Oh, the cheek!

Years ago when I was doing more travel, I signed up for a State Department notification list. I get mails about whether or not State thinks it’s a good idea to go to country X or whatever.

There isn’t much activity on the list, so I forgot about it until this morning, when I noticed a message saying I maybe shouldn’t go to the UAE.

Well, first, thanks. Wasn’t planning on it, but good to know.

And second, it’s goddamn hilarious that State is telling us where not to go, because at this point the US is basically already on everybody’s no-go list due to our abject failure in containing COVID-19, so it’s cute they’re saying “don’t go to place X” when most places at this point are safer than staying in the good ol’ USA.

Sigh.

So about those flat earthers….

This video is actually pretty great, and zeros in on an aspect of the modern flat earth “movement” that I think lots of folks miss. It boils down to a sort of scientific solipsism, wherein the adherents distrust anything and everything they cannot explain or experience with their own senses.

Modern science stands on the shoulders of giants. Probably no one understands it ALL, but we trust the scientific method, peer review, etc., to lead us towards the light. Flat Earthers see the implications of modern science, find it at odds with their lived experience, and choose their own naive POV over that of the scientific community.

In the 1800s, there was a similar problem; a man named Samuel Rowbotham pushed a school of thought he deemed “zetetic inquiry.”

In the Flat Earth sense, the term refers to flipping the scientific method on its head and deriving one’s observations from testing, with no regards to any hypothesis. Of course, if you did scientific inquiry this way, you’d end up with stating that a sphere is flat just because it looks flat to a relatively minuscule observer on its surface.

Got to concentrate / Don’t be distractive

Amazon has produced an adaptation of the graphic novel Radioactive, about the life of Marie Curie. Rosamund Pike stars. I am sold.

After watching the trailer, I was shocked to re-discover a couple things about her. Obviously, there’s the whole “was the first female winner of the Nobel, and then did it AGAIN 8 years later” thing — and, by the way, at the time no one had won the Nobel twice before.

But there’s also the following. See, while she basically discovered radioactivity, the dangers of atomic radiation were absolutely not understood at the time. I knew she died from this — her constant exposure and lack of protective equipment led to her death, at 66, of aplastic anemia, but also gave her cataracts and a host of other problems.

And those problems aren’t over:

She was interred at the cemetery in Sceaux, alongside her husband Pierre. Sixty years later, in 1995, in honour of their achievements, the remains of both were transferred to the Paris Panthéon. Their remains were sealed in a lead lining because of the radioactivity. She became the first woman to be honoured with interment in the Panthéon on her own merits.

Because of their levels of radioactive contamination, her papers from the 1890s are considered too dangerous to handle. Even her cookbook is highly radioactive. Her papers are kept in lead-lined boxes, and those who wish to consult them must wear protective clothing.

Whoa.

Anyway, Radioactivity airs July 24 on Prime Video. Here’s the trailer.

Dept. of Big-Ass Snow Trucks

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Chet, where can I find a high quality, relatively short video on heavy trucks intended for sub-zero use?”

Well, good news! I’ve got JUST THE THING!

This short documentary — just 36 minutes — is FASCINATING. It’s about the development of the Soviet Union’s Antarctic overland snow tractor in the 1950s. The design ended up having some drawbacks, but the three examples they made saw daily use down there for FIFTY YEARS, and the gen-2 version may still be in use.

It’s great stuff. Make time!

So, who WAS Woodrow Wilson?

This backgrounder over at Talking Points Memo is extremely informative. I had a vague sense that Wilson was a jackass, but until now I didn’t appreciate what a complete and utter shitbag he was.

For example:

He ultimately taught at Princeton, where he made his mark with a compact textbook, “Division and Reunion,” about the Civil War and postwar reconciliation. Contained within was an outline of the post-Confederate vision of a nation reunited based on shared Anglo-Saxon interests. He declared the “charges of moral guilt” leveled against Southern slave lords were unjust because slaves “were almost uniformly dealt with indulgently and even affectionately by their masters,” who themselves were the beneficiaries of “the sensibility and breeding of entitlement.” He condemned Reconstruction — the effort to enforce the civil and political emancipation of African-Americans in the occupied South — and said allowing Blacks to vote was a “carnival of public crime.”

