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Showing posts from 2020

Knowledge Boost #1: The End of Policing

Editor's Note: At the beginning of this year, I set myself a goal to do some reading to make sure that the polisci side of my brain doesn't completely atrophy and fall to pieces, as I've been 'out of the game' as it were for a while now. I was thinking things like The Federalist Papers or Democracy In America (which I've started to pick my way through) but given the events of June all across the country, I thought it was important to actually engage with some of the thinking and arguments out there to try and understand where people are coming from- not just on the issue of police reform (as this entry tackles) but on a deeper range of issues.
So, these posts are going to be a departure from the usual Bookshots that I do for regular book reviews. I'm going to go all over the place, ideologically speaking to try and read on some issues as widely and as extensively as I can. All in the name of at minimum, engaging with these arguments and criticisms in a genui…

In Other News, Water Is Wet

So the good ol'Iowa City subreddit threw up some links to some sweet Twitter tea that got spilled yesterday in a (presumably ongoing) thread about the shitty places downtown to work for and the equally shitty people that run them. In general, my reaction was one of cynical amusement: my sister's high school job was in McDonald's and the stories she brought back convinced that I didn't want to go anywhere near the food service industry for a job, so I stuck with my prototypical white middle class kid high school job and worked at Hy-Vee. But the amount of people who were surprised by any of this was kind of astonishing. The food service industry can be incredibly shitty and exploitative and in a town where there's a ready supply of cheap labor, you can always be replaced and there's not a great deal of motivation to treat your workers well. Why give the college barista a raise when you can fire them and replace them with another barista? Is it shitty? It sure is…

The Drug That Won't Go Away

So, here's the frustrating thing about hydroxychloroquine: it might work. It might not. Thanks to the media, however, it's been politicized to hell and back and we won't actually get to find out. 
Why am I still poking this thing? I mean, there's a large scooping of Trumpian Snake Oil bullshit attached to this stuff now-- but there's also data out there which contradicts that. Like, take Trump out of the equation and it gets interesting: the Lancet study which said, "hey this doesn't help."-- they've published a retraction. The Henry Ford Health System in SE Michigan did a study with over 2k patients and got good results. An epidemiologist from Yale has come out in favor of the stuff-- (and he seems not to believe in things like demon sperm and alien DNA- at least so far.)
I'm not a medical professional. I just read a lot. But I would like some more science done on this without the media being so goddamn dismissive about it. Every time there see…

Bookshot #133: The Confusion

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I don't know if the same rules apply to books as they do to movies, but I feel like there's got to be a fairly similar crossover when it comes to sequels. Ones that improve on their predecessors are rare indeed- and happily for Neal Stephenson, book two of his Baroque Cycle, The Confusion is an incredible improvement on it's predecessor Quicksilver.

First, there's the structure of it: The Confusion actually is very well organized- its actually two novels Bonanza and The Juncto that are intertwined with one another and while you think that might be confusing, the two stories actually dance around each other and come closer and closer until by the end of the book, they tie together in a perfect knot.

Bonanza tels the story of what happened to Jack Shaftoe. In Quicksilver, we leave him tied to an oar, a galley slave, sinking deeper into is syphilis. Three years later, he manages to catch a fever strong enough to sweat the disease out of him and restore him to his sanity. …

Free Write Friday #23: Triumph/Whodunit?

Hey, I'm back on my Theme Thursday game! Theme Thursdays took an extended summer break, so a couple of weeks ago now was the first week back with the theme of Triumph...  I am largely just 'okay' with this one. I feel like I was getting my feet wet again so it wasn't the greatest thing I've ever written, but it wasn't that bad either. 
“We’re almost there.”“I know, I know.”“Well, hurry up, will you?”“Look, even if I wanted to hurry, I couldn’t. It’s so damn dusty up here and this space suit is heavy.”Miranda Tokugawa and Renata Da Silva had been climbing for a week now. Part of that was the sheer scale of what they were attempting to do: there was no way to do this quickly, but part of that was also where they were doing it. This wasn’t a climb that was built for speed- the higher you got, the more careful you needed to be. Equipment needed to be checked. Spacesuits needed to be cleaned and checked for dust. The checks on their rover became more thorough. There …

There Probably Won't Be Football: A Modest Proposal Anyway

Look, it's hard, okay? The uncomfortable squirmy truth about college football is that it's inherently exploitative. We all know this. We do our best to ignore it. If we went to college before 1985, we might wash down our Metamucil, take our glucosamine chondroitin, and wave our canes shouting about the value of free education. That's okay. It's still doesn't change the fact that these unpaid players bring in a way, way more than the value of their scholarship to a lot of these schools. It's inherently exploitative.
So, this proposal was hard. It's complicated, okay. It won't happen, because that would require ADs, Coaches, Commissioners, and the NCAA to engage in levels of creative thinking that just won't happen on a Division I level.
But here's what I'm thinking:
1. Move It To Spring.
Okay, right there you've got issues. Any player with a halfway decent chance at getting into the NFL ain't gonna play. That's fine. Let them sit out.…

