Friday Five (big liars edition)

We have reached the second Friday in May. Which, paradoxically, will be followed by the third Saturday. Which I keep forgetting; which is an issue because the third Saturday is when I host the monthly (virtual) Writers’ Meeting.

I have reached the point where I am not only counting down the days until I get my second vaccine shot (and when my husband gets his), I am starting to enter into my calendar the dates when various friends will be fully vaccinated, and when we can start maybe actually visiting some of them in person.

Meanwhile, we have this week’s Friday Five. This week I bring you: one story that made me tear up, one story that made me chuckle, the top five stories of the week, five stories of interest to queers and our allies, five stories about deplorable people, five stories about science, five stories about science fiction, and five videos (plus one thing I wrote and some notable obituaries).

This Week’s Story That Made Me Cry:

A father kicked his son out when he came out. Two dads adopted the teen & now he’s speaking out – Families didn’t want to adopt a gay teen because they thought he would "turn the other children gay." Now he wants to stop discrimination against LGBTQ parents

This Week’s Story That Made Me Laugh:

Tyson blames underperforming roosters for US chicken shortage

Stories of the Week:

The Art in the Oval Office Tells a Story. Here’s How to See It

10 of the World’s Oldest Languages Still Used Today

Dry cleaners suffer as pandemic changes what we wear

Facepalm Pilot: Where Technology Meets Stupidity: An Interactive Guide to Ambiguous Grammar

Biden orders federal cyber upgrade after barrage of hacks – The far-reaching directive is an attempt to close longstanding gaps in the government’s ability to block and investigate hacks

Stories of Interest to Queers and Our Allies:

Judge blocks requirement for ‘gay sex’ offender registration

U.S. Will Protect Gay And Transgender People Against Discrimination In Health Care

‘The love of homosexuals is something good’: German Catholics to bless gay unions, defying Vatican ban

Author fights to keep her queer memoir on a Texas high school reading list — dildo and all – In The Dream House, about an abusive same-sex relationship, is one of 15 titles up for review in Leander

A Gay Man Says He Was Tormented at Liberty University. Now He’s Suing

This Week in Deplorables, Haters, and Obstructors

Lawsuit from Stephen Miller group alleges racial discrimination in distribution of COVID-19 relief

Joel Greenberg set for federal court hearing Monday, expected to plead guilty

Federal Judge Rules NRA Bankruptcy Effort A Sham – Score one for New York Attorney General Letitia James! Judge Harlin Hale ruled that the bankruptcy filing was an effort to escape regulation rather than a financial decision

First active duty service member arrested over Jan. 6 riot

Mum’s internet research on vaccines doesn’t make her an expert, court decides

This Week in Science:

A study of Earth’s crust hints that supernovas aren’t gold mines – The stellar explosions can’t be the main source for heavy elements, new data suggest

Is Mars Ours? – Should we treat other planets like natural resources or national parks?

Voyager spacecraft detects ‘persistent hum’ beyond our solar system

There’s no such thing as a tree (phylogenetically)

Saturn has a fuzzy core, spread over more than half the planet’s diameter – A wave in one of the rings reveals the size and composition of the planet’s core

This Week in Science Fiction:

Cora is the Winner of the 2021 Space Cowboy Award!

15 recent sci-fi books that forever shaped the genre – About the future, shaping the future

Mark Millar is ushering in Netflix’s new superhero universe with ‘Jupiter’s Legacy’

#DisneyMustPay Task Force Updates

Doctor Who fans feel ‘demonised’ by BBC crackdown on fan fiction

In Memoriam:

Norman Lloyd Dies: ‘St. Elsewhere’ Actor Who Worked With Welles, Hitchcock & Chaplin Was 106

Things I Wrote:

Don’t Roll the Dice if You Can’t Pay the Price — or, some writing lessons from a 1960 heist film

Thinking about professional conclusion jumpers


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Thinking about professional conclusion jumpers

I’ve got several topics I’ve been trying to finish a blog post about, but I keep finding myself running around in circles… when I’m not getting lost down fractal rabbit holes.

So tonight I want to just post here this list that I’ve calling:

Gene’s Postulates of Bad Faith Argumentation

  1. The shortest distance between two blowhards is a common enemy.

  2. An argument can be extended into an infinite line of malarky with just the occasional application of a sea lion.

  3. All circular reasoning can be defined by a single point and an iterative diversion.

  4. Every false equivalence is congruent to every line of B.S.

  5. If two persons are having a sincere misapprehension a single troll can cause an infinite number of irrelevant squabbles.

There may eventually be some Axioms and Definition of Elements to go along with this eventually.

Don’t Roll the Dice if You Can’t Pay the Price — or, some writing lessons from a 1960 heist film

A group of friends and I have been having a weekly movie night during quarantine. Each of us have nominated some movies, we put them into a rotation in a shared spreadsheet, and each Sunday night we all cue up the movie to stream or otherwise watch together and we text each other comments while we watch, then talk about it afterward. This last Sunday the movie was The Thomas Crown Affair /(the 1999 remake/).

There were at least two of us in the group old enough that we remember watching the 1968 version starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. So while we were contrasting the newer version versus our recollection of the original, a young friend in the group mentioned that the 1960 version of Ocean’s Eleven was awful compared to the newer version. I started to get affronted, but fortunately before I typed anything my second thoughts pointed out that I haven’t watched the old version since I was about fourteen years old.

And I honestly couldn’t say whether I would agree with 14-year-old me about the merits of the movie.

