cos: (Default)
2017-08-05 03:59 pm

More scientists in Congress next time?

Almost ten years ago I posted about scientists in Congress - at the time, there were four. I posted again four years ago, when Rush Holt was running for US Senate. His leaving Congress brought the number of scientists down to just one the following year.

Originally starting from just curiosity, I was dismayed by how few there were! I knew there weren't enough, since it was already showing quite obviously by 2007 that Congress did not have enough scientific perspective, but I though out of the 535 there would be, maybe, 15-20 scientists. In fact I don't think we've had more than 5 at the same time in decades. Maybe the next Congress will change that?

Donald Trump's War on Scientists Has Had One Big Side Effect: More than a dozen Democratic candidates with scientific backgrounds are running for Congress.

This article conflates "scientists" with a broader range of STEM fields. We actually already have a few engineers in Congress, and this article includes engineers, as well as doctors (of which we have even more - but many of them clearly don't have a scientific outlook). But even if you discount those, there are more people with a science background running than anytime I'm aware of, at least in decades. Let's keep an eye on this and see how it turns out in 2018.

P.S. The only scientist I'm aware of in Congress currently is Bill Foster, the same one who was first running for the office when I posted ten years ago. Are there any others you know of?
cos: (Default)
2017-06-30 12:01 am

Alternatives to Simple's credit card

I'm looking for a credit card with these features:
  • Presents itself as a credit card (compatible with holds, car rentals, etc.) but acts like a debit card, drawing money from its own account. If there's no money in that account, it fails to work. No bills to pay.

  • Has a web UI, iOS app, and Android app, all three of which give access to all of the features below:

  • Easy scheduled transfers to or from any of my regular bank accounts.

  • Remotely instantly disable or re-enable the card, at my whim.

  • Clear transaction log that shows all transactions, even from a minute ago, and gives the time of each transaction, not just the date.

  • On mobile, instant notifications for every transaction.


I have a card from simple.com that does all of that, but I'm looking for other alternatives. I've called a few banks (like Capital One) and haven't found anything else that does all of these. Do you know of any?
cos: (Default)
2017-06-17 10:13 pm

Where are these bridges?



Four photos from a very old folder. Based on the date, I'm fairly sure I took them on the flight home to Boston from attending Minicon in Minneapolis with [profile] silentmachine. But I can't find any record of that flight so I don't know what stopover city I might've gone through. Click on the image to see all four photos; do you recognize those bridges?

Edit: Commenters have identified the first bridge as the Throgs Neck Bridge and the second one as the Verazzano Narrows Bridge (both in NYC).
cos: (Default)
2017-05-30 01:01 pm

How do we know each other?

Since a lot of people got different usernames on dreamwidth than they
had on LiveJournal (some because they could finally get the name they
always wanted that was taken on LJ, some because their LJ name was
already taken on DW, and some because they just felt like a change),
I now see more names on my reading page without remembering who they
are, even though I probably know them.

Maybe that means it's a good time for that old livejournal game from
a decade ago, where people post comments saying how we met or got to
know each other, online or off. As a side effect, I'll also figure
out which real-world person goes with that username, for those whose
dreamwidth usernames I don't know or remember.

Wanna?
cos: (Default)
2017-05-20 12:04 am

Help me read your posts

I haven't been reading dreamwidth nearly as much as I used to read livejournal, because I find the default reading page really hard to read, and it kind of repels me. Due to the unpleasant experience, I just don't visit as often. But I haven't had time to try to figure out how to fix it, and the few FAQs and settings I found were either confusing or just didn't seem to address the issue.

On LiveJournal, I had a "friends page" setup that worked really well for me, for many years. What I liked about it that I wish I could have here includes:
  • Clear separation between different entries, in the form of a wide colored divider bar across the page. On LJ that bar was also where the title of the next post would be, but I don't need that specifically; just a clear visual separation between posts.

  • Userpics did not take up their own vertical space. Instead they appeared on the left sidebar, next to the post. [Edit: This is especially bad on comments; I want userpics not to take up vertical space in the comment section either.]

  • I could pick a unique combination of foreground and background color for each person. The post itself didn't appear in that combo, but the post was outlined by the background color, and the post title and person's username would appear in the foreground color I chose. This let me easily "recognize" whose post I was looking at by color.


Is there any way to make my reading page on dreamwidth like that? What do I need to do?
cos: (Default)
2017-04-10 11:34 pm

Dreamwidth

I've stuck with LiveJournal all these years largely because that's where more of the people I know and read still were. But the new Russian terms of service are driving so many to Dreamwidth that the balance has shifted.

