Category Archives: Human Absurdities

When you sound more ironic than you probably intended

The Trump administration has quickly established itself as one that denies objective reality, proudly creates “alternative facts,” and even lies about what we’ve all plainly seen in front of our own eyes.

That’s why statements like this about the Holocaust — the administration broke with tradition by failing to even reference Jews or anti-Semitism on Holocaust Remembrance Day — cut a little too close to, well, their reality:

“If we could wipe [the Holocaust] off of the history books, we would. But we can’t.”

I bet you would, Reince Preibus. I bet you would.



We are (letting them) make the Web worse

Don’t over-complicate the web. Don’t hinder it with data-munching add-ons. Please.

Some kind of brain parasite infected designers back when the iPad came out, and they haven’t recovered. Everything now has to look like a touchscreen.

Really interesting piece (or transcript of a talk, with visual examples), with funny (and flooring) examples in the beginning and great points toward the end.

The kicker is actually in the tongue-in-cheek footer for the fake (and improved, and much less memory-heavy) Google AMP site he made:

Dozens of publishers and technology companies have come together to create this unfortunate initiative. However, it is 2015, and websites should be small and fast enough to render on mobile devices rapidly using minimal resources. The only reason they are not is because we are addicted to tracking, surveillance, gratuitous animation, and bloated, inefficient frameworks. Requiring a readable version of these sites is a great idea. Let’s take it one step further and make it the only version.

Combined with this lament by Iran’s “blogfather” Hossein Derakhshan about what happened to the Web — now it’s social media- and app-driven, and the flow of ideas seems hindered — while he was in prison, and we have different aspects of the same problem: as this “democratic” medium is increasingly commercialized and dumbed down…where does it leave us?

Are we witnessing a decline of reading on the web in favour of watching and listening? The web started out by imitating books and for many years, it was heavily dominated by text, by hypertext. Search engines such as Google put huge value on these things, and entire companies – entire monopolies – were built off the back of them. But as the number of image scanners and digital photos and video cameras grows exponentially, this seems to be changing. Search tools are starting to add advanced image recognition algorithms; advertising money is flowing there.

The stream, mobile applications, and moving images all show a departure from a books-internet toward a television-internet. We seem to have gone from a non-linear mode of communication – nodes and networks and links – toward one that is linear, passive, programmed and inward-looking.

Best description of Missouri I’ve heard in a while

“It is a funny sort of state — a couple of big cities and then the Ozarks.”

–Colin Gordon, a historian at the University of Iowa and author of Mapping Decline: St. Louis and the Fate of the American City

That pretty well explains our bizarre bifurcated politics, too.

The quote is from a Huffington Post article on how Missouri is at the center of two of the nation’s most pivotal recent racial tension events.

But Gordon’s “Mapping Decline” work, one I recommend to all newcomers to St. Louis — well, those who can handle critical thinking — an awesome history and interactive map of the policies that helped make St. Louis so segregated over the last century, to the point we are now…where we are.

‘War increases the love in the world’

Two quotes — of many, many to mull — in Max Hastings’ “Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War” (p. 118-119)…

Observing the sudden unification of previously opposing factions within Germany as war neared, a young German girl:

“wrote with a mawkish sentimentality typical of the moment in Germany, that war increased the store of love in the world, ‘for it taught one to love one’s neighbor more than oneself.'”


The Economist, meanwhile, as troops mobilized in August 1914:

“Since last week millions of men have been drawn from the field and the factory to slay one another by order of the warlords of Europe. It is perhaps the greatest tragedy of human history.

In the opinion of many shrewd judges, a social upheaval, a tremendous revolution, is the certain consequence. It may perhaps be the last time that the working class of the Continent will allow themselves to be marched to destruction at the dictates of diplomacy and by the order of their warlords.”


Hallmark Time, Awkward Time

For this special day, poison your (pregnant) mother with a cola!
For this special day, poison your (pregnant) mother with a cola!

I don’t do well with Hallmark holidays. To be honest, I just about hate them. That sounds silly and pretentious — “Get over yourself!” — but I can’t help my antennae being ruffled by the more contrived and manipulative parts of our surroundings.

So I’ll try to elucidate my feelings here.

For the sake of my loved ones who enjoy them, I do try to get into the “spirit” of these days. But this creates an awkward, repetitive clash between my natural inclinations to be genuine and to please.

Despite my efforts to “just go with it,” whether it’s Valentine’s Day reminding me of how many people are made miserable by that commercial push, or a parents’ “Day” reminding me of corporations filling windows in the calendar while telling me when and how to show appreciation that is already innate and heartfelt, it always feels different degrees of flat.

And that’s before the ads.

Continue reading Hallmark Time, Awkward Time

Years of obstruction, followed by momentary thought of governing

Oh, how clever and typically devious: Use the least informed, most zealous demographic to help obstruct any legislative progress for the past four, six years, then as mid-terms approach and another shot at the presidency nears, decide “Gee, maybe we should think about actually governing again.”

Wall Street Journal:

Republican leaders and their corporate allies have launched an array of efforts aimed at diminishing the clout of the party’s most conservative activists and promoting legislation instead of confrontation next year.

GOP House leaders are taking steps to impose discipline on wavering committee chairmen and tea-party factions. Meanwhile, major donors and advocacy groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads, are preparing an aggressive effort to groom and support more centrist Republican candidates for Congress in 2014’s midterm elections.

At the same time, party leaders plan to push legislative proposals—including child tax credits and flextime for hourly workers—designed to build the party’s appeal among working families.

The efforts, at the national and state levels, come at the end of a year of infighting and legislative brinkmanship, capped by the 16-day government shutdown in October that drove the party’s image to historic lows.

Thanks for wasting our time and turning yet more people off politics, shattering remnant hopes of so many who dared enter the game to try to make a difference instead of make a buck.

