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So the major powers, with US leadership, struck a deal with Iran where Iran limits a bunch of their nuclear material and facilities and agrees they're only using it for peaceful purposes, and allows ongoing inspections to prove it, while the rest of the world drops various sanctions and starts letting Iran trade again, improving their economy. And as expected, a lot of Republicans are saying this is horrible and we should reject it, because it's not good enough. Their position seems strange because all of them also assert - and it's true - that *without* this deal, it's much easier for Iran to build a nuclear weapon if they want to. Leave aside for a moment the fact that they haven't for so many years even though they probably could've, suggesting they probably haven't wanted to. Still, what do these Republicans want? No restrictions, and no inspections? The status quo seems more dangerous.

Of course we know what they want: War. Tom Cotton, the Republican Senator who's been one of the leaders of opposition to any deal with Iran, has said so explicitly. He also believes that war with Iran is inevitable, so we might as well have it now rather than later, so at least his position is kinda clear. Other Republicans who aren't quite ready to come out and say "yes, let's have a war!" have more trouble explaining what they think the alternative to this deal is. What's so great about the status quo?

But here's the thing they miss and that for some reason I have seen very little mention of in the press:
We cannot get the pre-negotiation status quo back.

International sanctions against Iran have worked because they've been truly international. But Russia and China have never been particularly enthusiastic about it. They went along with the western powers because our demands seemed so reasonable: we just wanted to prod Iran into agreeing to negotiate with us about their nuclear program, to make sure they weren't going to develop a nuclear weapon. Preventing Iran from having nuclear weapons was something China and Russia could get behind, but they were never much into the broader desire of many western countries to limit Iran's power and influence more broadly.

Well, Iran did what we asked. They've agreed to a deal that was more than most people thought they would. The stated purpose of sanctions has been achieved.

If the US rejects this deal, China and Russia are going to say "if the US can't even take yes for an answer, fuck it; there's no point to these sanctions." They want to trade with Iran, and they want to sell weapons to Iran. If we accept the deal, they may hold back for a while on weapons, or limit them somewhat, but if we reject the deal, I'm pretty sure they're not going to want to have anything to do with any further international sanctions on Iran.

This process wasn't just about negotiating with Iran, it was also a negotiation with China and Russia. Accepting the deal keeps them in too. Going back to no deal means giving up the international consensus too.

June 26th

2015-Jun-26, Friday 11:04
cos: (frff-profile)
2003-06-26: Lawrence v. Texas ruling, in which "the Court struck down the sodomy law in Texas and, by extension, invalidated sodomy laws in 13 other states, making same-sex sexual activity legal in every U.S. state and territory."

2013-06-26: United States v. Windsor ruling, in which the Court "held that restricting U.S. federal interpretation of 'marriage' and 'spouse' to apply only to heterosexual unions, by Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), is unconstitutional"

2015-06-26: today :) (Obergefell v. Hodges)

(Stonewall riots began June 28th, which puts Pride around now. Just a few days off!)
cos: (Default)
Since I didn't really like Google Hangouts for texting (it's very nice for video but I don't do video calls much outside work), I have mostly used other things - IRC, SMS, WhatsApp, ... - with people whenever they had those other things. But because Alice switched back to a dumbphone shortly after I gave her an iPad, we switched to using Hangouts and for a number of months she's been the only person I use Hangouts with frequently. Now I have really strong positive associations with Hangouts, because every time I see the Hangouts notification I know it probably means a message from Alice. Hangouts = joy, usually. This is making me like Google Hangouts even though it's irrational - it's not that the app/service has changed or become more likable. Huh.

kerning the car

2015-Apr-17, Friday 17:04
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When you park the car and realize it's not positioned quite right relative to other cars or the curb, and you move it slightly to get the spacing just right, you are kerning the car.

([ profile] ckd actually said "returning the car" but once I mis-heard him we decided it was a useful turn of phrase)

Hugos and Puppies

2015-Apr-15, Wednesday 18:50
cos: (frff-profile)
I'd like to read some of the Hugo Award nominees in the next few months, but avoid spending time on less-good nominees who are only there due to the sadness of the nutty puppies*. [ profile] ckd gave me a link to a puppy-free slate, but that's not exactly what I want. Some books & stories good enough to have had a great shot at the Hugo ballot without any puppies, were probably included on the puppy slates. I'd like to read some of those, but don't have time to read everything, so I want to avoid the ones that would near-certainly not have been on on a puppyless ballot.

People who are familiar with a bunch of the entries on the 2015 Hugo ballot, which ones do you recommend spending my time on?

* For a long version of the puppies thing, you can read George R.R. Martin's series of posts on his LiveJournal starting with this one and continuing from there. For a short version... anyone got a link to a good short summary for readers who don't know anything about this and are curious?

