QotD

Sep. 19th, 2017 05:24 am
dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
[personal profile] dglenn

[I feel, based on my own reactions each time I think about the loss described here, like I should provide some kind of content-warning to avoid ruining someone's day if this is their nightmare fuel. But I'm really not sure what form this warning should take.]

Linda Ronstadt describes what she can't do. May be upsetting to artists. Many people may just calmly think 'oh, that's sad'. )

QotD

Sep. 18th, 2017 05:24 am
dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
[personal profile] dglenn

From the Quotation of the day mailing list, 2017-03-08:

"I found much that was alarming about being a citizen during the tenures of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. But, whatever I may have seen as their limitations of character or intellect, neither was anything like as humanly impoverished as Trump is: ignorant of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art, incapable of expressing or recognizing subtlety or nuance, destitute of all decency, and wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better called Jerkish than English." -- Philip Roth, novelist

[ http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/30/philip-roth-e-mails-on-trump]

(submitted to the mailing list by Mike Krawchuk)

QotD

Sep. 17th, 2017 05:24 am
dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
[personal profile] dglenn

"Just because your electronics are better than ours, you aren't necessarily superior in any way. Look, imagine that you humans are a man in LA with a brand-new Trujillo and we are a nuhp in New York with a beat-up old Ford. The two fellows start driving toward St. Louis. Now, the guy in the Trujillo is doing 120 on the interstates, and the guy in the Ford is putting along at 55; but the human in the Trujillo stops in Vegas and puts all of his gas money down the hole of a blackjack table, and the determined little nuhp cruises along for days until at last he reaches his goal. It's all a matter of superior intellect and the will to succeed.

Your people talk a lot about going to the stars, but you just keep putting your money into other projects, like war and popular music and international athletic events and resurrecting the fashions of previous decades. If you wanted to go into space, you would have."

-- George Alec Effinger (not sure which story -- I can find lots of sites repeating that it is from Live! from Planet Earth, but I haven't seen any saying which story in that anthology the quotation is from)

[sci hist] A Most Remarkable Week

Sep. 17th, 2017 12:52 am
siderea: (Default)
[personal profile] siderea
(h/t Metafilter)

This link should take you to the audio player for The Moth, cued to a story, "Who Can You Trust", 12 minutes long.

The Moth, if you didn't know, is an organization that supports storytelling – solo spoken word prose – true stories. This story is told by Dr. Mary-Clare King, the discoverer of BRC1. It concerns a most extraordinary week in her life, when pretty much everything went absurdly wrong and right at all once. It is by turns appalling and amazing and touching and throughout hilarious.

It's worth hearing her tell herself before the live audience. But if you prefer transcript, that's here – but even the link is a spoiler.

Recommended.

Gee, Six

Sep. 16th, 2017 10:24 am
cahwyguy: (Default)
[personal profile] cahwyguy

(to the tune of “The Saga Begins” “American Pie”)

About a week ago
At Verizon in the mall
My phone was starting to die…
And I thought me and my picks
Could talk Verizon into
A deal on an LG G6
But their response, it didn’t thrill me
They called mall-cops, and tried to shill me
I escaped from that fight
Called *611, and made it right
I checked again, redid the order
Picked it up at a Ranch called Porter
They behaved like they orter
That’s where I got this phone…

Oh my my Verizon Cellphone
You’ve the only brand I ever have owned
Northridge Mall sucks, but Porter Ranch pwned
And now I’ve got the latest smartphone
Now I’ve got the latest smartphone.

This has been an interesting week. Back in August, while we were on vacation, I had a problem with my 4+ year old, 1st generation, Moto X. Driving through Aspen to Colorado Springs, my phone had trouble finding signal after we got out of the canyon, even after multiple reboots, when my wife’s newer Droid Turbo was doing fine. I had been having significant battery life problems, and we noticed the sides of the phone were starting to crack — indicating potential battery expansion. Given my contract was long up (meaning, given our old plan, I was essentially making payments for nothing), the conclusion was: replace the phone.

Doing research during and after the trip, I settled on two primary candidates, as the Moto X4 (though just announced), wasn’t at Verizon yet: The Moto Z2 Play and the LG G6.  Both were running Android Nougat, and both had the right mix of features. Although I was leaning to Moto because I liked their Apps, the smaller size of the G6 (the G6 was 5.86 x 2.83″, and the Z2 was 6.15 x 3.00) combined with the larger battery (the G6 was 3300 mAh, the Z2 was 3000 mAh) led me to the G6. Both were in my price range: under $25 a month. That number derives from the fact I was paying $40 a month for line access, and with the new phone, I’d be paying $15 with a $25 credit towards the phone: thus my overall bill would not increase. I planned to get the new phone once our current billing cycle ended.

