March 30, 2015

Andrew Sullivan says blogging — 7 hours a day, day after day — "was killing me."

And that's why he quit.

Quit if you need to, and I appreciate what you gave us over the years, Andrew, but 7 hours of work a day is just not that grueling.
"And inevitably, for those seven hours or more, I was not spending time with any actual human being, with a face and a body and a mind and a soul."

Sullivan said the job resulted in lost friendships and minimal contact with his family. He said his husband, whom Sullivan married in 2007, called himself a "blog widow."
There are 24 hours in a day. Work 7 hours and sleep 7 hours, and there are still 10 hours left. The numbers just don't add up.

Now, I can see how a writer can burn out. The energy needs to come from somewhere to make those words. It's not the same as using manual skills to make something or fix something or doing routine clerical work, which you can bang out for 7 hours a day whether you mind is a blank or a fuzz. You need the spirit, and if the spirit dies and you labor on, maybe you do feel that it's killing you. There might be something about taking on a staff that you need to pay and accepting subscription money that makes it all too obligatory and not intrinsically valuable. But if it is intrinsically valuable, I don't think 7 hours a day, even 7 days a week, is all that hard, and I don't see why it would leave your husband aggrieved. I don't see why it would leave you feeling that you are not spending time with any actual human being.

"This video makes me nervous. The only reason that you can be sure that the monkey doesn't just snap a puppy's neck for the hell of it..."

"... is because it's been widely shared as a 'cute' video. The owner had no way of knowing it wouldn't."

That prompts somebody else share his "monkey story":
When I was vacationing in Thailand about 20 years ago, I was in a busy restaurant that had a small monkey chained to a perch in the corner. I felt sorry for it and went over to give it some attention. I fed it a treat of some sort from my table and allowed it to perch on my shoulder. Then it shoved its fingers into my eye sockets, driving my lids deep into the space between my eyeballs and eyebrows. It wrapped it's legs around my neck and started humping the back of my head, coming before I was able to tear it off.

I came to realize that having a monkey for a pet would be as much fun as taking care of an incontinent, criminally insane person.

In Governor Nelson State Park today, the weather was ideal.

... 55° and gently overcast...


None of the burdens of excessive sun and warmth...


Taps were stuck in maple trees...


A fingertip gathers a drop. Taste it!

How Ted Cruz answers the no-executive-experience/aren't-you-just-like-Barack-Obama question.

"A Brooklyn city councilwoman wants to know why 'blocs' of Asians are living in two Fort Greene housing projects — and suggested it would be 'beneficial' to assign housing by ethnic group."

"'How is it that one specific ethnic group has had the opportunity to move into a development in large numbers?' Laurie Cumbo, who is black, said at a council hearing on public housing Thursday."
Cumbo issued an apology, saying she only wanted to know if the New York City Housing Authority “uses a cultural preference priority component” in picking tenants....

Still, Cumbo told The Post, “There could be some benefit to housing people by culture... I think it needs to be discussed.”
Yeesh. Reminds me of the trouble Jimmy Carter go into 40 years ago when he campaigned (in Indiana, of all places) saying that he wouldn't use the federal government to "circumvent the natural inclination of people to live in ethnically homogenous neighborhoods":
In making the point, he used unusually blunt language about social differences — about "black intrusion" into white neighborhoods, for example. He spoke of "alien groups" in communities, and of the bad effects of "injecting" a "diametrically opposite kind of person" into a neighborhood....

He said, "I have nothing against a community that's made up of people who are Polish or Czechoslovakian, or French-Canadian, or black, who are trying to maintain the ethnic purity of their neighborhoods."

At the Smart Pot Café...


... you can grow anything you want.

(And if you want to buy a Smart Pot like the one Meade is planting, you can buy them at Amazon, here. And please, if you want to buy anything at Amazon, consider planting some love on theAlthouse blog by going in here. Meade and I will thank you over bowls of Sungold tomatoes.)

"Two men dressed as women attempted to 'penetrate' the entry point with their vehicle when a shootout occurred...."

ABC reports on the incident at Fort Meade.

Instead of picking on Indiana, why don't we figure out if we want RFRA laws or not?

Here's Jonathan Adler's explanation of "What will the Indiana religious freedom law really do?"
RFRA laws are common, as shown by this map. Whether or not such laws are good policy, they are about accommodating religious belief, not authorizing discrimination....

The Indiana RFRA is not identical to every other RFRA, but the textual differences are not particularly material....