So, since it was available to stream for free on one of the services I subscribe to, I watch the 1960 version of Ocean’s Eleven that night.

Short review: I still really enjoyed it. However, I completely understood why younger viewers would not enjoy it at all. It was a great reminder that no creative work stands in isolation.

More detailed review: One of the film’s greatest weaknesses is that there is virtually no character development. As more than one contemporary review pointed out, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop — also known as the Rat Pack — aren’t playing fictional characters unique to this movie, but rather just playing the personas that each had become associated with over the course of several movies and other performances over the years before the release of this film.

Cesar Romero–who was never considered part of the Rat Pack–is essentially playing the same character he played in a large number of movies before this. And much less famous members of the cast (Richard Benedict, Norman Fell, Hank Henry, Robert Foul,, Richard Conte, and Henry Silva to name a few) were all playing a type of character that they were frequently cast as. So for a vast portion of the 1960 audience of the film, the script didn’t have to do any work to establish the characters—the audience knew what to expect when they saw the actor walk into frame.

A further example of this is the recurring gag during the first half of the movie. For no apparent reason, Sinatra’s Danny Ocean keeps doing or prompting others to do things that greatly upset the mastermind of the operation, Mr. Acebos /(played by Akim Tamiroff/). Nothing about this sub-plot ever contributes to the end of the film, let alone moving forward any part of the plot. Tamiroff was an exceedingly well regarded actor who had been nominated for an Oscar a few times in his early career, but by the late fifties he was often cast in roles like this one of a easily excitably, overly worried character. His main role in those sorts of files was the be the easily wound up character who was unnecessarily worried about the ability of the main character to do whatever he was supposed to do for the plot.

Slight digression at this point, Tamiroff was an Armenian-American who was never able to shed his accent, and thus enjoyed a 60-some year career in Ho0llywood being cast as virtually every ethnicity except Armenian. The character he played in 1940′ The Great McGinty is often cited as the inspiration of the character of Boris Badenoff in the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons.

Another big shortcoming of the movie for modern audiences is the heist itself. The way that Danny Ocean’s eleven comrades go about stealing millions in cash from five casinos simultaneously is not even slightly as intricate or clever as the plots of later caper films such as The Hot Rock or either version of The Thomas Crown Affair or even any single episode of the television series Leverage.

But, to defend the movie (which made a tidy profit for the studios at the time), one doesn’t have to ignore all of those deficits. Rather, one should ask what sort of story was it trying to tell?

First, even though it usually presented as a stand-alone movie, that wasn’t at all how the movie executives (nor most of the audience) perceived it. If you were a studio making movies at that time, you didn’t cast Sinatra, Martin, Davis, Lawford, et al, to portray a new and unique character. You cast them to play a particular type of character they had become famous for. Similarly, if you were an audience member going to the theatre to see this film, you were expecting those actors to deliver a certain kind of entertainment.

Second–and possibly most important–this film is not part of the modern genre of caper film. The title itself foreshadows the ending. Early in the film Sammy Davis, Jr. sings a song called "Ee Oh Eleven." The song is about a person who is trying to claw their way out of a less than advantaged background, and almost reaches financial success, but life is a crap-shoot, and the character rolls an eleven, losing everything he had amassed. And that is the clue that was meant to tell audiences what was coming. The title appears to refer to Danny Ocean and his ten army buddies who, as a gang of eleven, are going to do the impossible. But the eleven in the title actually refers to that moment in a game of Craps where the person rolling the dice rolls an eleven and loses everything.

While I was looking things up about the film to make sure I remembered all the details of its release and so forth correctly, I happened upon a quote from a contemporary review of the movie: "In the end, it is just an amoral tale told for laughs."

I think the reviewer who wrote the line thought that it was a scathing rebuke of the film. But when I read the line, my thought was, "Yeah? So?" Because an amoral tale simply told for laughs sounds like a quite wonderful way to spend an evening. We don’t usually come to stories and other works of art hoping for a deeply profound life-changing exploration of a erudite philosophical question.

We just want something that makes us laugh and feel entertained. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Friday Five (lazy privilege edition)

And here we are at the first Friday in May. Wow!

With both my husband and I getting vaccinated within days of each other late last week, we spent the weekend dealing with an ever-changing set of side effects. All of the side effects we had are the sorts of things one experiences when one immune system is having a strong reaction to something, so I’m taking it as a good sign, but it threw me off for the whole week. Still, thank you science!

Meanwhile, we have the Friday Five. This week I bring you: one story that made me chuckle, the top five stories of the week, five stories of interest to queers and our allies, five stories about deplorable people, and five videos (plus one thing I wrote and some notable obituaries).

This Week’s Story That Made Me Wonder:

Mountlake Terrace Police close to filing charges in serial crow killings. This is local to me, but the best part is the if you go to this related link and jump to page 16, where they detail such things as the crow murder board assembled by volunteers, and the ludicrous attempt the culprit made to cover his tracks, thus giving police a lot of the evidence they needed: First quarter 2021 Police Report

Stories of the Week:

Rare lobster saved from being dinner at Red Lobster: ‘One in every 30 million’

Maddow: Arizona ‘Recount’ May Violate Federal Law – And Rachel Maddow has a new technical term for the bamboo sniffing "recount" team…

Biden decision on COVID vaccine patent waivers is more about global leadership than Intellectual Property

The reopening of the US economy is driving a steel boom so strong that some are convinced it will end in tears

Alabama Legislature votes to legalize medical marijuana

Stories of Interest to Queers and Our Allies:

Push against trans athletes in girls’ sports fails in Kansas

Country Duo Graciously Responds To Republican Who Blocked Honor For Gay Singer – Tennessee Rep. Jeremy Faison expressed “some concerns” about congratulating T.J. Osborne of the Brothers Osborne, who came out as gay in February

Florida Republican gets slammed by her own daughter: Kids’ lives are at stake

Utah Supreme Court rules in favor of transgender rights – With a sharp rebuke, the court overturned a district judge’s decision to deny two transgender people the right to change their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity

Middle school teacher loses control & scrawls “heteros rule” over students’ Pride flag chalk art – When the group of students refused to erase the Pride flags from their drawing, the situation escalated quickly

This Week in Deplorables, Haters, and Obstructors

Neo-Nazi Hero Tucker Carlson Says ‘Cat Cafes’ Are The Real Threat To America – Tucker Carlson opened his show by doubling down on his love of white nationalism and saying the real threat to America isn’t from these violent racist bastards at all

Traitor Trump Launches A Blog Like It’s 1995 – Donald Trump has been forced to launch his own "social media platform" after being banned from Twitter, Facebook, Tiktok, YouTube, Pinterest, Etsy, Yahoo Groups and Ask Jeeves

Giuliani evidence should be reviewed by an outside lawyer, Justice Dept. says

“Sorry” Neo-Nazi Gets 41 Months In Swatting Scheme

Trump family travel cost $140,000+ in just the first month post-presidency

In Memoriam:

Olympia Dukakis dead: ‘Moonstruck’ actress was Oscar winner – Los Angeles Times

Armistead Maupin & Cher pay tribute to iconic actress Olympia Dukakis – She was one of the first actresses to portray a trans character on American television when she took on the role of Anna Madrigal in Maupin’s Tales of the City

Billie Hayes Dies: Wicked Witchiepoo Of ‘H.R. Pufnstuf’ Was 96

Billie Hayes, ‘H.R. Pufnstuf’ and Broadway Star, Dies at 96

Things I Wrote:

Weekend Update 5/1/2021: Astronauts, Unhinged pundits, Crazed substitute teachers, and how I accidentally quit smoking 26 years ago


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Weekend Update 5/1/2021: Astronauts, Unhinged pundits, Crazed substitute teachers, and how I accidentally quit smoking 26 years ago

Good speed, Michael Collins

Time for a post where I either talk about news that broke after I composed this week’s Friday Five or new developments in stories linked previously, or something I want to say about a story linked previously.

I posted two different stories about the death of Apollo 11 Command Module Pilot, Michael Collins, already. When Apollo 11 became the first human mission to land on the moon, I was an eight-year-old science and sci fi geek living in the central Rockies region of the U.S. and I was glued to every news cast about it. Yesterday I find this re-posted story on NPR that includes a 1988 interview with Collins which I found really interesting: ‘Fresh Air’ Remembers Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins

Moving on…

You may have seen the video or pictures of this sweet moment that were being shared on social media Thursday and Friday: Joe Stops to Pick Flower for Jill Biden on Their Way to Ga. Rally and to Visit Jimmy and Rosalynn Carte – While en route to Georgia, the president shared a brief moment with his wife, stopping to pick her a dandelion before they boarded Marine One

While all of us normal humans saw a man plucking a flower from the lawn to hand to his wife, a gesture that men who are in love with their wives have been known to do spontaneously for centuries, the people at Fox and Newsmax saw something else. And while this headline uses the work ‘mock’ I think a better description is that they came unhinged at the sight: Fox & Newsmax Hosts Mock Joe Biden’s ‘Sweet’ Dandelion Moment with Jill — One Claims it Was ‘Planted’

One of the so-called pundits claimed that Joe had murdered the flower because he plucked it "before it had bloomed." And how does he know that it was before it had bloomed? Why, because it was in that downy stage where one can blow on it and send its seeds flying. In case you don’t know how flowers work (which clearly this guy doesn’t) the downy seed stage happens long after the flower blooms. The whole point of that downy seed stage is to spread the seeds that have been created by the flower blooming and getting pollinated.

But then the unhinged Fox host goes on to claim that blowing those seeds causes other people to get asthma. Um, no, again, that isn’t how asthma works nor is it the seeds that are even the issue. Many asthma sufferers have attacks triggered by high pollen count. That downy part of the dandelion is not pollen. Those are seeds. Very different things.

The latter charge is particularly eye-roll-inducing because just a few moments before the same producer and accused Joe of effectively committing dandelion abortion… but the flowers can’t reproduce without exchanging the very pollen that the pundit has mistaken the seeds for and which he says it is a crime to spread in the air.

Ooooo, boy!

Speaking of unhinged people…

Kansas Lawmaker Arrested For Assaulting Student After Long Day Of Yelling At Teens About God This is just a wild and terrifying story. The assualt, by the way, is that the teacher grabbed a student by both shoulders, declared that he was delivering god’s wrath, kneed the kid in the testicles, and then yelled at the rest of the class inviting any other students who wanted to to come up and kick the same kid in the balls, too.

This is after hours of this substitute teacher yelling hysterically (and all being recorded and uploaded to the internet by astounded kids) about god and how important it is that they make babies and don’t let kids wind up in foster care with lesbian mothers. It’s just unreal.

And now he’s claiming that it was all staged. But the kid who got kneed in the groin isn’t going along with the story. And if you watch any of the videos it seems fairly clear that the teacher and lawmaker is not acting.