Checking online, of the two Verizon Wireless stores closest to our house, only the Northridge Mall had them in stock. So I went over there. I dazzled them with my data, and we sat down to discuss the G6. They said the price was $28/month. I said it was $20/month online. They said, “Well then buy it online.”. I got on my phone and attempted to do so. However, I got to a screen instructing me to scan a barcode, with no other options. I asked them for help — they had no clue. I asked for a supervisor — he was out. I asked if anyone else knew what this screen meant. They didn’t, and they refused to tell me if the order had actually gone through. I gave a loud “Harrumpf” of exasperation… and they told me to leave the store and that they were calling mall security to escort me out. That got me even more frustrated (and when that happens, I tend to trip). I tripped over a chair, went flying, and they kept insisting security was on their way. I finally got out of the store, sat outside, and tried to call customer service (with the mall cops standing over me watching). After 1/2 hour on hold with my phone about out of power, I called my wife. She came over, went in the store (because they wouldn’t let me in), confirmed the order was not placed, and we went home.

Once home, I called customer service and placed an order for the phone — at $20/month, no problem — through customer service. Receiving the request to pay the sales tax online, I went to their website to do so. However, the plan price confused me, so I called them back. We sorted things out and I entered the card, thinking the order was placed.

Checked the next day at work, and the order was still “pending, call the credit department”. Evidently, the card didn’t go through for some reason, and they couldn’t fix the order. They cancelled it (which took a day to show up in their system as cancelled), and we redid the order.

That evening, I received mail that the phone was ready for pickup (within 3 days, although the website said 7). I called the store that evening to make sure I had all I needed to transfer, and to talk to a representative. Nice as could be. Driving home the next day, I got a call the phone was ready. I went up there yesterday evening. Francisco Linares helped me, and was as nice as could be. He helped me start the initial transfer, told me what I needed to do when I got home, and we confirmed that my current plan was just fine and the monthly pricing would be as I thought it would be (I’ll need to check that on the next bill). I picked up an extra Micro-USB to USB-C dongle, and I was home in under 40 minutes, when I thought it would take 3 hours. Yet again, the Porter Ranch store demonstrated that they understand customer service: they did it right.

Later that evening I ordered more USB-C stuff: a new power brick, a wireless charger, and cords and such.

I’m now the owner of a new LG G6, just waiting for the cases and cords to arrive. Comfortable in the hand and easy to use.

And that, friends, is the Saga of LG. Kudos and stars to the Verizon telephone personnel that helped, and to Francisco and the staff of Verizon Wireless in Porter Ranch for doing it right. Boos and 💩💩💩 to the staff of the Northridge Mall store, who care more about sales than customers. If you have a choice between the two, go to Porter Ranch.

Two final notes: People ask: Why Verizon? We’ve been with them since they were Airtouch Cellular, meaning about 20 years. We have 3 phone lines and 2 tablets, and in general they’ve been good. People ask: Why not an iPhone? I’m a big iPod Classic user, and I don’t want to pollute the iTunes ecosystem.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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QotD

Sep. 16th, 2017 05:24 am
dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
[personal profile] dglenn

"Writing this novel is 30% words and 70% evicting the cat from the keyboard. #amwriting https://t.co/Wlm9hpQJe3" -- Karen Osborne, 2017-01-16

(@alitmag's reply: "Writing tip: Make sure to have more keyboards than cats. For extra security, pack two spares!")

The Story Behind…

Sep. 15th, 2017 12:12 pm
cahwyguy: (Default)
[personal profile] cahwyguy

Over the last few weeks, I’ve accumulated a number of news stories that tell “the story behind the story”. I hope you find them as fascinating as I have:

  • The Story Behind… Damaged Voices. An interesting article from the Guardian explores why so many singing stars have been losing their voices. The answer, on the surface, is that they have damaged their vocal cords. The solution is microsurgery and vocal rest while things heal, and they hope that their voices return to normal. But is that the cause? According to the article: “The rise in vocal injuries is linked to a change in what we consider good singing. Across all genres, it has become normal to believe that louder is better. (One reason that Adele is such a big star is because her voice is so big.) As a result, singers are pushing their cords like never before, which leads to vocal breakdown.” Why didn’t this happen earlier? Artists were taught to sing differently. Two artists quoted in the article, Brilla and Paglin, have been saying this for years. “You cannot solve the problem by simply relieving the symptom,” Brilla said. “It’s a motor problem. The singer has to understand it’s the way you’re running your engine” – the techniques they’re using to sing. “If you don’t fix the engine, it’s going to happen again.”
  • The Story Behind… The Brooklyn Dodgers Moving to LA. Los Angeles celebrates some of its sports teams such as the Lakers and the Dodgers. But neither started in LA. An article from the NY Daily News explores the Dodgers move to Los Angeles. The person to blame: Robert Moses, who designed much of New York’s highways, who didn’t want the new ballpark proposed by the boys in blue.
  • The Story Behind… Jewish Codebreakers. Many folks — especially cryptographers — are familiar with the story of Alan Turing and Bletchley Park (told in the recent movie “The Imitation Game”). But Turning wasn’t alone, and much of the hard work at Bletchley breaking the code was performed by a cadre of Jewish cryptographers. Here is their story. It is written by a former director of GCHQ, who notes: “Their role in codebreaking and in our “signals intelligence” mission was out of all proportion to the size of the Jewish community in Britain at the time. In turn, Bletchley’s contribution to winning and shortening the course of the war and therefore bringing to an end the Holocaust in Europe is clear. Less well known is the role of some of these staff in establishing and building the new state of Israel. This is a fitting time in which to remember and to celebrate their story, and to remind ourselves of the enduring values and unbroken line which links these great individuals and our work today.”
  • The Story Behind… Civil War Statues. Most of us (OK, well a few folks) believe that the civil war statues in the news today were erected to commemorate the civil war, and were put up right after the war. That’s not as true as you think. The reality is that the civil war statues were mass-manufactured, often with generic soldiers, erected half a century after the war (in the first two decades of the 1900s) when organizations like the United Daughters of the Confederacy were looking to reframe and glorify the Confederate cause, and in many states, the descendants of slaves had been stripped of the right to vote, which impeded their ability to effectively voice opposition.
  • The Story Behind… Hurricane Reporters. This really interesting article is a collection of tips for reporters reporting from inside or near a hurricane. My favorite? “Don’t stand in standing water. Let the other idiots get electrocuted — we don’t need them anyway. You, we can’t replace because we’re in a hiring freeze. Also, if you die, we need to fill out a lot of messy paperwork.”
  • The Story Behind… Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse. This is a really interesting article that explores common behaviors in those who have experienced emotional abuse as a child.

 

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Hatred and Jews

Sep. 15th, 2017 05:08 am
cahwyguy: (Default)
[personal profile] cahwyguy

Two articles that have crossed my feeds of late both highlight the issue of hatred: one of hatred of Jews, the other of hatred by Jews. Both demonstrate significant failures of our society.

The first was brought to my attention by Rabbi Barry Lutz of our congregation. Titled “Reform is Not a Four-Letter Word“, it describes a problem that is growing in Israel these days: the divide between the “ultra-Orthodox” (note that I do not put all Orthodox in this category) and the more progressive movements within Judaism. I’m familiar with this divide, for it isn’t a new one. Back in the early 1990s I started a mailing list where we explicitly prohibited that device, as the RCO fights (as well called them) were taking over soc.culture.jewish (the Usenet group) with their invective and hatred. It seems this hasn’t gone away: some ultra-Orthodox are using “Reform” as an insult. As the author of the opinion piece writes:

Still, I’d probably not have gotten around to writing this piece had Deri’s remarks not been echoed – almost drowned out – by those of Shlomo Amar, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem and past Sephardic Chief Rabbi, who proclaimed a few days later that Reform Jews are worse than holocaust deniers.” You can catch his remarks, word for word, on the ultra-Orthodox Haredi website Kikar Shabbat as he responds to the latest appeal of progressive Jewish groups to the Supreme Court regarding the Kotel (Western Wall). “They don’t have Yom Kippur or Shabbat but they want to pray [at the Western Wall]. But no one should think that they want to pray, they want to desecrate the holy,” was Amar’s take on the matter. “Today there was a hearing on the Kotel on the petition of the cursed evil people who do every iniquity in the world against the Torah,” he added, including both Conservative Masorti Jews as well as the Women of the Wall (original and otherwise) as objects of his wrath as all were party to this litigation.

Did you catch that? Reform Jews are worse than holocaust deniers. Who needs Nazis in the streets when we have the ultra-Orthodox to hate us (without ever knowing what Reform really is, just like many of the Nazis know Judaism only from false stereotypes like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion). Hatred built on fake news and fake information is not new, folks; it has long been the domain of the ignorant, uninformed, and more importantly, those who do not want to be informed.

