I have two exciting facts to share with you.

First, I love my neti pot. I'm not even using fancy salt, just a big ol' canister of (noniodized) table salt. (Everyone says that potassium iodide is a major irritant, and I saw no reason to be skeptical on that point.) The final test was last night, when I had a horrible non-productive cough that became a very short-lived and productive expectoration after a single run-through with the neti pot. I asked a pharmacist a while back and he said that it was known to be non-harmful but that the claims of helpfulness were only anecdotal. Well, add me to the anecdote list.

Second, if you're going to use a neti pot, get used to the process BEFORE your sinuses are completely blocked. It works either way, but the experience is just a little more real when there's more mucus than water coming out. And I've never seen it in instructions anywhere, but I say switch nostrils from time to time because IME the process seems to clear out the "lower" Eustachian tube as well.
"Some of you may have had occasion to run into mathematicians and to wonder therefore how they got that way." - Tom Lehrer

I don't know so much about this question, but I got a really stark insight yesterday into how it has transformed me.

I was doing prep work for the enumeration of one of our local college dorms. In a nutshell, it is putting two hundred one-page census forms into an envelope. The form has to have a sticker and a control number written on it, and the envelope has to have its own sticker and the same control number, plus some extra information like details on where and when the respondent should return the form plus some god-awful fourteen digit "for official use only" code that I don't think any officials actually use. (Indeed, I think that I'm the official the code is intended for, and I'd make much better use of it if it had three or four digits.) And all this work has to be double-checked against two other forms to make sure that I'm assigning the proper control number to each student and that I write in the proper RA for each student's envelope. (Yeah, now you wish you had taken the Census test yourselves, amirite?)

And I'm doing this work, and it quickly becomes routine. And I suspect that an average person would put some music on and zone out and through passive consciousness would look up five hours later and see that the job was completed correctly. But my brain only does passive consciousness when driving long distances in nice weather. While doing grunt work, I get hyper-conscious and continually analyze whether it wouldn't be more efficient if this piece of paper was over THERE and whether I should do those two steps in the reverse order. And so I'm done in four hours but ready to publish a time-motion study on this process that, um, only gets done once every ten years. Curses.

And the punchline of the story is that average person made more money than I did because they could charge for their extra hour of work. That's me, always thinkin'.
I don't think I've ever been a fan of April Fool's Day. In fact, I suppose I'm antagonistic to it, as opposed to things like Groundhog Day that we seem to only do this year because we did it last year.

I mean, what's up with a holiday that celebrates unreliability? I see people who spend a day spreading a lie and wonder how that fills them compared with a day where you go out and tell the truth. I appreciate the creativity (when the hoaxes are creative), but direct the energy into something that will persist and grow! Okay, okay, I admit that without April Fool's Day we probably would never have had tauntaun sleeping bags, but I'm having trouble thinking of another boon.

This is just one more in a long line of indications that I am the personification of Lawful Good. I appreciate and adore individuality, but you need a strong structure in which to nurture creativity or else you are constantly under attack from people stronger or smarter than you. You deregulate the financial markets and greedy people will propagate a housing bubble that first drives up your property taxes and then leaves you on the hook to bail them out when the bubble bursts. The internet is high among the most awesome of human accomplishments, but we now have access to a larger supply of misinformation than ever before in history, allowing us to find data to justify our prejudices faster and more widely than ever before. Chaos within order should be like stars in the night sky; enough that we can appreciate their beauty but not so much light that we would be blinded to everything around us.

Perhaps on the first of October we might make a point of going around and being intentionally honest with one another. I like those days much better.
So tonight is TNSOL night for the Census, and it's 1:30 AM and I'm already home getting ready for bed. Not only did we not see a single homeless person through about a quarter of downtown, I didn't even get to enumerate any of the fun quasi-legal parts of town like the abandoned subway tunnels or the Lower Falls.

In theory, I'm glad that everyone has somewhere better to sleep in 40-degree windy weather. In practice, I feel like I missed an opportunity to be embiggened.
A government employee is me! My badge, let me show you it. All your personal information are belong to us. Okay, I'm through applying dated internet memes to my current job status.

