrary to what Shmuel says. (mishna 56a, g'mara 60a)

In case you're wondering (I did!) why the second witness doesn't tear his garment on hearing the first witness repeat the blasphemy, the g'mara says it's because he already tore his garment when he heard the original blasphemer. The judges, however, are hearing it for the first time.

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[personal profile] cahwyguy

Many people complain about the high cost of housing, especially here in Southern California. There was a very interesting opinion piece on the subject over the weekend here in LA. The article starts as follows:

Out of curiosity, I looked up the value of a two-story tract house I bought in a middle-class San Jose neighborhood back in 1983, for about $130,000. The home — which I sold for about $140,000 in 1985 — would now haul in an estimated $1 million or more, based on recent sales in the same neighborhood. That’s roughly eight times more than I paid for it. But in the 34 years since then, California’s median household income has increased by roughly three times, not eight.

Now, for those of us who have purchased more recently — say in the mid-2000s — there’s not as much of an increase. Houses in the San Fernando Valley, where I live, were on the order of $600-$800K back at the top of the market (if not higher). They dropped some, but have come back to those prices. Orange County? As the OC Register notes, new homes in the Pacifica San Juan neighborhood of San Juan Capistrano “includes two-story townhomes ranging from from 1,836 to 2,068 square feet in space; three or four bedrooms; three bathrooms and two-car garages. Prices start “from the low $700,000s.””  Mind you, these are townhomes, not even detached housing. How can Millennials purchase housing?

Not having been a renter, I can’t speak to how the rents have changed. But my sister-in-law recently started a discussion on this based on that Register article where she noted salaries are up (for some) on the order of 6%. Comments on her post (which was restricted to friends, which is why I’m not citing names or linking to the post) noted that “you can’t even rent very well for $60k a year. That’s about $1600 a month. Barely a two bedroom apartment in a nice area…” Another person commented “As a renter in CA my ass feels sore and raw. Rents for higher and higher and we where told it’s based on the housing prices in the area. The housing market crashed and rents didn’t come down and we where told it was because more people had to rent because they lost their homes. ” My daughter, however, rents, and she could tell you how expensive it is to rent in places like Los Angeles (she ended up having a roommate in the West Adams area) or up in Berkeley — especially compared to what she can rent in Madison WI.

Why is this happening?

The article explains it as follows:

How to fix all this can’t be covered in one little corner of the newspaper. The short answer, though, is to build more housing. But bureaucracy, land scarcity and construction costs, limited funding for affordable housing and well-intended environmental restrictions all stand in the way of new projects. And so do people up and down the state who are OK with new housing unless it happens to be in their neighborhood.

So let’s explore that last sentence a bit: “And so do people up and down the state who are OK with new housing unless it happens to be in their neighborhood.”

Building new housing (let’s assume non-rental, stand-alone, single family residences) increases the housing stock, and has a little dilution effect on overall housing prices. Large developments have a greater effect, but as we saw in places like Porter Ranch that have added loads of single-family houses, the demand is such that prices don’t drop all that much. Maybe we’ll see a big drop with the new Newhall Ranch development. Building multi-family developments — think condo developments with higher density — creates even more affordable homes, but still there isn’t a significant drop in housing.

Rentals can make housing more affordable, especially if you dump a lot of rentals in the rental market. This, after all, is how New York City (especially Manhattan) works: almost everyone there is a long term rentals with large housing corporations (the only one that can afford the buildings) taking the rental income and making the rich even richer. There is extremely high density and low car ownership, owing to the density of transit. Los Angeles doesn’t have that transit density, but that doesn’t stop builders from trying to increase density. It is unclear whether that will work, especially with parking and transportation issues. Most likely, people will end up paying one way or the other.

So what is doing us in with respect to housing. My supposition? Human nature. To put it another way: People are not willing to take a loss in value for their house even if it makes other houses in your neighborhood more affordable. People are not willing to have more housing constructed in their neighborhood if it lowers values solely due to the increase in supply. No one wants to see their property values drop. Your house is your main financial asset. You can’t afford to take the loss. Let it happen in another neighborhood. And thus, the NIMBY is born, with the net result that home purchase prices stay sky-high. The impact, of course, of this is that less folks buy (and thus can use the mortgage deduction), and more folks — if housing is available — rent. This increases the demand for the rental units, which (as the supply doesn’t increase as fast), increases the rent.

So, why not build more rental housing? Because those same folks that don’t want more low-density single family housing in their neighborhood don’t want high-density housing. Think what that will do to the traffic! We won’t be able to get anywhere! And if we make housing more affordable, all that riff-raff will move to our neighborhood, lowering values even further. Oh, and don’t get me started on what adding low income housing does to our housing values!