The current alt-Right and neo-Nazi — hell, Nazi — movements are bringing this all back to America. I met Shmuel Gonzalez when he recently gave a talk to the San Fernando Valley Historical Society on the community of Boyle Heights. This was an ethnically mixed community east of DTLA that — in the days of red-lining — brought together Jews and Latinos and Russians and Japanese and Blacks and all sorts of ethnicities into a loose coalition that worked for the rights of workers and the rights of people. Those Jewish Community Centers you see these days where nice economically advantaged families bring up their children outside of the horrid public schools were once Yiddishist centers fighting for workers and teaching English to immigrants. Shmuel, a very nice and gentle fellow, talks about this history all the time and preserves the Jewish heritage of those communities while celebrating both his hispanic and his Jewish background. Shmuel describes himself as follows in a recent post on his Barrio Boychik blog: “I am an activist historian and community organizer from Southern California; many of you might know me as the author of the Barrio Boychik blog, which is dedicated to presenting our local heritage of civil rights activism, with special focus on the historical and present inter-section of Jewish and Latino civil rights organizing. As a Mexican American of the Jewish faith, I also proudly serve the as teacher of Jewish education and leader in sacred Hebrew ritual, serving Southeast Los Angeles and North Orange County.”

Shmuel was recently at a counter-protest of the America First Rally – an anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rally organized by the so-called “alt-Right” – at Main Beach in Laguna Beach, California on Sunday, August 20, 2017. As he writes on his blog:

On this day I was in attendance to stand with local friends and business people as they stand against hate. Among them my good friend and a father figure to me, Irv Weiser; whose family came to this country as refugees following the holocaust. I came to stand shoulder to shoulder with him as he protested against this nationalist hate rhetoric. There were just a few dozen anti-immigrant/refugee protesters that day, a mixed race group of far right extremists that noticeably even had neo-Nazis and white supremacists participating in the event; while there were several hundred counter-protesters in attendance. After the right-wing protesters group dwindled they started making incursions into the counter-protest, to get in people’s’ face and to agitate the crowd; they caused some minor scuffles and were shooed back by the police. While documenting the event on video, I followed the right-wing group back. By this time the right-wing protesters on the other end were encircled and engaging a crowd. I engaged the right-wing protesters in their rhetoric angering them several times with just verbal rebuttals, while also taking video of the protest.

He continued:

As I was still documenting this event on video with the camera running, I went in for a close-up shot as we argued, and one of them quickly approached and hit my hand, sending my camera flying. At that point I was immediately arrested by five officers in riot gear from the Laguna Beach Police department. I was arrested, instead of these nationalist extremists who wanted to assault me. And that was just the begin of a long ordeal. I would be arrested, taken to central jail – where I would be subjected to racist and anti-semitic treatment by the jailer.

His blog provides all the details of this, and he has a court date this coming Monday. Why they arrested a counter-protestor, and not the perpetrators of hate is beyond me.

The reason I bring up Shmuel’s story (in addition to bringing it the attention it deserves) is to highlight the hate aspect of it. Both stories — the one from Israel, and the one from Orange County — deal with hatred of Jews. One is from the ultra-Orthodox (many of the same folks who, in America, are still supporters of Trump). One from the alt-Right — again, a supporter of Trump. Further, as I write this, a bipartisan group in Congress has sent a resolution to Trump condemning such behavior . Why did Congress send it? According to the Washington Post: “Trump was roundly criticized by lawmakers of both parties last month after he blamed “both sides” for the Aug. 12 violence that resulted in the death of counterprotester Heather Heyer, as well as his suggestion that some “very fine people” were among the white-nationalist marchers.” Of course, the White House is saying he will sign it but the reason why is unclear: political expediency, or because he really believes in it. I guess we’ll find out in the after-the-fact tweets.

Whether the behavior is from our fellow Jews or from the alt-Right/neo-Nazi groups: we must fight hatred in any form. Further, as in the early days of Boyle Heights, we must remember that our cause is tied up with the immigrant — be they be from South of the Border, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, or Africa. Hatred of minorities in any form eventually turns to us Jews, and we have to stop it before it starts. Both of these stories are lessons and poignant reminders of where things can go.

