August 21, 2014

What if your employer gave you a Fitbit to wear and reduced your health insurance payments if you racked up the right number of steps?

"We think the device is easy to use, gets people aware of how little they are walking and helps trigger people to get active.... BP doesn’t see any of the data except in the aggregate." 

Yes, but isn't this creepy, the boss making you wear a bracelet that counts your steps? Meanwhile, Fitbit stands to do well if this catches on.

But how do they know who is wearing the device? You could snap that thing onto whichever family member is doing some exercise, including a dog running around in the backyard while you watch TV and eat potato chips.

You'll have to make the damned thing creepier to prevent cheating.

"It was a guy I knew a little bit about, and I didn’t like his reputation... I just kind of interposed myself..."

"... and started talking to her about something. The guy got the message and he took off," said Adam Erickson, a Yale sophomore, describing something he did at a party where a female seemed to be drunk and a male seemed to be sexually interested in her. Erickson is quoted in an article at Bloomberg titled "Hook-Up Culture at Harvard, Stanford Wanes Amid Assault Alarm."

I think Erickson sets a good example of the way we should be looking out for one another. I suspect it will be hard for most people to break couples up like this. It takes some judgment and skill, and you incur some risks. Are you your friends' chaperone? People tend to feel safer doing nothing than doing something and err on the side of inaction. But just as we should stop a drunk person from getting behind the wheel of a car, we can keep a drunk person from getting isolated by someone who could take advantage of the mental impairment. It's better not to get drunk at all, of course, but students obviously do, and it's right that the standard is becoming: Don't have sex when you or the other person is drunk. Instead of worrying so much about the consequences of after-the-fact characterizations of sexual intercourse, improve the social dynamic at parties. Let everyone in the group be pro-active like Adam Erickson and just kind of interpose yourself.

"I guess, all in all, I wish I wasn’t American."

Said James Foley, shortly before his beheading, quoted in "How the U.S. and Europe Failed James Foley/America doesn't negotiate with terrorists. Should it?"

Linked by Instapundit, who says, "The response to Foley’s beheading should have been a MOAB dropped on an ISIS-held town."

I have no idea what the right answer is. I am not a military strategist. I want ISIS defeated, but these kidnappings (and beheadings) are their strategy for luring us into their game. They might love us to obliterate one of their towns.

ADDED: The NYT reports
[ISIS] pressed the United States to provide a multimillion-dollar ransom for his release, according to a representative of his family and a former hostage held alongside him. The United States — unlike several European countries that have funneled millions to the terror group to spare the lives of their citizens — refused to pay....

Sensitive to growing criticism that it had not done enough, the White House on Wednesday revealed that a United States Special Operations team tried and failed to rescue Mr. Foley....
Paying ransom strikes me as a terrible strategy, funneling money to terrorists and inciting more kidnapping. As for the Special Operations activities, I infer that when they don't work, we don't hear about them, but the White House made an exception here, because disclosing failure seemed, in this case, like better PR.

FOR REFERENCE: "We had to destroy the village in order to save it."

Assignments given to me in the comments.

1. "The hula hoop thing was github. Google github and hula hoop. It was a story with lots of hidden stuff, office romance, etc., so don't take any one article as definitive. I don't trust my memory enough to tell the tale, but my take away was that hiring the lady in question was a mistake. I'll add that the two women who did the hula hoops, did them at a company party and were not the ones who complained. The lady who complained cited it as a horrible example of the sexist atmosphere at the company when she quit."

2. "Go ahead and elaborate on your (brief!) 12:24 PM statement, and describe some scenarios and how you think they might play out under various levels of 'character' or the lack thereof." And, 2 days later after no response from me: "Yeah... so I guess when a student tries to give the professor an assignment, it doesn't usually work?"


"If you choose an answer to this question at random..."

"... what is the chance you will be correct?"

Poor Obama!

This is so mean:

There's that brilliant smile America fell in love with. The man is photogenic. Is that so wrong?! Maybe the beams of joy will go out to Foley's parents... and to ISIS... and to the people of Ferguson...


Smile though your heart is aching/Smile even though it's breaking./When there are clouds in the sky/you'll get by.... Light up your face with gladness/Hide every trace of sadness/Although a tear may be ever so near....

August 20, 2014

Spike Lee doesn't want "a riot." He wants an "uprising."

"Uprising" was the word that was used around here for the Wisconsin protests.

