Someone is Wrong on Television

I’ve been avoiding Twitter and its ilk, but dear Lord the people in mass media are even worse talking to themselves on the television. Of course, one of them is David Brooks so that’s no surprise. He must not live in New York because as of tonight’s PBS NewsHour he thinks he is too young for the vaccine. The man is 10 years older than I am, and people over 30 are eligible in New York as of earlier this week.

But that’s not what’s under my skin again. It’s the usual bullshit that Republicans care about the debt and Democrats don’t. Neither do and both parties pretend that they are limited in what they spend. Meanwhile the anchor nods obligingly as if the whole thing isn’t a charade.

Perhaps instead of trading places pretending to be concerned about fiscal responsibility every time control changes party hands, we could talk about who benefits from a spending plan, who doesn’t, and what general benefit or harm a given project might have. Because Lord knows the “debt” won’t be a concern when the next Defense Authorization Act passes overwhelmingly with a bipartisan majority.

There is no pent-up demand

A story on Marketplace yesterday on euphoric shoppers on a spree after getting vaccinated suggests that there is pent-up demand that will explode once the enforced isolation of COVID-tide ends. There’s some anecdata in the piece, so I’ll offer some more. I was vaccinated yesterday, the first jab of two, and bought something afterward: breakfast.

“We’ve saved a lot of money during the pandemic and haven’t been able to do much,” said Cynthia Jones, who lives in Georgia. But her 25th wedding anniversary is coming up, so she and her husband booked a trip to Florida in December. “We’re gonna stay at a nicer hotel than we usually do,” Jones said. It’s the Hilton Bentley — right on the waterfront in Miami Beach. Then they’re going to fly across the state to Clearwater “and do as much as we can, now that we’re all vaccinated,” she said. Are you noticing a trend here in how people are spending — on makeup, restaurants, vacations? It’s on stuff they mostly haven’t done for a year.  

How people shop after getting vaccinated,” Marketplace, April 1, 2021

Let me offer a contrary opinion. There is no pent-up demand for anything except more money–and hasn’t been since 2008.

People have been spending this whole time. They’ve been buying online and having goods delivered. They’ve been reading Table for Two in The New Yorker and ordering fantastically delicious take-out. They’ve been having keggers with their frat buddies. They’ve been following the party circuit because you only live once. They’ve been paying down their debt.

If they have money.

If they have work.

Certain segments of the economy might see an increase in demand as spending shifts from Netflix-and-Chill to American Tourister, but overall? Nearly everyone was over-extended before. I doubt most people suddenly consolidated their positions and are now showing positive cash to debt ratios. I suspect–I hope–they’ve taken the chance to rethink their spending practices and are looking for ways to continue to redress the imbalance in their savings.

Except Mrs. Jones. She’s gonna spend like there’s no tomorrow.

But where will the money come from?

I had to turn off the radio this morning after this stupidity.

MARTIN: Where is President Biden going to find more than $2 trillion?

HORSLEY: He wants to send the bill …

“Where Will The Money Come From To Pay For Biden Infrastructure Plan?,” Morning Edition, April 1, 2021

No. It will come from the same place it always does when the Federal government spends money: thin air.

But everyone in Washington, whether at NPR or in Congress, pretends that it doesn’t. We certainly wouldn’t want the riffraff to get the idea that the only thing preventing spending on something is that no one wants to.

Roundabouts make better intersections

I hate cars.

But really what I hate are the changes attendant on cars: the distance, the ugliness, the isolation, the fear. I hate the distance between houses, between shops, between here and there. I hate the ugliness of vast, often empty, parking lots. I hate the isolation of people within cars. I hate the fear of large vehicles bearing down on you at high speed. Cars may reduce travel time for some of us but make all of us further apart.

I read some time ago that Americans have an odd sense of distance. When asked how far something is they give the answer in units of time–fifteen minutes, an hour–rather than distance, a mile or two. Our sense of distance is tightly tied to speed, to how long it takes to get somewhere. We have no sense of what a mile is.

