Dept. of Completely AMAZING Obliviousness

Seen today, on my neighborhood’s Facebook group, where someone is actually upset that their new tax appraisal is more than 10% higher than last year (i.e., the homestead limit) because they added a pool, a two car garage, and an elevator.

Blind to privilege anon

In the future, you can watch your home burn down from anywhere in the world!

A Fort McMurray family had a Canary system, apparently, and so they were able to watch their home burn down in real time on their phones. The fire comes in through the window at the left.

There’s audio. You can hear the glass breaking, and, eventually (but far too late), the smoke detectors going off around the time visibility becomes 0. The video continues after you have no more meaningful visuals, but given that audio continues the whole time I’m not sure if this is because the smoke was too thick, or because the video element perished ahead of the rest of the device.

In any case: Eeek.

Are you guys watching The Americans?

You love it? Yeah? Well, have I got a story for you. Turns out, the whole thing is based on truth — including the idea that the kids wouldn’t even know their parents’ real identities. Tim and Alex Foley were caught completely by surprised when, in 2010, the FBI raided their home and took their parents away in handcuffs. (It was the same operation that netted Anna Chapman, as it happens.)

Born in Canada to “illegal” agents just like Paige and Henry on the FX show, they eventually naturalized as American citizens living in Cambridge. Both citizenships have been rescinded thanks to their parents’ clandestine careers, so the only passports they hold are Russian — i.e., a country to which neither have a real connection.

[Via MeFi.)

Friendly reminder: Cops can steal your cash for no reason. You probably can’t get it back.

An Arkansas court has ruled that the $20K taken from him during a traffic stop — during which he was not even ticketed, let alone arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime — will not be returned.

Back in July 2013, Guillermo Espinoza was travelling with his girlfriend to Texas, when they were pulled over by the Arkansas State Police. During the stop, a drug dog alerted to a computer bag. Inside, police found $19,894 in cash, which they promptly seized. No contraband was found during the stop.

Although prosecutors in Hot Spring County never charged Espinoza with a crime, they filed a complaint to forfeit his cash in civil court. Espinoza challenged the forfeiture, arguing that “the stop, search and seizure by law enforcement officers was unreasonable, unlawful and unconstitutional” and violated the Fourth Amendment. He also submitted paychecks and tax filings to show that his seized cash was “lawful earnings,” and not drug money. “The state should not be permitted to profit from its own wrongdoing,” he added.

The courts disagreed, because (presumably) they prefer not to give up money once they have it, especially when the victim in this case of literal highway robbery lacks the resources to force true accountability.

HOWTO: Extort Prisoners and Their Families, and Make Everyone Else Pay For It

Step one is to establish extortionate long distance rates as the only possible way to talk to inmates. In the world you and I live in, long distance costs are effectively zero; not so for prisoners, where $14 a minute isn’t unheard of.

These rates are decided by legal limits, not actual costs; prison phone providers have repeatedly gone to court to prevent the FCC from imposing rate caps here; those suits are ongoing — but the cap is still a very high 11 cents per minute.

Step two? Eliminate actual visits in favor of video calls with absurdly high per-minute charges.

Travis County ended all in-person visitations in May 2013, leaving video visitation as the exclusive method for people on the outside to communicate with the incarcerated. But Travis County is only on the leading edge of a new technological trend that threatens to abolish in-person visitation across the country. Over 600 prisons in 46 states have some sort of video visitation system, and every year, more of those facilities do away with in-person visitation.

[...]

For the families of the 2.3 million incarcerated Americans nationwide, crippling costs are part and parcel of supporting a loved one in jail. A sweeping survey of families by the Ella Baker Center showed that more than 1 in 3 families goes into debt just to cover the costs of keeping in touch with their loved one. Of everyone pouring money into those systems, 87% are women.

These fees are the linchpin in an elaborate racket between telecommunications providers, prisons and local governments. The business model for the three major prison telecoms is built around long-term contracts that establish them as the sole provider in a given county or state. In order to win these contracts, the major companies promise each county or state “site commissions” — a euphemism for kickbacks. These deals are lucrative: In Los Angeles County, for example, it brings in a baseline, contractual guarantee of $15 million a year. In some counties, this money trickles back down to the prisons.

Both of these plans make it much, much more difficult for those inside to maintain relationships and connections with friends and family outside — which is absolutely counterproductive. Having an active, non-felon support network upon parole or release has been shown over and over to keep people from ending up back behind bars.