In his follow-up effort, a “poorly written and shoddily researched five-volume tome” called A History of the American People, he

furthered the white supremacist arguments in “Division and Reunion,” calling freed slaves “dupes” and the KKK a group formed “for the mere pleasure of association [and] private amusement” whose members accidentally discovered they could create “comic fear” in the Blacks they descended on. Immigrants were a problem because they were no longer “of the sturdy stocks of the North of Europe” but contained “multitudes of men of the lowest classes from the South of Italy and men of the meaner sort out of Hungary and Poland” and Chinese people, “with their yellow skin and strange, debasing habits of life,” who seemed “hardly fellow men at all, but evil spirits” and who provoked understandable mass killings by white mobs.

Once elected president — which, we should note, really only happened because of a 3-way split of the electorate, as he took office having only captured 42 percent of the vote — he made his priorities clear:

Wilson presided over the segregation of the federal government, with Black civil servants directed to use only certain bathrooms and to eat their lunches there too so as to not sully the cafeterias. At the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, makeshift partitions were erected in offices so white clerks would not have to see their Black counterparts.

Lindsey Graham and Tom Cotton want to destroy the Internet

The new bill, called the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act, essentially outlaws end to end encryption that does not feature a back door, which means it outlaws any secure encryption at all.

It is not possible to create a secure encryption scheme that includes a back door. The existence of the back door means the existence of some sort of master key that will inevitably be leaked and misused. Insisting “but we’ll require a warrant” is cold comfort in light of that, and never mind that the whole warrant process for surveillance has been shown repeatedly to be rife with abuse itself.

This isn’t just about encrypted communication in WhatsApp. This touches every financial transaction online — every payroll deposit, every mortgage payment, every credit card charge. All of these things use secure encryption. And all of them will be made materially weaker and far, far easy to compromise by this bill.

Ars lays it out:

Encryption doesn’t work that way

Providing the sort of backdoor Graham and company keep asking for means, among other things, providing the service provider itself access to “encrypted” data. This, in turn, opens that provider’s customers up to privacy violations from the service provider—or rogue employees of the service provider—themselves, which in turn would break much of the security model of modern cloud services. This would gravely impact not only end consumer privacy but enterprise business security as well.

In recent years, large cloud providers such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google have made big and successful pushes to convince large businesses to host increasingly confidential business data in their data centers. This is only feasible because of secure encryption using keys inaccessible to the cloud provider itself. Without provider-opaque encryption, those businesses would return to storing critically confidential data only in self-managed and controlled private data centers—increasing cost and decreasing scalability for those businesses.

This, of course, only scratches the surface of the true impact of such a misguided effort. Secure encryption is an already widely available technology, and it doesn’t require massive infrastructure to implement. There is no reason to assume that the very terrorists Graham, Cotton, and Blackburn invoke wouldn’t simply revert to privately managed software without holes poked in it were such a bill to pass.

There’s also no reason to assume that the service providers themselves would be the only ones able to access the critical loopholes LAEDA would require. It’s difficult to imagine that such vulnerabilities would not rapidly become widely known and be exploited by garden-variety criminals, foreign and domestic business espionage units, and foreign nations.

The advocacy group Fight for the Future issued the following statement (also in the Ars article):

Politicians who don’t understand how technology works need to stop introducing legislation like this. It’s embarrassing at this point. Encryption protects our hospitals, airports, and the water treatment facilities our children drink from. Security experts have warned over and over again that weakening encryption or installing back doors will make everyone less safe, not more safe. Full stop. Lawmakers need to reject the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data act along with the EARN IT act. These bills would enable mass government surveillance while doing nothing to make children, or anyone else, any safer.

It’s weird to me that the answer isn’t obviously “the gallows.”

What Do the Hohenzollerns Deserve?

Apparently, the German royal family — deposed since 1918 — are trying to rewrite history, and perhaps regain a place of honor on Germany, including compensation for land and palaces in Berlin taken from them after abdication (which would come in addition to the dynastic wealth they retained even after 1918).

This is ridiculous, and would be ridiculous even without clear evidence of his family’s collaboration with and support of Hitler.

Monarchies are all based on murder, mayhem, and corruption. Monarchal wealth that persists past the end of the governing monarchy ought to have been subject to state confiscation. It’s ridiculous that the Hohenzollern descendants are still wealthy layabouts and not normal citizens with a historical footnote in their family tree.