Edit: This looks like a good readable summary that doesn't require that you already know a lot about it: You do need to know what "freeping" refers to: Overwhelming a poll/vote/election by getting a large number of people from outside its usual community (people who would otherwise not have been involved) to all vote in the same way.

Edit2: Another good piece, with more historical context:
cos: (frff-profile)
In the wake of Hillary Clinton's official announcement that she's running for President, I've been looking on in dismay at a lot of the posts and articles going around arguing that we should all just support her now whether we like her or not, and nobody should challenger her for the Democratic nomination.

If you don't think Clinton is a bad choice for President, then you don't need to be convinced to support her. But these pieces are aimed at progressives who have problems with her, and they seem to boil down to idiocies like:
  • Because Clinton is better than a Republican, that means you should support her becoming the Democratic nominee. After all, you wouldn't want to support a Republican!

  • Progressive third party runs for President are dangerous because they just make it easier for the Republican to win... so that means you should support Clinton becoming the Democratic nominee.

  • Face it, nobody's running against Clinton in the primaries (umm, because those who might run are considering whether they'll have any support or whether everyone's falling in for Clinton from the start), so therefore you should discourage anyone from running against Clinton and just accept that they won't (if you do that, then indeed they won't), and support Clinton even if you don't want her.

When you see one of these, please call them out for the utter nonsense they are. Do it in public. Comment on Facebook posts. Write to newspapers. Say it to your friends.

We're not going to get a good candidate in the Democratic primary if all the people who might consider running think the public believes all this BS and will therefore support Clinton regardless of whether they prefer her or not. Show people that there are a lot of people who don't buy it, and that a legitimately good candidate who enters the primaries can get support.

("Why should we want someone better than Clinton, why isn't she a good choice?" is a matter for another, longer post, but it mainly comes down to her support for unnecessary war, death, and destruction for millions of people, and that she's been consistent in her support for those things and will likely cause more of them in the future. However, if you genuinely support her and think she's the right choice, you can still understand that these arguments aimed at those of us who don't think so, are senseless. Try to sell us on why she's good, not on "suck it up, you shouldn't try for someone better, because Republicans".)
cos: (Default)
I can remember the moment, on my first cross country road trip many years ago, when I first saw a highway sign that said "REDUCED SPEED AHEAD: 70", and I laughed.

That's how I felt when I saw the weather report today: "Temperatures dropping into the low 30s overnight."

(For readers not from the US: Around here in the northeast, highways usually have speed limits of 55 miles per hour near cities, and 65 miles per hour in rural areas. Speed limits above 65 are rare anywhere within 10 hour drive of here, and a "reduced speed ahead" sign usually means the speed limit is changing to 55 or lower. In the mountain west and great plains, though, there are a lot of highways with speed limits of 75 MPH and even some with 80, so 70 can be a "reduced" speed limit.)
cos: (frff-profile)
Oops, usually I post the link on the day she opens it, but I forgot and then I was away for the weekend.

[ profile] aroraborealis's annual anonymous confessions post opened on Friday, and is still open. Usually it goes for about a week, though it varies a bit.

Since it has already been going for a few days, there are already a lot of interesting/sad/sex/fun/weird/... threads. For example,

Lots more, and I haven't caught up completely yet, but it's time to get to work. Leave me a comment linking to a thread you found meaningful or fascinating or surprising?
cos: (Default)
I had an appointment to get a wisdom tooth extracted on Tuesday last week, but due to the blizzard, they called me the day before to say they'd be closed, and I rescheduled it for this morning. This morning, of course, they called to cancel again due to today's snowstorm. Now I have to call back and reschedule again. Before I do that, I'd like to ask: do any of you have any requests as to when you'd like Boston's next blizzard to be scheduled for?

Weird mail routing

2015-Jan-31, Saturday 20:52
cos: (frff-profile)
I mailed a small box to Florida from the post office in Central Square, Cambridge a bit over a week ago, on a Thursday morning. Using the USPS online package tracking site, I saw it accepted at Cambridge around noon, and arrive in Nashua, NH that evening. I guessed (and later confirmed) that Nashua is a sort of hub facility processing mail for several states.

And then, things started to get weird.
Thursday night, Nashua sent it to Boston, where it arrived overnight.
Friday morning, Boston sent it to Nashua, where it arrived in the afternoon.
Friday night, Nashua sent it to Boston, where it arrived overnight.
Saturday morning, Boston sent it to Nashua, where it arrived early evening.
Sunday morning, Nashua sent it to Boston, where it arrived Monday morning.