And the new Russian terms of service... they say political advocacy is prohibited. That's more than 1/4 of my posts. I have a feeling they really only care about getting Russian activist bloggers and won't bug the English language livejournals, but who knows; my account risks getting deleted or locked for violating the new terms.

So I've imported all of my old posts to cos.dreamwidth.org and set up automatic crossposting to LiveJournal. I'm going to post there from now on, and hope you'll follow me there if you read me on LJ. If your DW username doesn't match your LJ username, comment on this entry using your LJ account telling me what your DW username is.
cos: (Default)
2017-01-12 06:35 pm

Car advice or suggestions?

I'm going to keep my used VW Passat wagon here in Cambridge so I have a car when I'm visiting home, and planning to buy a new car in Seattle. I don't know that much about cars, and haven't bought a new one in nearly 20 years (the VW is a 2004 I bought used in 2009 from an acquaintance) ... so I don't know much about the cars that are out there now, even if I buy used again.

Maybe if I tell y'all what I want, some of you may have opinions or suggestions? Worth a try!
  • Long range, easy to refill/recharge anywhere. I think that rules out fully-electric. Although I won't do it that often, I'd like a car that I can drive to places like Eugene (~300 miles) or Yellowstone (~750 miles) in one trip sometimes.

  • Fuel-efficient. So maybe a hybrid. I don't know much about hybrids, never had one.

  • Key that isn't too bulky - one of my main annoyances with the VW is how big the key is. But also, a key that lets me fully operate the car even if its electronics fail. I've had a horrible experience with a rental car that was rendered useless when they key's electronics stopped working.

  • Enough space to carry camping stuff, or a few extra people, or both at once :) But it doesn't have to be particularly large, just not too compact.
cos: (Default)
2017-01-08 02:17 pm

Jeff Sessions: racism, war on drugs, and against voting rights

When Jeff Sessions was nominated to be a Federal judge in 1986, a Republican majority voted to deny him because he was too racist. Among the things that came out at his hearing were the time he prosecuted a group of black people doing a voting registration drive on trumped up charges (the jury quickly voted them not guilty on all charges), the time he called a white civil rights lawyer "a disgrace to his race", and that he thought the KKK was okay until he learned they smoke pot.

Now Trump has nominated Sessions to be Attorney General of the US, and it's going to take a couple of Republican votes to stop him, just like it did in 1986. Confirmation hearings are scheduled for Tuesday, so the more calls senators get about him on Monday, the better our chances.

In addition to hhis racism, those things that came up in 1986 are quite telling in other ways...

His hostility to the right to vote has been fierce and longstanding. Harassing innocent voters and trying to prosecute black voter registration is just part of it. He opposed the Voting Rights Act when it was originally passed, and he praised the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision gutting a significant portion of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. Now he's trying to head the Department of Justice, responsible for enforcing the Voting Rights Act, which will allow him not to enforce the remaining parts of it.

He seems to think smoking marijuana is much worse than being racist. "Good people do not smoke marijuana", he said. Obama's Justice Department decided to leave Colorado, Washington, and other states that vote to legalize marijuana in peace, even though they could've continued to prosecute people in those states under Federal law. Jeff Sessions would like to kick the war on drugs back up a notch, and as Attorney General, he could do it.

If you want him stopped, call your US Senators on Monday! (To find their numbers, go to senate.gov and select your state from the "Find Your Senators" menu at top right.

Also, think of who you know who lives in Pennsylvania, Maine, Arizona, or Alaska, and ask them to make calls. The Republican Senators I think most likely to vote against Sessions are from those states. [Maybe also Rand Paul of Kentucky, if he sticks to his principles against the war on drugs, but he would love to have an ally against voting rights, and his father published a white supremacist magazine that he never really condemned, so I don't expect it from him.]
cos: (Default)
2017-01-05 09:09 pm

New England Tahk

From a coworker:
    My mother who had a career as a school psychologist, moved to Southern Maine in her forties, having lived in Cincinnati since girlhood. Early on, she was testing a kid, and asked him, "Can you tell me what a hat is?"

    The kid answered, "A haht? A haht's what beats in your chest!"

    The thing is, when I tell that story to native New Englanders, they don't get it. "That's a perfectly good answer for a kid!"
cos: (gchat-zalice)
2016-12-01 07:25 pm

Going to Seattle

I'm transferring to a team at Google Seattle, much to my surprise (well, to the surprise of me a month ago or anytime in the past few decades, more accurately). Planning to move there, along with Alice, around early February, but keeping the house in Cambridge with intent to return in a few years...

