Monthly Archives: August 2016

These quotes from French politicians defending the burqini ban are as Orwellian as it gets

Kim Hjelmgaard, USA Today:

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said burkinis represent “the enslavement of women,” and the ban should be handled with sensitively so as not to worsen religious tensions.

That’s not what enslavement is. Enslavement is forcing other people to do things against their will. Like, say, controlling how they dress.

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who announced this week that he intends to run again in 2017, called the burkini a “provocation” that plays into the hands of Islamic extremists.

Actually, no, it’s the burkini BAN that’s a provocation that plays into the hands of Islamic extremists, who wish to portray the West as a place that is hostile to Muslims. And France has now made itself more hostile to Muslims. Good going, France!

An ardent secularist, Sarkozy told French TV on Wednesday that “we don’t imprison women behind fabric.”

You know what they do in prison? They tell you what you can wear and not wear. Outside of prison, you can wear what you want. Like a burqini.

Muslims, he said, must “assimilate” and shouldn’t “impose their differences on the majority.” If elected, Sarkozy said, he will ban every visible religious sign in French universities.

Here in America, we know something about assimilation. The way you get people to assimilate is to give people choices. Encourage assimilation, but let them do it on their own time and comfort level.

Women born in Muslim cultures will probably never be comfortable wearing anything other than burqas, but that’s fine. They can be fully part of French (or American) culture otherwise. And their daughters and granddaughters will be proper Frenchwomen, smoking Gauloises, eating stinky cheeses, and enjoying Jerry Lewis movies.

I kid. I kid you, France, because I love you. But seriously the burqini ban is messed up. You guys nearly INVENTED freedom; you know how it works.

Introverts can get hangovers from too much time around other people

Shawna Courter, at Introvert, Dear:

After a few hours, I couldn’t take it any more. I slipped away like a thief, skulking about the house, searching for a place where it was quiet. I came across a half-lit room and saw my future brother-in-law sitting in there, staring out the window. Knowing him to be an introvert himself, I decided this was my best option for escape and sat down across the room, wrapping my arms around my knees. I remember hoping he wouldn’t think I was intruding upon his own solitude before I allowed myself to zone out, letting my thoughts drown out the raucous laughter from downstairs, breathing deeply and feeling the tension drain away. I don’t know how long it was before my now-husband came looking for me, but I remember him laughing at finding the two introverts seeking refuge together.

The funniest part about that night was that I never said a word to my future brother-in-law, nor he to me, and we’ve never spoken of it since.

I used to be prone to this kind of thing. When I started going to conferences professionally I’d have back to back meetings all day and networking events in the evening. My employers encouraged Saturday travel to reduce expenses, and I’d happily lock myself in my hotel room Friday night, ordering room service for dinner and Saturday breakfast and watching in-room movies and TV until it was time to go home.

Over time, I’ve learned to pace myself, and no longer require such drastic solutions.

But, still, business travel involves long swathes of solitary time, and part of me loves it. Time spent anonymously in crowds is just as good as being alone. I love airports, other than the security mishegoss and horrible restrooms, and I love shopping malls too, and long walks on city streets, if I go alone.

Via Jason Kottke, who shares his own “introvert hangover” story.

45% of waking hours spent staring at screens, say researchers

Aditya Kishore, Telco Transformation:

It seems our electronic devices now own us, rather than the other way around. New research has found that the average US consumer spends 50 hours every week in front of some kind of screen.

I don’t even want to think about how that number works out for me. It’s one of the reasons I’m a virtual reality skeptic. “Not enough time connected to the Internet” is not one of the problems I have in life.


Harry Potter uberfan Melissa Anelli describes her eight years targeted by a cyberstalker

The Criminal podcast:

2008 was an exciting time to be a Harry Potter fan. The final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, had been released. Movies were on the way. And author Melissa Anelli was at the center of it all, running a popular fan site called The Leaky Caldron and working on a book, Harry, a History. Just as things couldn’t get better, Melissa received her first death threat.

Anelli’s situation is unusual for several reasons: Gender: Her stalker is a woman, most are men. Distance: The stalker is in New Zeland while Anelli is in the US. And persistence: Most cyberstalkers give up after a couple of years.

Cher on Clinton: “This chick is just tougher than Chinese algebra.”

At a Provincetown, Mass., Democratic fundraiser, the 70s pop icon also compared Trump to Hitler, a “racist” version of “Fun with Dick and Jane,” and the murderous child star in “The Bad Seed.” (Jonathan Martin, The New York Times)

I posted this because I think it’s funny, not because I 100% agree with it. But it does touch on one of the reasons I support Clinton over Trump: She really does seem tough. She’s been scrapping with the most powerful, meanest people in the world for more than 35 years, and she gets up every morning and does it again. With relish.

Trump seems fundamentally weak. He blusters and storms while protected by a phalanx of bodyguards and a wall of money his father built. He’s like a Hollywood facade of a tough New York businessman; he’ll collapse in the first strong breeze.

A brief history of hippopotamus ranches in America: a story about agriculture and espionage

peter_potamus_by_tr3forever-d60k4q7The Longform podcast interviews Jon Mooallem, author of “American Hippopotamus,” about that time 100 years ago there was a brief but serious movement to launch hippopotamus ranches in the US.

The American frontier was vanishing and the environmental movement was just starting. Advocates had the idea that hippo ranches would turn wetlands into useful meat-producing agricultural areas.

Attendees at a Trump fundraiser were “pushed and jostled, spit on and verbally harassed”

Patrick Condon, Minneapolis Star Tribune:

The New York businessman made his first visit to the state as the Republican presidential candidate for a private nighttime fundraiser at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Dozens of protesters gathered out front ahead of the event and marched around the large building. Later in the ­evening, a smaller contingent grew unruly. Some fundraiser attendees were pushed and jostled, spit on and verbally harassed as they left the ­convention center….