This morning on WAMC’s Roundtable there was some discussion of the pending infrastructure spending plan, and the topic of roundabouts came up about 55 minutes in. Alan Chartock doesn’t like the thought of replacing traffic lights with roundabouts because he thinks they slow down traffic.

Alan: “…and we can’t really afford to make mistakes. Somebody wrote–I forget who I don’t have it in front of me [Me: That was probably No. 1 Son.]–that instead of lights we should have traffic circles. Well, I disagree with that.”
Ray: “Why? They work very well.”
Alan: “Excuse me, I haven’t finished my sentence yet.”
Ray: “Fine. Go ahead.”
Alan: “and uh, traffic circles I tend to–there are a lot of them in New Jersey I don’t want to start up on New Jersey so I won’t right now–but I’m gonna tell you right now: Route 7 is the major artery that goes through Great Barrington and all the way up into Williamstown and everything else. If you start putting traffic circles in as they do in New Jersey and other places and you’re going to see a very slow traffic pattern. I’m opposed to–“
Ray: “Well, you are wrong, sir.”
Alan: “I’m right, sir.”
Ray: “You’re incorrect.”

Alan Chartock is confusing traffic circles with roundabouts–the difference is in who has the right of way–but may be right to blame New Jersey. New Jersey helped pioneer a number of traffic designs, including incorrectly specifying who should have right-of-way at a circular intersection. Giving entering traffic the right-of-way in traffic circles causes traffic in the circle to stop, thus defeating the purpose of the design, which is to clear the intersection.

If there’s one thing I hate worse than driving, it is stopping. Traffic flows faster through a roundabout than through a traffic light for one very simple reason: you don’t stop.

Roundabouts even out traffic flow, reduce accidents, function during power outages, and, even if traffic throughput is your only consideration, they, along with four-way stop signs, are the most efficient way to govern an intersection.

What traffic lights do do is direct attention to the light and not the road. People drive faster because they are ignoring their surroundings. People get into accidents because they are ignoring their surroundings. And people almost hit new driver No. 2 Daughter while she’s making a left-hand turn because they don’t slow down for intersections because they have a green light to go fast and are ignoring their surroundings.

There is one valid argument against roundabouts: lack of space for their construction. And this is where one would use a stop sign.

But what about 10-lane highways like Queens Boulevard? Or 4-lane highways like U. S. Route 9?

First, WTF are you doing building 10-lane highways like the Queens Boulevard of Death? Second, I think you’re missing the point of roads. Roads connect the people who live along them, not the two points at the ends of a line. The point of roads is most emphatically not speeding from point A to point B. A 4-lane semi-divided highway is a design decision based on the invalid assumption that one can fit more vehicles on a given road by widening the road. While seemingly correct, it is wrong in practice because any given road is not isolated from all other roads. Parallel paths offering alternate routes are a better solution, because a net holds more than one strand does.

I’ll ignore here that some roads are built a certain way because of legal limitations on public action, so that expanding an existing right-of-way is easier than building a new one. It remains that the engineering problem is naively seen as simply one of speed rather than convenience, and favors straight lines over curves, single paths over multiple, and cars over everything else.

I hate cars.

Because what I like is to walk. Perhaps the American Jobs Plan will help put in some sidewalks.

Tinnitus

About a month ago, shortly after my annual physical, I was sitting in the quiet between the ending of the daily conference calls and dinner, and I noticed a sound in my ears like the hissing of a cassette after the music has ended before the magnetic tape runs out, or the hum of a speaker waiting for an electric guitar. And now the only time I don’t notice it is when my attention is focused elsewhere or there’s a louder noise.

It’s become the background radiation of my universe. I suppose the noise is not just a hazard, like unsolicited mailings from the AARP, of turning 50, and I should see a specialist about this. So far the only apparent damage has been to the quiet. This one goes to 11.

