A guide to abridging Les Mis

 Behold; here's a link to Project Gutenberg's edition of Les Misérables. If you want to read it on a website at straight HTML, this is the appropriate link. But, intepid readers, you should be warned that Hugo sometimes veers off into slightly irrelevant tangents. If you want the purest plot, follow the guide below of areas that you can afford to skip:
  • Volume 1, Book 1: All about the Bishop and how awesome he is. Jean Valjean not mentioned.
    • Chapters I - VII are still good to read since they encompass Hugo's views on morality.
  • Volume 1, Book 3: All about how Fantine came to be abandoned
    • All you need to know is that her boyfriend left her (and Paris) to start his career in earnest after a few years of merriment.
  • Volume 2, Book 1: All about the battle of Waterloo
    • Only important plot point is that Thenardier accidentally revives an "Officer Pontmercy" while robbing him. Pontmercy makes note of this.
  • Volume 2, Books 6 and 7: All about the history and situation of French Convents
  • Volume 3, Book 1, Chapters I - XII: All about urchins in Paris.
    • Gavroche (important character) not mentioned until last chapter (XIII)
  • Volume 3, Book 2: Exposition about Marius's grandfather's politics.
  • Volume 3, Book 4: All about Marius's revolutionary friends and how they came to meet.
  • Volume 4, Book 7: On slang
  • Volume 5, Book 2: On the sewers of Paris


I'm reading the a "Short History of Everything"- style book on World War II called "The Second World War," by Anthony Beavor. It's not a perfect book, but for someone that hasn't made a practice of studying the history of this time (mainly the Cold War and times more recent), it's a fascinating read.

It's also morbidly effective at conveying the horrors of war. Like many Americans, I saw "Saving Private Ryan," but the horror of that beachfront scene cannot convey the deliberate starvation of civilians, the accidental bombing of cities, the human rights violations/mass rapes, the frozen bodies that lost the struggle against waist-high snow, and the horrors of disease or dismemberment that visited the war. The striking thing is that these horrors were everywhere. We know about Stalingrad's famine, and the abuse of the "comfort women," and that disease is horrible - but these atrocities were happening across four continents. The scale of suffering is breath-taking, and while the material (chopped off hands bring thrown in stacks in the snow) isn't the typical stuff of a history class, I can't help but feel I missed something  in reading about the movements of troops.

I am very lucky to live in this age, which, despite its wars, has been the most peaceful the world has ever known. May this statement continue to be truer and truer.

Les Miserables - In which my musical nerditude is revealed.

SPOILERS BELOW on MOVIE MAKING CHOICES; you might want to read after watching.

I have mixed feelings about this film. I'm not sure that they are entirely justified since Hooper & Co. did so many things right, but it's the sort of feeling that comes from watching something that could have been perfect, making the imperfections stand out all the more.*

First, the shoutouts:
  1. "I Dreamed a Dream" and the Finale were acted, filmed, orchestrated, and edited with great emotional impact. I really liked the giant barricade of Heaven; it was a great way to end the show. 
  2. Anne Hathaway, take a well deserved bow, and probably an Oscar. Sam Barks (wearing a truly wtf corset) also did awesome, but I was expecting that. Hathaway was a surprise.
  3.  A commitment to the essence of the musical and generally the book - they stayed true to the source material that hasn't been the case in other circumstances. Cameron MacKintosh held his ground.
They also kept all of the songs - all of them - and here's where I get a little conflicted. This film was really ambitious because it tried to port everything across from the stage to the screen, with a lot of success in many areas, like the live recording of music. It's a groundbreaker and as such only the first (hopefully) of other movies that can take on and improve this format. So in that spirit....

Context: I'm just not sure that taking every song and sung dialogue made it into a better movie - just a more faithful musical (except why no Eponine + Fantine in the last scene - that harmony is SO GOOD). Removing a few of the songs out and adding some expository dialogue could have immersed us a little more in the screenplay in partnership with the scenes and staging; as it was I felt rushed from song to song to song for the entire movie. We need a director's cut that gives us more time to breathe. Then again, there have been many Les Mis movies already without singing, so that territory had already been explored. Eh.(update: here's some background info on those choices from the screenwriter)

Closeups: Also, running from close-up-shot song to close-up-shot song left no room for the epic context that we glimpsed in the zoom-out "scene change" moments. It was especially biting in pieces that were written for more than one person to sing together, like "A Heart Full of Love." The movie makes the factual situation clear, but the resonance of the scene isn't in the fact that Eponine is watching these two - it's in watching them AND watching her watching them juxtaposed, which was something the movie audience had to imagine instead of seeing directly. Showing us the zoomed-in emotions of each individual became a every-song-trope, lessening the effectiveness of later ballads like "On My Own" and "Empty Chairs," which as individual songs are actually all about the single characters. Hooper defends himself here, saying he cut the film this way since the close-ups had more emotional power, but it's a tragedy of the commons scenario. Each time this route is taken it lessens the effect later on.

Casting: My greatest gripe.. I get the appeal of big names, and it really worked with Hathaway, but Jackman, Sigfried, and Crowe grated on me a little. My Jackman gripes are about style, which is forgivable, and Sigfried's part didn't demand super power, but Crowe was outmatched by his part. I liked everything surrounding his character - the actions, the context of walking high, etc - but Crowe just doesn't have the full vocal muscle that many of these people have, and it showed. Vibrato only works when deployed correctly, and it wasn't often here.

Still an awesome movie, still probably a DVD I'll be buying, but it could have been better. Alas.

*As a fellow content creator I know that this is patently unfair, since there were so many countless things done right, with great effort, that no one noticed because they were done right. Derp.

Reality Politics vs Realpolitik

My positions on the 2nd Amendment are probably quite a bit further right than most people I know - I'm certainly not with the President on some of the arguments his administration has brought to the Supreme Court on this issue. And trying to stop violence by banning weapon hardware is foolhardy.

But the NRA is being stupid, and being stupid deliberately. Having realized that the best negotiating positions are extreme, they've set out a plan of action that doesn't make sense in the hopes of winning more concessions from whatever deal might occur. They are staking ground to be used as a bargaining chip.

I get that. It's gamesmanship. But initial positions also have to pass the muster of logic and reason in order to have a reality-based debate, and putting armed guards everywhere does neither.
  • First, it places an unbearable strain on local and state government budgets by adding a $3 trillion cost for the guards (if we deployed one to each school for $50K/pp).
  • Second, it will make an entire generation of American kids feel unsafe each day they have to walk by an armed guard to get to class.
  • Third, it won't prevent the mass shootings at churches, playgrounds, and so many other locations where people congregate. We can't put guards everywhere - there will always be places we can't protect, and our best defense is in our population's vigilance (not vigilantism) and a responsive police force.
  • But most importantly, it won't prevent school shootings. Ask Eric Gardner - the armed deputy that worked at Columbine.
There are legitimate conservative positions to take on this issue. That the 2nd Amendment defends weapons of all varieties, or that the issue here is mental health and a violent culture. Perhaps we should control ammunition more closely.

The NRA was cynical, and will only further breed the damaging climate that makes progress so difficult in Washington.

Peter Van Buren: An All-American Nightmare

Peter Van Buren: An All-American Nightmare: The president, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has made it clear that no further investigations or inquiries will be made into America’s decade of torture. His Justice Department failed to prosecute a single torturer or any of those who helped cover up evidence of the torture practices. But it did deliver a jail sentence to one ex-CIA officer who refused to be trained to torture and was among the first at the CIA to publicly admit that the torture program was real.