My current job is as a General Quarters Enumerator. If you live in a house or apartment or an ordinary Housing Unit (HU) like that and had a Census form mailed to you but you didn't return it, then you can look forward to another month of increasingly desperate letters before someone walks around and knocks on your door. In the meantime, the Census will be busy counting General Quarters (GQs) like college dorms, nursing homes, prisons, military barracks, and other things like that. So I'll be working with administrators at each GQ and then come in to either conduct interviews or distribute mini-forms for the residents to fill out privately, and then double check and cross-tabulate everything over eight different federal forms and then collate everything and turn it in to my supervisor. And then assuming everything goes well during the next month, as we run out of GQs in our region, I'll get transferred into new training for the HU Enumeration operation that will last for who knows how long.

Oh, and the other neat part is that early next week before the official Census Day (April 1), I'm going to be running around town with my crewmates doing Service-Based Enumerator (SBE) to count homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and stuff like that. I'm really excited that I just got a call inviting me to join in the Targeted Nonsheltered Outdoors Location Enumeration (TNSOL), which is quintessential doublespeak for counting people sleeping in doorways and under highway overpasses in the middle of the night. Seriously, I'm psyched that the Census Bureau takes their mission of getting an accurate head count of America that seriously, and I am looking forward to participating in and learning from such a rare historical opportunity.

The training itself was fabulous, and I'm just wow. I'm a "shy" person, but I'm really getting a buzz from learning about what is expected of me and believing that I am capable of doing it, and also that my supervisors seem to agree. It's still temporary part-time work, but it's going to be a big step for me personally and professionally in making 2010 the first non-sucky year in quite a while.
Little was my second car. Dad suggested that it was a good idea to buy a new car, so that you could get to know it from the beginning and hear when she started squeaking or rumbling. I settled on a Saturn because I hate the notion that car dealers know the bargaining game better than you and are out to make you pay $500 more than you should, and Saturn uniquely didn't play those games. I got a small engine and standard transmission and no air conditioner because I liked the fact that it was both cheaper and better mileage that way. It was a harder decision to turn down the power windows and locks, but it would have brought the price tag all the way up to $13,000 and that'd be a crazy amount to spend on a car.

Little and I have been to thirteen states and two provinces together. Despite being from Tennessee, she handled some of Rochester's harshest winters like a local. As far as I can recall, she's been to four weddings and three funerals. She's carried one baby and witnessed one makeout session. A little over 128,000 miles, and I don't think she went fifteen of those miles without me behind the wheel. And for nearly exactly fourteen years, every time I walk through a parking lot looking for her I see her and smile because I had the prettiest car in the lot and I've been getting 41 MPG in the summertime all this time.

Still, she's been aging. While continuing to run like a dream, the annual inspections have been in the habit of turning up expensive problems. Two years ago, I had to totally replace the brakes and exhaust system, which was a few kilobucks. But this year, she failed with a rusted subframe, and I know enough about cars to know that's the beginning of the last chapter. I don't know if turning down the repairs was callous or sensible. I don't even know if I should be thinking about it like my car was a pet that I'm having put down.

Tomorrow morning the local Vietnam veterans group will come to tow her away. She's at my parent's house, so I've already seen her for the last time. My understanding is that she's going to be crushed because she's got a non-repairable condition. I get that, but I hope they strip her pull out all of her good parts first, because there are a lot of other '96 Saturns on the road and I bet her engine still has a lot of life to offer.

I still don't know what will happen next. I can't imagine what car I want next, and I can't envision myself bargaining for it. In the mean time, I'm driving my Mom's 2008 Yaris while she and Dad are down in Florida, which is very much appreciated and a satisfactory car, but.
Just filled out my census form. They estimate it it would take ten minutes, but for lulz I timed myself.

1 minute. The hardest question was how old I am, which I always have to calculate. It might take an extra thirty seconds for each extra person who lived with me if there were any.

Of course, I will soon be paid to shill for the Census, but even without that I am quite amazed at how streamlined the questionnaire is this year. Aside from the age (which is extraneous information since they also ask for your birthdate), there really aren't any stupid or useless questions there. And no "long form" at all, they're doing an entirely different thing there now and I don't think it's our problem (although training might prove me wrong and my job will be precisely proctoring what has become of the long form).

