A Long Night

Lying in bed, left hand clamped over my eyes, my right arm wrapped around my head to apply pressure so my sinuses don’t blow my face off. Everything hurts. My teeth hurt. Looking forward to the next sneeze, building somewhere in the background, a feeling of squirrels chewing my nasal passages, but when it comes, fifteen seconds of bliss. Or at least reduction in discomfort.

There are no more pills to take. I lie, wheezing, and think, “Maybe whiskey will help…”

Trump and Idiots

I have, on several occasions, said that people who vote for Trump are idiots. Having read the excellent article Why Trump Voters are not Complete Idiots I have been forced to question my stance.

The article, if I may be so bold as to recast, turns the US into a two-story house. The folks on the ground floor get by, the folks upstairs do well. By any measure, I’m living upstairs.

It’s important to note that while money is a big factor in where you think you live, it is not the only factor. Income is only one way one’s value in society is defined. Respect from those around you is another. Upstairs people feel more valued.

There’s no guaranteed pass to the upper floor, but a college education is pretty damn close to one. Go to college, move upstairs. And here’s where the core resentment toward immigrants comes in. It’s not the illegal immigrants coming in on the ground floor that rankle, it’s the legal immigrants, the educated ones, who step right onto the upstairs that piss people off.

It’s not how well you’re doing, it’s how well you’re doing compared to the other guy.

So Liberals and Democrats (not at all the same groups) make two basic promises: 1) we will make living on the ground floor suck less, and 2) we will make it easier for your kids to go upstairs.

But for a man just getting by, with his kids already past “college age”, there’s not a lot of upside there. He remembers when just being a hard-working man doing his job and not bitching too much was enough to feel secure in this country. Maybe he couldn’t get upstairs, but hard work meant something, and he could be confident that his family would be taken care of. For that guy, that was when America was great.

Trump, while not offering anything specific at all, implies that he will restore America to those good old days. But he isn’t offering to make living on the ground floor better, he wants you to believe that he’s changing the rules for who gets to live upstairs. For people who feel stuck downstairs and degraded by assholes like me calling them idiots, maybe it’s time to change the rules.

It gets a little ugly, though, when you consider that during this mythical period when America was great, the upstairs was occupied almost exclusively by white men. So when he talks about going back to the good ol’ days, he’s talking to the working white men whose fortunes have flatlined while all the other demographics in this country have caught up. But he’s making it a white-men-vs-the-world proposition. Sometimes subtly, sometimes not so much.

These folks have heard all the political double-speak before, but there they sit, downstairs, even while brown and yellow college-educated kids skip up to the luxury suites without breaking a sweat. Time to shake things up! Time to value the people who work with their hands, who actually make stuff. So people in the making-stuff group who want to shake things up are not inherently idiots. They are following an agenda that, at least superficially, gives them the better chance to get upstairs. The Democrats are telling them their grandchildren will have a more fair shot at the stairs, but that’s far away.

Blow up the system. When the debris stops falling, who knows who will be on top?

So far, that makes sense. But there’s still the question: Is Trump the guy to do that?

Let’s take another look at those good ol’ days. When a working man could provide for his family and maybe even send his kids to college. Or at least technical school, or a skilled apprenticeship. Those days actually existed, not long ago.

Was it the Republicans, or the white men upstairs that created those conditions? Well, no. Not even remotely. It was the labor unions. The Great America Trump wants us to remember is the America when workers had power. When there was dignity in labor and a comfortable life even while the fat cats upstairs got rich.

So, white men who remember a better past, is Trump really going to return us to those days? Will he restore the power of the unions?

Hell, no.

He couldn’t if he tried, and he’s not going to try. Among the many lawsuits Trump has settled, there are the union-busting ones. He is famous for shitting on the working-class people. Gleeful, even. He is the worst thing that could possibly happen to the working-class joe in this country. He is a spoiled rich man with a long history of disregard for the people he is now asking to put him in the White House.

So, back to my premise: are people idiots for voting for a fundamental change to the system? No. Not if they don’t believe that we are on a path that makes things better for their grandchildren.

But are they idiots for voting for Trump? Yes, absolutely. Trump is one of the people who put them where they are, and he has no intention of changing that. Just ask that man of the people over in Russia.