At what passes for trials at our prison camp in Guantanamo, Cuba, disclosure of the details of torture is forbidden, effectively preventing anyone from learning anything about what the CIA did with its victims. We are encouraged to do what’s best for America and, as Barack Obama put it, “look forward, not backward,” with the same zeal as, after 9/11, we were encouraged to save America by going shopping.

An American Ally, a horrible blow to public health, and the aftermath of the doc that helped us find Bin Laden

How Shakil Afridi Helped the US Find Osama bin Laden: Newsmakers: GQ: The spy games have created an atmosphere of extreme paranoia in Peshawar. Not surprisingly, mentioning Afridi's name tended to bring an abrupt end to conversation. Almost everyone who knew the doctor well had been questioned—and some arrested—since the incident, and no one was eager to admit any association with the man. More than once, when asked about Afridi, my interview subjects would in turn ask my fixer, in Pashto, whether I was really a journalist. And the thing was, I had to admit that I was acting a little like a spy. It was necessary, for safety's sake. On my way to meet Afridi's friends and former colleagues, I would disguise myself in traditional clothing—a long, flowing shirt and baggy pantaloons. I'd have guarded, oblique conversations on the phone and arrange meetings in secluded environments where I could see if I was being followed—and indeed I was, stopped by the ISI twice.

The End of the World

The world may not end tomorrow, but something else will: this magical date in the future that's been looming all our lives.

Remember who you were when you heard about it, or how young you were? I counted the years in elementary school - it was so far away. But now it's here, and I guess we'll have to find some other suspenseful date to look forward to.

In Memoriam

Victims in Connecticut shooting: Daring principal, fun-loving teacher, 6-year-old twin brother:
(with credits to NBC, who I don't think will mind me sharing this here in full)

Dawn Hochsprung, 47, Sandy Hook Elementary principal
When shots rang out Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Hochsprung ran from a room where she was meeting with a parent and other staff members, school occupational therapist Diane Day told the Wall Street Journal.
She never returned.
Hochsprung, 47, has been described as fun and lighthearted, someone who maintained an active Twitter feed that noted successes and various events at school.
“Sandy Hook hosted district admins for instructional rounds today,” she tweeted on Nov. 29. “Amazing visit showcased deep learning!”
Last week, she tweeted an image of fourth-grade students rehearsing for their winter concert. Days before that, an image of kindergartners exchanging play money at their makeshift grocery store.
“She was not the kind of principal I remembered as a kid,” Diane Licata, the mother of a first- and second-grader at Sandy Hook, told The New York Times. “She really reached out to the students and made them feel comfortable with her.”
She received her bachelor's degree in special education from Central Connecticut State University and her master's degree in education from Southern Connecticut State University. She was currently enrolled at Russell Sage College in Troy, N.Y., pursuing her Ph.D.
Hoschsprung was married with a high-school age son, according to the Wall Street Journal.
She viewed her school as a model for safety and learning, telling The Newtown Bee in 2010: “I don’t think you could find a more positive place to bring students to every day.”
Officials said she died while lunging along with the school psychologist at the gunman in an attempt to overpower him, The Associated Press reported.
Sandy Hook Elementary principal Dawn Hochsprung died in the attack after reportedly running toward the gunfire to protect her students. TODAY's Erica Hill reports, and Savannah Guthrie talks with two men who knew her.
Mary Sherlach, 56, school psychologist
Mary Sherlach had worked at Sandy Hook Elementary since 1994 and was known as a fixture at the school, according to the Connecticut Post.

Associated Press
Mary Sherlach, 56
She was the wife of Bill Sherlach, a financial consultant, and mother to two adult daughters, Maura and Katie. The Sherlaches were looking forward to retirement, which they had planned to spend on Owasco Lake, one of New York's Finger Lakes, Newtown Patch reported.
Eric Schwartz, Sherlach’s son-in-law, told the Connecticut Post that he and his wife immediately drove to Connecticut when they heard on the news that the school psychologist had been killed.
Officials said Sherlach died while running with the principal toward the shooter.
Schwartz described his mother-in-law as sharp, opinionated and an avid Miami Dolphins fan. She had planned to leave work early on Friday, he said, but never had the chance.
As the news trickled out about the shooting, Schwartz told Patch: “It was a really helpless feeling. For about an hour, you try to say, ‘They got it wrong, they got it wrong.’”
Victoria Soto, 27, first-grade teacher
As the shooter entered Room 10, a first-grade classroom, teacher Vicki Leigh Soto tried to shield her students, her cousin Jim Wiltsie told the Wall Street Journal.

Victoria Soto, 27.
"That is how she was found. Huddled with her children," Wiltsie said.
Soto had taught for five years and was known by students as silly and loving. “She put those children first. That’s all she ever talked about,” a friend, Andrea Crowell, told The Associated Press. “She wanted to do her best for them, to teach them something new every day.”
Read more at NBC Latino 
On her teacher's bio, Soto wrote: "In my free time I love to spend time with black lab Roxie. I love spending time with my brother, sisters and cousins. I love to spend time reading books on the beach soaking up the sun.  I also love flamingos and the New York Yankees."
Anne Marie Murphy, 52, special education teacher
Murphy, the sixth of seven children, was described by her 86-year-old father, Hugh McGowan, as “witty” and “hardworking,” according to New York Newsday.
Her mother, Alice McGowan, 86, described her as “a good soul.” She told Newsday that when she got the news, she grabbed her rosary and cried.
Authorities told the couple their daughter helped shield some of her students from the rain of bullets.
“A first responder said she was a hero,” Murphy's father said.
Woody Thompson, a neighbor of the Murphy family in Connecticut, said she and her husband were level-headed parents who allowed their four children to play one sport per season.
“They didn’t buy into some of the craziness and the hype of big-time organized youth sports,” Thompson told NBC News.
Lauren Gabrielle Rousseau, 30, permanent substitute teacherRousseau was having "the best year of her life, said her mother, Teresa Rousseau said, according to The Danbury News-Times, where she is a copyeditor.

Lauren Rousseau
Lauren had a boyfriend, Tony Lusardi III, the News-Times reported. After years of substitute teaching, she landed a permanent substitute teaching position at Sandy Hook.
She grew up in Danbury and lived with her mother and her mother’s partner.
On Friday night, Rousseau had planned to see a movie, "The Hobbit," according to the News-Times. In preparation, she had made cupcakes with pictures of the actors in the movie topping each one.
“Lauren wanted to be a teacher from before she even went to kindergarten,” her mother said. “We will miss her terribly and will take comfort knowing that she had achieved that dream.”
Nancy Lanza, 52, mother of gunman
Investigators believe that Adam Lanza shot his mother at her home near Sandy Hook Elementary before driving to the school and killing 26 others, then himself.
Nancy Lanza was social and generous, friends and neighbors told The New York Times. A friend told NBC News that she was a gun enthusiast.
“She had a pretty extensive gun collection,” Dan Holmes said. “She was a collector, she was pretty proud of that. She always mentioned that she really loved the act of shooting.”
He said that she took her sons to the shooting range to practice their marksmanship.
In 2008, Peter John Lanza filed for divorce from her, court records show. He lives in Stamford, Conn., and is a tax director at General Electric.
While much remains unknown about the Sandy Hook school shooting, we're learning more about one of the victims – gunman Adam Lanza's mother, who owned all of the weapons recovered at the scene. NBC's Mike Isikoff reports, and four of her friends join TODAY's Savannah Guthrie to talk about her life and her relationship with her son.
Rachel D'Avino was 29.
Rachel was born in Waterbury, Conn., to parents Mary D’Avinio of Bethlehem, Conn., and Ralph D’Avino of Waterbury, Conn. She was a 2001 graduate of Nonnewaug High School and received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Hartford and her master’s degree from Post University. She was working toward her doctorate degree from the University of St. Joseph in Hartford, Conn.
A behavioral therapist who worked with special-needs kids, Rachel was one of two teacher’s aides who died at Sandy Hook. She joined the staff at Sandy Hook only about a week before the shooting, the Stamford Advocate reported.
She loved animals, cooking, baking, photography and karate, her family said, adding that she was an adoring big sister who cherished her two younger siblings like they were her own children.
“Her presence and tremendous smile brightened any room she entered,” Rachel’s obituary said. “Her maternal nature, understanding and sense of patience with the learning disabled were truly gifts she possessed. Ultimately, it is these gifts that would have given Rachel a level of understanding and forgiveness during this time of crisis that many others wouldn’t have.”
Rachel’s aunt, Christine Carmody, who lives in Florida, relayed to her pastor before flying to Connecticut that D’Avino’s boyfriend had asked her parents for her hand in marriage and planned to propose on Christmas Eve this year, according MyFoxTampaBay.com.
Charlotte Bacon was 6.
Charlotte, who had long curly red hair, had begged her mother for a new outfit she was supposed to receive, her uncle told  Newsday. Her mother relented on Friday and allowed her to wear the outfit: a pink dress and boots.