 

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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QotD

Sep. 15th, 2017 05:24 am
dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
[personal profile] dglenn

"As long as we're valuing capital over labor, we have a future in store that's owned by the 0.0001% where the rest of us get to pay for the privilege of being allowed to breathe their air and live on property they own. Where I get stuck at is how we get out of this bind--with people like the Mercers and the Kochs and the various Putin-orbit oligarchs holding the rights to so much of the world's wealth, how do we devalue, divest, and otherwise claw back those resources to a place where we can use them for the good of society, rather than the plutocrats?" -- Boussinesque, commenter at Balloon Juice [thanks to [info] realinterrobang for quoting this earlier]

cahwyguy: (Default)
[personal profile] cahwyguy

Many people complain about the high cost of housing, especially here in Southern California. There was a very interesting opinion piece on the subject over the weekend here in LA. The article starts as follows:

Out of curiosity, I looked up the value of a two-story tract house I bought in a middle-class San Jose neighborhood back in 1983, for about $130,000. The home — which I sold for about $140,000 in 1985 — would now haul in an estimated $1 million or more, based on recent sales in the same neighborhood. That’s roughly eight times more than I paid for it. But in the 34 years since then, California’s median household income has increased by roughly three times, not eight.

Now, for those of us who have purchased more recently — say in the mid-2000s — there’s not as much of an increase. Houses in the San Fernando Valley, where I live, were on the order of $600-$800K back at the top of the market (if not higher). They dropped some, but have come back to those prices. Orange County? As the OC Register notes, new homes in the Pacifica San Juan neighborhood of San Juan Capistrano “includes two-story townhomes ranging from from 1,836 to 2,068 square feet in space; three or four bedrooms; three bathrooms and two-car garages. Prices start “from the low $700,000s.””  Mind you, these are townhomes, not even detached housing. How can Millennials purchase housing?

Not having been a renter, I can’t speak to how the rents have changed. But my sister-in-law recently started a discussion on this based on that Register article where she noted salaries are up (for some) on the order of 6%. Comments on her post (which was restricted to friends, which is why I’m not citing names or linking to the post) noted that “you can’t even rent very well for $60k a year. That’s about $1600 a month. Barely a two bedroom apartment in a nice area…” Another person commented “As a renter in CA my ass feels sore and raw. Rents for higher and higher and we where told it’s based on the housing prices in the area. The housing market crashed and rents didn’t come down and we where told it was because more people had to rent because they lost their homes. ” My daughter, however, rents, and she could tell you how expensive it is to rent in places like Los Angeles (she ended up having a roommate in the West Adams area) or up in Berkeley — especially compared to what she can rent in Madison WI.

Why is this happening?

The article explains it as follows:

How to fix all this can’t be covered in one little corner of the newspaper. The short answer, though, is to build more housing. But bureaucracy, land scarcity and construction costs, limited funding for affordable housing and well-intended environmental restrictions all stand in the way of new projects. And so do people up and down the state who are OK with new housing unless it happens to be in their neighborhood.

So let’s explore that last sentence a bit: “And so do people up and down the state who are OK with new housing unless it happens to be in their neighborhood.”

Building new housing (let’s assume non-rental, stand-alone, single family residences) increases the housing stock, and has a little dilution effect on overall housing prices. Large developments have a greater effect, but as we saw in places like Porter Ranch that have added loads of single-family houses, the demand is such that prices don’t drop all that much. Maybe we’ll see a big drop with the new Newhall Ranch development. Building multi-family developments — think condo developments with higher density — creates even more affordable homes, but still there isn’t a significant drop in housing.

Rentals can make housing more affordable, especially if you dump a lot of rentals in the rental market. This, after all, is how New York City (especially Manhattan) works: almost everyone there is a long term rentals with large housing corporations (the only one that can afford the buildings) taking the rental income and making the rich even richer. There is extremely high density and low car ownership, owing to the density of transit. Los Angeles doesn’t have that transit density, but that doesn’t stop builders from trying to increase density. It is unclear whether that will work, especially with parking and transportation issues. Most likely, people will end up paying one way or the other.

So what is doing us in with respect to housing. My supposition? Human nature. To put it another way: People are not willing to take a loss in value for their house even if it makes other houses in your neighborhood more affordable. People are not willing to have more housing constructed in their neighborhood if it lowers values solely due to the increase in supply. No one wants to see their property values drop. Your house is your main financial asset. You can’t afford to take the loss. Let it happen in another neighborhood. And thus, the NIMBY is born, with the net result that home purchase prices stay sky-high. The impact, of course, of this is that less folks buy (and thus can use the mortgage deduction), and more folks — if housing is available — rent. This increases the demand for the rental units, which (as the supply doesn’t increase as fast), increases the rent.

So, why not build more rental housing? Because those same folks that don’t want more low-density single family housing in their neighborhood don’t want high-density housing. Think what that will do to the traffic! We won’t be able to get anywhere! And if we make housing more affordable, all that riff-raff will move to our neighborhood, lowering values even further. Oh, and don’t get me started on what adding low income housing does to our housing values!