Let’s move one…

Yesterday I linked to the story about the FDA kinda sorta moving forward with possibly making a statement about eventually banning menthol in cigarettes: FDA says it will ban menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars – The agency has long faced calls to act on menthol cigarettes, which are disproportionately smoked by Black Americans and teens just starting to use tobacco

People have been lobbying the FDA to ban menthol cigarettes for many years. So it is a little irritating that 8 years after officially studying the question, their new major announcement is that they will publish a policy sometime soonish proposing the ban… and begin yet another public comment period.

I am illustrating this section of the post with a picture of a pack of Newport brand menthol cigarettes for a reason. Those used to be my favorites. Yes, until I quit 26 years ago, I not only smoked cigarettes, but I smoked menthols.

You may ask why people have been asking the FDA to ban the menthol cigarettes? Well, the answer is essentially the same if you asked me why, back in the day, I preferred menthols. Menthol is not more dangerous than the ordinary ingredients in tobacco smoke on its own, but want menthol does (besides added a cool tingly taste) is it numbs nerve endings. The reason that one of the more popular brands of menthol cigarettes is named Kool is because that numbing effect and the taste create an illusion that the smoke you are inhaling in these cigarettes is less hot (and therefore less burning) than ordinary cigarettes.

So smoking menthols mean that you are less likely to cough or feel a burning sensation and so forth. Some studies have indicated that people who smoke menthol cigarettes smoke more cigarettes per day than those that don’t, and everyone suspects it’s that numbing/cooling effect the menthol has that leads to that.

There are other studies that show that regular menthol smokers, if they can’t get a menthol cigarette during a particular time period, smoke less. And there are also studies that indicate not being able to get menthols at all would increase the number of people who decide to quite each year by the tens of thousands.

And given how deadly smoking is, that would be a good thing.

But the main reason I wanted to write about this ban is because it’s a great excuse to tell you how I accidentally quit smoking 26 years ago.

That’s write, I didn’t mean to quit smoking (even though I really knew that I should)…

How did that happen, you ask? Well, I got this really, really awful case of bronchitis. My doctor prescribed a seven-day course of the antibiotic Zithromax, and by day five the bronchitis seemed to be letting up, but about three days after the last pill, the bronchitis came back with a vengeance.

So my doctor prescribed a ten-day course of clarithromycin, another antibiotic. After several days on the clarithromycin the worst of the symptoms of the bronchitis let up, but I still had a wheeze in my lungs and shortness of breath. Mostly I just wasn’t keeping myself awake all night coughing. And again, a couple of days after the the last tablet, the symptoms got worse, again.

So, after taking another x-ray and some more tests to confirm that it was a bacterial infection of my bronchial tubes, the doctor prescribed augmentin. Augmentin is a combination of the very old, basic antibiotic amoxicillin, plus clavulanate potassium – which is a substance that neutralizes the most common mechanisms that some drug-resistant bacteria deploy.

After just four days of that ten-day regime, the cough had faded away, the wheezing was almost entirely gone, the shortness of breath was gone, and my fever had dropped down to low-grade. I kept taking the pills until they were gone, but I felt so much better.

And it was around this time, when I still had four or five days of the third antibiotic to go, that I realized I couldn’t find my open pack of cigarettes. I searched and searched. My late husband suggested I just pull a fresh pack out of the carton, or take one of his (except he smoked Marlboro Reds – no menthol, so no thanks).

For whatever reason, I was feeling extra stubborn. I was sure that I had more than half a pack of cigarettes somewhere that I had just smoked from, right? Ray asked, "When did you have your last cigarette?" And I started to say, "Oh, it must have been a couple hours ago? I think…? I was at my desk…"

So I went up to the computer room and started looking more thoroughly around the desk. Back then, I kept a pile mail that needed attending to on the desk. Items were added as they came in, and periodically I’d go through it, pay bills that were coming due, and so forth. Inside the pile, beneath seven days worth of new incoming mail, I found the open pack of cigarettes.

I pulled out a cigarette, put it in my mouth, and reached for the lighter.

And then I thought, "This means it has been seven days since my last cigarette." I had been too busy cough and wheezing and choking and being miserable with the bronchitis for the nicotine craving to rise to the surface. I walked downstairs, told Ray where I had found the pack and what that meant. I put the cigarette back in the pack. "I went seven days without smoking and never even noticed. Let’s see if I can go eight."

For the next couple weeks I said a variant of that to myself each day. "I’ve gone eight days, let’s see if I can do nine," and so on.

Sometime in the mid-twenties I just stopped counting days.

There is a coda to add. For years every time I caught a cold, even a mild head cold, it would turn into bronchitis and I’ve have to take antibiotics. At least three times every winter I’d get bronchitis. It was about three years after I quit smoking before I realized that in all that time, I hadn’t had a cold turn into bronchitis.

This is not to say that I have never had bronchitis again, but now it is, at most every other year or so, and even then, it’s only if I have a severe cold or the flu that goes on for a week or more. So, in case the danger of cancer (and watching a number of my loved ones die of smoking-related illnesses over the years) wasn’t enough reason to quit, I’m happy that I’m not constantly getting that painful choking cough in the middle of the night several times a year.

So, yeah, speaking from personal experience: anything that will help more people quit smoking is a good thing!

Friday Five (moving forward edition)

We have reached the fifth and final Friday in April!

My husband got his first dose of Covid vaccine this week. And I get my first dose today. It is difficult to explain how relieved I felt when he got his first shot.