Are there any scenarios in which a state-level RFRA might result in an individual business owner denying service to a same-sex couple? Perhaps. The most likely scenario would be something like a religious wedding planner refusing to help plan a wedding that violates his or her religious beliefs. But even if such laws eventually allow this sort of thing, it is a far cry from... a general license to discriminate against one’s neighbors....
Indiana has focused attention on RFRA laws, but it's stupid to focus on Indiana. These laws are all over the place. Understand them. Understand how they apply in many different scenarios and how they are limited by courts in their application. Understand that if we're going to relieve religious believers of the burdens of generally applicable laws, courts are going to have to avoid preferring one religion over another. You can't accommodate the religions you agree with or think are sweet and fuzzy and say no to the ones who seem mean or ugly. We need to figure that out. If, in the end, you think the Indiana RFRA is a bad idea, check that map and see if your state has RFRA (or a RFRA-like state constitutional provision) and push for repeal in your state. And get after Congress. Congress started it. Unless you're Hoosier, leave Indiana alone. Stop otherizing Indiana.

AND: I had to wonder What does Garrett Epps think about this? Because Garrett Epps wrote a whole book about how terrible it was for the U.S. Supreme Court to deny special exceptions to religious believers, especially in that case where Native Americans wanted the freedom to use peyote. As I predicted, Epps is otherizing Indiana.

"For hundreds of years, women in the South Korean island province of Jeju have made their living harvesting seafood by hand from the ocean floor."

"Known as haenyeo, or sea women, they use no breathing equipment, although a typical dive might last around two minutes and take them as deep as ten metres underwater. Wearing old-fashioned headlight-shaped scuba masks, most dive with lead weights strapped around their waists to help them sink faster...."

Great photos by Hyung S. Kim.

Aaron Rodgers will pull for any team he wants.

"Rodgers... fired back at critics who questioned his fandom and his being on the court following Wisconsin’s Final Four-clinching victory over Arizona on Saturday night...."

Scott Walker's Wisconsin gloom mousse has a testy undertaste, a macho, testy undertaste!

At Yahoo Politics, Senior Political Correspondent Jon Ward has a piece titled "Scott Walker’s gloomy pitch for the presidency." Walker, we're told, once "used the word 'worry' or 'worried' 12 times in the space of 15 minutes":
“As a parent today, I’m worried. I’m worried for our country,” Walker told a few hundred conservative activists in a darkened amphitheater, standing in front of a red stage curtain. “I’m worried about my sons and your sons and daughters, my nieces and your nieces and nephews and grandsons and granddaughters, and I’m worried that we’re headed down that same path that worried me years ago in my own state.”
Ooh! The darkened amphitheater. The red stage curtain. Oh, no: Worry! 

Walker is telling us what's wrong with America. Why not what's right with America? The obvious answer is that if things are going swimmingly, then we should want another Democratic President.

Ward's writing fits squarely into the genre called They'll Tell You Who They're Afraid Of.  He proceeds to blabber about "an undertone of testiness in his stump speech, leavened with chest-swelling machismo fueled by his defeat of a recall effort in 2012 and his re-election in 2014."

Testiness and machismo seem like the opposite of gloom, but I guess gloom is the overtone and testiness is the undertone, while machismo is the leavening.

I won't accuse Ward of mixing metaphors. I think he's got a consistent food-prep metaphor going there.

It calls to mind that line from "Rosemary's Baby." Rosemary takes a nibble of the mousse that the devil-worshiping next-door neighbor has tainted with a knock-out drug and worries: "It has an under-taste. A chalky under-taste."


What's in this mousse anyway? "Mousse," in Wisconsin, we call it "mouse," because we are as naive-or-sinister as the Satanist next door. It's gloom mousse, but it has a testy undertaste, a macho, testy undertaste!

"The Daily Show" chooses Trevor Noah, a South African, to replace Jon Stewart.

The NYT observes that Noah is "nonwhite," but that there's a question "why the network did not choose a woman to crack the all-male club of late-night television hosts."
[Noah] grew up in Soweto, the son of a black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss father, whose union was illegal during the apartheid era. “My mother had to be very clandestine about who my father was,” Mr. Noah said. “He couldn’t be on my birth certificate.”