In the end, it is people who are protecting the values of their single family homes that keep the market high. Banks and other financial institutions are complicit in this: making it easier to take out riskier loans with lower down payments to make more expensive houses affordable, and then selling off those loans so they don’t keep the risk in the community (that’s part of what caused the housing crisis). Remember: What they can’t make in interest rate income they can make by having a smaller percentage of a larger base amount, with a longer loan. So what if they homeowner loses the loan? They can forclose and sell it to someone else making even more money the second or third or fourth time around.

The high housing prices also mean that those who can afford to buy and built multi-unit housing are those at the upper end of the financial spectrum. If these multi-unit complexes are built as condos, you have the same problems as above: housing prices that keep raising (which also keeps raising the prices of the detached non-condo houses). If they are built as rentals, the landlords want to keep the prices up — and thus they fight any low income units. But eventually there will be higher density, which will give us — you guessed it — Manhattan.

And that, folks, is why housing is so expensive. You have no one but yourself and human nature to blame.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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QotD

Sep. 14th, 2017 05:24 am
dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
[personal profile] dglenn

"The ideal government will have the values of the Federation, the business acumen of the Ferengi, the sense of honor of the Klingons, and the subtlety of the Romulans. Our current government has the values of the Romulans, the business acumen of the Federation, the sense of honor of the Ferengi, and the subtlety of the Klingons." -- Harold Feld, 2017-09-12 [Yes, it's intended to be recognizeable as a new take on the old joke about heaven and hell.]

image-meme version

siderea: (Default)
[personal profile] siderea
I have a recollection of hearing a filk song, I think from a tape, that had a climactic line or repeated like in the refrain, to the effect of "And that's what cities get from trains". I have an impression it was a Leslie Fish song, but I don't know that for sure.

Not having any joy of google. Does anybody recognize it?
randomness: Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea), photograph by Malene Thyssen, cropped square for userpic. (Default)
[personal profile] randomness
My phone is still in boot loop. I posted about this problem in passing on August 21. Nothing about the phone has changed.

I still have many images and some text messages I would like to recover from it. I am willing to pay someone to get them back for me.

If you have had good experiences with a service and you would like to recommend them, please let me know.

QotD

Sep. 13th, 2017 05:24 am
dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
[personal profile] dglenn

"What makes it so plausible to assume that hypocrisy is the vice of vices is that integrity can indeed exist under the cover of all other vices except this one. Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core." -- Hannah Arendt

QotD

Sep. 12th, 2017 05:24 am
dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
[personal profile] dglenn

"When childhood dies, its corpses are called adults and they enter society, one of the politer names of Hell. That is why we dread children, even if we love them. They show us the state of our decay." -- Brian Aldiss (b. 1925-08-18, d. 2017-08-19)

[I think Aldiss is seriously overstating the case here, but found the metaphor interesting.]

siderea: (Default)
[personal profile] siderea
(h/t Metafilter)

I just heard about Senior House. Goddamn.

Also. I hadn't realized that dealing with the administration in his capacity as Senior House's housemaster is what drove Henry Jenkins from MIT. Goddamn.

I am surprisingly angry and sad about this, given that I'm not a SH affiliate.

The shutdown of Senior House would be bad news, by itself. This is appalling:
The questionnaire, the Healthy Minds Survey, was administered by the University of Michigan. Many schools around the country give it to students as a way to pinpoint problems on campus and decide how best to allocate resources. When MIT administered it in 2015, they told students that it was a confidential survey intended to help them. One of the chancellor’s assistants who had lived in Senior House when she was an undergraduate went to Senior House and specifically requested that the residents take it. They did, in large numbers.

What they didn’t know—and what they couldn’t have known from reading the consent form that accompanied it—was that MIT had embedded metadata that allowed the administration to pinpoint the location of those filling out the questionnaire, enabling them to segment the results by dorm. The only question about dorm type in the survey was vague—“What kind of dorm do you live in? Small, large, off campus?”—but by tracking the metadata, Barnhart and the administration were able to see exactly where respondents lived.

It was this data that enabled Barnhart to see what she called a troubling hot spot of drug use. “If it wasn’t a direct violation, it was at least a violation of the spirit of informed consent,” Johnson says.
In light of that...
As Senior House students spread out across campus this year, former advisers worry that they’ll be at even greater risk. They can reach out to MIT’s mental health services if they need it, the chancellor says.
Is there some reason that MIT students should trust MIT Med to keep their information confidential? When MIT just used the confidential results of a "Healthy Minds Survey", which was advertised as a way of seeing where resources were needed, to eliminate resources from vulnerable populations? And the relevant IRB gave it a pass?