I know that sometimes packages get accidentally misrouted. Sometimes a box has an extra old barcode still visibile that gets mistakenly scanned. Random errors can cause a package to be sent to the incorrect next post office. But this didn't seem random at all:Boston(Cambridge)->Nashua->Boston->Nashua->Boston->Nashua->Boston. Boston always sends it to Nashua. Nashua always sends it to Boston. There's no breaking out of this loop. (unlike TCP packets, postal mail packages have no TTL field :)

In the meantime, a package I mailed to Volcano, Hawaii on that same trip to the post office on Thursday, was delivered to its desitnation :)

Monday morning, seeing that it had just arrived in Boston yet again, and expecting it to go back out to Nashau by that afternoon, I called USPS customer service. When I gave the tracking number, not only did they see the problem right away, but they also told me the correct Florida address it was supposed to go to. Their system knows.

And then, no more tracking updates on Monday. Tuesday was the snowstorm and I didn't expect any. Wednesday, a new line appeared: Still in Boston, but now "Processing Exception".
BOSTON, MA, USA	Wednesday, January 28, 2015 5:46 PM	PROCESSING EXCEPTION
		Wednesday, January 28, 2015 5:36 PM	DEPARTED USPS ORIGIN FACILITY
		Monday, January 26, 2015 4:31 AM	ARRIVED AT USPS ORIGIN FACILITY
NASHUA, NH, USA	Sunday, January 25, 2015 4:56 AM	DEPARTED USPS FACILITY
		Saturday, January 24, 2015 6:57 PM	ARRIVED AT USPS ORIGIN FACILITY
BOSTON, MA, USA	Friday, January 23, 2015 8:32 AM	DEPARTED USPS FACILITY
		Friday, January 23, 2015 3:43 AM	ARRIVED AT USPS ORIGIN FACILITY
CAMBRIDGE, MA, USA	Thursday, January 22, 2015 12:07 PM	ACCEPTANCE

Saturday evening, that's still the latest update. 5 days looping between Boston and Nashua, and now it's been in Boston all week, "processing exception".

Edit: Friday, February 6th: It got to Florida today!

Kirby Delauter

2015-Jan-06, Tuesday 23:52
cos: (frff-profile)
Frederick, MD county council member Kirby Delauter threatened to sue if a reporter used his name in the paper without his permission.

The Frederick News-Post responded with this editorial: Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter

I did not get his authorization to name him in this LJ post.


2014-Dec-30, Tuesday 17:24
cos: (frff-profile)
My cat survived the year. Not that there's any reason she shouldn't have - she has FIV but she's an indoor-only cat so mostly safe from getting sick, and she's probably only around 10 years old. But so many other cats I knew died this year, that it feels salient that she did not.

My year was ambivalent, and on balance good. Not because it was so-so, but because the really awesome things were a little better then the badness of the really awful. Maybe I'll write more about that in another post, which would be friendslocked, if I write it. It's why I answered "mixed" a lot of times when people asked how I was.

Aside from that extreme of simultaneous up & down, though, my life stayed very stable. Well, there were some shifts in what I do at work, and that big project I put so much time into in 2011 & 2012 got shut down, which I find very sad. But I'm at the same job, living in the same house, with Valerie and Molly since 2008. In 2012 a house near ours that a bunch of our friends lived in burned down. 2013 the cancellation of that project at work got announced, the large majority of our department transferred to other projects, and we moved to a new office. Nothing like either of those happened in 2014.

Lots of travel! )
In the past two years, I went to... (places 100+ miles from home)
- NYC, Vermont, the Berkshires, a few times
- Atlanta, the Everglades & Key Largo, twice each
- Also the SF Bay Area, Philly, and DC, twice each
- Asheville, Raleigh-Durham, and several places in Florida
- Portland, Seattle, and Mount St Helens
- Colorado (Vail, Denver, Boulder)
- Israel
- Paris
- Hawaii and Oahu islands on two different trips each, and Maui on one trip
- Korea (Seoul, Gwangju, Mokpo, Jeju) and Kyoto
- Dublin, Netherlands, Berlin, Italy, Cannes, Barcelona, and Mallorca

My cat stayed home. Here she is. )

Rhyming Fish

2014-Dec-15, Monday 13:33
cos: (frff-profile)
A game from Valerie Thompson.
(though she got it from someone else, I don't know who)
Merely ending in "fish" is in suffishient :)

rainbow trout / eelpout
gar / char
bass / wrasse
jawfish / sawfish
bonefish / stonefish
Edit: batfish / catfish
... and another late addition: toby / goby
[Feb 2016] shad / scad

First one is from Valerie, the rest are me & Alice. Can you think of another?

Edit - More from the comments...

From [ profile] wotw:
aruana / piranha
cory / dory (which Alice and I thought of, but then thought "dory" wasn't a type of fish)
cos: (Default)
Your walk to class on campus, or to work from home or the nearest transit stop, has a few options. You could go around that building to the left or to the right, you might turn first and then go two blocks over or go two blocks first and then cross... do you find one shortest or nicest way and fall into the habit of always taking it, or do you switch it up every time? What motivates you to do one or the other?