So, I appreciate the sentiments of Queer the Census but still think that they missed the point. The Census could be the world's most awesome longitudinal study where we keep track of everyone's gender preference and probably religion, educational level, national origin, income, or any other number of highly relevant factors, but it isn't. It is a simple head-count with a few extra questions to monitor how communities are in compliance with the Voting Rights Act and fair housing and things like that. I think that you'd have to make a compelling case for why the government should precisely track the density levels of self-identified LGBT-ness throughout the country that would justify the extra printing and tabulation costs and privacy fears, and frankly I don't think that a sincere desire to be counted meets that threshold.

On the other hand, I do regret that the gender choice is binary and mandatory. My current (pre-training) understanding is that participants are permitted to select the gender that they self-identify without any "proof" from biology or legal status, but there is still a segment of the community that is not served by the binary choice, and the Census should be made to recognize and address that in the future. Always room for progress.
Last night: Worked a three hour volunteer shift at my local regional food bank. (This is actually a *huge* deal. I feel like setting up a privacy filter just so I can talk about it.)

This morning: FINALLY got a call from the Census Bureau reporting that my perfect test score was good enough for a temp job for them, and perhaps a slightly better and less temporary job title than the standard neighborhood enumerator. YAYzorz.

Interestingly enough, this is not the first time I've had such fast employment karma turnaround.
I know that most of you agree with me that the Internet was created to host the Terror Alert Dancing Banana, a completely useful applet that would ping the Department of Homeland Security to find the current alert level and then display the lovable Dancing Banana icon doing his thing in the appropriate color. And, if you are reading this, then you are like me in trying to continue to find purpose of life despite the obvious death of the Internet when that site when offline. Truly the largest disappointment to online life since the Really Big Button started doing something.

Well, I don't know exactly when it happened, but the third shoe has dropped. Weather Pixie would appear to be gone. Now you have to comprehend the local weather through boring one-dimensional numbers rather than glamorous online paper dolls wearing appropriate clothes for the current conditions. I'm quite afraid to see what will disappear next.
I am, among many other things, indebted to the friend who broadened my appreciation of literature by exposing me to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's work. They are quite wondrous works, not quite mystery but not quite outside; you never had a clear sense of whether or when there was a puzzle that you had been given enough information to solve, but if you read slowly and deliberately enough you'd often find yourself asking the right questions about the situations and sometimes divining the right answers before Inspector Lestrade. So I was skeptical about the notion that they were going to take creative liberties with the franchise in the movie.

Let me start with the elephant in the room. As maybe would surprise few, I despise retconning "bromance". When I was young, it was difficult for a man and a woman to have a deep platonic relationship without people wondering about the unseemly secrets that they must be hiding. Now, in the enlightened future, we have broadened our mind to be so suspicious of all friendships. It is wearying. Doyle's Holmes was certainly an egomaniac who was desirous of an educated and curious chronicler, but the overloading of co-dependency shown in the movie was horrific and embarrassing. Furthermore, I don't think it brought anything to the story.

Beyond that, though, the story was rich and detailed, even when it was portraying the poverty and filth of nineteenth-century London. The story was quite involved and neither too difficult to follow nor too simple to predict. They took some liberties with Holmes' acquaintances and skill set, but all in all it was a good ride. I give it eight thumbs up.
Having a nine year-old nephew and a four year-old niece, I am exposed to "family movies" from time to time. And, as a rule, anything outside Pixar and the formal Disney animated features are all stunningly mediocre at best. You get the biggest sitcom star of the day to play "himself" along with a large assortment of B-list stars with a plot dealing with an immature dysfunctional person dealing with adult issues, throw in a large dose of sass and scatological humor, and then paste some beautiful but soulless computer-generated animation on top of it. They must be easy to make and inexpensive, because my niblets seem to be wading through the muck of a different one every week. Where are the masters of our age who have the clarity that WE are the adults and our duty is to give children what they need and not what they want and our challenge is to do that in an accessible way?

And yet, I have found something that disappointed me more. Even worse than dreadful pablum is a movie that clearly recognizes excellence but then buries it under a mountain of the same old crap. I suspect that you can edit Kung Fu Panda into the most amazing twenty minute film in history, but unfortunately the actual movie is 92 minutes long.