Meanwhile, we have the Friday Five. This week I bring you: one story that made me smile, the top five stories of the week, five stories of interest to queers and our allies, five stories about deplorable people, five stories about the pandemic, five stories about the pandemic, five stories from the world of tech, and five videos (plus things I wrote and some notable obituaries).

This Week’s Story That Made Me Smile:

Meet Kiri, the tiny Japanese fire truck bringing joy to San Francisco

Stories of the Week:

German Bomb Squad: “Hand Grenade” Was Sex Toy

Supreme court dodges dispute between Texas, California over religious freedom, gay rights

FDA says it will ban menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars

Writers Must Be Paid

Overdue VHS Tape From 1999 Leads to Warrant for Embezzlement – The charge was related to a “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” tape that had been rented from a video store in Norman, Okla. Prosecutors dismissed the case on Wednesday

Stories of Interest to Queers and Our Allies:

Judge tosses suit that sought to block transgender athletes – The federal lawsuit sought to prevent transgender athletes from competing in girls high school sports in Connecticut

Pennsylvania’s governor shuts down legislature’s proposed ban on trans youth in sports – "I’ll veto this discriminatory bill if it gets to my desk," Gov. Tom Wolf unequivocally stated. The Republican-majority legislature is unlikely to obtain a veto-proof vote to override him

Ohio to allow transgender people to change birth certificate gender

Over 400 Major Businesses Endorse Equality Act, LGBTQ+ Civil Rights

Joe Biden has made a lot of progress on LGBTQ rights in first 100 days. Now the Senate needs to act – Biden has an impressive record of getting LGBTQ rights back on track. His one failure: signing the Equality Act into law (and that’s not his fault)

This Week in Deplorables, Haters, and Obstructors

Three defendants in Ahmaud Arbery killing charged with federal hate crimes

Bombshell letter ‘by Matt Gaetz wingman Joel Greenberg claims he did have sex with underage girl’ The letter was written to Roger Stone who was supposed to accept a large payment from Greenberg in exchange for getting a pre-emptive pardon from Trump.

CEO fired after publicly ridiculing Tennessee teen over his prom dress I’ve seen the video, it wasn’t just ridicule. He was a grown-ass man following and harassing the teen-ager at the Prom venue.

Texas Senate is set to redefine supportive parents of trans kids as child abusers – One mother said she’s "terrified" to speak out against the bill because her kids could be taken away from her if it passes. Republicans were not swayed

‘They Don’t Care’: Republicans Blasted for Refusing to Applaud for Cutting Child Poverty in Half

This Week in the Pandemic:

India Covid deaths: Crematoriums overflow with victims, with pyres burning through the night

Brazil COVID-19 Deaths Top 400,000 Amid Fears Of Worsening Crisis

Moderna to Boost Covid-19 Vaccine Production to Meet Rising Global Demand

CDC unveils new mask guidance for fully vaccinated Americans

Gov. Ned Lamont signs bill eliminating Connecticut’s religious exemption for mandatory school vaccinations

This Week in Tech:

Apple’s M1 Positioning Mocks the Entire x86 Business Model

Buying a PC with Dell: My Journey Into Hell

How Pfizer Makes Its Covid-19 Vaccine

Disney Imagineering’s Project Kiwi is a free-walking robot that will make you believe in Groot

Electric cars: What will happen to all the dead batteries?

In Memoriam:

Michael Collins, ‘Third Man’ of the Moon Landing, Dies at 90 – Orbiting dozens of miles above the lunar surface, he kept solitary watch of the Apollo command module as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin embarked for the moon

Remembering Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, dead at age 90

Daniel Kaminsky, Internet Security Savior, Dies at 42 – If you are reading this obituary online, you owe your digital safety to him

Things I Wrote:

In “One World, One People” Sam and Bucky Bring This Adventure to an End

When you don’t know how anything works, it’s easy to see conspiracies everywhere

Wednesday Update: The Prez is About to Address Congress


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Biden’s Big Speech: Progressive Proposals & Ted Cruz Caught Napping – The Daily Show Biden’s Big Speech: Progressive Proposals & Ted Cruz Caught Napping - The Daily Show

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Wednesday Update: The Prez is About to Address Congress

by Bruce Plante,

So last month, in reaction to the Q-people and their conspiracy theories, I wrote about the State of the State of the Union Address which was mostly an opportunity for me to be nerdy about the Constitution and presidential history/trivia. Which I love doing.

Tonight President Joe Biden is giving his first address to a joint session of Congress, which some people are incorrectly calling his first State of the Union Address. I predicted in that post seven weeks ago that a typical address wouldn’t happen any time soon, and I’m only technically correct. Joe will deliver his speech in the House Chamber, per tradition. The Vice President and the Speaker of the House will be seated behind him, per tradition. There will be members of both houses of Congress in the room, and representatives from all three branches of government, also per tradition.

However! It’s only going to be 60 Senators (30 from each party), and 80 Representatives (40 from each party) in the chamber. There will be only two cabinet members, instead of nearly the entire cabinet. There will be only one member of the Joint Chiefs, instead of the all of them. There will be only one member of the Supreme Court (the Chief Justice) instead of all of them. And instead of the gallery being packed with guests invited by nearly every member of Congress and a bunch invited by the President, there will be exactly two guests: the spouses of the President and the Vice President. And since they will be observing social distancing, all of these people will be spread out from each other.

The rest of Congress, the cabinet, and the Court will be watching from their homes or their offices. This means that another tradition isn’t being observed: the official Designated Survivor. For the last few decades, it has been the practice of the Secret Service to guard one member of the President’s cabinet who is in the succession of the presidency in an undisclosed secure location somewhere. The reasoning is that if someone hit the capitol building with a missile or bomb or something during the speech, that potentially everyone in the line of succession could be killed.