You're going to eat out at a neighborhood you kinda know, which has some restaurants you've been to more than once. Your friend ask you to pick where to eat. Do you go for an old favorite most of the time, or are you much more likely to pick somewhere new until you've tried all the places in that neighborhood? Why do you make the choice you make?

Your friend picks a place for you to eat, and you've been there a few times. Which is more likely: you order something you've had before that you know you liked, or you search the menu for something you haven't tried yet that you think you'd like? What motivates you one way or the other?
cos: (Default)
Leaving now, and coming back the evening of December 7th.

This will be my parents' first trip to Hawaii! We're going to Oahu first for a few days (they wanted to; I'd skip Oahu if it were just me :), then Maui for 5 days (Maui is the best!), then the big island for 7 days. [ profile] ilahni will join us during the middle (1 day of Maui and 4 days of big island)! On the way back I also get to see [ profile] mackelzinzie briefly!
cos: (Default)
Clips of video I took in January 2013, when Alice and I went on a snorkel excursion to a spot near Kona, Hawaii, where giant manta rays congregate every night to feed. A bunch of boats and divers go out every night, and shine big lights into the water, which the mantas apparently really like, so they hang around the lit areas and are very easy to see.

Adult mantas range from about 15-20 feet in wingspan. They're huge, awesome, graceful creatures, slowly swooping around feeding on zooplankton.

cos: (Default)
Not the top stories, but a few interesting things on the side...
  • Where will Scott Brown run next? He was born in Maine, but they don't have an election for Senate (or Governor) in 2016. Can he wait four years?

  • The flipfloppiest US House seat ever is on a roll. New Hampshire's 1st district. Carol Shea-Porter (who is awesome, BTW, one of my favorite members of Congress ever) won it narrowly in 2006, and got re-elected in 2008. In the 2010 Republican wave, Frank Guinta took it from her. In 2012, she took it back from him. Yesterday, he beat her in yet another rematch. If she runs in 2016 chances are with presidential election turnout she'll get it back, so I suspect she is likely to. As Daily Kos elections put it, "Looking forward to [Guinta's] war with Shea-Porter continuing until Ragnarok #nh01". Or maybe they should just work out a time-share and alternate each year.

  • From the 2004 election through this year, Republicans have lost every election for federal or statewide office in Massachusetts, except two: the two times Martha Coakley was nominated for federal or statewide office.

  • Minimum wage increases won big: It was on the ballot statewide in Alaska, Illinois, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Arkansas. The lowest margin it won by was ten points, 55% to 45%, in South Dakota. In the other four states it was over 60%, with the highest margin in Alaska - 69% to 31%.

  • Attorney General Eric Holder said he was resigning, but would stay in office until a successor is confirmed. Obama hasn't nominated a replacement yet. If one isn't confirmed quickly, Eric Holder may be stuck, since a Republican Senate seems unlikely to confirm any Obama nominee for any office ever.

  • Lots of states had new voter suppression measures in force this year, in part thanks to the Supreme Court eviscerating a large part of the Voting Rights Act. But finally, one state went on the offence in the other direction: A "Right to Vote" constitutional amendment passed in Illinois with something like 70%, forestalling discriminatory voter ID laws and similar measures. Maybe it'll inspire similar measures in other states.

  • Black turnout was very high, but the white percentage of the electorate was much higher than 2012 due largely to the fact that Latino turnout was waaay down. Obama reportedly put off pushing on immigration and immigrants' rights issues in the past year to try to help vulnerable Democratic red state Senators. Not only did it not help them, but it seems to have backfired and taken out plenty of other Democrats who would've held on with higher Latino turnout.

  • Colorado has now voted down "personhood" ballot measures three elections. "Personhood" laws are ones that define a fetus as a person, giving them all sorts of legal rights. Failed in 2008, 2010, and 2014. Will Colorado have to vote on this again in 2016? Personhood also failed on the ballot in North Dakota this year. It hasn't ever won anywhere yet.

  • Ballot measures passed in both California and New Jersey that would reduce prison sentences for drug possession and other nonviolent offenders. Yay, finally! We need a lot more of this.

  • Most Democratic candidates for governor in races that were polling as close lost, but two won: Hinkenlooper in Colorado and Malloy in Connecticut. One thing the two have in common is that they both championed and signed major new gun regulation laws after Newtowne, and drew a lot of backlash in both states. Coincidence, or did gun regulation help them?

  • Colorado Senator Mark Udall was possibly the NSA's top critic in the Senate (or maybe second, after Ron Wyden). His loss is a win for NSA surveillance.

  • Michele Bachmann is finally gone! Although [ profile] dr_memory says "just wait for her inevitable reality TV show".

cos: (frff-profile)
I'm so ambivalent about this election for Governor, and people keep asking me what I recommend...