So Jack Black plays a fat, clumsy, fat, rudderless panda who dreams of being a kung fu master and, through a series of improbable misadventures, becomes the destined savior of China but still doesn't know the first thing about kung fu. Did I mention that he's fat? Because, hee hee hee, it's funny how fat people can't do anything and are fat. He lands in a dojo where his trainer hates him and the other students resent him but the old old master is a patient counselor dispensing critical wisdom at crucial moments, and you start fidgeting and wondering which of the hundred movies that did this better was actually the best.

But then the movie deviates from its set form and twitches its pinky finger, and all of a sudden there is some inspiration. It's not only about the oaf, it's about the dynamics of the dojo before the oaf came along. And that was fresh and interesting. It took some time to tell that story, but they took that time, and then the teacher and the head student and even the villain became actual people. You are sympathetic to why they hate the fat stupid useless panda

And then, just as suddenly, the focus goes back to the fat stupid useless panda and we're back on the slow train to Genreville. You've got winning over most of the students, the uneasy alliance with the teacher, the training montage, the student facing the teacher as an equal, the resignation, the moralistic insight that leads to the transfiguration, the climactic battle, check check check check check check check. It doesn't retract the good parts that came before, but it doesn't have the courage to stop telling the story that it has nothing to contribute to. And that's what is so maddening about Kung Fu Panda. I'll probably be a month trying to figure out how they could have made it a great movie instead of a tired one with a few breakout performances, but it will still be too late to save it.

As a side note, a lot of CGI movies seem to think that they can out-cool the Neo-Morpheus fight because they aren't bound by the limitations of physical actors, but their copies always fall short for exactly that reason.
I've had my ups and downs with Barack Obama, but I am pleased at the decision to drop the 2020 moon landing project.

The United States is the only nation that has been to the surface of the moon, which we did over forty years ago now. As soon as it became clear that other nations were thinking about trying, George Bush decided to pledge to spend billions of dollars to ... get there first, despite the fact that we already had. We know better than anyone else that there's nothing there. There's no life, there are no moon diamonds, there is no ready sources of Helium-3. Maybe there is water, but you'd be pretty foolish to show up there thirsty with an empty cup instead of bringing your water from Earth. The only thing that's there is a metaphorical finish line, and we've already crossed it. (I wish the Chinese and Indian governments great luck in crossing it themselves, and hope that they don't have to spend as much in blood and treasure as we paid.)

More foolish yet is the notion that we were going to use some sort of moon base to stage our trip to Mars ten years down the road. This never made a lick of sense to me. I'd love to think that we could build something of value off-Earth, but I've never seen it. The ISS is in a constant state of FUBAR, and everything else in history has been constructed on Earth. If you somehow were to think that gravity is the enemy in aeronautical construction (and I can't imagine why you would in this case, which is making a craft that needs to survive Martian gravity), then why would you build it on the Moon when you have an infinite amount of zero-gravity real estate everywhere else in space?

Plus the dream that we're going to Mars in our lifetimes is something that we seriously have to wake up from. We're not talking about a three-day trip to the Moon. If you want a round trip to Mars, it's a year to get there, nearly a year to stay there while the orbits align, and then a year to come back. So you need to carry along three years of food and water for however large your crew is, and at least two years of protecting yourself from lethal solar radiation. So you need enough power to carry all that crew and food and water, plus enough tech to scrub oxygen that won't be replaced until you get home. Those are currently insurmountable problems. And God forbid you'd actually want to land on the Martian surface, because then you need your crew to repair your pod and somehow refuel it enough to allow it to relaunch and escape a real planet's gravity well and travel a year back to Earth. Can you imagine the Space Shuttle landing even on Earth on something other than a pre-fabricated runway and the crew single-handedly preparing it for the next launch while simultaneously worrying about their own survival in an inhospitable environment? No, you can't even imagine it; we've never seen anything like it before. Now take away the atmosphere and the moderate temperatures and the instantaneous communication and you've started to scratch the surface of life on Mars.