Even better: Pitch your mouthpiece Wall Street Journal on how you intend to change, and you totally mean it this time.

“Our No. 1 focus is to make sure, when it comes to the Senate, that we have no loser candidates,” said the business group’s top political strategist, Scott Reed. “That will be our mantra: No fools on our ticket.”

Yeah, good luck with that. May you reap what you’ve sowed for far too many years.

Reminds me of that time when it was cool to rip Al Gore for “hugging trees” and then … yada yada yada 20 years later here come the seas. Whoops!

Comforted that my marriage is safe

Tut tut, make room for the Holy Constitution
A strictly platonic, civil, legal friendship.

Via Yahoo:

North Carolinians voted to change the state constitution Tuesday to say that the only valid “domestic legal partnership” in the state is marriage between a man and a woman.


I love going to the Outer Banks of North Carolina most summers, but I must confess I always had this sinking fear that my marriage wasn’t safe there. Not like it was back home, where folks had already altered the constitution — all the way back in 2004! Talk about progressive, amiright?

Just to make sure no one thinks of such things in the future, our fine state is in the process of making sure such illicit relationships aren’t even spoken of in schools.

What’s more (italics mine):

Only 46 percent of voters realized that the amendment would ban civil unions for gay couples as well as marriage, according to a Public Policy Polling poll. A majority of North Carolina voters support civil unions.

Go, literacy! Go, informed electorate! Go, duplicitous fear-mongering hands at the levers of power!

So I was talking to my co-worker’s third husband the other day about our employer’s health plan, and … oh, never mind.

What To Do When Kim Jong-Il Stops Looking At Things

This soft drink looks good. Carry on.

Thankfully the end of Dear Leader does not mean the end of the Kim Jong-Il Looking at Things photo blog. That place is priceless. (I’m a fan of the fabric samples shot, myself.)

Kim always reminded me of Al Davis, the infamous and similarly poorly fashioned and aging owner of the NFL Raiders. Davis had similar delusions of conquest, and similar levels of success.

Anyway, with Dear Leader gone there is the fear — there is always the fear, but this is fear with a new variable — that the unstable state he left behind could collapse if his son isn’t able to harness that unique blend of control and fascination with pop culture that served his father so well.

This article is a nice round-up of how the world’s major states are game-planning for such a situation, should it arrive. Apparently China would prefer not to think about it, at least not even unofficially in official top-secret communiques with other governments. But that doesn’t mean it’s not on the radar:

The then South Korean vice foreign minister, Chun Yung-woo, who was also a delegate at the six-party talks, said the two Chinese officials told him privately that China “would clearly not welcome any U.S. military presence north of the Demilitarized Zone in the event of a collapse.”

But the Chinese officials told him Beijing “would be comfortable with a reunified Korea controlled by Seoul and anchored to the United States in a ‘benign alliance’ – as long as Korea was not hostile towards China.”

The United States maintains 28,500 troops in South Korea and remains the Supreme Commander of unified American and South Korean troops in the event of a crisis with the North.

Well, that actually sounds reasonable. If and when collapse happens, South Korea may be the best candidate to manage the remnant arsenal of fabric swatches and soft drinks.

I fear my mind is plotting something…out of laziness

Want have play now.

From Michael Lewis (“Moneyball”) in Vanity Fair, on the psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his book:

…it’s now called Thinking, Fast and Slow. It’s wonderful, of course. To anyone with the slightest interest in the workings of his own mind it is so rich and fascinating that any summary of it would seem absurd. Kahneman walks the lay reader (i.e., me) through the research of the past few decades that has described, as it has never been described before, what appear to be permanent kinks in human reason.

The story he tells has two characters—he names them “System 1” and “System 2”—that stand in for our two different mental operations. System 1 (fast thinking) is the mental state in which you probably drive a car or buy groceries. It relies heavily on intuition and is amazingly capable of misleading and also of being misled. The slow-thinking System 2 is the mental state that understands how System 1 might be misled and steps in to try to prevent it from happening. The most important quality of System 2 is that it is lazy; the most important quality of System 1 is that it can’t be turned off.

We pass through this life on the receiving end of a steady signal of partially reliable information that we only occasionally, and under duress, evaluate thoroughly.


I expect nothing less from Arizona

I’m not even sure The Onion could make up stuff like this:
The massive dust storms that swept through central Arizona this month have stirred up not just clouds of sand but a debate over what to call them.

The blinding waves of brown particles, the most recent of which hit Phoenix on Monday, are caused by thunderstorms that emit gusts of wind, roiling the desert landscape. Use of the term “haboob,” which is what such storms have long been called in the Middle East, has rubbed some Arizona residents the wrong way.

“I am insulted that local TV news crews are now calling this kind of storm a haboob,” Don [redacted by me], a resident of Gilbert, Ariz., wrote to The Arizona Republic after a particularly fierce, mile-high dust storm swept through the state on July 5. “How do they think our soldiers feel coming back to Arizona and hearing some Middle Eastern term?”

Diane [redacted by me] of Wickenburg, Ariz., agreed, saying the state’s dust storms are unique and ought to be labeled as such.

“Excuse me, Mr. Weatherman!” she said in a letter to the editor. “Who gave you the right to use the word ‘haboob’ in describing our recent dust storm? While you may think there are similarities, don’t forget that in these parts our dust is mixed with the whoop of the Indian’s dance, the progression of the cattle herd and warning of the rattlesnake as it lifts its head to strike.”

Meteorologists, mind you, have long used the term. But let us never allow reality to get in the way of dag-dern xenophobic pride and the opportunity for outrage. That’s why when I read aloud the word for “spring rolls” at my local Vietnamese restaurant, I take care to say it in a hushed tone.