On the surface, Martha Coakley(D) seems better on the issues than Charlie Baker(R), but it's kind of hard to tell what their differences really are. Neither has a solid record on a broad range of governing and policy, as they would if they'd been a mayor or legislator.

Charlie Baker spent most of his time in the corporate world, and he talks moderate but reminds me a lot of Scott Brown and Mitt Romney. We certainly have a recent pattern of Republicans much like him talking moderate to get elected and then showing their right wing colors once they're in higher office.

On the other hand, Martha Coakley's record is entirely on the Attorney General side of things (before that, she was Middlesex DA). While she's been good on equal rights for women and LGBT people, she's really sucked on many of the core issues that the Attorney General's office exists for. Weak on justice and on criminal justice reform, pro-Patriot Act, pro-drug war, pro-surveillance, anti-rights for the accused, pro-keeping innocent people in prison.

How would these two govern when it comes to the economy, environment, wages, health care, crime, transportation, infrastructure, education, ... mostly we just have to take their word. Coakley's need to maintain relationships with Democratic groups would probably keep her on the better side of most of these, but I don't know what she'd actually fight for or initiate. Baker, I fear, would pull a Romney.

On womens' and lgbt and gender equality and reproductive choice and related issues, I think we've done a great job in the Massachusetts progressive movement over the past decade in changing the legislature such that we can get much of what we want regardless of governor. When it comes to things like, say, repairing and expanding public transit, or reforming taxes to make them fairer and better finance the state, our legislature is still the main stumbling block. We need a Governor like Deval Patrick to really push them, still not get most of what he wants, but make some progress. Baker likely won't even support this kind of progress, but I don't expect Coakley to push for it, so the end result could be similar.

Coakley, on the other hand, will probably promote casinos while holding back medical marijuana and trying to prevent decriminalization, and will be a drag on any efforts for criminal justice reform if we get real leadership on that from other quarters (like certain state senators). Health care financing changes, especially single payer, will come from the legislature and be resisted by either of these governors.

To sum up, on balance I think Coakley will probably be somewhat better but it's hard to tell. Balance that out with the fact that she's been awful on some of the main issues she's actually been responsible for, while showing herself repeatedly willing to promote gross injustice on an individual level.

Another factor I think is important: Either one of them, if elected, will be very vulnerable and likely to be replaced in the next election.

Charlie Baker: He's a Republican in a Democratic-leaning state, with various positions opposed by majorities here. He can win against a bad candidate like Coakley, but his chances against a good Democrat would be low, even as an incumbent. Not to mention the rather consistent pattern of Republican Governors in Massachusetts either not running for re-election, or leaving partway through a term. We've had four Republican Governors in my time in Massachusetts, and every one of them has done one or the other.

So, Charlie Baker represents a great opportunity to get a really good Democrat in as Governor in four years. If Coakley loses this time she's unlikely to win the nomination next time even if she runs, and we can nominate someone much better and beat Baker. On the other hand, if Coakley wins this time, we probably won't have a Democratic primary contest in four years, she will be renominated, and will be vulnerable to losing to another Republican. Will that one be better or worse than Baker? It's a risk.

On yet another hand, our Republican Governors' pattern of leaving partway through their terms means we frequently end up with the Lieutenant Governor in charge. Baker's running mate, Karyn Polito, really is a right wing extremist. She also was a leader in trying to ban gay marriage, voted against the transgender equal rights bill, filed a complaint against the Registry of Motor Vehicles when they started allowing people to change their sex designation on their drivers' licenses, co-sponsored a bill to require schools to notify parents if any mention of anything LGBT-related would be made in school... she's the kind of awful that usually gets sidelined in Massachusetts.

If it weren't for Karyn Polito I think I'd be leaning a little towards hoping Baker wins, and looking forward to the opportunity to elect someone good in 2018. She tips the scale for me, and I reluctantly and ambivalently recommend voting for Coakley, to avoid the high risk of Karyn Polito becoming Governor if Baker wins and uses it as a springboard to run for President, or just plain leaves.
cos: (frff-profile)
This year I think the ballot questions are easy. I can see room for disagreement on Question 3 but I think the others are as close to slam-dunk as a ballot question can be.

Question 1 - Cut the Gas Tax: No

Current law will adjust the gas tax automatically for inflation. In other words, the real inflation-adjusted value of the gas tax will stay the same, so the absolute number of cents per gallon will increase a little bit as inflation goes. This question wants to repeal that. This repeal is ridiculously stupid from any logical point of view; it only makes sense if you hate taxes on principle and want any way to cut them down. Because that's what this question would actually do: slowly cut the gas tax down from its current value, while sales taxes and income taxes continue keeping up with inflation because they're percentages of things that go up over time (retail prices, and salaries).