Not only is the technology insurmountable, but our will is too. The first trip to Mars will be a suicide mission. The brave men and women we send off to Mars will, if they're very very lucky, *die* on the surface of Mars. (I could not possibly illustrate this point more beautifully and tenderly than xkcd did today.) NASA doesn't have the courage to launch the Space Shuttle on a cloudy day. If we were to build a rocket in space, we wouldn't trust it enough to put the best lives America had to offer on it. I don't blame us for this, because I'm not sure that science and exploration is worth blood at the end of the day, but at least let's recognize that we'd never initiate the mission before we spend another fifteen years paying a hundred billion dollars for it.

I'm not opposed to technology and pushing the boundaries of discovery, but let's do it with our heads on straight. Build me a self-sufficient colony with a thousand people a hundred feet underwater that works without drama, and you'll have learned things about atmosphere and food and water and energy that will eventually make space colonies more achievable for our grandchildren, and that will furthermore probably have application for more ordinary terrestrial communities. In the meantime, let's devote the largest share of our research energies to the problems of today, climate change and alternative energy and affordable medicine, instead of the challenges of fifty years ago and a hundred years from now.
I can't decide whether I agree with Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which essentially ruled that the government is not allowed to regulate corporate speech intended to directly influence an election (in the specific case, a movie swift-boating then-candidate Hillary Clinton set to air during the most electoral-rich days of the 2008 presidential primaries). In a sense, it definitely seems like the court may be prepared to take the final step of declaring that all campaign finance limits aside from public disclosure is a violation of free speech, which would get us back to the worst days of influence peddling from the era of the robber barons. On the other hand, I think it really was an arbitrary law censoring the free exchange of ideas (silly and nigh-slanderous as they were), and that's hard to be a fan of. Of course, as always, one gets the impression that only one of the justices had to listen to the arguments before making up his mind. Indeed, so much so that the justices decided that they needed a second round of arguments when the conservative wing decided in deliberations that they would also invalidate parts of the finance law that weren't directly addressed by the case that was being argued before them.

But a part of me thinks that Supreme Court rulings aren't something that you should like or dislike, but some passive event like an earthquake or getting laid off. We've got some pretty big lemons here, what are we going to do with them? I wonder if there aren't opportunities here. The notion of public control of American government has been a bad joke since the 1920's and I haven't seen a regulation in my lifetime that hasn't been instantly worked around. I'm not so angry about it being unconstitutional, I want to talk about how it's been ineffective! We evidently can't remove the influence of money from elections, and we can argue about whether we should be allowed to try. So let's go further back to the source and try to create a culture in which absurd amounts of money don't help you much more than big amounts.

I like the idea of disclosure a lot. It would be nice if you could easily connect the dots to see that The American Family Foundation For Liberty And Family that ran that ad opposed to the public option was really the health care insurance industry taking money raised from your high premiums and using it to convince you to not reform their ability to continue making yet wilder profits at your expense. I don't think it's a liberal or conservative issue; I can't imagine that anyone likes it when a bully asks them why they are hitting themselves. And I am hopeful that the internet has made disseminating the truth cheaper and faster than producing an ad for a lie. We just need to develop the skills to do that, and more importantly to see the importance of it.

To underscore, this isn't a partisan issue. We haven't done anything if we just make ourselves smarter. We need to get people that we aren't used to agreeing with that none of us look forward to the corporate takeover of government, and until the Supreme Court gives the vote to corporations we all have the power and the responsibility of an informed electorate. We will always disagree over who our next Senator should be, but we will always agree that it is a decision that shouldn't be made as half-mindedly as we are used to.
I have long-since noticed that my name is ripe for cryptic crossword wordplay, just made for a charade or even a hidden word. But, amazingly, it was only just yesterday that I noticed that it is nearly ideal for a different geeky math-language recreation.



Pretty low quality, except that it was done by a non-artist with ten thumbs with a mouse in Microsoft Paint. And a quick Google search notes that few people decided to solve the problem the way I did. It has its flaws, but I like it all the same.
If you think that decades work like centuries and that The Sixties didn't start until 1961 and included 1970, then step away from the internet. You're either too smart or not smart enough to hang out with the rest of us, and out of simple courtesy I will try to refrain from telling you which.
... Without the vim and verve
But I could show my prowess, be a lion not a mou-ess
If I only had the nerve


Believe me, I've heard some bad reasons to oppose same-sex marriage, and it seems like there are new challengers for the title every day. But I found a new low yesterday. Most embarrassingly, it doesn't come from some villain in Kansas or Alabama or California, but from my own State Senator.