Charlotte Bacon, 6.
Charlotte’s older brother, Guy, was also in the school but was not shot, The Associated Press reported. Her parents, JoAnn and Joel, had lived in Newtown for four or five years, her uncle, John Hagen, of Nisswa, Minn., told Newsday.
Charlotte’s family issued a statement: “The family will forever remember her beautiful smile, her energy for life and the unique way she expressed her individuality, usually with the color pink.”
Having never met an animal she didn’t love, her parents said, Charlotte had wanted to be a veterinarian since she was 2.
The statement continued: “She also enjoyed practicing Taekwondo weekly with her Dad and brother where she relished kicking and throwing punches!”
Daniel Barden was 7.
He was the youngest son of a caring mother and father, who always tried to keep their children active, taking Daniel to swim practice and other activities, according to friends and neighbors, the Washington Post reported.
In his obituary, his family said Daniel loved “riding waves at the beach, playing the drums in a band with his brother, James, and sister, Natalie, foosball, reading, and making s’mores around the bonfire with his cousins at Papa’s house.”
He was on the Newtown soccer team and the Newtown Torpedoes swim team.
“This is a warm, loving family,” said a co-worker of Daniel’s mother, Jackie Barden. “The kids were the type of kids parents want their children to be around: warm and wonderful and caring and kind. This is heartbreaking.”

Tim Nosezo / AP
Olivia Engel, 6.
Olivia Engel was 6.
She was the older sister to 3-year-old brother Brayden. A cousin, John Engel III of New Canaan, said that Olivia was outgoing and had “a great sense of humor.” She was a Girl Scout, a tennis player and she excelled at math and reading.
"She had a huge sense of humor, this was not a shy child," Engel said on TODAY. "This was a child who would light up the room with her smile and her sense of humor."
A friend of the girl’s family, Dan Merton, told the Associated Press that on Friday, Olivia was excited to go to school and then return home to make a gingerbread house. “Her only crime is being a wiggly, smiley 6-year-old,” he said.
"She was supposed to be an angel" in the nativity play Saturday night at Newtown's St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, said Msgr. Robert Weiss, according to Reuters. "Now she's an angel up in heaven."
Josephine Gay was 7.
Her birthday was three days before Friday's shooting. She loved the color purple, according to the Wall Street Journal. During the summer, she set up a lemonade stand in her family’s subdivision, where she liked to ride her bike.
Ana Marquez-Greene was 6.
She was the daughter of American jazz saxophonist Jimmy Greene, and the granddaughter of Jorge Marquez, the mayor of Maunabo, Puerto Rico. She was close with her brother, 9-year-old Isaias, who was also at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday.

El Nuevo Dia
Ana Marquez-Greene
Jimmy Green named a song from his 2009 disc for his daughter, Ana Grace, the Ottawa Citizen noted. The family had recently moved to Newtown, Conn., from Winnipeg, Canada, where Greene was a faculty member at the University of Manitoba’s school of music.
"In her short life, Ana strengthened us with her loving, generous joyful spirit," the family said in a statement. "She often left sweet notes that read, 'I love you Mom and Dad,' under our bedroom pillow -- not on special occasions, but, rather, on ordinary days."
In a statement posted by the Citizen, Greene thanked friends for their prayers and words of support: “As we work through this nightmare, we’re reminded how much we’re loved and supported on this earth and by our Father in heaven. As much as she’s needed here and missed by her mother, brother and me, Ana beat us all to paradise. I love you sweetie girl.”
Read more at NBC Latino
Ana’s grandmother Elba Iris Marquez told Nuevo Dia: “I want to believe this is not really happening to me.” The newspaper said she was drowned in grief.
Dylan Hockley was 6.
He was born in Winchester, England, to his British father, Ian Thomas, and American mother, Nicole Marie (Moretti) of Sandy Hook.
His grandmother, Teresa Moretti of Cranston, R.I., told the Boston Herald that Dylan loved garlic bread, bouncing on his trampoline and playing Wii.
“Dylan had dimples and blue eyes,” Moretti told the Herald as she fought back tears. “He had the most mischievous little grin. To know him was to love him.”
Dylan’s parents had lived in England for 18 years before moving to the same neighborhood as Nancy Lanza in January, according to the Telegraph. Dylan’s 8-year-old brother, Jake, who also attended Sandy Hook Elementary, survived the shooting.
Madeleine F. Hsu was 6.
She was described by a neighbor as "upbeat." A photograph of Madeleine is a Facebook profile picture for a woman who records indicate is a relative. Wrote a friend: "A beautiful little soul who was very loved, full of life and I know will be missed dearly by all who knew her."
Catherine V. Hubbard was 6.
Her family says that she will be remembered for her passion for animals and constant smile.  Her parents, Jennifer and Matthew Hubbard, released a statement expressing gratitude to emergency responders and for the support of the community. “We are greatly saddened by the loss of our beautiful daughter, Catherine Violet, and our thoughts and prayers are with the other families who have been affected by this tragedy. We ask that you continue to pray for us and the other families who have experienced loss in this tragedy.”
Chase Kowalski was 7.
His family said Chase was “a fun-loving, energetic boy that had a true love of life,” whose “heart was only filled with love for all the people he touched.”
Chase completed his first triathlon at the age of 6 and ran in many community road races, his obituary said.
Kevin Grimes, a neighbor whose five children all previously attended Sandy Hook, told the Associated Press that Chase was always outside, playing in the backyard and riding his bicycle.
“You couldn’t think of a better child,” Grimes said.
Another neighbor, Suzanne Baumann, told the WSJ that he always greeted people. “He was very receptive to people. He was a beautiful child, an amazing child.”
Jesse Lewis was 6.
The Danbury News Times reported that he liked playing with horses that were kept in a barn next to his house. George Arfaras, 81, a neighbor, told the newspaper: "I'd be in the yard or in the house and I would hear him laughing, playing."
“Family friend Barbara McSperrin told the Wall Street Journal  that Jesse was “a typical 6-year-old little boy, full of life.”
In an email to the Journal, Jesse’s mother wrote: “Jesse was such an incredible light. So bright and full of love. He lived life with vigor and passion … brave and true.”
James Mattioli was 6.
Fondly called “J” by his family, James was “an energetic, loving friend to all,” his obituary said.
He liked playing baseball, basketball, swimming, arm wrestling and playing games on the iPad.
"He loved to wear shorts and t-shirts in any weather, and grab the gel to spike his hair,” his obituary said. “He would often sing at the top of his lungs and once asked, 'How old do I have to be to sing on a stage?'"
James loved hamburgers with ketchup, his dad’s egg omelets with bacon and his mom’s French toast, the obituary said.
Annette Sullivan, the owner of Zoar Ridge Stables in Sandy Hook, Conn., told the Connecticut Post that James and his older sister Anna would ride horses at her stables.
“He would ask about the saddles and the brushes,” Sullivan told the Post. “He wanted to know how to take care of the horses. He was a boy that wanted to know how everything worked.”
In his obituary, his parents said that he “was a numbers guy, coming up with insights beyond his years to explain the relationship between numbers and unique ways of figuring out the answer when adding and subtracting.”
His parents said James was especially thoughtful and considerate and was “always the first to welcome guests at the back door with a hug and his contagious smile.”
Grace McDonnell was 7.