It’s kind of a creepy tradition, when you think about it. On the other hand, just a few months ago a murder mob invaded the capitol and at least some involved intended to kill certain members of Congress. So maybe we should be more worried about possible attacks.

Tomorrow will be the Biden’s 100th day in office. Presidential candidates often talk about things they plan to accomplish in their first 100 days in office. It all started with Franklin D. Roosevelt, who managed to get Congress to enact 76 new laws during his first 100 day. Something never accomplished before, and a record that has never been matched since.

Since FDR, journalists have treated the President’s first hundred days as an important benchmark. While it might be a self-fulfilling prophecy (because we pay attention to those days, they become important) it is also true that new administrations only get to focus most of their attention on their own agenda before events beyond their control begin to require more attention.

Anyway, here are a few takes other people have on how they thing Biden’s first 100 days will be remembered:

Opinion: Trump’s first 100 days were sheer craziness. Biden’s are sheer competence

Biden’s First 100 Days Have Been Great for the Stock Market. What History Says Happens Next

Column: Biden was an attention hog. 100 days into his presidency, boring is his superpower

Biden’s 1st 100 Days: A Look By The Numbers

When you don’t know how anything works, it’s easy to see conspiracies everywhere

It started with this tweet…

This started as a twitter rant, but I wanted to flesh things out a bit.

First, I saw a lot of people sharing the above tweet from Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer with comments ranging from "LOL!" to "That’s some fine trolling!" Which I had me scratching my head. Were there literally people who didn’t know that all beer is made from fermenting grains and hops — plant products?

To be fair, one of the ingredients in beer making is yeast, which is technically a fungus, and therefore no long considered part of the plant kingdom. But most people don’t understand the difference between a plant and a fungus, and usually retailers and food producers use the term "plant-based" to refer to any a meat substitute.

So for a second I thought this might be like the phenomenon I remember at the height of the gluten-free craze: where foods that have never contained glutens were labeled gluten free (corn ships, for instance) leading some people to think that any other brands of the same food contained gluten.

Nope. Turns out that a former Trump administratin member over the weekend started the lie that President Biden was going to outlaw meat (he can’t legally do that on his own, btw). And the specific lie that they ended with was a claim that because of this, come the Fourth of July "No burgers on July Fourth. No steaks on the barbecue. … So get ready. You can throw back a plant-based beer with your grilled Brussels sprouts and wave your American flag." Source: Befuddled Larry Kudlow Rails That Biden Will Force Americans To Guzzle ‘Plant-Based Beer’ – So no more beer made of grains, yeast and hops? Oh, wait …

But the kicker is that Repubs (including Donald Jr) started repeating specifically that claim about plant-based beer, right?

Now I have to pause for a moment to point out that grilled Brussells sprouts are f-ing delicious, and go particularly well with a juicy rare New York steak. Most barbecues I have attended in my six decades of life, including those hosted by my much more conservative relatives, have usually included a number of grilled vegetables along with the typical burgers and hot dogs. I mean, in parts of midwest it is practically illegal to have an outdoor barbecue without grilled cobs of sweet corn as part of the menu!

But back to the beer: all beers are plant based. It doesn’t really surprise me that Donald Jr. has no clue what beer is made of, but surely at least some of the MAGA people who are seeing the claim being shared on social media have been home brewers! Why aren’t they speaking up?

For those who surprised to learn what beer is made from, I have a few other revelations that some may find shocking: All ciders are plant-based, as are all whiskeys, all rums, all tequilas, all gins, all vodkas — booze is basically fermented plant parts. Similarly it may surprise these people to find out that hamburger buns are plant-based and always have been. French fries? Plant-based. Ketchup? Plant-based. Mustard — yes, even the cheapest, yellowest, most generic mustard is made from ground mustard seeds, not just the fancy Grey Poupon. So that big burger you assemble with the extra tomatoes (plant), sliced onions (plant), lettuce (plant), et cetera, has a whole lot of plant-based stuff as part of the package.

Unless you’re making a burger out of three hamburger patties and a couple of slices of cheese and just holding the greasy thing in your fingers (yes, I’m looking at you, Uncle Gerry), you’ve eaten a lot of plant-based stuff at your previous Fourth of July barbecues.

This whole lie springs from conflating a few studies out there that have shown how reducing how much of our agricultural activity goes to raising various sources of meat could reduce carbon emissions and help mitigate some of the problems of climate changes. These are mostly private studies. The only one I could find (in what was admittedly only a few minutes of Google searching) that was published by a government agency was commissioned by the Trump Administration.

There is nothing in the Green New Deal that bans meat.

But for many years now neither facts, truth, nor logic have been exactly the strong points of Republicans.

Beer and the grains and hops it is made from.

In “One World, One People” Sam and Bucky Bring This Adventure to an End

The finale of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was a lot of fun. This is a superhero story, so there was a lot of superheroics. They did a much better job wrapping up most of the problematic plotlines than I had feared in the middle.

I’ve been reading a lot of other people’s reviews of the earlier episodes, and someone made an observation that echoed something I had been thinking about, but I can’t find the review where I read it so I can credit them. Marvel had a plan for this phase of their cinematic universe, which was to be kicked off by the Black Widow movie last summer, and then we were supposed to get The Falcon and the Winter Soldier series and then after that we were supposed to see WandaVision.