The minute you set up a system where people can literally get rich in the prison industry, you have fucked up, because rapacious soulless assholes will have absolutely zero problem screwing these people over. Repeatedly. The end result is a net higher cost to society, because the worse we make prison, the higher the recidivism rates go — which means we all end up paying Big Prison more money to house more prisoners for more years.

Prison operations companies and those that feed at the same trough see this as a feature, not a bug.

Dept. of You Have Got To Be Shitting Me.

JoePa knew 40 years ago.

Throughout most of the Sandusky scandal, Joe Paterno claimed that he was unaware that his assistant coach was sexually abusing children; 2012′s Freeh Report showed that Paterno was aware of a 1998 incident and told Sandusky he could keep coaching. Today’s opinion from Judge Glazer—relying on sworn deposition from numerous witnesses—holds that Paterno knew about Sandusky’s behavior much earlier.

From the decision:

Sandusky was employed by PSU as an Assistant Football Coach and Assistant Professor of Physical Education from 1969 until his retirement in 1999.1 PMA claims Sandusky committed several acts of molestation early in his career at PSU: in 1976, a child allegedly reported to PSU’s Head Football Coach Joseph Paterno, that he (the child) was sexually molested by Sandusky; in 1987, a PSU Assistant Coach is alleged to have witnessed inappropriate contact between Sandusky and a child at a PSU facility; in 1988, another PSU Assistant Coach reportedly witnessed sexual contact between Sandusky and a child; and also in 1988, a child’s report of his molestation by Sandusky was allegedly referred to PSU’s Athletic Director.

BigFootball is a cancer.

“I’m John Laurens in the place to be!”

A few fine quotes about Hamiltons’ pal John Laurens:

[Laurens] became close friends with his fellow aides-de-camp, Alexander Hamilton and the General Marquis de Lafayette. He showed reckless courage at the battles of Brandywine, Germantown in which he was wounded, and Monmouth, where his horse was shot out from under him. After the battle of Brandywine, Lafayette observed that, “It was not his fault that he was not killed or wounded … he did every thing that was necessary to procure one or the other.”

Unfortunately, his luck ran out at the 1782 Battle of the Combahee River in South Carolina, when he was only 27. Washington said

In a word, he had not a fault that I ever could discover, unless intrepidity bordering upon rashness could come under that denomination; and to this he was excited by the purest motives.

And, of course, from Hamilton himself:

I feel the deepest affliction at the news we have just received at the loss of our dear and inestimable friend Laurens. His career of virtue is at end. How strangely are human affairs conducted, that so many excellent qualities could not ensure a more happy fate! The world will feel the loss of a man who has left few like him behind; and America, of a citizen whose heart realized that patriotism of which others only talk. I feel the loss of a friend whom I truly and most tenderly loved, and one of a very small number.

John Laurens is buried in land that is now a Trappist monastery (Mepkin Abbey) in Moncks Corner, South Carolina.

(Laurens was the only of Hamilton’s crowd to die before he did. Hercules Mulligan died in his eighties, and is buried at Trinity Church, which is also where you’ll find Hamilton’s tomb. Lafayette died at 76; he’s interred in Paris, covered in small part by soil brought over from Bunker Hill. An American flag always flies over his grave.)

The ongoing collapse of the justice facade

We’re systematically making the justice system increasingly unfair to those least able to fight back: the poor.

The situation in South Dakota highlights the insanity of this. South Dakota charges a defendant $92 an hour for his public defender, owed no matter the outcome of the case. If a public defender spends 10 hours proving that her client is innocent, the defendant still owes the lawyer $920, even though he committed no crime and his arrest was a mistake.

Failure to pay is a crime. Someone who qualifies as indigent may be acquitted, only to be convicted of being too poor to pay for the legal services the Constitution requires the state to provide.

My superpower is Excel combined with an unseemly attachment to numbers.

When I was first riding pretty seriously as an adult, back in 2014, I tried to keep up a hundred-miles-per-week goal, and I tracked it in Excel.

Obviously, that 2014 sheet is kind of depressing now, since it shows me doing exactly that for weeks on endf — rom June until the week I got hurt in November, and then a loooong sequence of zero mile weeks starts up.

When I started riding again, after rehab in spring of last year, I started a new sheet. I was weak, obviously, and was turning in at best one or two rides a week for a long time. My first ride in that sheet was in the week ending 3/29/15, but I didn’t get over 70 miles in a week until June, and I didn’t top 100 again until the week ending July 19, when I rode my first significant distance post-injury at the Katy Flatland ride. I skipped the century in favor of the “metric century,” i.e. 100 kilometers, or 62 miles. So that week’s a bit of a holiday for me.