Question 2 - Eliminate Loopholes in the Bottle Bill: Yes

The existing bottle bill works really well. About 80% of deposit bottles are recycled, while fewer than 1/4 of non-deposit bottles are recycled. But many popular bottled drinks, such as water and juice, aren't covered by the existing law. You sell soda, it gets a deposit; you sell water in the same bottle, it doesn't. This loophole doesn't make sense. Question 2 would rectify it, bringing bottle deposits to juice, water, and sports drink bottles.

If you hate recycling, you'd vote against this. If you hate the idea of the government taxing anyone to encourage any behavior - even a very small tax where everyone who pays it has a way to get their money back, you'd vote against it. If you don't fit into either of those categories, you vote yes.

Question 2's oppenents have been spreading outright lies in their ads because lying about it is the only way to get reasonable voters to vote no. Unfortunately polls say it may be working; too many people are hearing these lies and believing them. So this is one where you should post to social media and tell your friends.

[ Edit: Yes, we know lots of people have recycling bins. Despite that fact, a large majority of deposit bottles currently get recycled and a large majority of non-deposit bottles currently do no. For whatever reason - a majority of MA doesn't have curbside recycling; lots of people buy bottles away from home and there aren't recycling bins nearby, etc. - the stats are clear. Pointing out that we have recycle bins doesn't change that reality. Bottle deposits are extremely effective. ]

Question 3 - Repeal the Casino Law: Yes

Big casinos are basically the equivalent of toxic sludge factories polluting their region with crime and poverty and lost jobs, while extracting money for a large corporation usually based far away. But what do they produce? Something you can already get in other forms or go elsewhere to get. There are already enough of avenues for gambling for people who really want it, that it's hard to argue it's worth the cost of doing so much damage in Massachusetts just to create a few more. The damage won't be limited just to people who want casinos and are willing to take the cost; it'll hit plenty of people who either don't care or don't want casinos, and don't deserve to be struck by the toxic effects on their surroundings.

Question 4 - Earned Sick Time for Employees: Yes

Companies with 11 or more employees would be required to offer at least 5 paid sick days a year. Currently, they can offer zero sick days. 5 isn't a lot. Also since a lot of the businesses that don't offer sick days are food service, passing this question would reduce the likelihood that when you eat out, you're eating food prepared by someone who has the flu but couldn't afford to take a day off out of fear of losing their job so they pretended to be well.

Others also recommending No-Yes-Yes-Yes:

cos: (Default)
[ I wrote this post in my head weeks ago, but never actually wrote it while traveling, so now I'm reconstructing it from memory, probably altered. Consider this a hybrid of a post written at the end of my second day in Dublin, and one written a month later after having spent four days there. ]

Riding the bus from the airport into Dublin, the city's appearance reminded me of Boston. Coincidentally just as I said to [ profile] undulations that the area we were passing through looked like South Boston, the driver announced the stop: Convention Centre. To top it off, a few blocks after passing the Convention Centre we passed a large wooden sailing ship anchored in the river in the middle of the city, as a museum. [Non-Bostonians: This parallels the Boston Tea Party Ship, which is a museum in a canal next to South Boston, not far from our Convention Center.]

Dublin reminded me of Boston in the look of the streets and buildings in the area we stayed, too. Specifically Boston, much more than Cambridge or Somerville or Brookline, there. And in the way people drove, and the habits of local pedestrians, including when and when not to jaywalk and how cars reacted to pedestrians. Walking around felt like at home, just an unfamiliar neighborhood.

Dublin also omits street signs at many intersections. I guess a lot of European cities do that, though.

Later in the city center, I saw an old university, with stone walls and stone buildings and a large central yard open to the public and full of people. Near a very busy intersection full of shops and bus stops. In another part of downtown, a few blocks of cobblestone streets reserved for pedestrians, but not designed and laid out as a deliberately-constructed pedestrian mall. More elements falling into place.

And, of course, all the Irish pubs :)

My coworker George Keith, who plays fiddle in pub sessions in Somerville, lived in Dublin for 8 months, so I asked him to recommend some good pub sessions. One night, we went to Cobblestones Pub, one of the places he suggested, and the music was indeed wonderful. Early during the evening session, a visiting musician walked in and asked to join in. I heard him say he was from Boston, to which one of the other musicians responded that he hadn't been to Boston recently. He said this in a tone that implied that of course one goes to Boston from time to time, that doesn't even need to be said; he was just saying he hadn't gone recently.

During a break between tunes, I introduced myself to the Bostonian. Turns out he knows George Keith, and plays sessions with him in Somerville sometimes, and I've probably seen him play. Later, a woman entered with a flute and asked to sit in with them. Introductions all around, and when she heard that guy say he was from Boston, she said she'd just been there this summer. During another break, I introduced myself to her. Turns out she'd met Laura Cortese when she visited. She hadn't really met my housemate Valerie, who's in Laura's band, but she did see Valerie play.