Instead, that part of the schedule was reversed. WandaVision was a very out-of-the-box story and didn’t follow typical superhero combat outlines. Because we saw it first, it raised the bar. So when The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is more of a typical superhero story, we keep expecting something more because WandaVision was so different.

It has also been revealed that at least one character who was introduced in this series is also in the Black Widow movie, and that was supposed to be our introduction to them. Not sure how, if we had been able to see Black Widow first that might have changed some of our perceptions of this series.

I think the series overall was fair, but not entirely good and certainly not great. I know opinions vary on this.

But to talk about the finale and what I thought worked, I’m going requires some spoilers. Before we jump into that, because this is a Disney owned property and for some time Disney has been refusing to pay some writers royalties owned, it is nice to note that Disney and Alan Dean Foster approaching settlement on royalties

Okay, so, let’s get into it:

Warning: Spoilers Below!

We finally see Sam in a Captain America themed costume. That favor Bucky called in really paid of, because Sam’s new flight suit is a major upgrade. This episode had lots of fights, and those were all thrilling.

The identity of the Power Broker is revealed as being Sharon Carter. I was a bit disappointed in this development since in the comics Sharon was never a villain. I’m also disappointed because all the previous clues pointed to Sharon so obviously that I was certain they were red herrings. I think this is another one I have to chalk up to WandaVision having raised my expectations too high.

The political parts of the plot don’t hang together well. Camestros Felapton opined in a previous review that this is because the writers are attempting to riff on the original Captain American’s unwavering moral compass, but the writers don’t seem to have the same moral compass. Cora Buhlert pointed out more than once that the supposed villains, the Flag-Smashers, are mostly right in objecting to the policies of the Global Repatriation Council, while the GRC’s policies amount to genocide under real world international law.

I have a really hard time believing, even when half the population of the planet disappeared five years previously, that the remainder of most of the world’s governments would cede all decisions about international travel and so forth to a single committee. If you can suspend your disbelief enough to at least see the GRC’s vote as having something other than symbolic value, you can kind of muddle through that part of the plot.

The fights play out, with Sam and Bucky each getting to be probably heroic. Captain Nationalism shows up in the middle of things and for a bit it looked like it was just going to be a repeat of him murdering one or more members of the Flag-Smashers. Instead, when Karli endangers a truck load of hostages, he breaks off from the fight and tries to save the hostages.

The Karli does get killed before everything is said and done, but it is Sharon Carter who does it, under circumstances where it appears to Sam that Sharon was just acting to save him. The viewers know that Sharon had tried to recruit Karli and the remaining super soldiers to come work for her, and then Karli refused, Sharon needed to kill her or be exposed as the villainous Power Broker.

Sam gets to have a debate with the members of the GRC, the entire thing filmed not just by news camera but by dozens or more bystanders. So the whole world heard him talk about being a Black man wearing the Stars and Stripes. The speech was moving, but we still didn’t take a very deep dive into the problems of systemic racism.

Isaiah Bradley’s stories gets a good closure. We get a scene where Isaiah sees that the story of him and the other black soldiers involuntarily experimented upon is now part of the Captain America exhibit at the Smithsonian. I’ve been trying to avoid reviews until I finished writing this but I did notice something on Twitter and Tumblr. Fans (as far as I can tell) are white, thought this scene wasn’t very important to the plot or was too superficial a take on the troubling relationship between the American Medical Establishment and the African American community. Whereas fans I know are people of color found the scene very moving; some declaring it the most important moment in the whole series.

I thought it was a good scene, though I would have liked a bit more of an examination of the meaning of Isaiah’s earlier declaration that no Black man should want to become Captain America. But I’m going to defer to the opinions of the PoC on how well this scene really worked.

We get to see Zemo one more time, but he isn’t talking to anyone, and that’s a shame. The rest of the super soldiers in the Flag-Smashers are killed by a bomb. The Contessa has a short scene with Captain Nationalism and his wife, where he gets a new uniform and the name USAgent. Bucky goes to the elderly man from episode one and finally confesses that he was the one who murdered the man’s son, and apparently explains about the whole Winter Solider thing. And Sharon got her pardon–which she is going to use to steal secrets from the government.’

And it seems that the powers that be are all okay with Sam declaring himself Captain America. We get a final wrap up with Bucky and Sam back in Louisiana with Sam’s sister, nephews, and all the community members we met earlier. I have to say I like that Bucky is able to smile again.

And the final title card changes the name of the show to Captain America and the Winter Soldier.

One of the jobs this series set out to accomplish was to show us that Sam could step into Steve Roger’s boots and be a great Captain America. It pulled that off, but it’s fair to say it did that in spite of the main plot of the show, rather than because of it.

The show is uneven. It worked for me, I think, because the character arcs for Bucky, Sam, and USAgent held together, again, sometimes in spite of the plot, not because of it.

At least for me, I’m left wanting to see what happens next for Sam, and Bucky, and Zemo. I want to know what kind of trouble the Contessa is going to get USAgent into. And I want to know how Sharon’s plots will be thwarted.

And I’m hoping that Loki is better.

These reviews might also interest you:

Camestros Felapton: So I guess that was Falcon & the Winter Soldier then

Cora Buhlert: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier come to the conclusion that it’s “One World, One People”

‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ finale completes its ambitious hero’s journey

Friday Five (murderer convicted edition)

I want to give whoever wrote this headline for this Australian newspaper an award!

It’s hard to believe that it’s already the fourth Friday in April!