In the end, it is people who are protecting the values of their single family homes that keep the market high. Banks and other financial institutions are complicit in this: making it easier to take out riskier loans with lower down payments to make more expensive houses affordable, and then selling off those loans so they don’t keep the risk in the community (that’s part of what caused the housing crisis). Remember: What they can’t make in interest rate income they can make by having a smaller percentage of a larger base amount, with a longer loan. So what if they homeowner loses the loan? They can forclose and sell it to someone else making even more money the second or third or fourth time around.

The high housing prices also mean that those who can afford to buy and built multi-unit housing are those at the upper end of the financial spectrum. If these multi-unit complexes are built as condos, you have the same problems as above: housing prices that keep raising (which also keeps raising the prices of the detached non-condo houses). If they are built as rentals, the landlords want to keep the prices up — and thus they fight any low income units. But eventually there will be higher density, which will give us — you guessed it — Manhattan.

And that, folks, is why housing is so expensive. You have no one but yourself and human nature to blame.

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About Last Week

Sep. 11th, 2017 04:35 pm
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Celebrity Death Watch: Kate Millett wrote the feminist classic Sexual Politcs. Gene "Stick" Michael played baseball and moved into management, primarily with the Source of All Evil in the Universe. Don Williams was a country music singer, as was Troy Gentry. Michael Friedman wrote the score of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Len Wein was a comic book writer and editor, credited as co-creator of Wolverine. Don Ohlmeyer was a sports television executive, responsible for Monday night football. (He was also the mentor of someone I grew up with, who has some very interesting stories about him.) Nancy Dupree was an historian who focused on the history of modern Afghanistan. Jack Kiel created McGruff the Crime Dog.

Jerry Pournelle wrote science fiction and published articles on military strategy. He had actually worked for the company that I am employed by at one time (as well as other companies in the space industry). He was alleged to have been the first author to have written a published book using a word processor on a personal computer. I have absolutely no recollection of having read anything he wrote, but I think I have read anthologies he edited.

Lotfi Zadeh was a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley, and is best known for his work on fuzzy logic. I am somewhat hesitant to list him because there had been at least two earlier, incorrect reports of his death. But the EECS department is now reporting it, which is a more reliable source than various Azerbaijani sources. Incidentally, it is probably not well known that he was Jewish, at least technically, as his mother was a Russian Jew. (His father was Iranian and, I assume, Muslim, in which case the Muslims would claim him too. Though maybe not, since he apparently went to a Presbyterian mission school when his family returned to Iran from Azerbaijan. None of this actually matters in the least – I just think it’s interesting. And is perhaps an example of fuzzy religious and national identity.)

Birthday: I turned 59 on Labor Day. I really want my life to be in much better order by the time I’m 60.

Speaking of Order: I more or less tore my living room apart looking for what I had done with some theatre tickets. Of course, they turned out to be in the pile that I was positive that they absolutely could not be in. In the process of searching, I did manage to throw out 4 bags full of papers. What is pathetic is how much there is to go.

A Little Night Music: That ticket was for Signature Theatre’s production of A Little Night Music. Signature makes something of a specialty of Sondheim so this was a sure bet. And it was, indeed, a good show. There were lots of familiar performers, e.g. Bobby Smith as Frederik, Sam Ludwig as Henrik, Maria Rizzo as Petra, Will Gartshore as Carl-Magnus, and Holly Twyford as Desiree. I should note that Twyford is known as an actress, not a singer, but was more than up to the role. But the real highlights were Florence Lacey as the acerbic Madame Armfeldt and Tracy Lynn Olvera as Charlotte. Both performers highlighted the humor of some of Sondheim’s wittiest lyrics. Even though this is a show I know well, I still noticed lyrics I hadn’t quite caught before. Overall, this is among the best theatre I’ve seen here.

I do have one complaint, however. The air conditioning was way too aggressive. It wasn’t even hot out. I need to remember to bring a sweater or shawl whenever I go to Signature.

Also re: Shirlington: I had amazingly good parking karma for this trip to Signature, with an available spot right by the stairs / elevator in the closer garage. I believe the reason for this is that it allowed me to do a good deed. There was a miniature Celtic festival going on and a blind woman was trying to find a place to sit to listen to the music. I let her take my elbow and led her to the chairs set up in front of the stage.

Story Swap: Saturday night was our monthly story swap, which is always fun. I have found an Albanian story to tell, which went over reasonably well. Especially the part in which the hero is sent to collect overdue taxes from a church full of snakes.