Family Photo / AP
Grace McDonnell, 7.
Grace, or Gracie, lived in Newtown with her parents and older brother, 12-year-old Jack. Mary Ann McDonnell, Grace’s grandmother, told the Boston Herald that Grace loved art projects, soccer gymnastics and her King Charles Spaniel, Puddin.
She was surrounded by bags of gifts intended for her granddaughter when she spoke with the Herald.
“They kept saying, ‘They can’t find her. They can’t find her. All day long I was praying she would be OK,” Mary Ann McDonnell recounted.
“A little baby like that – I hope she didn’t suffer.”
Emilie Parker was 6.
Her father, Robbie Parker, described his daughter as loving and creative.

Courtesy Parker family
Emilie Parker, 6.
“My daughter Emilie would be one of the first ones to be standing and giving her love and support to all those victims, because that’s the kind of person she is, not because of any kind of parenting my wife and I could have done but because those are the gifts that were given to her by our heavenly Father,” Parker said.
Emilie carried around pencils and crayons. and when people were sad, she would draw them a picture or write them a note. Recently, she dropped a card into the casket of her grandfather, who also died tragically, Parker said.
“I’m so blessed to be her dad,” he said.

Courtesy of Pinto family
Jack Pinto, 6.
Jack Pinto was 6.
He was born in Danbury, Conn., to parents Dean and Tricia (Volkmann) Pinto.
Jack’s family said he was an avid participant in flag football, baseball, basketball, wrestling and snow skiing.
“Jack was an incredibly loving and vivacious young boy, appreciated by all who knew him for his lively and giving spirit and steely determination,” his family said in his obituary. “In life and death, Jack will forever be remembered for the immeasurable joy he brought to all who had the pleasure of knowing him, a joy whose wide reach belied his six short years.”

Family photo via AP
Noah Pozner
Noah Pozner was 6.
He was the youngest of the victims, having turned 6 last month. He was born in Danbury, Conn., to parents Lenny and Veronique Pozner, who described their son as “the light of our family, a little soul devoid of spite and meanness.” His twin sister, Arielle, who was assigned to a different classroom at Sandy Hook, survived the shooting. He also had an 8-year-old sister at the school, according to Newsday.
A funeral for Noah is planned for Monday at 1 p.m. at the Abraham L. Green & Son Funeral Home in Fairfield, Conn., according to an uncle Alexis Halller.
Rabbi Shaul Praver tended to Veronique Pozner in her grief.
“She said that she didn’t know how she was going to go on, and we encouraged her to focus on her other four children that need her and not to try to plan out the rest of her life, just take a deep breath right now,” Praver said, according to forward.com.
Noah’s uncle, Arthur Pozner of Brooklyn, N.Y., told Newsday that Noah was very mature.
“When I was his age, I was not like him,” he said. “Very well brought up. Extremely bright. Extremely bright,” he said. “The reason they moved to that area is because they did not consider any school in New York state on the same level. That’s one of the reasons they moved, for safety and education.”
Caroline Previdi was 6.
Caroline was born in Danbury, Conn., to parents Jeffrey and Sandy Johnson Previdi.
Her family said she loved to draw, dance, and gymnastics, and her smile brought happiness to everyone she touched.
One family friend, who declined to be named, told the Washington Post that Caroline once went by the nickname “Boo” because she looked like the girl character in the movie “Monsters, Inc.”
Another family friend who lives in the Newtown area told the Post that Caroline “was a spunky little girl. She had fire to her.”

Uncredited / AP
Jessica Rekos, 6.
Jessica Rekos was 6.
She was born in Danbury, Conn., to Richard and Krista Lehmann Rekos of Sandy Hook.
“She was a creative, beautiful girl who loved playing with her little brothers, Travis and Shane,” her family said in a statement. As the firstborn, her family said, Jessica “started our family, and she was our rock. She had an answer for everything, she didn’t miss a trick, and she outsmarted us every time. We called her our little CEO for the way she carefully thought out and planned everything.”
Jessica loved everything about horses, from reading horse books and drawing horses, to writing stories about horses, her family said in the statement from family friend Jamie Dunbar.
“We cannot imagine our life without her. We are mourning her loss, sharing our beautiful memories we have of her, and trying to help her brother Travis understand why he can’t play with his best friend. We are devastated, and our hearts are with the other families who are grieving as we are.”
Avielle Richman was 6.
Avielle, or Avie, as she was called, moved to Connecticut with her parents, Jennifer Hensel and Jeremy Richman, in 2011, according to an obituary at the Newtown Bee.
“She was born with a spitfire personality, which continued as she grew into a lover and teller of stories,” the obit said. “She offered her heart to everyone. With an infectious smile and peals of laughter, people were drawn to her beautiful spirit, which will live on in all of our hearts.”
She loved her friends, horseback riding, archery and “participating in super hero adventures,” the obit said.
Benjamin Wheeler was 6.
Ben was born in Manhattan, N.Y. and moved to Newtown with his parents, Francine and David Wheeler, and 9-year-old brother Nate, according to an obituary posted at the Newtown Bee.
“Ben was an irrepressibly bright and spirited boy whose love of fun and excitement at the wonders of life and the world could rarely be contained,” the obituary said. “He was a devoted fan of his older brother, Nate, and the two of them together filled the house with the noise of four children.”
According to the obit, Ben loved The Beatles, lighthouses and the number 7. He told his mother, Francine Wheeler, on Friday morning that he wanted to be an architect and also a paleontologist, like his brother.
Allison N. Wyatt was 6.
Allison was a "very nice person," a neighbor told the Connecticut Post. The neighbor said that Allison spent the summer outdoors and liked to garden with her mother.

Ronald Reagan and What I Got Wrong | RedState

Ronald Reagan and What I Got Wrong | RedState:
Mitt Romney was talking off the cuff to a supposedly off the record group of donors and muddled several data points together, ultimately telling the tale of the 47% who won’t vote for him for any reason. He was referencing the 47% who don’t pay taxes and interwove it with a 47% of locked in Obama support. The statement was a mess.

I didn’t think Mitt Romney would be as hurt by the statement as he was because I assumed Romney had misspoken in an off the cuff way. I assumed Romney would clarify that he knew many of those who have government assistance did not actually want the assistance, but needed it. I assumed he’d make the case that he’d help those people get off the government dole and back into work.

In other words, I assumed Romney believed what I believe — many of those people are good people who fell on hard times and are not of the same class of people who will vote for Barack Obama for free stuff. I was absolutely wrong. Romney not only believes completely what he said as he said it, he reinforced it with his post election analysis of his defeat blaming gifts to various classes of people. If that was true, as Newt Gingrich pointed out, Romney had plenty to gift to plenty strapped to the back of marching elephants.

Note to Mitt Romney: really, it’s you, not them. Seriously.