In all, I had 15 weeks at 100 miles or better in 2015. I finished up with a shade under 2,800 miles for the year, which I’m kind of proud of given the slow start and the fact that I missed the entire first quarter.

I’m back in the thick of it now. My goal is still 100 a week, but now I have a long term goal, too: I want 5,000 miles in 2016. I’m on track for it, too — slightly ahead, even. For the year, I’m at 1,714 miles, with an average of about 97 per week.

Anyway, it occurred to me to check what my actual mileage and average was since that Katy ride last summer, and now i know: In the 42 weeks since then, I’ve ridden 3,806 miles, averaging about 90.6 per week.

I’ll take it.

As predicted: More law enforcement overreach

The illegally collected NSA eavesdropping data will soon be used for normal policing despite earlier assurances that the information was being collected only for “national security” reasons in “terrorism” cases.

As wise people have been pointing out since, well, 12 September 2001:

It’s all another sobering reminder that any powers we grant to the federal government for the purpose of national security will inevitably be used just about everywhere else. And extraordinary powers we grant government in wartime rarely go away once the war is over. And, of course, the nifty thing for government agencies about a “war on terrorism” is that it’s a war that will never formally end.

Forget EGOT. The new hotness is MacPEGOT.

What’s EGOT? It’s when you’ve won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. That’s a rarefied group — think Richard Rodgers, or Rita Moreno, or Audrey Hepburn, or Mel Brooks.

What’s a MacPEGOT? It’s an EGOT winner who’s also bagged the MacArthur and the Pulitzer, and Lin-Manuel Miranda is well on his way.

  • Miranda won two Tonys in 2008, for his first musical In the Heights.

  • He picked up his first Grammy the next year, for the show’s soundtrack album, and then got another this year, for the soundtrack to Hamilton.

  • He wrote a song (with Tom Kitt) for the Tony Awards in 2014, and won an Emmy for it.

  • And, of course, this year he’s picked up the MacArthur and the Pulitzer.

Turns out, the only one he doesn’t have is an Oscar. But he’s doing the music for an upcoming Disney animated feature (“Moana”), and a filmed adaptation of Hamilton seems inevitable, so…

Oh, we should probably mention that “MacPEGOT” isn’t actually a thing yet, because no one’s done it. (Only Richard Rodgers and Marvin Hamlisch have added the Pulitzer to their EGOT.)

(There’s obviously a Wikipedia page about the EGOT, which helpfully includes lists of folks with 3 of the 4 EGOT awards.)

Dept. of Turnabout-Is-Fair-Play

You may or may not be aware of the fact that Antoine Fuqua is remaking the 1960 classic The Magnificient Seven; he’s pulled together a hell of a cast for this retread — Denzel, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, D’Onofrio — but at the end of the day it still makes me ask “um, why?”

However, in discussion of this on Facebook, something actually interesting cropped up. I’m assuming anyone reading this is aware that the original Magnificent Seven was itself a US retelling of Akira Kurosawa‘s 1954 film Seven Samurai. Remakes are one thing, but cross-cultural adaptations can actually be interesting.

Such adaptations are mostly east to west, at least heretofore, but turns out, Japanese cinema can do it, too. In 2013, they made an adaptation of Eastwood’s 1992 Oscar-winner. Ken Watanabe stars; it’s also called Unforgiven, at least in English (in Japan, it’s apparently “Yurusarezaru Mono”).

Here’s the trailer:

I think I need to see this.

So, I did a thing again.

In cycling, we talk about the “century” ride, which is 100 miles. The first day of the MS150 has three starting points, so you can choose your own level of difficulty. If you start in Waller, you do 75 miles. If you start in Katy, it’s 85. And if you start at Tully Stadium on the west side of Houston proper, your first day is a century.

When I did my first MS150 in 2013, that’s where I started, and on that day I notched my first century since the Reagan administration. I rode from there in 2014, too, on my second MS; here’s the summary of that ride:

Screen Shot 2016 04 17 at 12 45 51 PM

My time two years ago was better than my time in 2013, but not substantially so. After that ride, I got much more serious about cycling. I started going to regular rides with people who’d kick my ass, and I got strong enough to hang with them. I lost more weight. I even bought a fancy new bicycle to facilitate go-fast behavior. I averaged in excess of 100 miles per week for most of the year.

Then, of course, there was the crash. In November of 2014, I had a little mishap that resulted in pretty serious broken bone, surgery, two hospital stays, and the inability to walk for three months. I was off the bike for six months, and I was weak as hell when I got back on it.