ADDED (the next morning): I was rushing out of the house as I posted this last night. (We went out to Spring Green to see the play "Travesties" (which includes, amongst the various characters, Lenin).) So I didn't have one extra minute to put a link on "Uprising" to the book "Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street." From the reviews at Amazon:
Reading this highly emotional and polemical account of the Wisconsin Act 10 controversy/crisis/uprising, the reader would never know that the "movement" Nichols writes about -- LOST!...

"Anonymous apps like Secret have played host to sexist conversations about women who work in technology."

So asserts Kristy Tillman, one of the 7 participants in a NYT forum of the topic "The War Against Online Trolls/Does anonymity on the web give people too much license to heckle and torment others?" Tillman is identified as a design director at the Society of Grownups, which identifies itself as "a sort of masters program for adulthood" and "A place to learn how to deal with adult responsibility without losing your soul or sense of adventure along the way."

Trolls and pseudonyms on line have been big topics for me for a long time. Click the tags on this post if you want to see what I've had to say. It's not why I'm posting now. Neither is the Society of Grownups, which sounds funny, but might actually be a cool name for something worthy. I haven't checked it out. I'm posting because of the link Tillman has on "played host to sexist conversations." It goes to a piece in Business Insider written by Alyson Shontell called "9 Stomach-Churning Posts From Secret That Show Awful Sexist Behavior In The Tech Industry." Stomach-churning? Awful? I steeled myself. But it was stuff like this:

Which is just cute (and I don't even know if it's "In The Tech Industry").

And this:

Which is just a lameoid confession about affirmative action. That might make you queasy. Not because it's sexist. Because it's the built-in downside of affirmative action (unless you're careful only to use sex as a tie-breaker).


Which I think is hyperbole intended as humorous criticism of women who want, inconsistently, to make a big display of themselves and then put men down for looking. That might be a bit sexist, but it's not awful or stomach-churning. And for all I know there really were 2 ladies with hula hoops who took offense when the men in the office seemed to enjoy their girlish fun in a way that wasn't the precise form of appreciation they sought. How terrible is it to want to secretly say to them: Lighten up?

Watching the video of the beheading of James Foley could be a criminal offense...

... in the UK.

"Help me out, Ann," says Barack Obama in his newest email.

"Ann -- Nothing has ever been more important than fighting for folks like you. You are my priority."

Me? Really? What about those people in Ferguson? What about the Yazidis? ISIS cut off a reporter's head yesterday.

"And right now, a focus of that fight has to be getting people who really care about making things better for you elected."

What fight? Oh... the fight for folks like me. You're focusing on the fight for folks like me by getting people elected who care about folks like me. Could you be anymore bland and generic?

ADDED: If he really cares about me, he should send me an invitation to stay at his compound on the Vineyard or at least to one of those 5-hour dinners served up by the hunky Sam Kass.

TPM says Chris Christie "Blows Up At Woman."

It's interesting that he's talking about Bruce Springsteen and going on about his friendship with the rock star, but I wouldn't call this blowing up:

Here's the author of the article, Tom Kludt. He doesn't look like he grew up in Newark, like Chris Christie. Can Chris Christie get away with talking to women like that? I don't know, generically. But I'm a woman, and I have no problem with that kind of vigor, I don't perceive it as losing his temper. But then I've spent some time in New Jersey.

AND: Kludt is a native of South Dakota, according to his TPM profile.

"Hippie Christmas."

In Madison.

Let's talk about Rick Perry's mugshot.

Do you think he had his own lighting people on the scene? It's got that portrait look, with one side of the face in shadow. Don't they normally shine a light right at you?

What advice do you think he was given on how to do a good mugshot? Smile. Seem confident, but not cocky. Try to look like you're posing for a normal photograph, like you're not in a mugshot.

I've seen the mugshot described as "defiant." Do you think he was advised to look "defiant"? Would you describe the expression as "defiant"? I wouldn't. People project. They think he should be defiant or is defiant, so they see defiant. But I don't think defiant is what you want in a mugshot. Randy Travis looks defiant in his DUI mugshot:

That's not what you want.

California lady who jumped a 3-foot fence at the Madison zoo and got kicked in the face by a giraffe doesn't think she should have to pay the $686 fine for harassing a zoo animal.

Amanda Hall says: "I got hit in the face by a giraffe... I had to deal with all that. That was a lot of pain to deal with already. I don’t need a fine and this on my record. I don’t 'harass' zoo animals. I’m an animal lover.... Obviously I won’t do it again... [The fence is] there for a reason. I just didn’t think twice about it. I just didn’t think it was a big deal."