One of my favorite songs

The best thing on the Internet all day

An ESPN NFL Show Can't Stop Talking About "The Princess Bride": Last Friday, the hosts of ESPN NFL Kickoff decided to have some fun by stuffing as many The Princess Bride references into a half-hour show as possible. Here's a cut of every single one.

Genius: The Nickelback Story - Businessweek

Genius: The Nickelback Story - Businessweek: There are people out there who love Nickelback. And if they pay enough and get close enough to the stage at a concert, Chad Kroeger, the band’s lead singer, rewards them by throwing beers at them, which is what’s happening on a Saturday night at the Klipsch Music Center in Noblesville, Ind. Kroeger is yelling, “Who’s thirsty?” The crowd is roaring in appreciation. Behind him, roadies are chucking dozens of cups into the audience of 16,000. For several women in the front rows, at least, there is no risk of wardrobe damage; they have removed their shirts.

Two Voting Populations

Screen Shot 2012 11 08 at 3 05 16 PM

"Free Stuff" vs "Freedom"

The GOP meme that people voted for free stuff is annoying, false, and harmful to the workings of the democracy. It's also being pushed pretty hard right now.

The Case for Obama and Against Liberal Despair - Mike Lofgren - The Atlantic

I think the Weimar Republic collapsed ... because there were not enough citizens. That's the lesson I have learned. Citizens cannot leave politics just to politicians.
-- Gunter Grass

In The Case for Obama and Against Liberal Despair, Mike Lofgren makes the case for Obama in a way that resonates for me. He lists some objections from liberals to Obama (including the idea that Democrats must win by taking on GOP ideas), but counters with nuggets like these:
  • The most compelling argument to support Obama has nothing directly to do with him or his performance in office, but goes to the heart of what self-government is supposed to mean. Since Obama's inauguration, Republicans have engaged in an unprecedented -- in my lifetime, anyway -- campaign of obstruction, feral negativity, and brinksmanship.... To reward a party for such obstructionism would be like rewarding the Southern fire eaters of antebellum congresses for their efforts at shutting down the debate over slavery with the gag rule
 Obama, playing his cards right, would have exposed this strategy, but he failed to do so. It is up to the electorate to uphold compromise and reasonableness. Not that we're great about typically supporting either.


Last night

I dreamed that I lived in a tall apartment build but kept losing my key. There was also a massive church in the basement of the building that was giving out free food after the service, but you had to sit through the service to get the food. the really weird part was that I was dressed up as Santa in the apartment build holiday parade, but with purple-colored Santa facial hair instead of white.

Yeah, I have no idea other, except maybe homecoming?

Craig Ferguson on Alcohol

Instrumental Guitar

Mourn the 10

Hurricane Sandy has come through NYC with a mighty storm that coincided with a high tide and full moon for a "perfect combo" of subway-flooding awfulness.

But we knew about it, way in advance, because somehow our computers could tell a week ago that this storm would manage to strengthen in combination with a cold air mass, thanks to high pressure over Greenland and warm water in the Atlantic, plus some horrendous timing.

Manhattan flooded, but the subway was already closed, and the the tunnels/bridges as well. We were ready (at least mostly ready) and amongst the damage and destruction, that's something to cherish as we hold our loved ones a little closer.

Quoting myself

I told a story this weekend about learning the economic theories and equations supporting the willful destruction of perfectly good crops, and how much that messed with my notions of intuition of right and wrong. That with all of my ideas of how things should be, I could be completely off.

That being honest and open with the world sometimes makes it more difficult to enact change. That being honest about my faith is about embracing uncertainty, and giving up part of the rationality that governs the rest of my life. That my utopias aren't and cannot be true utopias. But there I go talking about me.

Life is hard, and it sometimes sucks. The burdens placed on us are not equal, neither in terms of geography, time, or all sorts of other statuses. Sometimes we are at the high place looking down trying to see if there's a net, and sometimes we are holding the net. Sometimes we are looking and holding at the same time, in different contexts. Sometimes we can't just find our glasses, and sometimes we realize that we carelessly knocked someone else's glasses off a few days ago, as I did on Friday.

And maybe, just maybe, we can hold the net a little stronger if we grappled more with the high place. Perhaps, in staying, we can discover what our limits truly are. Sometimes we are fearful of discovering our own potential. At least I am.

Remarkable Weekend

After an indoor soccer game with friends (2-0!), I headed down to Chicago Saturday morning to see a work-friend that has since moved for personal reasons, along with three others from Madison. We had a great ride, topics ranging from the very serious to the very not serious. What makes this blog worthy is that I was intending to see another friend in Chicago, who I met in April at a religious event. I had no idea where in the cite she lived, only knowing that she worked in Lincoln Park. My work-friend lives in Uptown, a few miles away, but as fate would have it their buildings are next door; she actually heard us arrive and unload the car from her bedroom. Just to think, that in a city of 2.7 million, my friends are literal neighbors. Proximity to Chicago has been a subtle blessing to live in Madison, and I've enjoyed every visit. Weekends like this and that of two weeks ago are the foodstuffs of life, though the labor of my life is just as meaningful.

RAMdom thoughts

I watched Jon Stewart's statement at the Rally to Restore Sanity again tonight, as well as clips from the Stewart/O'Reilly debate; here are some riffs off of their words.
  • We cannot control what our actions are to others, or how they will be interpreted. We can only control our intentions, praying that the trusts we build can sustain us when we fall short, in substance or superficial appearance.
  • "We live in hard times, not end times." - There were those who thought America would not survive 2000, 2004, or 2008. But elections do not single-handily change this country - instead, they express or facilitate long-standing patterns or shifts that may be as subtle as they are powerful. Also, if the US can survive Harding, it can survive anyone. Just sayin'.
  • Hate speech is the result of capitalism; some people pay for it, and want it. Those who provide it can and do get rich.
  • Sometimes the issues at obvious play in an election are less important than the issues that "everyone" agrees upon, which then go relatively undiscussed.
  • "If we amplify everything, we hear nothing." - one of the travesties of music today is that in seeking to provide a stronger sound, music tracks must play at a constant high volume, giving up the artistry of dynamics in the pursuit of pushing as much out as possible, in order not to suffer in comparison to the next track. The same goes for speech, and a press that acts like an auto-immune disease in overreacting just makes us sicker. We don't have the national RAM to process all of this.
  • "There will always be darkness" - Original sin is in us, with us, and must be accounted for and expected, as much as we seek to go beyond it.
But talk is cheap, including my own. Obama knows and gets most of this; The Audacity of Hope discusses most of it, including the poignant image of senators speaking without listening from the floor of the "World's Greatest Deliberative Body." To some extent we have traded some sins for others, like overt racism and sexism for more subtle forms, or a willingness to overlook adultery with a heightened scrutiny that destroys lives and relationships. These trends are products of our technology and no one can see where they are actually going - though many will guess, some growing rich in their accuracy.

So how do you pursue systemic change? Matt Yglesias said:
"But I'll say that as I've gotten older and wiser, I've learned that fewer problems than I thought are due to misconduct on the part of individuals and more are due to rotten systems.....The design of the game really constrains what people do. And if you try to act in ways that are contrary to the game architecture, you end up getting replaced."
Thus the only people that can change the game are those that have won it - the "statesmen." I've met some of these guys and I don't know if they have the answers, or if I do. It will take an old-young partnership, and a particular moment where Rahm Emanuel isn't the WHCoS.