Here's a video of a tune from that group. James from Boston is playing a flute sitting on the back bench on the left. The woman who visited Boston this summer is the one with curly hair who starts playing about 50 seconds in.

Some more clips from that session:

Also a video from the afternoon session at Cobblestone the same day,
and a session at Hughes Bar, another place George suggested.

Modes of Transport

2014-Oct-18, Saturday 17:42
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Thursday I went through the Fiumicino shuffle once again. Unlike the time I wrote about 6 years ago when I took two trains and five buses in the morning, it was simpler this time because my hotel's shuttle took me directly from the hotel to the correct terminal. And for the first time in all the times I've flown from that airport, I got to board the plane directly from the gate, rather than via another bus. (Although on balance, I'd have traded the 40 minute long passport check line in sweaty humid heat for another couple of bus trips if I had the choice; of all the foreign airports I've been to or through, Fiumicino is the only one that always makes the USA's awful airports look good by comparison.)

It did get me doing a mental inventory of all the kinds of transportation I'd used on this trip...
- planes large medium and small-ish, from legacy airlines and low cost airlines
- tram/light rail, trolley, monorail, subway, urban metro rail, regional commuter rail, long distance train with reserved seats
- private rented bus, public city bus, double decker bus, electric bus, shuttle bus...
- shuttle van, rented car, privately owned car, taxi
- cruise ship, ferry, tender boat, water bus, rowboat/gondola

I didn't ride any propeller planes, helicopters, funiculars, sailboats, or motorcycles, though.
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My family in Israel is having a family trip in a couple of weeks, a cruise from Rome stopping in several places on the coast of Italy, France, and Spain and then returning to Rome. I'm going to join them, but flying out early to go some other places first, leaving this Friday night.

A few days in Dublin with [ profile] undulations, then a few days in the Netherlands with a friend from IRC. [ profile] elfy will join me there, and we'll go to Berlin and stay with her friend for a few days. From there I'm going to take a train to Rome to meet up with the family. I've got 2.5 days to go from Berlin to Rome so I should probably stop somewhere on the way, but I haven't figured out where yet. Still puzzling out how to do European multi-carrier train itineraries and choose routes.

Wanna suggest a thing to do or see?

Do I know anyone in any of those places but forgot they're there because I haven't been there in years or ever?
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Of possible interest to sysadmin geeks; others may want to skip this post :)
I'm posting this for the next person who searches the web for advice on how to do this, because when I needed to I didn't find a clear answer and it took me a while - reading documentation, experimenting with ssh commands - to figure it out.

You've got hosts on two private, protected networks, let's call them zimnet and girnet, and you'd like to securely copy some data from a zimhost to a girhost through an ssh tunnel. The data is sensitive so you'd like to reduce your risk by avoiding having any of it ever stored on a filesystem on any host in between, so you don't have to worry about file permissions, backups, automatic snapshots, and so on. Just a direct ssh tunnel all the way through.

[Edit: Also, you may want to allow yourself to do the actual copy noninteractively, to more easily included it in a script - perhaps something that generates the data, copies it, and deletes it, all in a rapid series. However, some of the hops may require an interactive login (in my case, the ssh from zimbastion to girbastion required entering a one time password). Setting up a temporary ssh tunnel allows you to do all the authentication steps in advance, then kick off whatever copies the data.]

In the simplest case, you can just run "scp file girhost:/path" on zimhost, if they could talk directly.

If they can't talk directly, but there's some intermediate host they can both talk to, it's pretty easy to set up a two-hop ssh tunnel with port forwarding, and there are a lot of examples on the web of how to do it. But what if...
- zimnet and girnet each has its own separate bastion host that can connect to hosts on that network
- hosts behind the firewall for each network cannot initiate tcp connections to their bastion hosts or any outside hosts

- zimbastion can ssh to zimhost, and to girbastion, but not to girhost
- girbastion can ssh to girhost, and to zimbastion, but not to zimhost
- neither zimhost nor girhost can ssh to any of the others

Here's one way to do it. There are other ways, but this is the one I came up with that worked for me.

On zimbastion, run:
1. ssh -f -L 2222:girhost:22 girbastion -N
2. ssh -f -R 2222:localhost:2222 zimhost -N

Now on zimhost, you can do: scp -P 2222 -p /source/file localhost:/destination/path

Command #1 connects local port 2222 on zimbastion (the local host) to an ssh on girbastion that forwards to port 22 on girhost. It can do this because girbastion is allowed to ssh to girhost, and the forwarding is happening on girbastion. Command #2, intiated from zimbastion as well, ssh's to zimhost and connects remote port 2222 - that is, port 2222 on zimhost - to localhost:2222 (on zimbastion), which is the port where command #1 is listening. You've set up a three-hop ssh tunnel, all initiated from one of the intermediate hosts.
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Last week I went on a whale watch with coworkers, and we got three whales close to us for about an hour; they dove for about ten minutes at a time and then came up for a few minutes, so we saw them six times. New England Aquarium has a blog post about our trip with photos of their three flukes. They were humpbacks named Bayou, Pele, and Pepper. Apparently Pepper was the second humpback whale named, after Salt. Both Salt and Pepper were named in 1976, near Provincetown, which is where we were on this excursion as well, so we saw Pepper very close to where she was named 38 years ago.