But I kept at it.

And here we are. Yesterday, I rode my first century since day one of the 2014 MS150.

Screen Shot 2016 04 17 at 12 46 08 PM

I’m still not a speed demon, but I’m pretty damn happy about turning in a post-injury time over an hour faster than my 2014 effort. I’m not super excited about yesterday’s performance; I didn’t feel particularly strong, and felt like I was capable of better — maybe it was nutrition, or a failure to taper properly; I dunno. But I’m happy about the trendline. And I couldn’t possibly be more thankful for the people who helped me get here: Erin, first and foremost; my team at Karbach Brewing; and my friends from my Tuesday/Thursday rides.

Now: when’s the next ride?

(PS: If you’d like, it’s still possible to donate to the 2016 MS150; this is my fundraising link — I’d be much obliged!)

Remember my post about Mississippi?

Well, Talking Points Memo has noticed the same thing:

The economy in Mississippi is different from those many other states that have recently addressed legislation impacting the LGBT community. The state, which has one of the lowest GDPs in the country, is not home to any Fortune 500 companies, lacks a significant tech sector, and has no major pro sports teams.

With relatively nascent LGBT movement, Mississippi was not ripe for the kind of backlash the country has seen recently in Georgia and North Carolina, where Atlanta and Charlotte house major national corporations, more established LGBT communities, and cosmopolitan attitudes. Mississippi has no major metropolitan area.

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, the executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, a LGBT advocacy group that does work in Mississippi and North Carolina, told TPM that Mississippi lacks the “nexus where the corporate world meets the political world meets the cultural world” that exists in states like Georgia and North Carolina.

[...]

“The political climate in Mississippi remains quite conservative on the whole. We are seeing increasing levels of support for LGBT issues around the kitchen table and anecdotally in families, but when you look at, say the public discourse say around the Confederate flag issue, I think that’s a very accurate barometer of how conservative the rhetoric and discourse in the public square continues to be in Mississippi,” Beach-Ferrara told TPM.

In which I’m nerdy about keyboards

So I have a great keyboard, but it turns out one of the things that I really love about it — fantastic mechanical switches that feel really nice under my fingers — also makes it kind of loud, and even though I work at home, turns out I’m on the phone a LOT. And even though I use a headset most of the time, the Kinesis is clickyclacky enough that people ask me to mute ALL THE DAMN TIME.

Well, since the Kinesis — which was a gift from a pro bono client ten years ago, which shocks the hell out of me; who makes keyboards that last ten years? — really needs some TLC, I figured I’d try out one of the more well-reviewed other ergo keyboards in the interim: the Microsoft Sculpt.

Yeah, I know. But, turns out, lots of Mac nerds love it, and it’s cheap (or, at least, it’s cheap compared to the Kinesis, and so now I’m typing this on one.

It’s true: key feel is, while inferior to the mechanicals on the Kinesis, still far better than I’d expected. But it’s a different beast. All ergo keyboards have some idiosyncrasies; my Kinesis has for years been the functional equivalent of typing on an RPN calculator. Guests just can’t use it. But it’s not just the radical shape of the thing — even though the keys are essentially in a standard Qwerty layout, the modifiers are all over the place. I’ve been hitting enter with my right thumb for a decade.

Space is there, too. Backspace and delete are under your left thumb. Control, command, and alt are thumb keys on the Kinesis layout, too. That’s not all, either; the arrow keys are split between left and right (below the bottom row on the left) and up and down (same position on the right). To describe the Kinesis as eccentric is to understate things rather dramatically, but holy hell is it comfortable once you get the hang of it. (Obviously, all this assumes a pretty complete committement to touch-typing; the last time I checked, I was somewhere north of 90 words per minute.)

Microsoft’s entry here is almost quotidian compared to my Old Reliable. It’s still goofy compared to a flat keyboard, but it’s far closer to the norm than the Kinesis. It’s got a normal (but split) spacebar. The arrows are in an inverted T on the right, as you’d expect. The biggest shocks for me, in terms of adaptation, are doubtless to be

  • The placement of control/command/option on either side of the space bar, which isn’t terribly comfortable, and is especially hostile to the motions I’ve learned on the Kinesis for Cmd-Tab and such; and
  • The utterly baffling choice they’ve made with the number row.

Of the second point, let me explain. On the old keyboard the split was logical: 1-5 on the left and 6-0 on the right. This allows the keyboard to be used just as a traditional touch typist would, and it’s a critical thing.