Fortunately, it appears most Germans agree:

Many Germans are bewildered by their former royal family’s demands. “This country does not owe a single coffee cup to the next-born of a luckily long-vanquished undemocratic regime, let alone art treasures or real estate,” wrote Stefan Kuzmany, a columnist for Der Spiegel. “Even the request is an insult to the Republic.” The Hohenzollern wealth, he argued, was the product of historical injustice: “The aristocracy in general, [and] the Hohenzollerns in particular, have always been a plague on the country and the people. Like all so-called noblemen, they have snatched their fortune through the oppression of the population.” As Clark noted in his interview, “There seems to be a strong animus against the nobility within parts of the German public.”

Emphasis added.

In re: Charles Willeford, the best crime writer you don’t know

Well, you MIGHT know him — he wrote a book called Miami Blues that was made into a tight little hardboiled comedy in 1990 with Jennifer Jason Leigh, Fred Ward, and a 32-year-old Alec Baldwin. But you probably don’t.

But you should. Here’s a great intro from over at CrimeReads, which includes this spectacular sequence:

Although he was writing fiction, Willeford believed in doing his homework to make the story believable. He spent two years learning everything he could about the sport of cockfighting before he wrote his 1962 novel Cockfighter. Hard-boiled fiction is known for its terse heroes, but the hero of Cockfighter, Frank Mansfield, tops them all. He vows not to speak to anyone until he wins the big championship.

Cockfighter was going to be Willeford’s big breakthrough novel. But shortly after it was published, his publisher died and the publishing house went bankrupt. As a result, most of the print run, more than 20,000 copies, never reached bookstores.

Later, in 1974, Roger Corman produced a movie version directed by Monte Hellman and starring a masterful Warren Oates as Mansfield and Harry Dean Stanton as his nemesis. Willeford wrote the screenplay and had a cameo as a ring official. Corman said that it was his only film that lost money, despite the movie’s legendary tagline: “He came to town with his cock in his hand, and what he did with it was illegal in 49 states.”

Emph. added.

Anyway, there’s a new Willeford film coming — or, rather, it’s out, but in these COVID days lots of small films are getting lost. It’s called The Burnt Orange Heresy, based on his 1971 novel of the same name, and it premiered at last fall’s Venice Film Festival. Per the linked story, “A Variety review calls it ‘a marble-cool art-fraud thriller.'” Bonus: if you enjoyed the BBC/Netflix adaptation of Dracula earlier this year, you’ll be pleased to find that Claes Bang appears here in a leading role.

On loving a band, and loving The National

I’ll be up front and say that I do not love The National like this author, but I am entirely familiar with the sort of distracting and potentially unseemly love one may develop for a band that hits you where you live at just the right moment. Feeling that way about music is a magical gift; it opens doors to friendships and relationships and experiences that are inaccessible any other way.

So yeah, even if The National — whom I do enjoy — have never been that band for ME, I absolutely understand what Helena Fitzgerald is talking about here.

Oh, and while you’re at it? Here’s a great interview with frontman Matt Berninger you may enjoy, too.

And I’m listening to The National a bit more, anyway. Hey, nothing but time, right?

The Police are the Problem

The Police are the Problem

This week, we’ve watched countless peaceful marches descend into violence, but the striking thing is this: The violence has been overwhelmingly initiated and escalated by the police, not by the protesters. Standard operations procedure appears to involve kettling the protesters just before curfew, then refusing the let them leave and tear-gassing them, and then arresting and detaining as many as they can. After arrest they’re left to suffer in hot, unventilated spaces for hours with their arms bound, no access to bathrooms or water, with no explanation for their detention.

Police do this because they know no crime has been committed, so no charges will hold up in court— and so they mete out justice on their terms. It’s the maxim “you can beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride” writ large, which is itself evidence of broken and corrupt policing. A cop can arrest you for any old trumped up bullshit, rough you up on the way to jail, and hold you for a day on nothing just because he wants to, and you’d need to be very rich or very connected for the cop to suffer any consequences for this thuggish behavior.

So in that context, read this editorial.

In which prior choices are proven right

In 2007, after a well-timed robbery, I bought an Olympus OM-D E-M1 mirrorless (m4/3) camera to replace an aging (and now gone) Canon Rebel. It was pretty great!