Oh, we also have to figure out how to move a cat.
cos: (gchat-zalice)
2016-11-16 04:16 pm

On organizing, and hope

My friend Dan Cohen, one of the most effective and skilled people in progressive politics I have ever met, wrote this on Facebook today. I posted it on my Facebook too (and if you have an account, please like/comment/share so more people will see it), but asked him if I could copy to here for people who don't read Facebook.




    "Everywhere people and organizations are gathering -- to process and plan, or just to continue the work that they have been doing all along -- people are coming out of the woodwork to get involved.
    Read more... )
cos: (gchat-zalice)
2016-10-07 04:31 pm

Fonkoze

Hurricane Matthew hit rural southwest Haiti yesterday hardest, cutting much of the peninsula off from the rest of Haiti (roads and communications) for at least a day, and killing at least a few hundred people. If you have money to donate and are looking for good organizations to donate to, consider Fonkoze.

Fonkoze arose from the Fondwa Peasants Association, whose story you can see in the short film The Road to Fondwa. Go ahead and watch it if you haven't seen it!

Fondwa Peasants Association founder and coordinator Father Joseph Philippe founded Fonkoze 6 years later, in 1994, as a rural development bank and microfinance instution, with the goal of getting poor Haitians economically organized in addition to just politically organized, and with a focus on poor women. They couple microfinance and banking services for the very-poor with literacy programs, long-term business skills mentorships, and a "road out of poverty" program that begins with giving a woman the materials to build a small house with water purification, and helping her build it.

Fonkoze has grown to cover the entire country, and when much of what Fondwa built was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake, Fonkoze made it possible for them to rebuild. Coincidentally, they had recently introduced a new earthquake and disaster insurance program before the earthquake hit, but it was new and not many people had signed up - so after the earthquake hit they decided to treat all of their members as if they had retroactively gotten the insurance.

Since 1996, they have been raising money through a sister organization in the US called Fonkoze USA, which has a 4-star rating on charitynavigator. Fonkoze as a whole also has a platinum rating from GuideStar, whose report includes a good summary of their impact.

With 8 branches and over 100 client centers in the hardest-hit southwest, they are probably going to need extra resources to rebuild and resume providing services. As a long-lived homegrown organization with roots in every corner of Haiti, they seem like an important part of building Haiti's long term robustness and capacity to get out of poverty. Donate here.
cos: (Default)
2016-08-24 04:29 pm

Unexpected COnnection

I was reading about a congressional race in Colorado, where a woman named Morgan Carroll is challenging Mike Coffman and seems to have a chance. What I read about her seemed promising so I wanted to know more, and wrote a friend in Colorado. He co-founded MassForDean here in Boston many years ago and I worked closely with him on that for a year, and on some other campaigns, before he moved to Colorado. He's stayed involved in politics, including a run for state rep, so I figured he'd know something about her and I trust his political judgement.

He wrote me back, and the first sentence was:
"I'm biased here, because Morgan and I have been together for about 10 years."

*laugh!*

... also, donating to her campaign now.
cos: (Default)
2016-06-18 12:16 pm

Mockingbird Nest

I've been seeing a mockingbird in the park near my house on the way to work in the morning, or on the way back, for several months. Several times I've seen two of them together. One time in April I got a nice video of one of them singing in a tree with my phone. And then in mid-May, I saw one of them tending a nest, in a small tree right by the basketball court:
cos: (frff-profile)
2016-04-30 11:45 pm

Somerville Open Studios - some new ones for me

[I asked permission to take photos at every studio pictured in links from this post.]

Before I went to open studios this morning I had the vague idea that I should try to find some new ones or go to a part of the city I don't usually explore during SoS weekend. Once I got there and picked up a map, my idea morphed: Why not spend the whole day going only to studios I'd never been to before - or so long ago that I didn't remember ever having been to them?

[livejournal.com profile] stiltwalker tricked me, by switching from displaying at his own place to teaming up with a few other artists and displaying at one of their homes! :) But I think his was the only work I saw today that I'd seen at past Somerville Open Studios, and it worked out really nicely. A majority of what I saw, I liked a lot, and I found several new favorites. Including, to my surprise, a few very close to Davis Sqaure. If you go Sunday, and haven't been to them, by all means visit:

#23 Nave Gallery Annex : https://goo.gl/photos/n74ue9oGHRXCYwpc8

They've got an exhibit of fiber art work by a variety of artists, many of them 3D. In the photos above are pieces by Emily Brodrick, Chris Motley, Ayelet Lindenstrauss Larsen, Gin Stone, and Jodi Colella.