JGSGW: There was a Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington meeting on Sunday. The topic was ancestry tips and tricks, but, alas, that was pretty much focused on tips for your tree on ancestry and I don’t keep mine there. I was hoping for tips on more effective searches. And, given that the speaker was time constrained, I didn’t bother asking. I did have some conversations before the meeting which were most useful, so it wasn’t a waste.

I had intended to go to a storytelling show later in the day, but I was too tired. At least I did manage to get grocery shopping done on my way home from darkest Maryland.
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We’re up to the closing three-day weekend of the summer, and that means it is time to start on a website update. It’s been a busy summer and a hot summer, with an almost 4,900 road trip from Los Angeles CA to Madison WI and back, out through the middle (Colorado, Nebraska) and back through St. Louis and the “mother road”. Work has continued on California Highways, especially thanks to some tax modifications that provided a much needed infrastructure boost to the state. As for that promised Infrastructure bill from the Feds, it remains just that, a promise.

Updates were made to the following highways, based on my reading of the papers (which are posted to the roadgeeking category at the “Observations Along The Road” and to the California Highways Facebook group) as well as any backed up email changes. I also reviewed the the AAroads forum. This resulted in changes on the following routes, with credit as indicated [my research(1), contributions of information or leads (via direct mail) from Mike Ballard(2), Bill Deaver(3), Andy Field(4), Gonealookin/AARoads(5), Ron Langum(6), NE2/AARoads(7), Alex Nitzman(8), Max Rockatansky/AARoads(9), Joe Rouse(10), Sparker/AARoads(11); Michelle Sandoval(12), Richard Severeid(13): Route 1(1), Route 4(6), I-5(1), Former US 6(2), I-8(1), I-10(1), Route 12(13), I-15(1), Route 16(1), Route 25(1), Route 27(1), Route 29(1), Route 32(9), Route 36(1), LRN 36(7,9,11), Route 37(1), US 40(9), Route 41(9,11), Route 43(9), Route 49(1,9,7,11), US 50(1,5,9), Route 57(1), Route 58(1,10), Route 62(1), Route 63(7,9,11), Route 65(9), Former US 66(1), Route 70(9), Route 75(1), Route 76(1), I-80(1,9), Route 87(1), Route 88(9,11), Route 89(1), Route 91(1), Route 94(1), LRN 94(11), Route 99(1,13), US 101(1,4), Route 104(9,11), Route 108(1), Route 120(9), LRN 120(9), Route 121(1), Route 124(9,11), Route 132(1), Route 134(1), LRN 135(9), Route 136(9), Route 138(1), Route 140(9), Route 145(9), Route 146(9), Route 152(1), Route 155(11), Route 158(9), Route 163(1), Route 172(9,11,7), Route 174(1), Route 178(1,9), Route 180(9), Route 201(9), Route 203(9), Route 204(1), Route 211(11), Route 237(1), Route 269(9), Route 270(9), US 395(1), I-405(1), US 466(3), Route 480(1), I-505(8), I-580(1), I-605(1), I-680(1), I-710(1), Monterey County Route G13(9), Monterey County Route G14(9), Tulare County Route J37(9); FAQ(12). Note: Almost all of the SB 1 projects discussed here are resurfacing or repair of infrastructure, not new construction or widening. Thus, they are below the level of detail that I normally capture in these pages.

Noted the passing of Matthew Salek’s Highways of Colorado (and updated the regional pages appropriately). If I had lights, I’d dim them in it’s memory as another major roadsite disappears.

Updated the highway types page to clarify the difference between being a scenic highway in the legislative code and being an actual state scenic highway. The Q2-2017 Mile Marker explained the difference: “Many highway corridors are eligible for Scenic Highway status, but receiving an official designation requires the local government to apply to Caltrans for approval and adopt a Corridor Protection Program. The local governing body must develop and implement measures that strictly limit development and control outdoor advertising along the scenic corridor. ”

Sometimes an innocent question can lead one down an interesting path. Such is the case with the question I received from David Walker, who asked “Who or what named the ditches on I-10?”. This led me to UglyBridges.com and the National Bridge Inventory. This resulted in an addition to the FAQ, and a list of ditch names for I-10. I thought I might add them for some other desert routes, but the interface doesn’t make that easy. Another query that didn’t lead to an easy update to the site was a reporter from the OC Register, Kurt Snibbe, who wanted to do a piece explaining California’s road signs. It didn’t quite fit into a particular road’s page, and didn’t quite fit onto a specific numbering page, so it was shoehorned into the page on signing standards and the FAQ.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Something I Thought I Would Never Do

Sep. 8th, 2017 05:28 pm
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I guess there’s a time for everything, for I’m about to do something I never thought I would do publicly, on my blog. Recommend a porn site I recently visited; a site that was truly spectacular and astounded and excited me.