Then, late last summer, I upgraded again: this time, I jumped ship to Sony’s full-frame mirrorless line with an A7ii, which of course required all new glass, but I’m a man of simple tastes so the whole thing was still not crazy expensive. And I’m OVER THE MOON about this camera; seriously, it’s amazing.

And, even at the time, I honestly never really considered staying with Olympus. They didn’t have something interesting to me — and Sony was wowing the world with their small-body full-frame line, which allowed drastic improvement in the areas of photography most important to me.

Turns out, this was probably a good call: Olympus has exited the camera market in Korea. It’s hard not to read this as a harbinger of further exits to come.

When they blow that whistle, I’ll move my little bristles

Like all right-thinking people, I view The State’s amazing and perfect Porcupine Racetrack skit as the pinnacle of 1990s television.

They must also remember it fondly, because in quarantine, they remounted it in Zoom.

It’s still lovely.

The resulting MeFi thread includes links to a few other nice State-related bits, including:

  • An NYT piece about the skit from 2009 (ie, YEARS after it ran);
  • This article about them from back-then, which includes the fascinating datum that, on one show, they were meant to have Blue Traveller as a guest, but SNL snagged them, so they had to “settle for” Sonic Youth; and
  • a Youtube link to their “43rd Annual All-Star Halloween Special,” which aired on CBS in prime time in 1995. It’s an AMAZING and RIDICULOUS long-form bit of comedy, complete with actual celebrity cameos about “incidents” from their supposedly-4-decade tradition of such specials. (CBS flubbed the marketing for this so badly that I didn’t even know about it, and I was a HUGE State fan at the time.)

This Gear Will Never Turn

Well, for certain values of “never;” the device in question includes a Googol-to-one gear ratio. It’s a sequence of 100 gears, each with a 10:1 ratio to its neighbor.

In the “similar prior art” department, turns out this guy was inspired by a Arthur Ganson’s sculpture “Machine with Concrete,” which includes a sequence of gears and a drive shaft, with the gearing such that the final step is literally embedded in concrete — which is fine, because that particular part turns 1 time every 2 trillion years.

Both links feature video fo the machines in question.

Dept. of Examples of How Windows Sucks

There are certain things you can’t name a file in Windows 10 due to design choices from MS-DOS.

Tom Scott has more.

Now, he tries to soften the suck here, noting the degree to which MSFT does things like this to ensure backwards compatibility. Bollocks. There’s no reason to continue this shit, especially when it comes (as it does) at the expense of modern function and stability — or correctness.

It’s that last bit that really points out MSFT’s ridiculousness here. 30 years ago, when Excel was first introduced, there was a well-known bug in Lotus 1-2-3 (the prior spreadsheet king); Lotus treated 1900 as a leap year, which is was NOT. Even so, 2/29/1900 was a valid date.

And Microsoft broke Excel to mirror the behavior, and continues to “honor” this bullshit to this day — in fact, the bug is a part of the requirements for the Open Office standard as a result.

(Don’t @ me about leap years. No, it’s not just every 4 years. It’s ever 4 years UNLESS it’s a century year that is NOT divisible by 400. This is why, for your whole life, every-4-years works — because 2000 was an exception to an exception that only comes around every 400 years.)

Not forever, just for now

It’s come to my attention — via the ever-reliable Jon Frazer D — that Uncle Tupelo’s barn-burner of a debut album No Depression was released 30 years ago this year.

Ouch.

In commemoration of said anniversary, please enjoy this YouTube of “Whiskey Bottle;” it’s not a video per se, but it does include a whole lot of contemporary snapshots of the band from those long-ago days.

RADM Grace Hopper, on Letterman

Somehow, I had never seen this. It’s wonderful. She had just recently retired — as, at the time, a Commodore, which was eventually renamed Rear Admiral (Lower Half) for complicated Navy reasons — but you can see here she’s just as quick as a whip even with someone like Letterman. She even gives him a nanosecond.

I’ve posted here before about her; she is a giant and without her, modern computing would be very, very different. Hers is the only grave I’ve sought out at Arlington. As they said of Wren,

LECTOR SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS CIRCUMSPICE

Dept. of Literary Takedowns

Patricia Lockwood eviscerates John Updike, deservedly so, in this longest piece at the London Review of Books. Make time, book nerds; there are few literary traditions more delightful than this sort of body slam.