Microsoft has, once again, gone its own way for no discernible reasons (and have apparently been doing this since their first “Natural” keyboard back in the 1990s). The numbers are unbalanced; the left hand handles 1 through 6, with 7-0 on the right. This might seem like a minor change, but as I noted it’s like nails on a chalkboard for anyone that actually knows how to type.

Plus, numbers aren’t the end of it — obviously, if the number row is shifted left, so too are the shifted versions of those keys; shift-8 is asterisk on most any keyboard, but now the eight and the asterisk are in the wrong spot. Plus the keys to the right of zero are now in the wrong spot, too (hyphen/underscore and plus/equals).

It’s a little thing, but it may well be enough to have me send this thing back. I can’t even fix it with remapping software, because there aren’t enough keys on the top row to shift things right (backspace is to the right of plus/equals).

The tl;dr here is that yeah, once again, I’ve run into a place where Microsoft subverts an agreed-upon standard for no good goddamn reason. What IS it with those guys?

No, YOU’RE a two-rotor wankel

Even people who aren’t gearheads tend to be at least provisionally aware that the Mazda RX-7 and RX-8 used a very different sort of engine than pretty much every other car. While the rest of the auto world had long since settled on a piston-and-cylinder design, the RX cars used something else: the Rotary or Wankel engine.

I knew this, too, and even had a vague idea how it actually worked — just a lot MORE vague than my understanding of conventional cylinder engines. However, if you’re curious, this excellent video runs down exactly how rotaries work by walking you through the actual parts involved (in this case, from a 1985 Rx-7). It’s pretty awesome.

You may have also noticed that, well, not only were the Mazda RX cars the only cars to use these things, but not even Mazda makes them anymore. Why is that? Well, fortunately, the same guy also made a video about why the rotary engine is dead. Again, I knew some of this, but not the underlying causes for them. Great, very accessible work here.

The tl;dr here, though, is kind of simple: because of the way the engine works, there’s an irregularly shaped combustion chamber, and that leads to inefficient combustion. A rotary is absolutely going to end up emitting unburnt fuel, which is terrible for fuel economy and terrible for emissions. The problem is exasperated by the fact that combustion only happens on one side of the chamber, which leads to enormous temperature differentials, which leads to problems in sealing, which means inefficient combustion, which means bad emissions and bad fuel economy again.

But watch the videos. He explains is really well.

Mississippi, Goddamn.

I grew up in Mississippi. It’s not a secret; most people know this about me. It’s also not a secret that I left as soon as I was able. I always knew that I would. I attended college out of state, and have made my home in Texas since soon after college. Mississippi was never an option for me.

I cannot say their governor’s enthusiastic adoption of a discrimination bill surprises me at all; that ship has sailed. Once the issue was raised, there was never any doubt in my mind that Mississippi would lead the pack rushing to adopt such a measure. Sure, other states did it, too, but the Magnolia State was right in the thick of it.

Then some interesting things happened. In Georgia, the governor — realizing just exactly what a shitstorm their bill would produce in terms of litigation costs and lost revenue — vetoed the measure, and reasonable people in that state breathed a sigh of relief.

Not so in North Carolina, where the aggressively retrograde governor beat Mississippi to the punch by approving a law perhaps even worse than Mississippi’s. As anyone with two brain cells could predict, the reactions were swift and furious. The law will absolutely not survive challenge on Constitutional grounds, but they’re already losing millions in tax revenue. PayPal cancelled a planned office there. Film and television productions are relocating. More costs will follow. Eventually, those costs, together with the growing litigation bill, will force the law in North Carolina off the books — perhaps even sooner than later, and perhaps even without a Federal court ruling. There are enough people there who will stand against bigotry. There are enough business interests who realize that hate isn’t a good business plan.

This is exactly why I find the Mississippi development more horrifying than the North Carolina one: North Carolina will reap the whirlwind and likely correct course. Mississippi will not, because they have very little to lose.

They do HAVE some industrial investment — Nissan has a factory north of Jackson, for example — but the kinds of investments that the tarheels are now losing really don’t consider Mississippi very often, and the ones that do aren’t the PayPals of the world because there’s no tech corridor to join.

With no immediate and obvious financial repercussions, it’ll stay on the books until it’s litigated away, which will take years (and millions that state doesn’t have). And when that inevitable happens and the law is struck down, the bigots there will moan and cry about “activist judges” or some shit, and the whole aggrieved idiot class will count themselves martyrs, and in the meantime more and more companies will have investigated Mississippi — land IS cheap, and cost of living IS low — and then passed them over because of the law, the workforce available, the lack of amenities in the metro areas, the more appealing locations in Alabama or Georgia or whatever, etc.