I learned about this site while reading my regular RSS feeds: one of the sites I read pointed to a podcast about the site and its founder.  From there, it was easy to follow the link to the site itself, and to the site’s Facebook Page. Last night, I spend a fair amount of time perusing both sites, and I even brought my wife over to join me in the activity. She was equally engaged with the sites.

Here’s the amazing thing: these porn sites are SFW. And yes, I’m talking about human adult porn, not food porn or horse porn or pet porn or any of the odd picture porn you see on the net.

Of course, I should make clear I’m talking about Porn for Jews. And before you bring in your stereotypes or tropes, don’t bother. This doesn’t play on those stereotypes. It is, however, intellectual porn — and porn that you will only get if you have a deep enough immersion in Jewish religion and culture. If you have that, you will find it hilarious.

Who knows? It might even turn you on. As for me, it’s time to polish the Yod.

(No, that’s not a Boston reference. That’s Yahd. Yod refers to the pointer one uses to read from the Torah. Erin made us one many years ago, and we need to regularly clean it. Get your minds out of the gutter.)

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Graze Box #32

Sep. 8th, 2017 04:38 pm
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All repeats, though some I had not gotten in quite a while.


Grilled Cheese: This is a mix of hickory smoked almonds, mustard breadsticks, and cheddar cheese bruschetta. It has 120 calories. I thought this had an excellent mix of flavors, with the almonds providing a nice hint of smokiness. Very tasty.

Deconstructed Carrot Cake: This is a mix of carrot chews, cinnamon flavored raisins, walnuts, and ginger fudge. It has 180 calories. This is one of the more convincing deconstructed desserts that graze offers. I like the cinnamon and ginger flavors, too. It could, however, be a bit better balanced, perhaps with smaller walnut pieces so it is easier to eat all the components together.


Booster Seeds: This is a mixture of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and flaxseed. It has 200 calories - and 9 grams of protein. This is a good combination, but not particularly interesting. And the flaxseed is a pain, since the seeds are so small. It is particularly irritating when you spill a bunch of this on your desk, not that I would know anything about that.

Original Fruity Flapjack: This is a soft granola bar, with dried apricots, dates, raisins, currants, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds. It has 230 calories. The dominant flavor is definitely from golden syrup, which is not something I’d ever really complain about. There is a nice balance of textures, with the chewiness of the bar and the crunch of the seeds. Very good.

Kettlecorn Kern Pops: These are half-popped corn kernels with a sweet and salty flavoring. The package has 130 calories. I like the texture, but I really prefer the more savory types of kern pops to these, which I think are just okay.

The Cheese Board: This is a mix of cheese-flavored cashews, cheddar cheese bruschetta, and baked herb bites. It has 110 calories. This is a pretty nice savory snack – and I’m not even a big cheese person. The cashews are particularly good.

Fantastic Forest Fruits: This is a mix of dried apple slices, blueberries, lingonberries, and cherry-flavored raisins. It has 80 calories. I think this combination leans a bit too much on the tart side, with the lingonberries tipping the balance. The blueberries get pretty much drowned out by the other flavors. Okay, but there are other dried fruit snacks I prefer.

Snickerdoodle Dip: This is a cookie dip, with cinnamon pretzel sticks to dip into it. It has 150 calories. This is one of my favorite Graze sweet snacks. Insanely delicious and a good argument for the built-in portion control.

Caught With Your Pants Down

Sep. 8th, 2017 12:06 pm
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I’ve been reading a lot today about the Equifax compromise, where, you, the Equifax user, were caught with your pants down because — although you buckled the belt as you should — the manufacturer forgot to secure the buckle to belt. When you bent over to pick up that hot dog that landed on the floor — whoops, your privates, and those of 143 Million other Equifax customers (about 44%) were put out there for all the world to see, to point at, and to laugh.

Don’t you feel embarrassed? Don’t you feel like you should lock yourself up in a dark room and hide forever?

You don’t need to. Equifax has provided a complicated checking procedure and registration approach that, ultimately, puts you in a queue for a paid year of credit monitoring, while you give up your rights to arbitration and class actions suits. Doesn’t that make you feel better? Oh, and that credit monitoring. I think you still need to give a credit card, so they can start billing you after the free year is over. Still feel better? Remember, this is monitoring — it doesn’t stop anything and lets you know after the information is used. Of course, you can have confidence in Equifax that they will protect you after the breech, given how they have handled it.