A bit:

In a 1997 review for the New York Observer, the recently kinged David Foster Wallace diagnosed how far Updike had fallen in the esteem of a younger generation. ‘Penis with a thesaurus’ is the phrase that lives on, though it is not the levelling blow it first appears; one feels oddly proud, after all, of a penis that has learned to read. Today, he has fallen even further, still in the pantheon but marked by an embarrassed asterisk: died of pussy-hounding. No one can seem to agree on his surviving merits. He wrote like an angel, the consensus goes, except when he was writing like a malfunctioning sex robot attempting to administer cunnilingus to his typewriter.

The whole thing is brilliant. My hat’s off to Lockwood, for the piece and for the sacrifice of reading so much Updike in order to write it.

Trumpian Conspiratorial Thinking Claims Train

An insane doofus railway engineer took control of a fucking TRAIN and used to to try and ram the USNS Mercy in an LA port on the grounds that it’s “suspicious” and that he does not believe “the ship is what they say it’s for.”

The train crashed into a concrete barrier at the end of the track, smashed through a steel barrier and a chain-link fence, slid through one parking lot and then a second lot filled with gravel and hit a second chain-link fence. It came to rest after passing under a ramp leading to the Vincent Thomas Bridge. The train remained in that position Wednesday.

Also:

He allegedly made statements to a CHP officer that included “You only get this chance once. The whole world is watching. I had to. People don’t know what’s going on here. Now they will.”

The best part of this, if there is a best part is that he “has been charged with one count of train wrecking, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.”

I love the specificity.

So you’re working from home…

Let’s talk about working from home.

So the whole damn world is on lockdown, or should be, and those of us that can work from home are doing so. This is good! It’s better for the economy — which is absolutely going to take a hit, so having some portions able to continue to function and those employed in those portions able to keep spending money will help the recovery.

(And, let me just say this out loud: If you’re in a job that isn’t impacted, and you expect to keep getting a check, SPEND SOME DAMN MONEY at places that are hurting.)

But working from home is a new idea to lots of you. You might never have really done it before — sure, that one time little Sally Sue had the sniffles, and you “worked from home” to take care of her, but at the time it meant you called into a staff meeting and sent 12 emails. This, candidly, is not that.

I, on the other hand, have worked from home for most of the last 19 years, in a no-shit home office. Let me tell you a few things I’ve learned about being truly productive away from a communal office environment.

  1. Work your regular day. It’ll be tempting to drift in and out; that just sabotages you. Try to get some shit done. Nobody’s gonna come by and chatter about some stupid reality show! There’s no big play to discuss from last night! You can be hella productive!

  2. Use a chat tool. Doesn’t matter what it is — my company just uses plain old Skype — but by signing in and being available, you signal to folks that you’re In The (Virtual) Office. This is useful. There are lots of options for this; ask a nerdy coworker if one of them seems to mesh better with your office than others.

  3. Get dressed. This varies — not everyone needs to do it — but I’d advise y’all that are new to WFH to go ahead and get up at your normal time, take a damn shower, and put on adult clothes. You don’t need to dress in full biz-casual, but do put on a pair of pants and a decent shirt. Then, you can signal to yourself that you’re DONE working by changing into lounge clothes after quitting time.

  4. Establish boundaries. There’s a real tendency in new WFH folks to let the barrier blur a LOT between work-time and family/personal time. Don’t do this, at least not at first. Again, you’re new to this mode of work, so take care to avoid disrupting either home life or work life by allowing one to intrude on the other. (I do this by only RARELY taking my laptop out of my home office.)

  5. Designate a work space, and keep to it. Not everyone has the space for a true dedicated home office, but everyone can establish a place that is Work. Don’t make it the couch. Use one end of your kitchen table, or put something together in a corner that is now Your Office. Stay there when you’re working. It’s waaaaaay too easy to let “I can work ANYWHERE” get in the way of actually getting shit done, so don’t vary from this rule until you have a pretty good handle on it.

  6. If this becomes an ongoing thing, buy (or expense!) a desk. A chair, too. I’ve seen some WFH setups that made MY back hurt just looking at them. Ergonomics still matters if you’re at home; take care of yourself here. You don’t have to go nuts on this stuff; just get something that’ll work.

  7. Buy a headset. Seriously, buy a damn headset. Don’t be the guy who joined the telecon on a speakerphone and introduces crazy echo into the call. They’re not expensive, and don’t have to be giant heavy affairs. Mine is super light.