So, she didn't think it was a big deal to climb into the giraffe enclosure, but a kick in the head that required "about 10 stitches" taught her a lesson, and now she doesn't see the reason for the $686 fine for harassing a zoo animal. She doesn't think it should be said that she harassed a zoo animal because she loves animals. This is someone who has a really hard time understanding the rules and how they apply to everyone. She needed a kick in the head to understand the reason for the fence, and she needs the $686 fine to understand that harassment of an animal isn't about your point of view. You did what you did to the animal and the fact that you had love in your heart is irrelevant. And we need her to pay the $686 fine to demonstrate that penalties apply equality and being (or posing as) a nice lady doesn't get you special treatment.

I'm putting my racial profiling tag on this post. Do you see why?

7 schools in Madison, Wisconsin get federally funded free meals for all students.

This is the Community Eligibility Provision, which funds meals at schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families.
Officials say eliminating the distinction will reduce the stigma associated with receiving subsidized meals and also improve the nutrition of students school-wide, which could improve academic performance....
Even assuming this is a good idea, how do they get the numbers to put into the calculation? I guess they don't have to force everyone to tell their income to the authorities, just enough to hit the percentage. Once everyone in the school is getting free meals, everyone has an interest in the continued flow of free food, which could end if X number of families begin to make too much money. That's a strange situation! How can they keep track?
Enrolling the schools in the federal program was one of several strategies the Madison district is deploying to make its food service budget more sustainable, and less dependent on the district’s general fund to remain balanced.
If it weren't for the bad punctuation, I'd think that was intended as comic writing. Next time you're dining out with a friend and the check arrives, sit calmly with your hands in your lap and observe that you are deploying a strategy to make your budget more sustainable. Maybe your dinner companion will laugh, but if he doesn't, and he pays, you ought to wonder what conditions are attached.

"My husband's transition forced me to make emotional and sexual transitions of my own. As his breasts developed..."

"... I didn't want to touch my partner's chest anymore and the female hormones destroyed his libido.... The sexual side of our relationship faded.... While sex was a major part of our early relationship, we now rely on deeper forms of intimacy. We connect through deep discussions, mutual discovery and respect, caring and generosity. We focus on non-sexual ways of expressing love - cuddling, gentle caresses, holding hands. These interactions became more critical to our relationship than frequent sexual expression."

From "I’m a straight woman married to a woman. It hasn’t been easy. My husband became a woman and our marriage is stronger than ever." The author, Leslie Hilburn Fabian, is a social worker/psychotherapist. She reveals in the first paragraph that when she met the man she married, he was wearing makeup and a dress and it was at a "a gathering" — is that a party or something else? — hosted by an "expert on transgenderism." Those facts make this case quite different from a situation where someone is completely blindsided by her spouse and had previously shown no interest in the transgender movement.

August 19, 2014

Cool grass.


Cool dog.


Photos by me, not Meade. Just because it's a dog doesn't mean it's by Meade. But Meade has a new post up over at The Puparazzo. It's called "Plott Hounds." Notice Otis. And his companion Maeble. Over there. But here, it's good old Zeus, cooling off in the luscious, Meade-made lawn.

"Grumbling by lawmakers about a president is nothing unusual. But what is striking now is the way prominent Democrats’ views of Mr. Obama’s shortcomings..."

"... are spilling out into public, and how resigned many seem that the relationship will never improve," reports the NYT.
In private meetings, Mr. Reid’s chief of staff, David Krone, has voiced regular dismay to lawmakers and top aides about White House operations and competency across a range of issues, according to several Democrats on Capitol Hill....

Asked to characterize his relationship with the president, [Senator Joe Manchin III, of West Virginia], a centrist Democrat who has often been a bridge builder in the Senate, said: “It’s fairly nonexistent. There’s not much of a relationship.”

Few senators feel a personal connection to the president.
ADDED: This article is another sign that the media agenda refocused onto 2016 and Hillary Clinton. Note the 3 references to Bill Clinton:
Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat, said that compared with Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Mr. Obama “is more self-contained, less gregarious.”...

Unlike Mr. Clinton, who worked hard as a candidate to court every Democrat he could...

Mr. Obama would never be a “creature of Washington” like Mr. Clinton. “I don’t think that was ever in the cards, and I still don’t,” Mr. Durbin said.

St. Louis police shoot and kill a man who yelled "Shoot me, kill me now."

This happened today, not far from Ferguson.