Jim Alesi was heavily on the unknown list. He's a Republican, but he used to be a Democrat. And, of course, he lives in Rochester which has a history of civil rights and not much institutional tolerance for intolerance. He belongs to a renegade Catholic church that sanctifies gay unions. He talks the talk. And I didn't see it myself, but I am given to believe that if you saw a video of a Republican New York Senator who voted against the same-sex marriage bill this week with his head buried in his hands, that was him.

Why? How will he come back home and sit in the pew next to a gay couple and ask for our entire community's support in his re-election campaign next year? What was so important? He explains it in the article linked above.

"Politically, you never vote for a bill that's going to fail. Let me rephrase that. Politically, a highly controversial bill should not be voted on when it's going to fail."

...

You know, I don't mind if my representative fails to represent my position because he feels it to be at odds with the majority of his constituents. I don't like it, but I'll take my lumps. And I don't mind if my representative fails to represent my position because he feels it to be at odds with his or her own conscience even if his constituency supports it. Obviously, I'll support a different person in the next election, but that's the risk that you run in a representative democracy. But it turns out that I have no acceptance at all of a representative who looks around the room at how OTHER PEOPLE'S Senators are voting before making up his mind. That goes beyond a lack of courage to a full-press rejection of the fundamentals of a republic.

What's strangest about this wholly gutless justification of only wanting to support the winning side is that I can't imagine that will satisfy his reactionary supporters in the rural parts of his highly gerrymandered district either. If I don't want to hear that he'll fail to stand on principle when he doesn't feel that the stakes merit it, I can't believe that someone else wants to hear that he would still play the "will he or won't he" game if he ever came to be the deciding vote. You know how everyone hates all of congress but loves their own representative? So why do you want to tell me that you aren't even my representative but a reflection of the will of the Senate? I am furious with incoherence.
I just proved that multiplication of the natural numbers is commutative. It took a half a page (and I lost track of how many pieces of scratch paper to work out the details), and that includes assuming that addition is associative and commutative and cutting out as much formalistic dreck as I could. Just to prove that ab=ba for the positive integers only.

So, if you were concerned about that, you can relax.
1) The New York State Senate votes down same-sex marriage. This was totally not a surprise, and I'm disappointed that the buzz that went out during the day gave the impression that the votes were there. Seriously, it's hard to count where the votes would have come from back when they were counting noses in the summertime, and since then the national Republican party has issued a very clear fatwa against independent thought amongst its politicians at every level of government, most specifically making an example of the center-right New York legislator who was running for the NY-23 seat THAT THE NATIONAL REPUBLICAN PARTY REFUSED TO ENDORSE EVEN THOUGH SHE WAS THE REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE. Sure it's cowardly when a politician casts a vote just to extend their political futures, but who among the rest of us are risking our careers every day over justice?

The good news is that now it is clear who needs to be replaced, most particularly the eight Democrats who are more eager to serve their bishop than their LGBT constituency. The bad news is that state legislators never ever lose elections in NY, so it's going to be an uphill battle even to get it done after next years' elections. Go ahead and guess when New York State outlawed slavery. Sorry, you're wrong, it was much later than that. So it's an old problem.

2) Mike Huckabee is a co-conspirator in a cop-killing spree. Okay, of course not really. I'm all over the map on this one. I'm definitely not a fan of the tenor of what happened to Mike Dukakis over a similar issue, but I think that Dukakis should have had to answer sober questions about how and why a prisoner under a life sentence got a weekend furlough. And the same thing goes for Huckabee. There is a good case to be made that a man shouldn't get sentenced to 108 years for aggravated robbery and all the trimmings. But when one wields unilateral authority to downgrade a sentence, it seems that one has taken an ownership stake in the rest of that man's history, and I don't think that Huckabee made his decision with that sort of burden in mind. At the time of Clemmon's clemency, he had enough prison violations under his belt to give a strong impression that this wasn't a safe bet. Maybe the Holy Spirit told Governor Huckabee differently, or he thought that it did. And I think it's perfectly fair to ask whether a President Huckabee would be inclined to use the same sort of moral intuition on any or all of the venues in which a President can issue executive orders.