  8. Upgrade your home internet. Since I work at home full time in a major city, I have the fastest internet connection you can buy (1Gbit symmetric). This is probably more than you need, but if you’ve only ever been occasionally streaming Netflix and scrolling Facebook, you may find the demands of constant conference calls and screen sharing and VPN connections to exceed the capabilities of your package. Talk with your provider about a bump, especially if your office will subsidize the increase.

  9. Bring your second monitor home, if you’re used to using one. This is self-explanatory — just do it. While you’re at it, grab your mouse and keyboard, too, if you prefer them to your laptop.

  10. Close the door. If you’re not at home alone during the day, close the door to your work area if you can. I realize this may not be possible if you’re also juggling your suddenly un-schooled kids, but if you CAN do this it’s a good idea.

  11. Embrace the flexibility. You’re at home! This means you can, if you want, get a load of laundry done, or put something in the slow cooker, or do something similar with your coffee breaks. Don’t slack off this way, but you absolutely can and should lean into this aspect of WFH — it can be a real game changer. (At our house, if I didn’t do some of the laundry during the workday, we’d DROWN in workout clothes.)

  12. Finally, you CAN and SHOULD (if it bothers you) say NO to video. Video rarely adds much to a conference call, and makes many people feel self-conscious. It also clobbers your bandwidth. Your camera can be “broken” or “for some reason it’s not working” or, if you’re senior enough, you can just say no. Video is great for talking to your mom or other loved ones, but in a biz context it’s mostly sizzle with no steak except in pretty narrow contexts. Avoid.

Solnit on Harvey Weinstein: “To be a woman is to be forever vigilant against violence.”

Rebecca Solnit has long been one of the most important voices writing in the 21st century. The first two paragraphs of her piece on the Weinstein verdict give you an inkling why I say that.

There was a man who was in charge of stories. He decided that some stories would be born, expensive, glamorous stories that cost more than a hundred minimum-wage earners might make in a hundred years, filmy stories with the skill of more hundreds expended so that they would slip in like dreams to the minds of millions and make money, and he made money and the money gave him more power over more stories.

There were other stories he decided must die. Those were the stories women might tell about what he had done to them, and he determined that no one must hear them, or if they heard them they must not believe them or if they believed them it must not matter.

More Media Archeology: Sideshow Tramps Edition

Looking for something else on my laptop, I found a folder of very, very old pictures taken with, I think, a Palm Treo. (At any rate, they’re all VGA-resolution pictures, which means 640 x 480 pixels. By contrast, the pictures I take with my iPhone are something like 4000 x 3000.)

The timestamp says these are from March 11, 2005, but those of us that were there remember it as “the night the Tramps played through a convenience store”:

Jeff, agog:

Photo 031105 001

The Rev (l) with nudie mags:

Photo 031105 003

The now-famed Mr Mueller, bassist to the stars, wearer of excellent jumpsuits:

Photo 031105 004

Mr Lauder:

Photo 031105 005

Craig again:

Photo 031105 006

“Anonymous” Big-Fiddle witch:

Photo 031105 007

Shane again:

Photo 031105 008

No such thing as too much banjo:

Photo 031105 009

Long-haired monkeyman!

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Back “home” on the stage at Alabama Ice House:

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Who smokes?

Years after an indoor smoking ban here in Houston, and after spending a LONG time in the endurance sports community, I can almost forget people still smoke.

So imagine my shock to read this, about how smoking intersects with Coronoavirus, and in particular about the shocking smoking rates in China:

First, 52.1% of Chinese men smoke. That is quite high. Smoking in the US peaked in the 1950s at around 45%. It’s now just under 15%. (Since smoking at the time was heavily gendered, the total for men was likely significantly higher.) […]

But this wasn’t the number I found most surprising. It was how deeply gendered smoking is in China. 52% of men smoke but only between 1% and 3% of Chinese women do. In other words, smoking in China is an almost exclusively male phenomenon. The delta between the two numbers is what surprised me most.

Smoking in the US used to be highly gendered. But that is much less so today after decades in which tobacco companies marketed smoking as a form of female empowerment. Today about 14% or 15% of Americans smoke – 15.6% for men versus 12% for women, according to this recent CDC data.

There’s so much to unpack there — really? MOST Chinese men smoke? — but one of the real icky facts is that the assholes at tobacco firms marketed to women as empowerment. I mean, damn.