Of course, there are security folks proposing other solutions. Some suggest the easy solution of just giving everyone new, more secure, social security numbers. Alternatively, we could start using our RealID Drivers License, and have one national identity number.

More sane folks are recommending a two pronged approach that doesn’t requiring using Equifax’s protection: the most common approach is suggesting a fraud alert on your records, and paying to have a freeze to prevent new accounts. All good ideas.

As for me, I’m going to wait and see. With 143 Million pieces of data, their odds of picking me are, well, 1 in 143 million. That’s pretty small.  Plus the information has been out there for months — and with information like this, you have to use it quickly or it loses its value. Have we seen an uptick in identity theft? I haven’t heard of anything. I strongly suspect that this was a nation state, just like the OPM breach, and only select data will be used, for sophisticated spear phishing attacks. After all, why do they need to do the fraud when they can get you to unlock the door? Further, this isn’t the only attack: you’ve likely already had your information released (see this site).

Oh, and before you get scared about using the Internet, think about this: You don’t have to be an Internet user to have your information in the Equifax data. You just have to have had credit as some point in your life. The fault was with Equifax, the company you trusted to protect your data. Oh, that’s right. You didn’t choose Equifax. The fault was with Equifax, the company other companies trusted to give them accurate credit data. Equifax didn’t care about you or your credit. And neither did that little minx, Wendy*.

It is not in Equifax’s business model to protect your data: well, they’ll protect it only until they can sell it to the highest bidder. Remember the adage: If you get the service for free, you’re not the customer, you’re the product.

Feel better now? If not, wait I bit. I’ll be posting something this evening that will make you feel much better, even if your pants are down.

P.S.: Speaking about phishing, my favorite theatre about spam is having performances on 9/10 and 9/17. Go see it. It had Gene Spafford rolling in the aisles.


*[Paraphrasing my favorite Alton Brown quote, long since removed from his website:]

Here’s what it comes down to kids. Equifax doesn’t give a damn about you. Neither does that little minx Rachel from Card Services or any of the other icons of finance. And you know what, they’re not supposed to. They’re businesses doing what businesses do. They don’t love you. They are not going to laugh with you on your birthdays, or hold you when you’re sick and sad. They won’t be with you when you graduate, when your children are born or when you die. You will be with you and your family and friends will be with you. And, if you’re any kind of human being, you will be there for them. And you know what, you and your family and friends are supposed to watch out for you too. That’s right folks, protecting someone else’s information is an act of caring. We will always be protected best by those that care, be it ourselves or the aforementioned friends and family.

We are having our information exposed and exploited and exploited again because we have handed a basic, fundamental and intimate function of life over to corporations. We choose to value our information so little that we entrust it to strangers. We hand our lives over to big companies and then drag them to court when the deal goes bad. This is insanity.

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Another centennial, plus other stuff

Sep. 7th, 2017 05:23 pm
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On Monday, Labor Day, I posted the following tribute on Facebook. I *meant* to copy it here too, but I got tired later in the day.

One hundred years ago TODAY, my Uncle Rene was born. Yes, my father and one of my uncles were born just four days apart in the same year. Uncle Rene was my *maternal* uncle, just so you're not totally confused.

Most people pronounce "Rene" as "reh-NAY," same as "Renee," but my family of French Canadian Americans always pronounced my uncle's name as "RAY-nee." At any rate, my Uncle Rene was the third of six children born to a couple of residents of a heavily French Canadian neighborhood in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.

Rene grew up to be the tallest of his siblings and was always a big high-strung. His hair stood up straight on top of his head, and he wore thick glasses. He left school after the eighth grade because by then it was the Depression. At some point he lost the tip of his right middle finger to some sort of tool or machine. He had only the tiniest stump of nail on that finger.

As you can see from the
[Facebook] photo, Uncle Rene joined the service during World War II, but I don't think he stayed on the front lines long. My mother always said he had "shellshock." I think he was shipped home to recuperate. I have a little satin pillow that is printed with the words "For Mom from Fort Belvoir."

Rene never married or had kids, but lived with his mother (my grandmother) and took care of her as she aged. She signed the house over to him before she died, so he would always have a place to live. He worked as a janitor at Fitchburg State College (as Diane N***
[a former member of my church who attended Fitchburg State] can attest) until he retired.

My Dad and Uncle Rene were good friends and were in a bowling league together. One Sunday afternoon they scared my Mom -- they went down to the local airport and convinced someone to take them up on his small plane for a cruise around southern New Hampshire. Better to seek forgiveness afterward than to try to get permission beforehand....

By 1987 Uncle Rene and my mother were the last of their siblings left alive. They were the third and fourth kids in the family, and I think my mother was closer to him than to her other siblings. He died at age 79, and my Mom died four weeks later.