3) On the other hand, I feel bad for Tiger Woods. The guy has feet of clay, but who doesn't? He admits that the whole thing is stupid and that the whole thing is a private matter, and I don't disagree with either. But really, literally 90% of the reason that Tiger Woods is literally a billionaire is because he seems like the sort of guy that you'd want to buy a watch from. And now, not so much. He seems a bit like the sort of guy that would cheat on his wife and take out his anger on innocent fire hydrants. And while he has the right to choose the public's level of access with him, he doesn't get to choose how we perceive him and subsequently what values we ascribe him with. He should choose accordingly, but either way we'll probably soon enough forget that he is made of flesh and blood and return to the suspicious that he is an alien ninja golf robot from the future.

4) Chia Obama. Oy. Okay, in this context of being able to buy a Chia George Washington or a Chia Abraham Lincoln, it's obviously not racist, huh. Except that we've never had Chia presidents before this year AFAICT, so it really does seem like someone thought through that this is the first year that we've had a President with Chia-like hair. (And as far as the Chia Hillary Clinton goes I am just totally WTF.) I can sort of wrap my mind around how it might conceivably be a beloved non-ironic gift under some Giftmas trees this year, but I hope to not see one in real life ever.

5) Speaking of our Glorious Leader, I've been alerted to the existence of the Obameter. I do appreciate the reminder that things of substance have been done in the past ten months, because it is so much easier to see all the places where progress has been delayed or denied. I remain concerned that some opportunities are lost forever because Obama will never be as popular or have the congressional majorities that he had in the first few months of his Presidency, but we'll see.
The final NaTexWriMo tally for me is about 54000 words, 35 figures, and 91 big pages for my graph theory solution guide, plus a 4000 word appendix on the fundamentals on how to do mathematical writing that won't drive your papergrader up the wall. There are still about a third of the problems that are unsolved and there is more that I can say in the appendix, but I think that turnip is damned near dry. Still, wow, I'm glad I struggled on it, because I really managed to pick up a lot of knowledge about some deep and cool results. I think I want to track down a book on the Four Color Theorem now, because I have a much greater appreciation of the lead-up to it now. I'm vaguely reading through my algebra books now, but I don't think I'll do another one on a deadline for a while.

There was quite a bit of snow on the ground this morning. Enough to cover the ground but not high enough to blot out all of the grass, so it was like tiny green stars in a sea of white. It was kinda pretty, but also kinda cold. Now it's back to all being melted, but not much less cold.
Two stories about Michelle Obama in the news today. Two!

As rivka points out, the AP ran a story about the dress the First Lady wore at the state dinner that the reporter described as "flesh-colored", and runs a picture next to it that makes it very very clear that it is not the color of flesh at all. Sheesh, it's been almost fifty years since Crayola picked up the clue phone on this one, so what the hell is going on at the AP editor's desk? Frankly, it seems to me that even a healthy white person oughtn't have flesh of that particular shade.

And I refuse to look, but according to the news, if you did a Google image search of Michelle Obama this morning, the top result would have been a crudely altered picture that portrays her as a monkey. Again, you can't make me look. Google initially resisted calls to fix this problem, saying 'We have, in general, a bias toward free speech', and the only reason the problem was remedied from what I can gather is that the original blog took down the image (which isn't too surprising if, in fact, it was viewed and linked by enough people in the world to get it to the top of Google's scoring algorithm).

I like free speech too, but that isn't what this is about. If someone does an image search for Michelle Obama, and Google's top scored image is not a picture of Michelle Obama, then there is something wrong with Google's scoring algorithm, and pretending that you are not responsible for the relevance of your search results is highly disingenuous. By all means, keep a link to the picture and tag it so that it does very well if someone searches for "Michelle Obama racist monkey infantile". But you've managed the web search so that the entire top page of Obama's search is filled with non-pranks, and the rest of your searches need to catch up.
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