By the time he started performing stand-up in his 20s, Mr. Noah said he had long been taught that “speaking freely about anything, as a person of color, was considered treason.”
According to the NYT, Michele Ganeless, president of Comedy Central, "said that Comedy Central... drew up 'a shortlist' of possible successors 'and Trevor checked off every box on that list and then some.'" That doesn't make sense. If the "list" is a list of "possible successors," how could one person on that list check off "every box on that list and then some"? Obviously, there's some other list. Presumably, it's a list of things Comedy Central thought would be plus factors. I guess being female wasn't one of them. Ganeless seems to have unwittingly stated that Comedy Central really wasn't hoping to put a woman in the anchor seat. Either that or gushy puffery about Noah caused her to say something she didn't mean to say.

Why is Ganeless president of Comedy Central? Perhaps she was promoted beyond her appropriate level.

Anyway, I'm not sold on Noah. I watched the clip of him that was linked at the beginning of the NYT article — I sat through the Coke-and-Pepsi commercial for "Mixify" — which shows him in a colloquy with Jon Stewart. Noah began with what seems to be the old joke "I just flew in and boy are my arms tired." When the predictable groans ensued, Noah held his arms up in the Ferguson hands-up-don't-shoot position and said:
"No, seriously, I've been holding my arms like this since I got here. I never thought I’d be more afraid of police in America than in South Africa. It kind of makes me a little nostalgic for the old days, back home."
So, get ready for jokes against America told in a not-American accent. I guess, not American was on the Comedy Central checklist of plus factors that Noah checked off (and then some).  Yeah, I know, you don't have to get ready because you don't watch "The Daily Show." I don't either anymore. I used to watch every day. I still record every show, but I can't remember the last time I felt like clicking on the recording. Maybe I got tired of Jon Stewart's incessant yelling in disbelief. How could America be so awful? But does that mean I want to hear Noah's mellifluous murmuring about how awful America is?

I know, I'm old. The show is not intended for me. I saw the commercial for Mixify. Coke and Pepsi's effort to get people to "mix" their soda-drinking with nutritious food was, to me, a ludicrously transparent effort to fend off government regulation, not what they want you to think it is:
#Realtalk: Coke, Dr Pepper and Pepsi understand that balancing your mix of foods, drinks and physical activities can get a little tricky. And since our products can play a part in that equation, we’ve teamed up to help make it easier to find a balanced mix that feels oh so right. That’s where Mixify comes in. It’s like a balance wingman.

Bringing you new combinations to keep your mix fresh and your body right. Like mixing lazy days with something light, following sweaty workouts with whatever you’re craving, and crossing cats with dragons. Because at the end of the day, finding balance keeps you feeling snazzier than the emoji of the dancing lady in red. Balance what you eat and drink with what you do. That’s how you Mixify.
Hashtag Realtalk? A balance wingman? A little tricky? Actually, it's not tricky at all. Don't drink soda. It's not tricky to me, that is, but I take it Coke and Pepsi are trying to trick teach tricks to people who are not me. And maybe those kids will love Trevor Noah.

March 29, 2015



Right now. Seen from our deck.

"In 1998, the philosophers Andy Clark and David Chalmers introduced the idea of 'the extended mind'..."

"... arguing that it makes no sense to define cognition as an activity bounded by the human skull. Humans are masters of mental outsourcing: we archive ideas on paper, we let Google Maps guide us home, and we enlist a spouse to remember where our wallet is," writes Daniel Zalewski in a New Yorker article about an artist, Lonni Sue Johnson, who has suffered from from amnesia ever since, in 2007, viral encephalitis "essentially obliterated her hippocampus."

Her "extended mind" includes: 1. a tote bag full of various notes and maps, and 2. her sister Aline (whose "account of her life [she trusts] as strongly as she used to trust her own memory"). Johnson has a terrible impairment, but reading about her impairments, we see things that are true about ourselves. We may feel that our mind is entirely inside our heads, but the people and things that surround us function enmeshed with our memory. I was especially struck by this paragraph:
Johnson was wearing a magenta turtleneck with black sweatpants and plastic Mardi Gras necklaces. (An amnesiac cannot be trusted with gold.) She had worn the same outfit to the Princeton lab. Some of her favorite clothes are growing threadbare, but it’s difficult to replace them, because she doesn’t accept new clothes as hers.
She doesn’t accept new clothes as hers... We're not that impaired. New things can become ours. But I know the feeling. It's something like what George Carlin was talking about in his delightful monologue "Stuff":

"That's all your house is - a place to keep your stuff. If you didn't have so much stuff, you wouldn't need a house. You could just walk around all the time. A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it." But that's your extended mind, too.