Happy 100th Birthday, Uncle Rene.


* * * * *


On Monday I had gotten up early to march in the Labor Day parade as a member (really, president) of the local Toastmasters Club. I should really start a DW/LJ tag for Toastmasters, as that's probably going to be a bigger part of my life for the rest of the "club year" (i.e., until next June 30). The town where I live was built as a New Deal project 80 years ago, so yeah, we love our Labor Day festivities. It's traditional for marchers to toss candy to the children on the sidelines, and some of them bring bags, almost like Halloween trick-or-treating.

This is the third year I marched in the parade with the Toastmasters. It's really quite fun, and it's not a lengthy parade at all. This year's event had a TON of entries for local politicians. The area is so heavily Democratic that next year's primary (I think it will be in June) is tantamount to election. So, yeah, everybody wanted to "press the flesh."

At the elementary school book sale at the Labor Day festival, I scored three books, including The Civilization of the Goddess by Marija Gimbutas -- list price $60 when it came out. I think I paid $8 for the three books and the reusable tote bag to carry them in. Deal!

At the parade I scored coupons for a free Mission BBQ sandwich and a free slice of Three Brothers pizza. So I think I came out even, more or less.

* * * * *


I was supposed to have a small surgical procedure today (to remove a small BENIGN lump), but the hospital arbitrarily rescheduled it to next Tuesday, without bothering to TELL me until I made inquiries late yesterday afternoon. *grumble*

I had explicitly made no commitments to anything for the coming weekend, because I figured I was going to spend the weekend loafing around and sleeping off the painkillers. Now, however, what to do? In addition, money is a bit tight again, since I paid off some crucial bills.

Although I've been invited to attend no less than three different SCA events in three different states, I think I'll stick closer to home this weekend. Maybe I'll catch up on some projects here. I really hadn't planned on going to an event until Battle on the Bay, which is the weekend of Sept. 22-24.

* * * * *


I haven't been in touch with Tall Dancer a lot lately, but he called twice this afternoon. Apparently he is on a long drive from Georgia to Tennessee for a small relax-a-con with friends. And he just got back from Florida to celebrate his grandmother's 95th birthday. I do hope his relatives are safe during Hurricane Irma.

Messages and Messengers

Sep. 7th, 2017 11:13 am
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userpic=divided-nationWith the upcoming publication of Hillary Clinton’s book, the debate has started up again on the role of Bernie Sanders on giving Trump the election. Per CNN: “In it, according to excerpts posted by a group of Clinton supporters, she criticizes her primary opponent, Bernie Sanders, for running to be the Democratic nominee while not actually being a Democrat, and for targeting her in a campaign of character assassination, instead of doing a deep dive into policy.” This notion, predictably, has Sanders supporters responding on FB, and has reignited the debate about the election once again. Here are some of my thoughts, so I don’t have to keep posting them again and again … and again:

  • Get Over It! Much as I don’t like the result, the Electoral College voted and gave us Trump. Hillary Clinton lost, and we should just let her fade into the background and focus on the next generation of candidates.
  • …but don’t get full of yourself. However, the election was not a Trump landslide, despite what he said. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote; Trump was more strategic in where he won. Playing to Trump’s base is not what the country voted for.
  • Bernie Sanders could not have won. Sanders had a great very progressive message. Despite the positives in that message, he was doomed from the start. As we saw recently in Virginia, there are loads of people out there that hate both Jews and Blacks. Sanders was an ex-Socialist, New York Jew. This country was not ready for that messenger. They were barely ready for a Black President, and as we saw from the election, really weren’t ready for a woman President. Much as we think we’ve come a long way, the battle for true equality — and universal acceptance of that equality — isn’t over for different religions or women (and certainly not for the newer protected categories, including LGBTQ etc.).
  • Hillary cost Hillary the election. Although Sanders had an impact on Clinton, certainly, it is unclear if he cost her the election. What really lost the election was Hillary’s presumption of winning vs. hard work. She didn’t think strategically and ensure she had the electoral votes. It was the tortoise vs. the hare.
  • Messenger, not Message. What got Trump elected was not his message, it was the messenger (or for some, hatred of the other messenger). He was the “anti-establishment, anti-government, shake things up” candidate — who spoke off the cuff in the language of the people. He excited a segment of the population that hadn’t gotten excited before (Alt-Right), and implicitly gave them permission to enthusiastically go for him — in the strategic states. [ETA: He expressed broad ideas and goals with few specifics, letting people trust in the power of him to get it done.] Clinton was not exciting; she was more of the same. [ETA: That is: Detailed policy wonk positions, playing up experience in the status quo, dull political speech, yada, yada.] Trump (likely aided by Russia and social media) played up those flaws. Clinton didn’t excite voters, and the segment she spoke to weren’t the types that got enthusiastic. Sanders’ supporters were enthusiastic, but they couldn’t get enthusiastic about anyone other than Sanders, so they sat on hands at the general election (or — forfend! — voted for Trump because they hated Hillary so) — essentially, putting their dislike of the messenger over their like of the message (much of which Clinton adopted).
  • Although the Endpoints are Excitable, the Bulk is in the Middle. The endpoints — the alt-right, the arch-conservatives, the Sanders progressives, the semi-Socialists — make the most noise and think they are the most important, but they aren’t the bulk of the electorate. Those in the middle are — those who Bill Clinton, and to a lesser extent, Barack Obama — played to. The problem is: the gerrymandering and the nature of the primaries gives the edges a stronger voice in selecting the candidates these days, leaving the electorate to choose between the extremes. It often isn’t a good choice.