I’ve wondered, ever since I left, what it would take for Mississippi to make a real and substantive recovery, and leave the bottom of every list that matters. I even had hope about it at one point. Not any more, though; the leadership there is aggressively telling every smart kid with options that it is not the place for them, especially if they’re gay or trans or even a little weird. (I mean, good CHRIST I was a white, straight, upper-middle class preppy kid BORN THERE, and I never felt especially welcome 30 years ago. And it’s worse now.)

The Mississippi GOP has decided bigotry is a hill they’re willing to die on — they’re keeping the Treason Flag, and they want EVERYBODY to know how much they hate the queers, and that it’s legally okay to do so. I have no fucking idea how they pull out of this. I really, really don’t. It looks like a death spiral, which breaks my heart because I have family there, many of whom cannot leave for various reasons.

Bacon, bacon, bacon, bacon and bacon.

This excellent commercial for a British film download service stars Kevin Bacon, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Bacon, and Kevin Bacon. Enjoy:

(I think the best part is that the jerk — who turns 58 this summer — has aged so well he can plausibly reprise characters from 1980 (when he was 22), 1984, 1992, 1995, and 2000 in one commercial and have them all be immediately recognizable.)

Whatever else he is, J. J. Abrams is an enthusiastic nerd

He’s been instrumental in getting Don Coscarelli’s late-70s cult horror film Phantasm restored and released on Blu-Ray and DVD, on account of BIG FAN. Coscarelli:

It started a loooong long time ago in a graveyard far, far away. J.J. Abrams called up, oh, about 12 years ago, back when he still doing TV stuff. I didn’t know who he was. He said “I’m a TV producer, and I love Phantasm.” And we started talking about it. In fact, at the time, I think we were finishing up Bubba Ho-Tep. And I got a little trouble with the editing process, and I was having trouble making that movie come together. And I brought it over and showed it to him and we hung out and he was a real cool guy. And, over the years, from time to time we stayed in touch. I introduced him to Angus Scrimm [ed. note: the "Tall Man" villain in Phantasm], and he ended up putting Angus into a recurring role on his Alias TV series. Angus really appreciated that and really enjoyed it.

Flash-forward to about a year and a half ago, I got another call from J.J. and he wanted to screen Phantasm for his workers over at his company Bad Robot. And I told him that the only choice he really had was my scratched-up old 35mm print, or the standard-def DVD. Those weren’t really great choices, so he said “Oh, we gotta fix that!” So he put [me] in touch with their head of post-production, a guy named Ben Rosenblatt, and he came up with this plan as to how to restore the movie efficiently. So that’s how it started.

I’m not really a horror fan, and I’m no fan of Abrams, but this is a cool story.

Just how fucked up IS North Carolina?

The “small government” Republicans in the state legislature have passed an omnibus “hate bill” in response to a Charlotte ordinance protecting LGBT citizens from discrimination that produced whole host of horrors in addition to rolling back those protections:

But the legislation introduced and passed into law by the General Assembly yesterday didn’t simply roll back that ordinance. It implemented a detailed state-wide regulation of public restrooms, and limited a person’s use of those restrooms to only those restrooms that correspond with one’s “biological sex,” defined in the new state law as the sex identified on one’s birth certificate. (So yes, by law in NC now, transgender porn star Buck Angel (look him up) will have to use the women’s room…isn’t that precisely what these lawmakers are actually wanting to prevent?).

But the legislation didn’t stop there. It also expressly pre-empted all municipal and county ordinances or policies broader than the official state anti-discrimination statute, which does not include sexual orientation or gender identity among the list of prohibited bases of discrimination. So that effectively wipes out local LGBT anti-discrimination protections in numerous NC cities (and, ironically, wipes out the protection of discrimination based on “veterans status” in Greensboro and Orange County (Chapel Hill)).

But wait, there’s more. The legislation also expressly states that there can be no statutory or common law private right of action to enforce the state’s anti-discrimination statutes in the state courts. So if a NC resident is the victim of racial discrimination in housing or employment, for example, that person is now entirely barred from going to state court to get an injunction, or to get damages of any kind. The new law completely defangs the state’s anti-discrimination statute, rendering it entirely unenforceable by the citizens of the state.

But wait, there’s more! The legislation also prohibits municipalities and counties from passing a higher minimum wage than the State’s. Not that any municipality or county had done that…but in case any of them were thinking about it, that’s now prohibited, too.