#24 Darkmatter Park : https://goo.gl/photos/o2jddhMqA3an24Hv5

Katharine VanBuskirk has been here for nearly 20 years, and done almost every SoS, yet I've somehow missed it in the 10+ years I've gone to open studios. She and her husband collaborate on an elaborate garden of perennials, trees, pools, rock arrangements, paths, sculptures, and flowers. They've got some dogs even I, not at all a dog person, think are cute :) She told me they also have a couple of nuthatches that nest nearby and visit often, but I didn't see them.

#26 Ceramics in the basement on Willow Ave : https://goo.gl/photos/DY8KweVUrdyxbVnK6

Julie Peck, Sara Shelton, and Eileen de Rosas, really packed this small basement! Recognizably different styles, though they all go together well, and I appreciated how all of them worked birds into many of their pieces :)

#27 Julie Murphy : https://goo.gl/photos/jYG6SXJPoA7gtNxj6

This was her first time ever displaying her work in a public show or event... and I was the first person to ever buy one of her pieces :) It's the bluish one with trees, bees and nautilus shells at lower right in the third photo, so you won't see that one there, because I have it. But you should totally go and see the rest in person!

#44 Miller Street Studios : https://goo.gl/photos/hNt7DuT5v1LwScxPA

Almost 50 artists at this studio building, but very few participate in SoS. Only two listed on the SoS guide, though there were actually three open, and they have shared studios so you can see their studiomates' work, plus there's a bunch of stuff on the walls, making you wish you could go past some of those closed doors.

In that photo album you can see pieces by or studios of Sandra Allik (mixed media paintings often including wood), Christopher Pullman (who did some really intriguing paintings of a bunch of old potatoes!), Linda Lichtman (glass), and Leo Muellener (large paintings), as well as some of the art-strewn hallways.

A couple of the artists I spoke to said they want to entice more of their neighbors to participate in SoS, and one of them (Sandra Allik, if I remember correctly) was collecting a list of people coming by who hadn't been there before. If you haven't been there before, go and sign her book!

Edit: Although her studio at Miller St is not open for SoS, I just learned that Jodi Colella - one of the artists displaying at the Nave annex - made the large fiber pieces in the hallway at the beginning of this photo set.

#49 60 Park Street : https://goo.gl/photos/erMXkmm7oWSx7Hct6

In this album are some of Brad Carreiro's wood lamp light things, Rachael Holmes' intriguing knit bags and shapes, and whimsical robot-themed paintings by Pecan, as well as the delightful front of the house with its cornoctopus in the yard. If you go in person you'll also see work by a couple of other artists.

As a bonus, here's a nifty plant arrangement by Thomas Fraley at #28 : https://goo.gl/photos/oCg7HtcmpzAvzuCe7 - plants aren't what he's displaying, but he works with professionally and I hope he displays a garden in the future. He'd never seen Darkmatter (#24) so I suggested a visit.

[Also posted this at http://davis-square.livejournal.com/3677443.html ]
cos: (frff-profile)
2016-03-14 06:35 pm

What about Michigan?

Since my post concluding that Clinton will get the Democratic nomination, people keep asking me if I think anything changed after Bernie Sanders' surprise upset win in Michigan.

First of all, I'm overjoyed that he won! I'd love to see him continue to do well in future primaries, and I think it will be a very good thing for the Democratic party and for the country if he does.

Second, this makes me feel like I should not have looked at the polls, and just written based on what I said was doing: Looking at the states that already voted, and extrapolating the same voting patterns. Polls shortly before an election are usually pretty good at predicting the results, but actual voting in primaries has long seemed to be a much more solid predictor of subsequent primaries. And based on that, Michigan's result was not at all surprising. Industrial midwestern states' Democratic primaries are similar to Massachusetts but a bit better for Bernie, while mid-Atlantic and southern New England states are a little worse for him. Based on Super Tuesday, I would've predicted he'd probably lose the mid-Atlantic and southern New England states, but win most of the industrial midwest by small margins (with a bigger margin in Wisconsin, and PA being the one he's most likely to lose).

However... I actually did most of my analysis for the last post before looking at the Michigan polls. Sure, I knew that Clinton led him by a lot in the midwest in polls earlier in the season, but I assumed that lead would disappear like it had in plenty of other states where she started with a big lead. Early polls very often favor the bigger name in the race. In other words, that post reflected my conclusions based on a belief that Sanders would probably win Michigan narrowly. Then I looked at the polls, and to my surprise Clinton's lead was still very large on three polls released just in the past week (as of the day before the Michigan primary). So I changed my wording a little bit to reflect that.

For me, it wasn't so much Sanders' narrow win in Michigan that was a surprise, it was the polls! Michigan's actual result was very much what I expected until the last couple of days, when I looked at those polls before finishing my post.