Post-election, it is clear that not much has changed. Trump’s base loves him no matter what he does. The rest of the Republican party doesn’t like Trump, but has no viable Republican alternative — and they won’t go for a Democrat. Meanwhile, the Democrats have lived up to their reputation of not being an organized political party. Neither Sanders or Clinton is a viable party leader — Sanders because (a) he’ll be too old, and (b) he isn’t really a Democrat, and Clinton because, well, she’s Clinton and folks are tired of dynasties (i.e., Clinton / Bush). The candidates that have been floated all have their flaws. The country is clearly not ready for another racial minority or a woman, and needs a more “status quo” (i.e., sigh, white male) for a cycle or two — which means both Booker or Warren, while great with their messages, are stronger in the Senate. It also excludes folks like Kamala Harris or Antonio Villagrosa. Much as I like Al Franken, he has a Sanders problem — Jewish, as well as being a former actor and comedian. The Democrats need to find a suitable candidate and start grooming and promoting them now — and, alas, by suitable I mean white, male, and Christian. A candidate who will make the country feel safe in the messenger, so the message can be heard. They haven’t done that, and looking at their bench of up and comers, they don’t have a lot of choice.

Actually, they do have one good possibility — Hillary Clinton’s former running mate. If he isn’t too tainted by that association, Tim Kaine of Virginia has the right credentials. Democratic, white, and Catholic. Able to speak to hispanics. Good on policy. A former governor. But surprisingly, I haven’t seen his name come up at all.

 

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daf bit: Sanhedrin 53

Sep. 7th, 2017 08:51 am
cellio: (talmud)
[personal profile] cellio

The mishna on today's daf lists those for whom the death penalty is stoning. (There are four methods of execution in halacha, of which stoning is the most severe.) Stoning is for:

  • a man who commits incest with his mother, his father's wife, or his son's wife, or a man who commits adultery with a betrothed maiden

  • a man who sexually abuses another man or a beast, or a woman who commits bestiality (the g'mara here does not discuss what counts as abuse)

  • a blasphemer, an idolater, or one who gives of his seed to Molech (Molech was a foreign god to whom people made child sacrifices)

  • one who incites individuals to idolatry or seduces a whole town to idolatry

  • a necromancer, wizard, or sorcerer (I'm unclear about the difference between the latter two)

  • one who desecrates Shabbat

  • one who curses his father or mother

  • a wayward and rebellious son

(53a)

Since I've Been Home

Sep. 6th, 2017 01:58 pm
fauxklore: (Default)
[personal profile] fauxklore
Here is the rest of the catch-up stuff.

Celebrity Death Watch: Louise Hay was a motivational author. Richard Anderson was an actor, best known for portraying the boss of bionic people. Hedley Jones was a Jamaican musician, who also designed and built the first traffic lights in the country (among other technical accomplishments). Shelly Berman was a stand-up comedian and actor. Walter Becker was one of the founders of Steely Dan. John Ashberry was a poet.

Take Me Out to the Ball Games: I got back on a Thursday and went to Nationals games (vs. the Mets) on both Friday night and Sunday afternoon. The Friday night game started out with some pathetic pitching on the part of young A. J. Cole. He did settle down, some, but the Nats never got very far against Jacob deGrom. Things did get exciting at the end, but the Mets kept their lead.

Sunday was Jewish Community Day and I went with some friends from my chavurah. There had been a special ticket price, which also included a ballcap with Nationals written in Hebrew! This is now my favorite ballcap, even ahead of the one from the Leones del Escogido. There were also tastings of various foods from a kosher caterer. As for the game, Asdrubal Cabrera hit a 3-run homer for the Mets in the first. The Nats proved to be really good at stranding men on base, though they did make things close. And it all came to down to Edwin Jackson getting thrown out at the plate at the end for them to lose.