"Sometimes you leave your house to go on vacation. And you gotta take some of your stuff with you. Gotta take about two big suitcases full of stuff, when you go on vacation. You gotta take a smaller version of your house." Well, of course, you're going to need your mind.

"You get over to your friend's house... and he gives you a little place to sleep, a little bed right next to his windowsill or something... You put your stuff up there. You got your Visine, you got your nail clippers, and you put everything up. It takes about an hour and a half, but after a while you finally feel okay, say, 'All right, I got my nail clippers, I must be okay.'"

What things (and people) do you accept as yours? How are they part of what makes feel okay... makes you remember who you are and what you are doing here?

People dancing in movies are all doing the same dance.

Except Cher. She's doing The Monkey.

Based on that set of clips the essential movie dance is: Face forward, plant your feet apart, elbows up and out sideways, punch one fists up and then the other in a way that causes movement in the rest of your body. No real footwork is involved. The actors in the movies in that video are not Fred Astaire.

Why am I avoiding this Indiana RFRA story?

I've got to examine my own soul! I see it — e.g., here —  and I know I'm avoiding it. There is something to examine. Why is Indiana getting into so much trouble over a type of law that used to be extremely popular? I guess it has something to do with Hobby Lobby and something to do with all that wedding cake business. There was a time when religionists had the ascendancy, and their pleas for relief from the burdens of generally applicable laws fell on the empathetic ears of conservatives and liberals alike.

Look at how pleased Bill Clinton was to sign what was then perceived as important civil rights legislation.

The tables have turned. And now all the liberals are remembering how much they love Antonin Scalia. I mean, not really, but to be consistent, those who are denouncing hapless Governor Mike Pence should be extolling Scalia who ushered in the era of "Religious Freedom" legislation when he wrote:
We have never held that an individual's religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate. On the contrary, the record of more than a century of our free exercise jurisprudence contradicts that proposition. As described succinctly by Justice Frankfurter in Minersville School Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586, 594-595 (1940):
Conscientious scruples have not, in the course of the long struggle for religious toleration, relieved the individual from obedience to a general law not aimed at the promotion or restriction of religious beliefs. The mere possession of religious convictions which contradict the relevant concerns of a political society does not relieve the citizen from the discharge of political responsibilities.
(Footnote omitted.) We first had occasion to assert that principle in Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1879), where we rejected the claim that criminal laws against polygamy could not be constitutionally applied to those whose religion commanded the practice. "Laws," we said, are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. . . . Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.

Subsequent decisions have consistently held that the right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his religion prescribes (or proscribes).
Okay, I'm working my way through this resistance to the topic. What I see is: A different group is activated now and everything looks different. What I feel is: Exquisitely distanced amusement.

"Show me a party to which women are invited but that they overwhelmingly choose to avoid..."

"... and I'll show you a party to which I'd ask you to remember not to invite me."

Guess what the "party" is before clicking through.

"Anyone who saw Reid would say that he looked like he had been beaten up by a guy with a hard left, maybe using brass knuckles..."

"When a guy shows up at a Las Vegas emergency room on New Year’s Day with severe facial injuries and broken ribs, and gives as an explanation the functional equivalent of 'I walked into a doorknob,' it isn’t hard to guess that he ran afoul of mobsters. Yet the national press has studiously averted its eyes from Reid’s condition, and has refused to investigate the cause of his injuries. To my knowledge, every Washington reporter has at least pretended to believe Reid’s story, and none, as far as I can tell, has inquired further."
Writes John Hinderaker, who inquires further.
What happened to Reid is not just a matter of curiosity. Everyone knows that the Reid family has gotten rich, even though Reid has spent his entire career as a public employee. It is known that a considerable part of his fortune came from being cut in on sweetheart Las Vegas land deals that included at least one person associated with organized crime as a principal....

"Is today the day it's getting warm, or is today the ice pellets day?"

"Ice pellets," Meade answers.

"Jeb, or '45,' as he is already being called, hasn’t even announced, and we’re already trapped in the byzantine psyche of Bushworld."

Writes Maureen Dowd.
[H]e’s being yanked in a tug of war between his father’s side, which insists privately that Jeb is a realist who surely must have disapproved of the Iraq invasion, and his brother’s side, which publicly demands that Jeb go full-hawk, becoming the third Bush to use the military in Iraq....
Though Jeb is more apt to do his homework, he’s unformed on foreign policy, like his brother — except that his brother was elected before 9/11. Now the neocons who treated W. like a host body for their own agenda are swirling around Jeb, ready to inhabit another President Bush....