In my video clips you can see tail flukes from two of them diving:

Bayou lost a portion of her tail in a propeller strike a few years ago. You can see the injury when she dives, near the beginning of the video.
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Tomorrow, Tuesday Sep 9th, is the Massachusetts primary election. Polls are open 7am-8pm, and you can find your polling place and a list of candidates on your ballot at

People keep asking me what I think of the Democratic primary candidates, and I promised a post...

You can read all of the statewide candidates' Progressive Mass questionnaire submissions for a lot more detail about their policy positions, experience, and statements about why they're running and what they believe. Progressive Mass members used these questionnaires, plus a series of candidate forums, to vote on endorsements.

  • Governor

    Don Berwick outshines the others by far. By plainly promoting strong progressive policies, he'd move the debate about a lot of things in Massachusetts and cause a sea change in the kinds of policies we actually get. Single payer health care, a progressive income tax, universal pre-K education, no more prison building, housing-first for homelessness, and more.

    Not only that, but Don Berwick has a long and solid background of evidence-based approaches to management and policy. Instead of deciding a-priori by ideology or political considerations how to do something or how to accomplish some goal, he looks at the actual outcomes of different approaches to see what the evidence says will likely be most effective. Berwick was endorsed by Progressive Mass after getting 70% of the vote in what was then a 4-candidate contest: Significantly more than twice as many votes as the three other candidates combined. I agree with the commenter who wrote, "I believe his candidacy represents our chance to substantially change the political landscape here in Massachusetts."

    Martha Coakley is clearly the worst of the three. Read more... )
    So here's the problem: Currently Coakley leads in the polls, Steve Grossman is second, and Don Berwick third. If your priority is defeating Coakley, you'd vote for Steve Grossman, who's a reasonable candidate, more likely to beat Coakley in the primary, and better able to win the general election. If your priority is supporting a far superior candidate, at risk of making it more likely that we'll get the worst (perhaps because you think she may not be that awful), then Don Berwick is the best choice.

    [Updated: Or, as some people point out, if you believe Coakley is going to win the primary regardless of who you vote for, then you might as well vote for the best candidate. That's Berwick.]

  • Attorney General

    Warren Tolman seems pretty good to me, but Maura Healey really stands out. She's a civil rights attorney who led the lawsuit that overturned a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act in the Supreme Court. She's already got lots of experience in the Massachusetts Attorney General's office, as former Assistant Attorney General. She'd be the first openly gay Attorney General in the US. She's been endorsed by Progressive Mass. I saw them both at a candidate forum and Q&A earlier this summer and came away liking both but having a much better impression of her. This one is, IMO, an easy choice.

  • Lt. Governor

    At a Progressive Mass candidate forum I saw all four candidates speak and answer questions - I asked them questions myself - and I took a bunch of notes. Then I lost all my notes :( Generally I liked all the candidates; Mike Lake and Leland Cheung both seemed better than Kerrigan, and after reflection I decided that Leland Cheung was the best choice. I'm also familiar with him since he's a Cambridge City Councilor and I think he's been one of the best we've had. Some people involved in MA politics whose opinions I value have picked Mike Lake, some have picked Leland Cheung. I'm worried that the progressive vote will split and Steve Kerrigan will win even though nobody I know thinks he's as good as the other two, and neither do I.

    I wish I still had my notes! But you can read the candidates' questionnaire submissions here.

  • Treasurer

    Same thing here: I went to that forum, asked them questions, took notes, and lost the notes, so I fell back on my memory of my impressions, plus their questionnaires. I remember feeling ambivalent about whether Deb Goldberg or Tom Conroy would be best, and I preferred both of them over Barry Finegold.

  • Auditor is uncontested in the primary. Secretary is uncontested in the primary, which is a shame, because Bill Galbin doesn't deserve it. He's better than having an overtly voter-suppressing Republican, but he's anti-Democratic when it comes to his own office, lagged far behind the times in modernizing and computerizing, and the fact that we still don't have election day registration in Massachusetts is a complete disgrace and largely his fault.

    [Update: Galvin will win for sure, since nobody is running against him, but that doesn't mean you should vote for him. I hope you don't.]

P.S. If you're in the Medford+Somerville district formerly represented by Carl Sciortino, who resigned this year, please vote for Christine Barber for state rep. Carl Sciortino was the best state rep in Massachusetts IMO, and getting someone that good to replace him is a challenge, but she may live up to that challenge.

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