We’ve had a bit over a week of warmer than usual days for this time of year. We have already set a new record for the number of days in April with a daytime high of 70 or more! Rain is supposed to come back on Saturday.

Meanwhile, we have the Friday Five. This week I bring you: one story that made me laugh, the top five stories of the week, five stories of interest to queers and our allies, five stories about deplorable people, five stories about the pandemic, five stories about latest mass shooting, five stories about the pandemic, five stories from the world of tech, and five videos (plus things I wrote and some notable obituaries).

This Week’s Story That Made Me Laugh:

In this Tik-Tok Lil Nas X Reveals a Childhood Crush

Stories of the Week:

NASA’s Mars helicopter Ingenuity successfully completed its historic first flight

Why Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder when so many other officers are not – The same factors that spurred millions of people to protest were the same points prosecutors repeatedly made in court to convince a jury to convict

Italian hospital employee accused of skipping work for 15 years …and kept drawing his salary the whole time!

A Texas Rancher Illegally Cloned Deer For Years. Some Lawmakers Want To Legalize It – The Lone Star State has long muddled the line between hunting and farming. Now cloning may help game ranches breed big bucksv

Even Street Artists Don’t Like Seeing Their Work Tagged. Now, Chemists Have Developed New Methods to Clean Murals of Graffiti – The chemistry is complicated, but the resulting product is easy to use and could revolutionize the field of street art restoration

Stories of Interest to Queers and Our Allies:

Scottsdale becomes 8th Arizona city to provide LGBTQ protections

4th grader who shamed Texas Republicans for attacking her rights is now getting death threats – A mother who testified at the same hearing has now filed a police report after getting so many death threats for standing up for trans youth

Texas business leaders say Legislature’s anti-LGBTQ bills could hurt the state’s economy – Texas Competes, which is made up of more than 1,450 Texas employers, chambers of commerce, tourism bureaus and industry associations, is advocating the “economic case for equality.”

Gay teen was suspended for wearing nail polish. He finally won – Trevor Wilkinson’s Texas school banned boys from wearing nail polish. Now their dress code is gender-neutral. "I’m at a loss of words for the joy I am feeling."

‘Yep, America’s Good With a Gay President’; New Study Also Finds Pundits’ Predictions Wrong On Black-Voter Homophobia

This Week in Deplorables, Haters, and Obstructors

A more nauseating than titillating gay scandal has possibly engulfed Tucker Carlson

Rep. Val Demings Yells At Jim Jordan: ‘Did I Strike A Nerve?’ – Fireworks erupted when former police chief Rep. Val Demings smacked down Big-Lie-supporter Rep. Jim Jordan’s accusations that Democrats don’t support police

How Josh Hawley and Marjorie Taylor Greene Juiced Their Fundraising Numbers – Politicians get the veneer of grassroots support, while shadowy consultants get rich

Church sends divorced lesbian a letter saying she’ll be shunned by community unless she “repents” – The church elders were hostile in their letter to the woman, but now they’re hiding from the media who want to know why they did something so incredibly offensive

Elephants trample suspected poacher in South African park; second poacher injured and missing

This Week in the Pandemic:

Is herd immunity to COVID-19 possible? Experts increasingly say no

Biden Helps Employers Give Paid Time Off For Vaccination – Employers under 500 employees can provide paid time off to their employees to get vaccinated AND recover from side effects if necessary

COVID-19 hospitalizations among older Americans have plunged more than 70 percent since start of the year

23 Dogs Test Positive for COVID-19 Antibodies in Washington, Study Finds

New Covid variant detected at Texas A&M lab shows signs of antibody resistance and more severe illness in young people

This Week in Tech:

How To Ditch Facebook: A Guide | Part 1: Hit Them In The Wallet

Apple’s Gay Rainbow Product Launch Was A Coming-Out Party For A Couple of VGL, No-Drama, Well-Endowed, Transgressive, Iconic Tech Products Looking to Hook Up on 4/20

The whole story of the FBI iPhone fight only shows how right Apple was – If someone really wants to get into your iPhone they’re going to have a hard time. That’s a good thing

The Mac and the iPad aren’t meeting in the middle yet

Ransomware gang tries to extort Apple hours ahead of Spring Loaded event

In Memoriam:

Walter ‘Fritz’ Mondale, former vice president under Jimmy Carter, dead at 93

Walter Mondale: The Last Old-School Democrat – His 1984 campaign was a political obituary for a party

Walter Mondale Sent A Touching Farewell Message 48 Hours Before His Death – “Well my time has come,” the former vice president wrote to his staff

Hester Ford, the oldest living American, has died

Things I Wrote:

Sam and Bucky Face the “Truth”

Tuesday Tidbits 4/20/2021: Sometimes bad (white) men face consequences

If Good Days Start With Coffee, Then Bad Days…


Click on the image to be taken to the video!

Helicopter Ingenuity’s flight on Mars in 4K with dust swirling (enhanced video + sound) Helicopter Ingenuity’s flight on Mars in 4K with dust swirling (enhanced video + sound)

Now You Know: Being Black in America | The Daily Show Now You Know: Being Black in America | The Daily Show

Trump Praises Biden’s Decision to Withdraw U.S. Forces from Afghanistan Trump Praises Biden’s Decision to Withdraw U.S. Forces from Afghanistan

Did the Mars Helicopter Really Fly? Did the Mars Helicopter Really Fly?

Cher Recounts The Story Of Sneaking A Drugged Up Music Producer Onto A Plane Cher Recounts The Story Of Sneaking A Drugged Up Music Producer Onto A Plane

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