I’ve spent today and yesterday in chores, with a pleasant interlude of conversation with a good friend. After lunch today and the folding of the vast bulk of laundry I quite suddenly wanted nothing more to do with chores though I still in my head had great plans of making beds and putting away clothes, so I’ve sat for the past while and read some. I hear the remaining piles growing tirelessly in my concentrated rest.

Or maybe that’s my tinnitus.

Missing Conversations

The advantage of Twitter, Facebook, and their ilk is that you can see your readers, all two of them, and they might become interlocutors. While I like talking to myself here on the Web, I would prefer to know who reads the ink I spill. And then if those alien creatures talk back, then we might become friendly. Often enough, because of who makes their virtual presence on those platforms, they’re already people you know. But I’m old enough to remember the dreams of trackbacks and magically interconnected blog conversations, and well before that USENET without spam. Our gregarious species forms communities with whatever tools are available.

Social media substitute, somewhat, for the missing pieces of our real lives, in a fragmented, fragmenting way. As adjuncts, they can add some additional benefit, though we’re probably all aware by this point how horrible our neighbors can be on Nextdoor. If we look at them as replacements, virtual spaces are pale substitutes. Alone they’re not good enough, when what we need is the actual presence of others, nearby, in the informal salon of a great, good place. Somewhere close enough to touch.

Playful and happy conversation is the main focus of activity in third places, although it is not required to be the only activity. The tone of conversation is usually light-hearted and humorous; wit and good-natured playfulness are highly valued.

And yet, I miss Facebook, because I miss my friends, who are there, and I miss the hubbub of Twitter. And I miss those shadows because out here in the physical world, in the suburbs, those great, good places are few, far-between, or gone.

Nitpicking Marvel’s Verisimilitude

My children and I enjoyed Disney’s WandaVision, particularly catching the references to other television shows and comics. We even laughed at their mistakes. But they had a large enough budget that they shouldn’t be making mistakes with the details: all of the cars in Westview, New Jersey, have Connecticut license plates.

Let’s pretend that this was intentional reference to the Gilmore Girls, who shared a gazebo and town square, and that any goof made in a fiction is an in-joke about how everything from Hollywood is illusion and bullshit. Let’s not pretend that any of it is real.

Maybe the Matrix is glitching.

Stay Home for Spring Break, You Idiots

I turned the news on briefly while I was making breakfast. That was a mistake. I was so excited to hear that people are making their usual plans to travel for Spring break and for the Summer.

🤦🏻

How hard is this? If you don’t need to travel, don’t.

If ‘rona is actively spreading in your community, you’re possibly taking it with you. If it’s not, someone else is. Stay the fuck home.

Oh the heavy burden of voracious reading

As the first to receive the library system’s first copy of Arkady Martine’s _A Desolation Called Peace_ (2021) 📚, I am duty-bound to read and return it quickly, so that others may also have the pleasure. Such burdens sometimes fall to those of us most able to bear them.


I love the speculation that is the core of science fiction and fantasy: what if? What if this instead of that? What if Frankenstein’s monster just wanted to be left alone? He didn’t ask to be made. What if “Second Life” and Terminators and Berserkers did not engage in an existential war of extinction? What if the Borg found a way to co-exist rather than assimilating everything? What if Ender Xenocide weren’t asked to destroy a species?

What terrifies me is not speculation, it is—and this has nothing to do with Arkady Martine’s book—how some people find elements of these speculations so attractive that they lust for them. They would create WOPR, Skynet, the Borg, not as foils for our hero but as desirable ends themselves. They play Faust or Frankenstein or Doctor Moreau. They seek to remake the world in their image, and instead of adding possibility destroy it.

Sunday

After a day out with the Scouts, listening and chatting while they helped with an Eagle project, I settled down around 15:30 to read in the sun as it traced an arc along my window toward the horizon. It’s just about the vernal equinox, and the sun is setting due West.