(Dear MIT students, and alums concerned about them: it is apparently hypothetically possible for students on the default MIT student health insurance ("extended" plan) to see therapists unaffiliated with MIT, but it has a pretty punative copay:
If you are covered by the MIT Student Extended Plan, and you see a mental health clinician who participates in the Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) PPO, your first 12 visits in a calendar year are covered in full (100%). After that, you will have a $25 copay for each visit.

If you are covered by the MIT Student Extended Plan, and you see a mental health clinician who does NOT participate in the Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) PPO, your first 12 visits in a calendar year are covered at 100 percent of the BCBS allowed amount. After that, your insurance will cover 80 percent of the allowed amount, and you will pay the other 20 percent. For all of your visits, your clinician may bill you for the difference between the BCBS allowed amount and his or her charges. This is something you should discuss with your clinician ahead of time.
I don't know for certain what BCBS's "allowed amount" is, but I know they're paying master's level therapists about $85 per therapy session, so I'm guessing that's it. So if a therapist's regular fee is $100, you'd be paying ($85*0.2)+($100-$85)=$32 per session. A lot of therapists are charging rather more that $100/session these days. At $120/session that's $52/session.

That copay/cost-sharing is absurd. Obviously, many students couldn't possibly afford $25/week copay – specially the most vulnerable ones. So that's a hell of an incentive to seek care from MIT Mental Health and Counseling Service directly: as they proudly state, no copay or other fees to see the therapists that work for MIT.

Less obviously, it's not even vaguely in line with the market right now. I see people who have jobs and pay $10 and $15 copays on other insurances. That students would be charged a $25 copay to see a therapist – in-network! – is incredible. Honestly, students being charged any copay is pretty out of line.

Seriously: MIT students, the people who stock the shelves in the Star Market behind Random have better access to mental health care than you do. That grocery store shelf stocker qualifies for a subsidized Medicaid Expansion plan, which covers at least a therapy session per week, with no copay. Also, their plan has hundreds, if not thousands, of therapists to choose from, none of whom report to your landlord cum diploma-granter-maybe cum civil authority cum boss of your local police.

Also, availing yourself of the option of seeing a non-MIT therapist on your MIT student insurance, even though it's through BCBS, requires a "referral" from MIT Med:
If you are already seeing an outside clinician or have a specific outside clinician in mind, you don’t have to make an appointment at MIT Medical to get a referral. Just call the Mental Health and Counseling Service at 617-253-2916, and ask to speak with someone about getting a referral for your outside treatment.
This may be completely pro forma, but the upshot is that MIT is making it a requirement on you that you notify MIT if you're getting psychotherapy, and that you divulge to them from from whom you are getting it. That someone is in therapy and from whom they get that therapy is highly confidential information, that frankly MIT has no business knowing. You should be able to see a therapist on your student insurance without MIT even knowing about it.

So if you wanted to work for the benefit of students' mental health, there's a great target: demand that MIT's insurance for students provides off-campus, unaffiliated psychotherapy with no copay, cost sharing, or balance billing – or radically less than at present, so MIT students can freely avail themselves of treaters not on MIT payroll; and abolish the need for a referral, because info about your utilization of mental health care is prejudicial, privileged information that can be used against you. But be careful to keep a third-party insurance co in the loop, instead of MIT directly paying therapists; whomever pays the therapist is allowed to snoop in your psychotherapy records.

Or, honestly, given some of the crappy-ass general health care friends of mine have gotten through the Med Center, maybe just agitate for all students to just get a regular BCBS PPO membership instead of having to go to the Med Center, at all. Or given how much BCBS sucks, try to get students into the Medicaid Expansion, so students get a choice of providers. That would be harder.

P.S. Disclosure of conflicts of interest: none – I don't take BCBS, so even if the copay/cost-share/balance-billing were eliminated, and students started flocking to off-campus therapists, I still wouldn't benefit by any of that business, unless somehow you managed to get students into Medicaid Expansion, and then only if students were willing to travel all the way to Medford to see me – I just have it in for MIT Med, and MIT MHCS especially.)