5

Email Security 101: A Lesson Yet Unlearned

So it looks like the Russians are doing their best to help proudly racist Trump, by stealing (and perhaps altering) emails passed between members of the Democratic National Committee. It seems like the Democratic party preferred the candidate who was actually part of the party over a guy hitching his wagon to the Democrats to use that political machine as long as it was convenient to him.

But that’s not the point of this episode.

The point is this: Had the Democrats taken the time to adopt email encryption, this would not have happened. When the state department emails were hacked, the same criticism applies.

It is possible to:

  1. Render email unreadable by anyone but the intended recipient
  2. Make alteration of emails provably false

But nobody does it! Not even people protecting state secrets. I used to wonder what email breach was going to be the one that made people take email security seriously. I’m starting to think, now, that there is no breach bad enough. Even the people who try to secure email focus on the servers, when it’s the messages that can be easily hardened.

There is no privacy in email. There is no security in email. But there could be. Google could be the white hat in this scenario, but they don’t want widespread email encryption because they make money reading your email.

Currently only the bad guys encrypt their emails, because the good guys seem to be too fucking stupid.

I Agree with the Republicans about One Thing

At the convention the delegates on the floor are getting all frothed up. One of the signs they’ve been given to wave around reads, “We deserve better.”

Yes you do, Republicans. You deserve better. But you hitched your wagon to a racist xenophobe child-king and now we have to embarrass your whole party as monumentally as possible to make sure you grow the backbone to not be railroaded again.

1

The RNC Drinking Game

trump_1868826aMy cousin, over in Facebook-land, has been soliciting ideas for drinking games for the Republican National Convention. It’s going to drive you to drink anyway, why not make a game of it?

The major political conventions have been reduced to noise and flashing lights anyway, since the conclusion is foregone. In smoky rooms where cameras never reach, actual policy decisions might be made, planks laid for the coming campaign and whatnot, but those meetings hardly need the hoopla of the convention. It is, really, just an extended political ad that the major networks offer up for free.

The Establishment will now do pretzel contortions to pretend they liked Trump all along. But they didn’t like him then, and they don’t like him now. A large chunk of the party just wants to punt this one over to Hillary and try to take it back in four years. There will be agonizing moments of discomfort durning the RNC.

So, the drinking. I figure there are a couple of easy categories, and one tricky one.

Things People Say
These don’t have to be an exact match, it’s the spirit that counts.
“Donald Trump is a savvy businessman.”
“Donald Trump cares about America.”
“Make America Great Again!” (if you accept this one, you will get hammered).
“Donald Trump undertands
Untruths that can be verified within thirty seconds.
“The beautiful city of Cleveland”
“The great state of Cleveland” — With Trump, it’s possible. You know it is. 10 drinks.
Any attempt to use Cleveland’s NBA championship to generate excitement.

Images
Weeping male zealot (1 drink)
Weeping female zealot (3 drinks)
Big crowd shot with all the signs pumping to insipid piped-in music
Trump, with his hand raised in a gesture that might not be Hitler but is definitely in Mussolini territory
A black person. (1 drink)
The same black person (2 drinks)
The same black person another time (Ok, there will be four black people there, and the cameras will be hungry for them. Your call whether to go linear or exponential here.)
Beauty shot of Cleveland from the air.

Tongue-Biting
One of the greatest travesties of this election is otherwise-rational people will be backing Trump out of misguided party loyalty. Moments when those people are captured by the cameras will be the most precious of all.
Party leaders golf-clapping.
Top Republicans forcing smiles only made possible by the intake of copious cocaine.
Conventioneers wearing Hillary buttons.
Mentions that if Trump doesn’t win in one round, delegates are free to back other candidates.
“I’m not saying Trump is [racist/sexist/stupid/unethical]…”
Referring to his campaign as unorthodox.

Things you will die if you include
“The great state of…”
“The next president…”

If the list gets too long, the game gets too complicated (and dangerous). It might be too long already. Still in the spirit of the convention, I’d like to open the floor to proposals for other planks in the game platform. Comments left here at the blog will live on long after Facebook comments are lost in noise, so I encourage the conversation to take place here.

5

Complete the Analogy:

The 1970’s are to food as ___________ is to ____________.

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Exhibit A: a dish made from hot dogs, published by Weight Watchers. Remember, this is the decade during which anything could be put in green jello.