Wallowing

I’m trying to enjoy Katherine May’s Wintering (2020) 📚 but I’m full instead of envy. I’ve carried that sin for years; it’s always close to the surface. What could she have that I envy? Colon cancer? No. Time and friends and baked goods and pickles. Living where she can walk to whatever she needs. And writing that makes me want to keep reading. No one reads mine, what little there is. And so I wallow in envy and despair. Why would they when I wallow in envy and despair?

Many others now work from home, since the pandemic started, and hearing the sounds of their homes behind them has brought moments of delight on the interminable conference calls. Those sounds of children, dogs, cats–even running water or dishes clattering. Except when someone apologized for a loud vacuum, and took a moment to reprimand her house cleaner. She can afford another to clean her house?

There, I did it again.

Perhaps there’s some enlightenment to be found in wallowing as well as wintering, because I certainly practice it enough. It’s not a practice I recommend. Being aware that one is, however, that’s useful. Noticing a feeling, recognizing it for what it is–and watching it, slowly, pass.

MacOS Storage Grumbles

I have nothing productive to add here, yet. But first, some precepts:

  1. A computer serves YOUR purposes, not the purposes of the vendor.
  2. The way an operating system works SHOULD be, if not transparent, then, at the very least, predictable and consistent.
  3. Commercial operating systems SHOULD come with extensive documentation for every function and tool provided by the operating system.
  4. Updates to the operating system SHOULD come with documentation about its requirements, and specifically describe which functions and behaviors have changed.
  5. Changes should be obviously distinguishable from each other.

Along those lines, my MacOS Catalina 10.15.7 needs to update to the MacOS 10.15.7 Supplemental Update 10.15.7 (see item #5 above). It has failed to do so on each attempt. The “solution” should not be delete everything and restore from the last backup. The “solution” should not be reinstall from scratch. The “solution” should not be buy a new computer.

But while clearing out some room on the disk to see if insufficient space were the problem, I noticed that the amount of available storage listed in the Finder, and in Terminal, and in the System Information storage panel were all different. By a lot: 90GB in Finder, 11GB in Terminal, and 54 GB in System Information different. After I’d thrown away files exceeding 100GB in size. (Item 2 above.)

After a couple of restarts now they’re almost the same, but none yet equal the amount of files tossed.

System Information thinks I have 35.28 GB available
Finder suggests 34.14 GB

Meanwhile, there’s this giant “Other” category of used space which MacOS claims to “automatically” control (also a problem on iOS), which seems entirely intended to use up storage so that one is tempted to purchase space on Apple’s iCloud (see item #1 above). The decisions made here on what to remove are strangely wrong: why does the OS preserve logs and application caches while asking the user to throw away personal files?

wcox@Rooster ~ % df -H ~          
Filesystem     Size   Used  Avail Capacity iused      ifree %iused  Mounted on
/dev/disk1s1   1.0T   953G    30G    97% 3329835 9762247605    0%   /System/Volumes/Data
wcox@Rooster ~ % df -h ~
Filesystem     Size   Used  Avail Capacity iused      ifree %iused  Mounted on
/dev/disk1s1  931Gi  888Gi   28Gi    97% 3329836 9762247604    0%   /System/Volumes/Data

This isn’t VMS where one might forget to purge old versions of files, is it?

And, no, I’m not going to use that stupid lower-case m. I’m already annoyed that file operations on this iMac (27-inch, Late 2013) perform more poorly than on my LC-III (1993).

Went out for a brief walk in the woods in the rain. There, songbirds of some kind and woodpeckers flitted around, conversing and eating insects. Standing on my porch at home, I looked up and saw, instead of raindrops on my roof, tiny pebbles of hail, the size of dots, bouncing joyfully down to the gutter.

A Full Snow Moon

Rain was forecast. And snow fell overnight and softly falls this morning. The deer herd are up to their breakfast wandering each tree to tree, pine to pine for the grass beneath and the leaves.

Unlike the storm day earlier in the week when they hunkered down in the shelter of tree and brush, today is a quiet breakfast to the song of robins.

Until the rain.