The College Rankings Racket - NYTimes.com

The College Rankings Racket - NYTimes.com: So universities that once served populations that were different from the Harvard or Yale student body now go after the same elite high school students with the highest SAT scores. And schools know that, if they want to get a better ranking, they need to spend money like mad — even though they will have to increase tuition that is already backbreaking. “If you figure out how to do the same service for less money, your U.S. News ranking will go down,” says Kevin Carey, the director of education policy at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan research group. The rankings encourage trends that ill-serve the country.
It's all true! And we at Williams know it: I actually regret the folks who come here for "the best" small college education but don't want to see the sunshine, the mountains, the isolation....


Today, after work, I played soccer for a few hours, then worked more, then got gas (giving some gas money to someone else - not sure why I did that), then saw movie. I think I need to get more sleep for days like these, though - I can function, but everything is a little duller, a little more vague. A whole bunch of thoughts about inequality and conservatism/liberalism have also bubbled up, but the upshot is that I think I want to surround myself with more INTJs. Now, where to find them....

On Freedom

Quoting Michael Ignatieff:
[Isaiah Berlin's] definition of freedom as negative liberty, with the strong emphasis on the absence of coercion, is an absolutely central idea through everything he thought. He said somewhere that freedom is a chilly virtue – freedom is not particularly nice and what people do with their freedom is not particularly nice. It's not justice, it's not equality, it's not a warm bath – it's just freedom. And yet it's the most important human value, because it's the human value that respects individuals in all their singularity.....One of the freedoms that Isaiah valued, which is not very popular, was the freedom not to be a political animal. The luxury of a truly free society is that political involvement is a choice, not an obligation.
This dovetails with a few thoughts I've been having recently about liberalism and conservatism. I may have written on them before, but even so there's a new step to take. Liberalism (and I know the word has baggage but I won't give it up) is primarily about how we envision the world as it should be: a place of goodness, or joy, where woman meets woman and man meets man in a celebration of all that is wise and just, etc, etc. Or just a place where people don't starve or live without rights. It's about where we could be. Conservatism, on the other hand, is about what is, right now. It is about the real: the facts that there is greed, and there is crime, and government can be as much an agent of that as a fixer. It looks upon government as another flawed actor in the system, instead of the change agent that liberalism might see. I don't know if today's conservatives quite fit this description, but since I can't really figure out a policy that's not arithmetically possible, I'm keeping with this definition and hoping that the GOP recovers some relationship with facts and stuff. The beauty of the system above is that conflict is inevitable: liberals always seek to change things, while conservatives are wary. But when both sides align, change is possible. It's like the liberals are the House of Representatives - rabble rousing, and filled with ideas, while the conservatives are the Senate - slower acting, less responsive, but required for ratification. Because ultimately each side needs each other - conservatives know that changes must occur as circumstances shift, and liberals need to know how to sell ideas in ways that respect fundamental human psychology - the endless and inane e-mails I get from Planet Obama are calibrated to be opened by the greatest numbers, even if they lack the high-brow content I would totally gobble up. there just aren't enough voting nerds out there with my kinds of interests. So this is all frustrating, though, because then we have a two-party style system where it can be hard to reform with nuance - there is room for basically two public ideas on a topic at a time. Moreover, and more generally, the laws of human interaction are real (though they vary across cultures), and that means frustration for those out of lockstep. That's why tolerance and the freedom to isolate oneself from politics is so important. Freedom sometimes allows bad things to happen - conservatives know and respect this - but it also allows liberals to try out ideas without worry that they can't return later to the dominant way of doing things. And when ideas work, they can be adopted.

On Pirates of Old

Gimme the Loot | Jacobin:
Being a sailor has never been easy, and it was particularly tough in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. To maximize profits, sailors were forced to eat rotten food and bunk in cramped quarters, and were paid on credit – you didn’t collect until you had completed your one-, two-, or three-year bid. And even then, you might not collect. You could die, of course. Or you might be pressed into military service, or forced to work an extra few years on another ship, or forfeit your wages as a punishment for insolence. It wasn’t uncommon for sailors to go a decade without seeing a shilling. Ship captains had absolute authority over their crews in order to enforce discipline. Any complaining or shirking could be deemed “mutinous,” and punishment could range from whipping to hanging to being dangled over the side of the ship to have your brains bashed in.

Pirate ships were different – they were under democratic worker control. Captains weren’t absolute rulers, but elected leaders who commanded only during battle. Day-to-day operations were handled democratically by the entire crew. Loot was divided equally and immediately, and pirates ate – and drank – better than their law-abiding contemporaries. This was the major reason pirates were feared: it was easy to convince exploited sailors to join up with them. And join up they did.

Posting just to say

I don't have a lot of spare bandwidth for substance, but am still posting most every day over at slackfeed.blogspot.com.

Goodbye to Garland

My extended family has been going to Jekyll Island since I was born - my dad and his many first cousins took their significant others, spouses, and then children to Jekyll every summer for a week. Now the next generation (mine) has a bunch of kids, some of whom know Jekyll well. But unfortunately, the quality of the beach has gone way down, with safety issues as well thanks to a riptide. So, we're decamping to another island on South Carolina.

But with that choice (which I understand) comes a goodbye to a house I know very well. I can't say for sure how many times we stayed in Garland, but it's one of the most familiar places to me - from the awesome big chairs to the little room with twin beds off of the kitchen that I and my brother enjoyed. It was a very plain house when we first started, but added on a laundry room, a sunroom, and various other features that distracted from its charm and welcome. I haven't been back in a few years due to work and other conflicts, but my sadness is a testament to the importance of place. Goodbye Garland.

On Josh Weed

So this past weekend a guy named Josh Weed outed himself to the world via blog post. The neat thing about this particular exit from the closet is that Weed is a committed Mormon with 10 years of marriage to the proverbial girl-next-door, and three kids to boot. A few quotes:
I was 13 when I told my dad (a member of the Stake Presidency—which is a lay leader in the Mormon church—at the time). My parents were incredibly loving and supportive, which is part of why I believe I’m so well adjusted today. They deserve serious props for being so loving and accepting—I never felt judged or unwanted or that they wished to change anything about me. That’s part of why I have never been ashamed about this part of myself.
7. Why do you not choose to be “true to yourself” and live the gay lifestyle?

First of all, I understand that when people refer to a “gay lifestyle” they are talking about a lifestyle that includes gay romantic and sexual relationships. But I want to point out that because I am gay, any lifestyle I choose is technically a “gay lifestyle.” Mine just looks different than other gay peoples’. My hope is that other gay people will be as accepting of my choices as they hope others would be of their choices.
If you know and love somebody who is gay and LDS (or Christian), your job is to love and nothing more. Let go of your impulse to correct them or control them or propel them down the path you think is right for them. Do what you need to do to move past that impulse.  Do not condemn the choices your loved one makes. Love. Only love. Show your love in word and deed. Embrace them, both literally and figuratively. I promise they need it—and they need to feel like they can figure out this part of themselves in a safe way without ridicule and judgment. It’s what Christ would do. It’s what your loved one needs. Accept them. Love them. Genuinely and totally.
I happen to be a mirror image of Josh in a lot of ways (wants to marry a girl/have kids, is religious, has thought about being a therapist, male) and a polar opposite in others (straight, believes homosexuality is compatible with Christianity) and I think the post is really helpful and useful because it lives in a space of privileged heterosexuality (a strong belief of many Americans) and acceptance of homosexuality (a belief often not held in common with the former). How many people do you know that truly believe its ok to be gay, but that straight marriage is still better?

The most frustrating thing about this post is that it still seems biased against same-sex marriages. It's always seemed a little silly to me for straight-marriage-only proponents to jump on that bandwagon, when straight-marriage has been so diseased as an institution for so long, given high divorce rates and so on. Same-sex marriages are much better family units than broken homes, but somehow they are seen as the "threat" to the American family.