Apparently, my wearing Nats gear brings luck to the Mets.


Vacation Stories: In between the two ball games, there was a Saturday night and a Better Said Than Done show, with a vacation theme. I told my story "M.D., Ph.D., G.R.E.A.T." which involves our family trip to Expo ’67 in Montreal, my parents’ failure to stop at any of the intriguing tourist traps along the way, and how I finally found satisfaction on another trip years later. The audience was responsive and I think it went well.
You can judge for yourself. Here’s the video.

Don’t Analyze This Dream, Part 1: There was a very important work matter, which I had to discuss with Bob Kaplan, even though he was in the hospital. Alexander Craig insisted that he and I talk with Bob, who was wearing blue pajamas and had just had surgery. We were then going to follow up with the Delaware group. Note that none of these are names of people or organizations I have any association with.

Don’t Analyze This Dream, Part 2: My home was invaded by a group of juggalos. Well, 4 of them stood outside and waited, while the one with the full clown makeup went inside, wielding an inflatable baseball bat.

District Dumplings: This past Thursday night I went out to dinner with a couple of friends who were in town. They chose District Dumplings in the Mosaic District. It was disappointing. The chicken and basil dumplings were good, but the others were bland. And, even though we ordered our dumplings steamed, they gave us fried. If you are over that way, Brine is a much better choice of a place to eat. Oh, well, the company and the conversation were good.

The National Book Festival: I volunteered at the National Book Festival this year, which was held this past Saturday. It’s the sort of volunteer task I can do – with a commitment measured in hours on one day (plus a couple of hours for a training session). I was a Hall Chaperone, which basically meant that I stood on the L Street Bridge at the top of the Grand Staircase with an "Ask Me" sign and directed people to other places in the Convention Center.

You’d think that sign would invite smartass questions, but there were only a few. Mostly people were asking how to get to the main stage (on the 3rd floor) or to the Metro. My favorite conversation was with the guy who said, "you look like you would like someone to ask you a question," to which I replied, "I would be delighted to be asked a question." (Alas, he just asked one of the usual ones.) Anyway, it was reasonably fun and I ran into several people I knew. I would volunteer there again if my schedule works.

Will Rodgers Was Right About DACA

Sep. 5th, 2017 11:50 am
cahwyguy: (Default)
[personal profile] cahwyguy

While eating my lunch, I’ve been reading the news about DACA and the reactions thereto on Facebook. I’ve also been thinking about my recent trip, and Will Rodger’s famous statement that people’s minds are changed through observation, not argument.

When you look at most of the people supporting DACA, they are people that either know a dreamer directly, or are close to someone who knows one. They know the hard work these people put in; how they strive to make their lives better and the world a better place. They also know, from first hand discussion, what would happen to these people if they are kicked out of the only country they have known.  A similar narrative exists, by the way, for those who work with immigrants and refugees — legal or not. They know how much these people treasure this country, how hard they work to stay here and improve their lives. They know how important it is for their kids to be educated and go to college, and to exceed and do even better than their parents. These kids, with aspirational goals, are the dreamers we talk about with DACA. These are people that must succeed, for there is no significant welfare largess, so significant safety net.

I’ll note that this ethic: the ethic of hard work, of striving to be better, of pushing to move forward, learning, growing, and educating — and using all such opportunities available to you — this ethic is something that is often missing on those born in this country. I think we all personally know citizens that would rather wait for just the right job, are happy being on welfare and government assistance, are willing to work but not to work extra hard. Eliminating DACA will not suddenly employ these folks, will not solve the problems of society.

We just took a road trip through parts of the country that do not support DACA. From my observations, the people in those parts of the country don’t have the same level of interaction with Dreamers or Immigrants. Their view is not shaped by their experience and observations; that vacuum instead sucks up the arguments of bias. Essentially, in the absence of observation and experience, they are willing to believe what they are told about “those people”. They believe they are the ones taking the jobs away from them, sucking money from Washington, and generally abusing public service. The facts of the contributions of these people don’t sway them; in fact, no argument will. They are the people that will, alas, fulfill a different Rodgers adage: “There are three kinds of men. The ones that learn by readin’. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”  The problem is that learning their lesson will hurt innocent people just trying to do good. Rodgers has an adage on their view of that as well: “Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.”

P.S.: For those who believe I’m quoting someone who was consistently liberal, remember it was also Rodgers who said “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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