But I DO Blame You

In a few months the “Don’t blame me, I voted for Trump” bumper stickers will start appearing. The implication is that a Democrat is in the White House despite the efforts of the Trump faithful. Well guess what, Sunshine: you and all your pals who endorsed the clown-car politics of the Republican party are entirely to blame for the coming election outcome. You nominated a toddler to be President of the Unites States; what did you expect?

In the process, you robbed the electorate of any sort of grown-up conversation about the future of our nation (outside the debate among the Democrats), and utterly silenced the rational conservative voices who have valuable contributions to make regarding the governance of our nation. You put Trump in the election and you not only screwed your party, you screwed the United States.

Ok, I have to grant that “Republican” and “conservative” have nothing to do with each other any longer, but wow. The only people who want Trump to be president are stupid people. I’m going to say that a second time, to give you a chance to reflect on the Buddha-like wisdom: The only people who want Trump to be president are stupid people. Intelligent conservatives are wondering where they can go to be heard. Intelligent middle-of-the-road folks have had their minds made up for them.

Trump voter, you have kicked your own party in the balls. And while it might have seemed fun at the time, you have left yourself with no voice. You’re an idiot, Trump voter, so you losing your voice doesn’t bother me much, but you also robbed the rest of us of a chance to hear a clear conservative argument in what promises to be a watershed election.

I do blame you, Trump voter. This is your fault.

2

A Slow Ride

As I passed through Campbell park today, I wondered which was more depressing: that I was only halfway through my morning ride, or only a quarter of the way through my riding for the day. I seem to have misplaced a lung somewhere.

I bet it’s tire pressure. Yeah, that’s it. I got lazy and didn’t check it this morning.

On the other hand, I’m really glad I rode. It would only be worse if I waited until Monday. Next week: 90 miles! I can do it! (If I go slowly enough, that is…)

2

The Class Action Channel

Sometime back in the dark ages a friend came back from Japan and said, “They have a TV channel there that is only advertising! People tune in just to watch ads!”

I was befuddled. In the United States, that tradition was, back then, reserved for the Super Bowl. (Hm… maybe not even then. This was before 1984.)

Now of course we have QVC, an enormously successful company that has television channels devoted simply to advertising. And people watch.

But that’s product advertising. Unscientifically, I think half the ads I blip past fall into two categories: new medical therapies (mostly drugs), and law firms suing companies for the side effects of the new medical therapies.

With all those dollars being spent, and the country getting older and frankly more cranky, doesn’t it make sense to have the Class Action Channel? “Call in the next fifteen minutes to get in on the ground floor of this major lawsuit! Lyon and Lyin’ have a proven history of corporate blackmail, but you only benefit if you sign up before the settlement. And for the next five minutes we’ll add a bonus Lyon and Lyin’ mouse pad, even if you’re not qualified for the settlement!”

It’s gonna happen.

So close…

About to purge the last of the Windows from the house, and say goodbye to the flimsy crap Asus laptop. The last task: getting it to talk on the network so we can move everything over.

It worked on the network two days ago. It has all sorts of other problems, far too many to enumerate here, but at least we were able to move files.

Now, not so much. Along with this happy message:

A problem is preventing the troubleshooter from starting.

Yay Microsoft!

Whither the Sports Columnist?

ESPN.com has completely gone to hell; si.com’s not much better. Grantland has ceased to be. Where does one go to read sports journalism any more? Does it even exist?

What’s In A Name?

This morning I rode my bike to work for the first time in a good long while. To commemorate the event, I thought I’d give the ride a special name in Strava, one of the apps* I use to track my pedaling. The default name for rides in the morning is, remarkably, “Morning Ride”, but this seemed more significant than that. As I rode through the graveyard, appreciating only peripherally the mist clinging to the ground as I huffed along rather slowly, I thought “Back in the Saddle” might be a good title.

By the time I was pulling my sorry ass up Willow, I had changed my tune a bit. “It’s like starting over,” I hummed, as it seemed I was in no better shape than I had been when I first bought the bike. Somewhere along Los Gatos Creek Trail the title changed again, to “Holy Crap”, and a few miles later on Prospect it was “Oh God Oh God it hurts make it stop.”

By the time I turned onto the benign stretch of Miller Ave. heading north, the name had been simplified to a nice concise “F***”. (I figured Strava wasn’t a place to go saying things like “fuck” where just anyone might see it.)

And now, were you to go to Strava and look me up, you would see my effort this morning is called “Morning Ride.”

—————————
*Yes, one of the apps. It’s a long story, the rough draft of which is already in the system.