QotD

Sep. 11th, 2017 05:24 am
dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
[personal profile] dglenn

"As long as we are not actually destroyed, we can work to gain greater understanding of other peoples and to try to present to the peoples of the world the values of our own beliefs. We can do this by demonstrating our conviction that human life is worth preserving and that we are willing to help others to enjoy benefits of our civilization just as we have enjoyed it." -- Eleanor Roosevelt (b. 1884-10-11, d. 1962-11-07), My Day (newspaper column) 1961-12-20

glinda: dw sheep dreams of crochet (crochet sheep)
[personal profile] glinda posting in [community profile] cross_stitch
I haven't made a sizeable cross-stitch project in ages, so I was looking for one to do and came across a very old project. Back when I first got into cross-stitch in my early teens I found a pattern for a flowerfairy that I wanted to make. It was a little overambitious for my age and patience level. (Not least because, I didn't realise when I bought it that it was just the pattern so I had to track down all the many individual shades of thread for it.) Anyways, a couple of years ago I got tired of it sitting in a box taunting me whenever I came across it, went through my thread collection and gathered all the threads for it that I had and took advantage of a craft store closing down to get the rest of the shades I needed and bagged them up so they were all together for when I next wanted a big project to work on.

Fast forward to this summer when I was looking for a bit of a challenge, I came across the fairy and decided that its time had come. I've been working away at it steadily for the last month or so but I keep meaning to and then forgetting to take photos of my progress along the way to keep me motivated, but I finally did today so I'm going to try to get back into posting weekly update posts as I've found them really motivating for large projects in the past.

rather bigger than my usual fair )
siderea: (Default)
[personal profile] siderea
I now have enough levels in crockpottery to recognize that this recipe, "Chicken Leek and Mushroom Casserole", is absurd as written. For one thing, there's absolutely no reason to include any chicken stock at all, unless one wants a soup as a result, given how much fluid 8 chicken thighs will express; given how much fluid winds up in it, there's no way it would ever come out "creamy", or, for that matter, at all like a "casserole". Yeah, I bet you have to thicken the sauce with cornstarch (ew).

But I really wanted a slowcooker meat dish with leeks, and I wasn't finding much, so I decided to adjust for sanity, double it (because I consider 8 servings a bare minimum for the effort), and give it whirl.

Also, I added canned potatoes to obviate later having to come up with a starch to serve it with.

Results seem pretty good! [personal profile] tn3270 seems very taken with it.

Here's my version:

4.5 lbs of chicken thighs, boneless skinless (could handle another lb)
3 cans (~15oz) whole potatoes
2 leeks (the biggest diameter ones on sale), washed really well and sliced
1 lb sliced button mushrooms
4 tsp minced garlic
4 Tbsp butter
2 tsp thyme
2 tsp rosemary
4 bay leaves
3 Tbsp mustard, dijon
1/2 C cream, heavy
2 Tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper at the table
slowcooker liner

uses 6qt slowcooker and 4 cup frying pan with lid

0) Melt butter in big frying pan. Sauté the leeks in the butter until they start to soften. Push to sides and add minced garlic; saute abt 90 seconds to golden brown, then mix in with leeks. Add mushrooms, stir a bit to get mushrooms coated with butter, then cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, till leeks are soft and their scent mellows. (Once this is done, this can be refrigerated, if you want to prep this in advance.)

1) Measure the herbs into a mixing bowl. Add mustard, cream, and lemon juice, mix. (This can also be refrigerated, if you want to prep this in advance.

2) Line slowcooker. Open and drain the potatoes, and put in bottom of slowcooker. Put in half the chicken, half the leek-mushroom mixture, the other half the chicken, and the other half the leek-mushroom mixture. Pour the mustard-cream sauce over it.

3) Cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours. Remove bay leaves before eating.

ETA: Outstanding mysteries:

1) Is powdered rosemary just not a thing? Little rosemary bits isn't the same thing.

2) How much leek is "one leek"? When I got to the store, I had my choice of: a leek the diameter of my wrist, a leek about 2/3s the diameter of that, and lots of leeks the diameter of my two thumbs put together. The original recipe called for "one leek", and I'm like, "What does that even mean in this context?"

3) Is frozen pre-chopped leeks a thing? I love leeks, I do not love chopping leeks. I don't hate it – at least, being cylinders, they're much easier to chop than onions – but there's something to be said for convenience.

4) Even without the added two cups of fluid, it came out with a thin broth. Maybe next time thicken with tapioca. Or maybe reserve the cream for the end, and only add it in the last half hour? Slow cooking cream just seems to break it down.

QotD

Sep. 10th, 2017 05:24 am
dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
[personal profile] dglenn

From the Quotation of the day mailing list, 2017-02-22:

"Of these things perhaps we might learn, he said. Neoliberalism vulgarized time, he said, but, he said, vulgarity is a geared wheel itself so against it do we deploy a slow watermill or acid guano or a stone wedge?" -- China Mieville, from his short story The Dusty Hat, printed in his collection, Three Moments of an Explosion.

(submitted to the mailing list by Terry Labach)

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