The other interesting thing for me is this quote, from a reader of Andrew Sullivan's:
But I don’t quite agree with your assessment of Josh. While he certainly makes, by FAR, the most clear-headed, honest and endearing appeal I’ve ever heard from an ex-gay (I know he doesn’t use that term, but that’s essentially what he is), I don’t think his story is benign. In a perfect world - one with no homophobia or religious intolerance towards gay people - gay men who want to marry women should be free to do so without criticism.

But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world where rampant homophobia means that millions of gay couples are desperately fighting for the right to marry and protect their children, where young gay kids are killing themselves at astonishing rates and where far too many young gay men and women are torturing themselves in therapies that promise conversions to straightness. Taking stories like Josh’s at face value hurts all of us.

Josh seems like a nice guy who may not intend to use his story to influence other men in similar situations, but rest assured, his story WILL be used as fodder by the anti-gay industry. Every homophobic Mormon (or Catholic or Protestant or Jew or Muslim) who reads this will now have at least one more story where a gay man was able to overcome his desires ("see, just because you’re born that way doesn’t mean you have to act on it!"), only helping to cement their intolerance.
This is one of the big struggles between liberalism and conservatism - in a world where the tide flows in one direction, is it ok to judge testimonials like Josh's with a handicap? I don't think so. We should be able to say that this is honest account is helpful and a useful window to someone's life, and decry a culture that would twist and abuse it. I don't think Josh is responsible for how his story is used, any more than the leaker that blows the cover off of a scandal and ruins an otherwise healthy political career. Yes, your leak has "harmed" the political agenda of your party, but is that your fault? Or when others cast blame on the accusers of rape, because the visible source of discord is the speaking victim, not the attacker (who is often known and respected). Sometimes speaking truth creates discord, or allows it. The only people who should be judged for that are those who do it professionally - Rove, etc.

We aren't more creative, but we do have powerful computers

Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit | David Graeber | The Baffler: Might the cultural sensibility that came to be referred to as postmodernism best be seen as a prolonged meditation on all the technological changes that never happened? The question struck me as I watched one of the recent Star Wars movies. The movie was terrible, but I couldn’t help but feel impressed by the quality of the special effects. Recalling the clumsy special effects typical of fifties sci-fi films, I kept thinking how impressed a fifties audience would have been if they’d known what we could do by now—only to realize, “Actually, no. They wouldn’t be impressed at all, would they? They thought we’d be doing this kind of thing by now. Not just figuring out more sophisticated ways to simulate it.”

The Top Ten Strangest Self-Experiments Ever

The Top Ten Strangest Self-Experiments Ever: On 15 February 1921, as the American surgeon Evan O’Neill Kane lay on a table in a hospital waiting to have his appendix removed, he decided to conduct an impromptu experiment — to find out whether it would be possible to remove his own appendix. So he sat up and announced that everyone should step back because he was going to perform the operation himself. Since he was the chief surgeon at the hospital, the staff reluctantly obeyed his strange command.

Kane propped himself up with pillows in order to get a good view of his abdomen. He injected cocaine and adrenalin into his abdominal wall, and then he swiftly cut through the superficial tissue, found the swollen appendix, and excised it.

The entire procedure took thirty minutes. There was only one slight moment of panic when part of his intestines unexpectedly popped out of his stomach as he leaned too far forward, but he calmly shoved his guts back inside his body and continued working.

An address

The Chumbawamba Principle: A Commencement Address : Krulwich Wonders... : NPR: You can't always name the thing you're going to be.

For most people it doesn't work that way. You have to back into it. Designing yourself isn't like being a conqueror. It's not Genghis Khan screaming "Charge!" thundering across the steppes, seizing his prize — no. It's more like you are nearsighted. You like salty snacks, and one day, fumbling along, you knock over a pretzel dish and think, "What's this?" You take a bite and think, "Hmmm! Do I like pretzels?"

It's more like that.

The Wisconsin Recall

Quoth my fellow Williams grad Emily:
When Barrett conceded, I started crying. Not because I necessarily will be affected by Walker’s horrible excuses for policies, but because my students will be. My students depend on BadgerCare and WHEDA. Their parents are overwhelmingly either a) unemployed, b) on a fixed income, or c) working in jobs that benefit from union support (i.e. janitors, factory workers, etc.). 
This morning, my 3rd graders (3rd graders are 8-9 years old, FYI) had an intense discussion about Walker and Barrett. They decided unanimously that if they could vote, they would vote for Barrett. I had to pretty much sit out this discussion due to my AmeriCorps restrictions on discussing politics while on the clock. One student said, “Walker doesn’t care about anyone but rich white people.” Another student asked me, “Will you lose your job if he gets reelected?” Then they decided it didn’t matter, they didn’t need to worry - Walker would be recalled.
They believed in the democratic process. Believed. I doubt that they will still believe tomorrow morning. And for this reason, among many others, I cry for them.
 I don't agree with a lot of the above, but it is true that Walker's strategy wasn't about uniting anyone, but instead the cold calculus that he would win the battle against public sector unions. That sort of choice has a cost - seen in these 3rd graders.

Marina Keegan: A Yale grad made the most of her short life. - latimes.com

Marina Keegan: A Yale grad made the most of her short life. - latimes.com: News briefs can be cruel. Not because of what they say, but because of what they don't.

The Boston Globe ran an item Saturday headlined “Wayland woman dies in Dennis car crash.” It was breaking news, but not unusual. The Globe’s metro desk regularly runs tragedies in brief: struck pedestrian, fatal motorcycle accident.

This one told of Marina Keegan, 22, who died when the car she was riding in drifted off the road, hit a guardrail, veered back over the road and rolled over at least twice. The driver of the 1997 Lexus ES300 survived.

The accident backed up traffic for nearly a mile, the Globe noted. This was the news.

What the Globe didn’t mention, what wasn't news at the time, was that Keegan was a writer. A pretty good one. She had just graduated from Yale University. And one of the last things she ever wrote was about the importance of living life to its fullest.

Let's get one thing straight

"Internal deliberations of the executive branch" do not constitute due process. Particularly when it comes to ordering someone killed. Shame on Obama.

Two Thoughts

While in Chicago this weekend, I realized two new things:
  1. We often talk about how stereotypes can damage or harm a person's ability or potential, but the reverse of that happened to me: I was the nerd who was "supposed" to succeed. It's a very strange kind of privilege, because that sort of praise is also isolating, but I hadn't fully realized it until this weekend.
  2. I think churches need to start to explicitly welcome "friends" in addition to "members." Spirituality is a difficult topic, but churches do far too many wonderful things that go beyond embracing a creed. Some of the most loving people I know aren't explicitly religious, though I think their love of fellow man makes them more Christian than others who wear their faith on their sleeve.

Confusing Me

Why is the SEC investigating JP Morgan Chase for losing a bunch of money? That happens sometimes; part of capitalism, right?

Why Google Isn’t Making Us Stupid…or Smart - Chad Wellmon

IASC: The Hedgehog Review - Volume 14, No. 1 (Spring 2012) - Why Google Isn’t Making Us Stupid…or Smart - Chad Wellmon: As historian Ann Blair has recently demonstrated, our contemporary worries about information overload resonate with historical complaints about “too many books.” Historical analogues afford us insight not only into the history of particular anxieties, but also into the ways humans have always been impacted by their own technologies. These complaints have their biblical antecedents: Ecclesiastes 12:12, “Of making books there is no end”; their classical ones: Seneca, “the abundance of books is a distraction”8; and their early modern ones: Leibniz, the “horrible mass of books keeps growing.”9 After the invention of the printing press around 1450 and the attendant drop in book prices, according to some estimates by as much as 80 percent, these complaints took on new meaning.