Netflix & Chill #83: Patriots Day

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Watched On: Netflix Released: 2016 Directed By: Peter Berg Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan Rotten Tomatoes: 80% Tomatometer, 86% Audience Score Pick: Mine
2013 seems like a lifetime ago now- and if the past is another country at this point looking back at the America of 2013 where the Boston Bombing happened really does seem like gazing into some kind of alternate universe. I can't imagine what it would take to get people to pour into the streets to cheer to police having someone in custody in 2020. But in 2013 it happened- along with a bunch of stuff that I straight up did not remember.
The movie opens the day before the bombing where BPD Sgt. Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) captures a suspect and fails to convince Commissioner Davis (John Goodman) to let him off from punishment duty the next day- meaning that yes, he does have to work the Boston Marathon. Tommy, despite grumbling, wakes up early the next day and kisses his wife, Carol …

Turn Off The Reality Distortion Field

Social media should come with a Surgeon General's Warning, just like cigarettes. "WARNING: THESE ALGORITHMS ARE DESIGNED TO FEED OFF NEGATIVITY AND RAGE. OVERUSE OF THESE PLATFORMS MAY HAVE A DETRIMENTAL EFFECT ON YOUR MENTAL HEALTH." Don't get me wrong: I'm just as guilty as the next person about being too plugged in to the shit hurricane that can be social media. Twitter and Facebook have come off my phone so many times and within days- sometimes weeks if I'm really disciplined about it, I'll be sneaking looks at the mobile versions of both platforms on my phone so much that I'll finally give up and put them back on my phone.
And so, the cycle continues.
This might age me a little bit, but remember MySpace? Or LiveJournal? I know both are technically still around in some form or another, but man...  those were the days. When a whole fleet of kids would learn basic CSS and some HTML just to make their MySpace page look cooler. When bands launched their…

Blinded By The Cognitive Dissonance

I have been a resident of Iowa City since a blisteringly hot August day in 1987 when my parents finished moving into a house on the east side of town before heading on down to Mazzio's for pizza. (Hey, remember Mazzio's?) I love this town. There's good food. There are fun art festivals. The University can bring in cool speakers and cool events every now and again. There are Hawkeye sports- though probably not football this fall. The schools are good. Crime is relatively low. But holy shit, the cognitive dissonance this community collectively exhibits sometimes is positively blinding at times.
Look, I'm not against the mask mandate. Lord knows Kimmie ain't gonna do it for the whole state, so some municipality somewhere might as well get in the ring with her and see how many rounds we can go with her*. (It may as well be the People's Republic of Johnson County. To the barricades, Comrades!) The logic makes sense as well: with students coming back, if we can really…

Wear A Damn Mask

I genuinely don't understand anymore. 
So, let's see if I'm tracking this correctly: at the start of all this, they didn't want people hoarding masks, because they genuinely didn't know what they were dealing with and were honestly afraid of millions of infections overwhelming the hospital systems of America and wanted to make sure that Doctors, Nurses and the people on the frontline had enough masks to protect themselves.
What we understand about COVID now is vastly different from what we understood in March and I know we'll know more still come August and September. Now, it appears that wearing a mask would actually be helpful but it's still incredibly disheartening to see the number of people out there that just won't wear the damn things. 
How hard is it? I mean, in the grand scheme of things, I'm honestly curious: how hard is it to take a piece of cloth of your choosing and cover your mouth and nose? It's entirely possible that this is the ans…

Bookshot #132: Wolf Hall

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I can't quite remember why I picked up this book-- I think at the time I was on a kick of reading more 'Award Winning Books' just to see what qualified as 'Award Winning' writing-- (I must have figured that Lincoln In the Bardo would satisfy the requirement for the National Book Award, so Wolf Hall could be my Man Booker Prize winner) but whatever the reason, I finally dug it up cracked it open and plunged headfirst into it.

Wolf Hall tells the story of the rise of Thomas Cromwell-- who goes from servant/fixer/Chief Secretary of Cardinal Wolsely right up the ranks to Chancellor in the court of King Henry VIII. At this point, anyone with a casual knowledge of history or a subscription to Showtime/Netflix should have a passing familiarity with the general arc of Henry VIII and the whole mess of Tudors that convulsed England in the early 1500s. The brilliance of what Mantel does, however can't be understated: by taking a relatively familiar story and shifting the p…