The GOP is, absolutely, the party of discrimination and hate. They don’t even try to hide it anymore.

As if you needed MORE proof that Jerry Jones is a shitstain of a human being

Jerry Jones: Link between CTE and football ‘absurd’.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones called the connections between CTE and football “absurd” on Tuesday.

Jones told reporters there was not enough data to establish a relationship between the degenerative brain disease, linked to repeated hits to the head, and the game of football.

Last week, NFL senior vice president for health and safety Jeff Miller said that there was “certainly” a link between football and CTE, which has been found in the brains of numerous former professional football players postmortem.

Look, if you’re behind the fucking NFL on an issue like this, that ought to be a warning, you know?

“Chicken staff meetings, chicken progress reports, chicken analytics, chicken sprint review”

My Well-acquaintance Laura decided to try her hand at making real coq au vin, which, as you may or may not be aware, assumes a mature cock.

The one key thing that is generally understood about traditional Coq au Vin, however, was that it was supposed to be made with a farmyard rooster (hence the “coq” (cock) – and not “poulet” (chicken)).

The chickens we buy in parts in the supermarket today are no more than a couple months old, and they don’t move much in their short lives. That’s why they are so tender. They are still babies.

The traditional coq au vin recipe involves braising a rooster in wine and stock for a really long time to break down the tough meat and connective tissue and to soften it up. That long braising time is how you actually make an old rooster edible. The long braising time also reduces and enriches the wine sauce. The long time to cook is part of the entire point.

As it happened, though, Laura had a big ol’ cock on hand, and so she was off to the races. This is a fun read, but it also makes me want to find a source for mature birds and try it myself.

Here’s something interesting…

Well, to me, anyway.

You’ve all played pool on a coin-op table in a bar, obviously. Did you ever wonder how the table knows which ball is the cue ball? It has to be able to tell somehow, because after every scratch during play it returns the cue instead of trapping it with the object balls.

Turns out, there’s two ways.

One method involves a big-ass magnet and requires the cue contain enough iron for the magnet to pull it to one side and change its pathway inside the table. That’s pretty neat. (Click through; there’s video.)

The other method involves a cue ball that is fractionally bigger (2 and 3/8 inches vs the standard 2 and 1/4) than the object balls, and uses a slightly different mechanism to do the segregation that’s perhaps a bit easier to imagine since it’s size based.

This information has implications, though.

First, it means that home or premium table cue balls won’t work on coin-op tables, because in those sets (a) all the balls are the same size and (b) none of them contain iron.

Second, a bar owner who needs a new cue ball for his table will also need to know which kind of mechanism his table has, because there two types of cue balls and the iron one won’t work on a table that expects an off-size cue, and vice versa.

Interestingly, the first several billiard supply shops I found online didn’t even deal with coin-op cue balls; they were all about the home or premium market. I assume this is because a bar owner (or similar) is dealing with some local amusement vendor and not the Internet most of the time, whereas folks searching for “pool table supplies” online are looking to outfit their own billiard room.

No idea why this information charms me so much, but there it is. (Also: Magnets!)

Maybe you’re confused. It’s everywhere, but what IS it?

Hamilton is pretty much on fire, but I admit I wasn’t really receptive until the JoCoCruise. I had apparently even skipped the New Yorker article last February about Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Off-Broadway production (which you should track down and read, because it’s amazing, too.)

Anyway. That article mentioned the origin of the show: basically, Miranda got obsessed with Hamilton after reading Ron Chernow‘s biography, and started working on material. The first public airing of the work was the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and Spoken Word — in 2009.

Well, dear reader, you’re in luck; the piece then called “The Hamilton Mixtape” was taped. Here you go. First taste is free.

Actually, it’s the first TWO tastes, because for the Grammys they took a live feed from the theater to show the Grammy audience the first number of an actual performance of the show on Broadway. So here’s what that song became five years later. The lyrics are mostly the same; the biggest difference is that instead of all being from Burr, it’s split up between Burr, Laurens, Jefferson, Madison, Eliza, and Washington.

Make Time.

(Seriously, the embedded link is like watching that old footage of Prince playing “Purple Rain” for the first time. It’s amazing.)

My favorite part is the reference to a “Writ of Duh”

Over at the Atlantic, Garrett Epps explains the metric smackdown the tantrum-throwing Alabama Supreme Court was just handed by a unanimous SCOTUS. It’s a thing a beauty:

The Alabama Supreme Court has had a rough week. On Friday, the court issued a one-sentence order admitting that “Erm, um, well, urm, okay, fine! Whatever! We really don’t have the authority to overrule the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges. Are you people happy now?” The order came accompanied by 170 pages of bloviation, which read a bit as if Robert E. Lee had tried to spin General Orders No. 9 as a strategic victory.