The demonstrators who harassed donors were not present earlier on, when the protest was peaceful. Many in the later group hid their faces behind scarves.

Minneapolis police spokeswoman Sgt. Catherine Michal said there were no arrests and no reported injuries.

There was, however, minor damage, including graffiti on the walls of the Convention Center, and officers had to escort Trump supporters in and out of the lobby because they were being harshly confronted, Michal said.

This behavior is unacceptable no matter which candidate you support.

I was pointed to this story by a conservative friend, commenting on this post I made Monday: Trump supporters at rallies are “primed to explode,” “ready for violence”

My friend said: “Funny how the Trump people here who ‘are primed to explode’ didn’t but Clinton supporters who aren’t primed did.”

From gladiator duels to Caesar’s last words: the myths of ancient Rome

Fresh Air podcast:

Our guest, historian Mary Beard, can give you the real story of the Spartacus uprising. And in a bit, she’ll share what we think Julius Caesar really said as he was being stabbed by Roman senators. It wasn’t et tu, Brute?

Mary Beard is a professor of classics at Cambridge University who’s spent a career studying Rome and written a dozen books. She also does TV and radio documentaries, writes a well-read blog and has become somewhat famous for taking on Internet trolls. Beard’s latest book covers about a thousand years of Roman history, but it isn’t just kings and emperors. She offers insights into the reasons for Rome’s prosperity and military expansion and provides fresh interpretations of turning points in Roman history.

And she makes ordinary Romans a central part of the story, describing both their impact on important events and their daily lives. Mary Beard’s book “SPQR: A History Of Ancient Rome” is out in paperback next month.

As a small boy, the ferocious mad Emperor Gaius was a pet of the Roman legions, who dressed him up in a child-sized uniform and gave him the nickname “Caligula.” History teachers today translate the name to “Little Boot,” but Beard says it’s more properly translated “Bootykins.” No wonder Caligula was always pissed off.

“SPQR” looks like a good one — I’ve put it high on my Amazon wishlist.

3 things Minnie & I saw walking at the park

A woman carrying a parasol to protect herself from the sun.

Minnie’s reaction: Very excited. She wanted to plaaaaaaaaaay. Which was strange — we’ve seen women at the park many times carrying umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun. Is a parasol that different? Guess so if you’re a dog.

Related: Minnie has different reactions to wheeled human-powered transportation machines: She’s afraid of conventional bicycles, loves skateboards and scooters and wants to plaaaaaaay, and is indifferent to recumbent bikes.

Three Buddhist monks wearing saffron robes, jogging.

That was a first. Lake Murray parkgoers are a very diverse bunch, which is one of the reasons I like it. We see people of all races and ethnic groups. We see Orthodox Jews, Hasids, and Muslims in traditional garb. But we’ve never seen robed Buddhist monks at the park before.

They didn’t seem to be doing too well with the jogging.

Minnie’s reaction: Indifferent.

A woman walking 11 dogs. 

More or less 11. About ten of them were similar size and color, more-or-less golden-retriever-like. The 11th was half that size, with long wiry fur, and trailing far behind them on a long lead.

Minnie’s reaction: Indifferent, thank goodness. If Minnie had gotten excited and the dogs had gotten excited, that would have been some kind of Disney live-action comedy movie starring Dean Jones, with dogs barking excitedly and leashes getting tangled and me ending up in the lake.

When I got home, Julie asked, “Was it Sonya?” “Who?” I said. “You know, the woman who petsits for us when we’re both out of town,” Julie said. “She does dog-walking too.” “I have no idea,” I said.

We’ve been using Sonia Shoemaker and her husband Dennis at Pet Pals for nearly 20 years but Julie is the one who interviewed them and the only time I’ve met either of them was almost that long ago, when we got our dates confused and Sonya came to the house early, while I was in the living room, finishing packing. I admit when I heard the key in the door and realized what was going on I kept quiet just to see what would happen when she opened the door and saw me there. She was gratifyingly startled. (Pet Pals does a great job, by the way. If you’re in San Diego and need a pet sitter, they’re the guys to call.)

Malcolm Gladwell: Change the world with “generous orthodoxy”

Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast compares and contrast two cases of people looking to make institutional change: The first is a longtime Mennonite minister who performed a marriage for his gay son in defiance of church doctrine. The second is a group of Princeton University students trying to get Woodrow Wilson’s name removed from the school. The Mennonite minister seems noble, the students seem shrill and entitled. The theory of “generous orthodoxy” explains why.

Wikipedia entry for Sunnydale, the fictional location for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” 

Sunnydale’s size and surroundings are implausible but justified given its origins — to sustain a human population for supernatural evils to prey upon. The town’s founder spared no expense to attract a populace, and Sunnydale thus contains many elements of a large city — which the show’s writers utilized fully for comic effect and narrative convenience. During the first three seasons, Sunnydale is shown to have 38,500 inhabitants,[2] very few high schools,[3] forty-three churches,[4] a small private college,[5] a zoo,[6] a museum,[7] and one modest main street. Even so, it has twelve gothic cemeteries.[8] These cemeteries are so heavily used that services are sometimes held at night.[9] Sunnydale is divided into five neighborhoods. The first is the entertainment district which contains Bronze. The second is the alleys directly behind Bronze which contain the town’s excess supply of pallets and cardboard. The high school makes the third neighborhood. The fourth neighborhood is filled in its entirety by the large graveyard, and lastly the suburban residential sprawl is the final neighborhood. The abundance of very nice homes is made possible by low property values caused by frequent murder.[10]