The Avengers: A Review

Robert Ebert ends his review of this movie as follows:
"The Avengers" is done well by Joss Whedon, with style and energy. It provides its fans with exactly what they desire. Whether it is exactly what they deserve is arguable.
In the immediate aftermath of watching the movie, with all of the amazement and awe at the sheer scale of it all, I wanted to throw this back into Ebert's face: "How dare you question this movie?" It's remarkable what Whedon did - he took a bunch of different characters and made them interact and fight in a way that cinematically gelled. The movie is full of moments - Hulk providing many - and will doubtlessly be remembered for many of them, from arcade games to the ship they were played on to an AMAZING tracking shot of the heroes united.

This movie could have been a massive screwup - the script might not have worked, and the was substantial opportunity to fail in a work that combined so many type-A characters and their A-list. (Joss Whedon apparently mollified Downey by following his suggestions and showing Downey that they wouldn't work.) It's not a screw-up; in fact it is an entirely solid and entertaining film, but in retrospect I miss a few things:
  1. The music isn't memorable. See Iron Man got that right. What about musical motifs for each character?
  2. All of the characters are basically invincible, espeically the two "normal" humans that never seem to be injured. There's no arc of "damage," possibly because all of the other films involve that.
  3. I could have been more clever than a split up > ship> city structure.

The Maddow Blog - Romney takes credit for Obama policy he condemned

The Maddow Blog - Romney takes credit for Obama policy he condemned: Just at face value, it takes a fair amount of chutzpah to face a crisis, get it wrong, then whine about the way in which the other guy got it right. But it takes truck loads worth of chutzpah to condemn the other guy then take credit for his success.

George Hotz, Sony, and the Anonymous Hacker Wars : The New Yorker

George Hotz, Sony, and the Anonymous Hacker Wars : The New Yorker: A California district court granted Sony the restraining order against Hotz, preventing him from hacking and disseminating more details about its machines. It also approved a request by Sony to subpoena information from Twitter, Google, YouTube, and Bluehost, Hotz’s Internet provider, including the Internet Protocol addresses of anyone who downloaded the instructions from his site—a move that further incensed digital-rights advocates. Sony also gained access to records from Hotz’s PayPal account. In some circles, the rebel leader was becoming a martyr. As one fan of Hotz’s posted: “geohot = savior of mankind.”

The argument for college.

One argument about the usefulness of college is that studying history, racism, the US after 9/11, plants, chemistry, and so on gives us a strong basis as workers, as citizens, in a way that is "objectively" useful. But that seems to cheapen the other argument - that experiencing the liberal arts is, in itself, the good - the endpoint.

That we might have a collegiate experience that embraces the earth, sky, and the vast ranges of humanity between.

One of the strongest arguments against big government today is in articles like these

Medicaid hack update: 500,000 records and 280,000 SSNs stolen | ZDNet: The Utah Department of Health hack has grown once again, and the FBI is now involved. The latest total is 780,000 victims: 500,000 records and 280,000 Social Security numbers (SSNs) stolen.

A few things to be Thankful For, From Reddit

  1. Within 30 seconds of where you are sitting right now, there's a sit-down toilet next to a tap that delivers clean, drinkable water and/or hot water suitable for showering. 
  2. You've got a credit card in your pocket, and some cash. If you want more, there's an ATM where you work. You regularly come into contact with poor people, but no one so poor that they can't afford food, or are dying of an illness that is treatable through handwashing, mosquito nets or inexpensive medication. You almost never encounter a malnourished child.
  3. Your family and friends are easy to reach and get in touch with. You have shared experiences with them and they understand your life and what you're going through.


Quoting Walter Russell Mead:
Christians, especially in countries like the United States where the ideal of religious liberty has been an important element of Christian teaching for centuries, believe that the rise of religious tolerance in the Christian world is one of the signs that Christianity is true: believers are becoming more like Christ in his infinite compassion and profound respect and love of every human soul despite error and sin. Moreover they see the spread of tolerance and the repudiation of false ideals like “holy wars” (such as the Crusades, fought not only against Muslims but against heretics inside the Christian world) as signs that God is working in human history to bring us to a greater light and deeper understanding.
For many Muslims, however, the rise of tolerance in Christianity looks less like maturity and self confidence than like the senescence of a religion in decline. Christianity, these critics say, is losing its hold on the western mind. The rise in religious tolerance is the result of necessity — the churches are weak, the believers indifferent, and so Christians no longer have the inner conviction to stand up for their faith. Just as Christian countries tolerate a range of vices and practices that in the past, when their faith was stronger, they opposed (homosexuality, abortion, sexual immorality of all kinds, blasphemy and obscenity), so now they also don’t care very much about what religion people profess because their own faith doesn’t mean all that much to the shrinking minority that still has one.
The link has a lot more interesting content about the macro-relationship of Christianity and Islam, but on this Easter Sunday, I'm glad to have a faith that is, at its core, about hope, resurrection, and other evidences of things not seen.

Decommissioning the Space Shuttles

Decommissioning the Space Shuttles:
Starting next month, NASA will begin delivering its four Space Shuttle orbiters to their final destinations. After an extensive decommissioning process, the fleet -- which includes three former working spacecraft and one test orbiter -- is nearly ready for public display. On April 17, the shuttle Discovery will be attached to a modified 747 Jumbo Jet for transport to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Virginia. Endeavour will go to Los Angeles in mid-September, and in early 2013, Atlantis will take its place on permanent display at Florida's Kennedy Space Center. Test orbiter Enterprise will fly to New York City next month. Gathered here are images of NASA's final days spent processing the Space Shuttle fleet. [35 photos]

In Orbiter Processing Facility-2 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the flight deck of space shuttle Atlantis is illuminated one last time during preparations to power down Atlantis during Space Shuttle Program transition and retirement activities, on December 22, 2011. Atlantis is being prepared for public display in 2013 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. (NASA/Jim Grossmann)


I write this from outside my apt building, where the weather is just about as perfect as can be: today started off at 35 degrees and windy, a last gasp of winter that made me regret leaving my heavy jacket at the office, but by 1 pm it was about 73 degrees with a constant cool breeze that perfectly balanced the temperature. It’s still around 70, maybe 69 now, but the sky is cloudless and the wind is extraordinary. The nearby Catholic school’s bells are ringing – I’ve never been outside long enough to hear them before. J

The Supreme Court today, it seems, acted a bit skeptical of the individual mandate that the government asserted as part of the Affordable Care Act. There are a whole litany of things to talk about here: how much I think the Commerce Clause has been twisted and expanded over the years, or how this decision might harm the Court’s image, especially if it’s 5-4 along partisan lines of Reagan, bush, and bush II vs Clinton and Obama appointees. But I want to talk about this: our current national focus is on what a bunch of robed people will be writing down in a few months. These people command no armies; they can’t summon militas, and they aren’t (let’s be honest) super intimidating.

What they are is part of a structure of the rule of law in the US, something that I value immensely. We are a country where bribes don’t happen as they happen elsewhere; where coups aren’t possible. Ours is a place where, within 30 seconds of WHEREEVER you are right now, there is a working, flushing toilet.

That’s amazing.

As we fight and squabble and lie to each other about who was which way when and why, we forget the profound blessing to have running water, a working 911 service, and the opportunity (for most of us) to have known and spent time with our families growing up. Many children are not so lucky. Just the fact that I can do this – plop down on the grass and not worry about my backpack being stolen is worthwhile, however much my neighbors are strangers.

So while everyone is hankering, I’ll listen to the oral arguments tonight, but I’ll be smiling, because I live in a place where we hold ourselves to the law, most of the time, and I’ll remember how much that is something to appreciate and preserve.