Monday, in a different but related matter, the U.S. Supreme Court piled on by in effect issuing what I’ll call a Writ of Duh in a same-sex adoption case.

and

[I]n another case, the Alabama court on Friday took 170 pages to discuss the unremarkable proposition that a state court can’t disobey, set aside, ignore, fold, bend, spindle, or mutilate a judgment of the United States Supreme Court. Here’s the entire operative part of the order: “IT IS ORDERED that all pending motions and petitions are DISMISSED.” Most of the other pages are occupied with sour grapes. Chief Justice Roy Moore (who lost his job once before when he defied an order of a federal court in a different case) was, as always, convinced that the world is eager to hear his views on a variety of subjects. He in his wisdom really thinks Justice Anthony Kennedy is a bad, bad judge for writing the Obergefell decision. Justice Tom Parker (founder of the conservative think-tank that brought the challenge) concurred specially to denounce the Supreme Court’s “despotism and tyranny.”

South of the Mason-Dixon Line, “tyranny” usually translates as “making me recognize the rights of people I don’t like.”

Boom.

“This is the downside of building party identity around a package of calculated nonsense and comically unrealizable goals.”

Josh Marshall at TPM explains the GOP’s Trump problem in terms of the idea of technical debt, thereby endearing himself to many geeky Heathen.

The deeper causes of the recent trends in the GOP go deep into the society and culture of the American right and American society generally. But Republican elected officials have increasingly coddled, exploited and in some cases – yes – spurred their voters’ penchant for resentment, perceived persecution, apocalyptic thinking and generic nonsense.

Ever wonder what it’s like to work with Terrence Malick?

Thomas Lennon (The State, Reno 911) got hired as a partygoer in the new film Knight of Cups, and shared his recollections here.

“We’re all standing there and Malick hands out these pieces of paper to all of us,” Lennon said. “And the one he gave me said, ‘There’s no such thing as a fireproof wall.’ And I ask, ‘Is this something I’m supposed to say in the scene?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know.’”

Lennon learned, after talking to the director, that there was no script, just a phrase that might inspire him when cameras started rolling.

“And then Malick goes, ‘Would you like some more? Because I have a whole stack of these.’ And I was like, ‘I think I’m good,’” Lennon said.

Lennon later asked Bale while Malick was away:

Lennon: “Is this how it goes?

Bale: “Yeah.”

Lennon: “Every day?”

Bale: “Yeah.”

Lennon: “How long have you been doing this?”

Bale: “This is, like, day 25.”

In which Erin is Awesome

So, last week we took a cruise, which was awesome.

On of the guests this year was fantasy author and awesome human N. K. Jemisin.

Erin and I attended her reading last Wednesday, which was a port day. During the reading, the crew had a drill that involved overhead announcements — which, unfortunately, also cut off the mic Ms Jemisin was using, interrupting the reading.

Over and over. It got comical, really, but Ms Jemisin persevered and finished the reading.

Well, Erin being Erin, she decided that Ms Jemisin should be rewarded for her grit here, and set about making some sort of trophy for her using materials she could find on the boat. That was somewhat limiting, but since one of the bits of swag for the cruise was a stuffed dolphin in a fez, and extras were available, an amusing and on-topic base was quickly identified. Erin festooned it with shiny things from the gaming room, and we gave it to her after dinner the next night. She was very pleased.

And, as it turns out, remains pleased about it now.

Here’s more on the Apple vs. FBI situation

Security expert Bruce Schneier weighs in. This is a guy who absolutely knows what he’s talking about:

The FBI’s demands are specific to one phone, which might make its request seem reasonable if you don’t consider the technological implications: Authorities have the phone in their lawful possession, and they only need help seeing what’s on it in case it can tell them something about how the San Bernardino shooters operated. But the hacked software the court and the FBI wants Apple to provide would be general. It would work on any phone of the same model. It has to.

Make no mistake; this is what a backdoor looks like. This is an existing vulnerability in iPhone security that could be exploited by anyone.

[...]

What the FBI wants to do would make us less secure, even though it’s in the name of keeping us safe from harm. Powerful governments, democratic and totalitarian alike, want access to user data for both law enforcement and social control. We cannot build a backdoor that only works for a particular type of government, or only in the presence of a particular court order.

Either everyone gets security or no one does.

Seriously.