1

Up… for now

Techno-troubles here at Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas! The faithful little computer that has been serving up this site for the past years is not healthy right now. I didn’t realize how important this damg blog is to me until it stopped working. Just when I was getting some momentum, too.

I’m looking for the best answer now (MacMiniColo.net has a pretty spectacular special running right now), But in the meantime it’s proving tough to keep this thing up. So, sorry in advance for outages.

Facebook 101 Part 1: How to be a Shrill Victim

In part 1 of what is almost certain to be a series, we look at a simple, step-by-step guide on how to turn your misplaced anger into a moment of fame at the expense of an innocent third party.

  1. Get in a snit. It has to be a snit with a recognizable name.
  2. Go to a meme generator site and paste your rant on a picture. People don’t read words unless there’s a picture behind them.679181
  3. Notice that your rant doesn’t really seem all that worth getting upset about. ADD SOME LIES. Racism is a good one. The mouth-breathers who thrive on this shit will eat it up.679188
  4. Post it on Facebook!
  5. Feel gratified when a quarter of a million other idiots jump on the bandwagon and start trashing the organization that has done nothing wrong.
  6. When people actually start to mention ACTUAL FACTS, duck and cover. You don’t need that sort of negativity in your life!
  7. Years later, thousands of people will still believe the ridiculous accusations you made were true. If you libeled a small charitable organization, for instance, you could permanently undermine their ability to make the world better.

GREAT JOB, SHRILL VICTIM!

1

Junk Science — A Telltale Sign

The other day a friend of mine posted a link to a peer-reviewed scientific study concerning the effects of a vegetarian diet. He posted an excerpt from the paper’s abstract:

Our results revealed that a vegetarian diet is related to a lower BMI and less frequent alcohol consumption. Moreover, our results showed that a vegetarian diet is associated with poorer health (higher incidences of cancer, allergies, and mental health disorders), a higher need for health care, and poorer quality of life.

Before I even clicked the link, alarm bells were going off. Just in those two sentences, they list seven things measured. That’s not science, kids, that’s shooting dice in the alley. If you measure enough things about any group of people you’ll find something that looks interesting. Holy moly, I thought, how many things did this survey try to measure, anyway? (I believe the answer to that is eighteen.)

It’s possible that some of the correlations these guys found actually are significant, and not the result of random chance. It’s not possible to tell which ones they might be, as it’s almost certain that many of the conclusions are completely bogus.

And then there’s selection bias. I read elsewhere (link later) that in Austria, many vegetarians eat that way on Doctor’s orders, because they’re already sick. That will skew the numbers.

But the paper was peer-reviewed, right? I spent a little time trying to figure out who those peers might be, but there’s no sign of them I could find on the site where this paper is self-published. And, frankly, “peer-reviewed” doesn’t mean shit anymore. Peers are for sale all over the place. If you can’t see the credentials of the people who reviewed the work, it may as well not be peer-reviewed at all.

And none of the authors seem to have any credentials or degrees themselves. Perhaps they just didn’t feel compelled to mention them, but that strikes me as odd — especially for Europeans, who traditionally love to lay on the titles and highfalutin name decorations.

The site has 53 references to that article being mentioned in the media. Some of the places that quote this nonsense actually have “science” in their titles. Sigh. Apparently Science 2.0 is Science where you believe every press release that crosses your desk. Perhaps Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas will make number 54 — although I suspect the keepers of PLOS ONE might not want this reference promoted. But to their credit they do show the link to an article in that Bastion of Science Outside Online, where at least one journalist took a sniff before pressing the “publish” button.

Outside Online, you do science better than Science 2.0. You have my admiration.

So is this research totally useless? Actually, no. It’s possible a grad student somewhere could find ONE of the claims made in the paper interesting enough to do REAL science to improve our understanding of nutrition and health. The study might be to test the hypothesis “a vegetarian diet increases the chances of lymphoma,” or something like that. A single question, while keeping the rest of the variables as controlled as possible in a human study (which is really tough).

That work would take years to accomplish and would not show up in The Guardian or probably even Outside Online. It would be a small brick in our edifice of understanding, a structure that has been growing for hundreds of years.

So when you read about “a study” that shows many things, look at it with squinty eyes and you’ll see behind it a group of people rolling the dice, and there’s often no telling who their master is. It’s not really a study at all, but a press release with numbers.