ADDED: Was this a "suicide by cop" situation? Did the knife-wielding man think that the police were so intimidated by the criticism after the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson that it had become possible to taunt the police in an exciting new way? Perhaps the police should have shown immense restraint here and even risked taking some knife-slashings for the sake of some good PR.

But I await a full, factual account.

AND: From the NYT report, a 21-year-old citizen is quoted saying: "Even if this is a legitimate shooting, they are going to capitalize on this and try to use it for their martial law agenda." But it must also be true that even if this is a legitimate shooting, those who are protesting the police will try to use it for their agenda.

"Why Obama won’t give the Ferguson speech his supporters want."

A headline for an Ezra Klein piece that really should have the second and third words reversed. It's a good question, but Ezra only poses as capable of answering it. I can think of 10 other answers to the question, but I'm writing this on an iPad.

ADDED: I've returned to my desktop, as you can see by the addition of tags, so I feel I should make good on my assertion that I have 10 other answers. I'll publish them as I proceed, beginning with one that is a tag.

1. Obama is bland. It's a tag on this blog that I've been using since April 21, 2009: "Yes. As in his campaign, Obama is very bland. For some reason — possibly vaguely racist — Americans liked the bland. But at some point, bland is not what you want." I have 55 posts with that tag. His fans may not want to believe it, but I've been observing it all along, and it's part of why I voted for him in 2008. I don't like demagogues.

2. Ezra speaks of Obama's 2008 "Race Speech" as the sort of speech that his opponents long for, but go back and read it. It's studded with lines like "The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons," and "Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity...." We may remember that speech as extremely powerful, but it was assurance of Obama's moderation. Supporters want what they feel they got in the past but their memory of the past is distorted.

3. The "Race Speech" was crucial to Obama's 2008 campaign. A lot of work went into crafting that speech: "... Obama dictated a lengthy draft of this speech to [Jon] Favreau, who edited the speech the next day. Obama stayed up until 3:00 a.m. Sunday night working on the speech, and continued to work on it Monday and in the early hours of Tuesday." Favreau isn't there anymore, and I don't think Obama has the time or motivation to put that much personal effort into a speech about Ferguson.

4. The Jeremiah Wright crisis in 2008 required a direct, decisive response from the candidate. There was no option of standing back and seeing whether things might work out all right without his intrusion and interference. But when he has the option to lead from behind, that's his style.

5. Obama doesn't want a replay of the Skip Gates fiasco, where he blurted out that the police "acted stupidly," when he didn't really know the the facts, and it turned out that what the police did was not stupid at all. In the case of the Ferguson incident, we don't know the facts. Today, I'm seeing: "Police sources tell me more than a dozen witnesses have corroborated cop's version of events in shooting #Ferguson." (Ezra Klein brings up Skip Gates, but doesn't mention that Obama got the facts wrong because he spoke too soon, only that "the White House no longer believes Obama can bridge divides.")

6. Michael Brown was no Trayvon Martin. Obama said "Trayvon could have been my son." And "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago." But he can't (won't) say that about Brown. Yes, he could talk more generally about how racial profiling — real or feared — makes people feel and that's what the protests in Ferguson express and that matters even if Michael Brown strong-armed a shopkeeper and even if he threatened the police officer who killed him. But that's not the speech Obama supporters supposedly want. There is no cherubic boy with Skittles and iced tea. There's a very large, adult man with stolen cigars. It's harder to say deeply empathic things about Brown. And Obama cannot make that personal I-am-Trayvon kind of statement.

7. Obama must help his party in the Fall elections. I think this is the key graphic, the fight for the U.S. Senate. The toss-up states are Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisana, Michigan, and North Carolina. Whatever Obama says now must be calibrated for the effect in these states. Will emotive racial politics carry the Democratic Party through to November? Perhaps that seems like a risky bet.

8. Obama's tired.

9. "On December 11, 2006, I quoted Obama saying: 'I think to some degree I’ve become a shorthand or symbol or stand-in for a spirit....' I liked him for saying that. It was honest. I thought he'd have become something specific, and I'm amused to see that I added: 'Wouldn't it be funny if he didn't?'" I wrote that on February 18, 2008 in a post titled "Why I'm voting for Obama in the Wisconsin primary." It must get wearisome being America's shorthand or symbol or stand-in for so long, wearisome for all of us, and he knows it. Maybe not speaking is the best expression at this point in our long journey.

10. A truly brilliant speech about Ferguson — if he had the will and the time to craft the perfect statement — would not be what his supporters want, but something more difficult, challenging, and surprising.