That said, let's look at the numbers a bit more specifically...

Since Super Tuesday:
Kansas: Sanders 23, Clinton 10
Nebraska: Sanders 15, Clinton 10
Maine: Sanders 16, Clinton 9
Louisiana: Sanders 14, Clinton 37
Michigan: Sanders 67, Clinton 63
Mississippi: Sanders 4, Clinton 32
Total: Sanders 139, Clinton 161

On the same day Sanders' remarkable upset win in Michigan netted him 4 more delegates than Clinton, her long-expected small-news overwhelming win in Mississippi netter her 28 more delegates than him. In total that day, 166 more delegates were determined. Since Super Tuesday, 300 pledged delegates were determined, leaving only 2724 to go. Clinton's lead is now 221.

(Note: I'm using numbers from thegreenpapers.com, who I've found have better calculations of how primary and caucus results will translate into state delegates than much of the press. But the differences are slight, so it doesn't make a big difference.)


What the above numbers highlight is what really stood out when I looked at Super Tuesday: It's not just that Clinton was winning all the southern states, it's the scale of her wins. Sanders' huge 22-point win in New Hampshire made big news, and he went on to score very solid wins in caucus states - 19 points in Colorado, 22 points in Minnesota, 14 points in Nebraska 29 points in Maine. While this was happening, Clinton scored astounding blowout wins in the much more populated southern states: 59 points in Alabama, 66 points in Mississippi, 48 points in Louisiana, 43 points in Georgia, 47 points in South Carolina, and a mere 36 points in Arkansas. Clinton literally beat him more than 4-to-1 in several states, and even 5-to-1 in a couple. The only place Sanders got a comparable win was his home state of Vermont.

These wins didn't make as big a splash in the news as New Hampshire and Michigan, because Clinton was expected to win these states all along. The news is much too focused on who "wins" each state, and it's misleading. Democratic primaries award delegates proportionally. The difference between winning 51-49 vs. losing 49-51 is a huge deal for the press, but it may be nothing in terms of delegates (as in Massachusetts, where Clinton "won" but Sanders and Clinton will get 45 and 46 delegates each; often a 51-49 win results in an even split). The difference between winning 55-45 vs. 59-41 may actually be bigger in terms of delegates, but won't have much effect on how the press talks about it.

If I'd looked at the numbers after Super Tuesday and seen Clinton ahead by about 100 delegates, I would've written a very different post. I could clearly see a path for Sanders to make up a 100 delegate difference, and that path did indeed lie through winning the midwestern states like Michigan, not necessarily by a lot. Let's look at that path in more depth... )

If Sanders were at a 100 delegate deficit, and he performed really well after Super Tuesday, he might cut that deficit down to as little as 40 delegates (but more realistically 60-something). Could he make up the difference by winning 475-delegate California? Sure, maybe. California votes June 7th, and if Sanders were that close to Clinton that far out, which would be astonishing, people might feel the momentum is with him, and California might really turn out for him.

But Clinton is leading by 220, not 100. She didn't just win the south, she won a series of overwhelming blowouts, and her lead in delegates already elected is just too large. Barring some huge shift in the dynamic of the campaign, Sanders isn't going to be able to cut that lead down to even 100 before California, let alone 60. He'd need to win by almost 80% in California to gain over 100 delegates, and chances are he'll be well over 100 behind.


Will Sanders win more states than Clinton for the rest of the campaign? Perhaps he will. Is he going to gain more delegates than Clinton from now on? He very well may - and in fact, I think it's quite likely. I expect him to cut down on her lead, and I very much want him to.

Sanders has already surprised the political world by showing he's a real and credible candidate who had a chance to win. With each win from now on, and with each gain in delegates cutting into Clinton's lead, he'll continue giving people the perception of an even race. Clinton will have to keep trying, really trying, in order to keep earning the delegates she needs. She cannot relax, and the campaign remains real. At the end, Sanders will have accomplished a lot, and helped bring about a major shift in the Democratic party, one that we can keep building on.

But Clinton doesn't need a big lead to get the nomination. If she goes to the convention with even one more pledged delegate than Sanders, she will be the Democratic nominee. Will Sanders cut Clinton's lead down all the way from over 200 now, to 0 at the end? Unless some big unexpected surprise (bigger than beating the polls in Michigan) shakes up the race, then no, he will not.

Edit: Republican primary
Today (March 15th), we find out whether Trump wins both Florida and Ohio, giving him a good shot at winning a majority of delegates and the nomination, or whether he loses one of them (or maybe both), making it much more likely that he won't get a straight majority, and the Republican convention will be contested.
cos: (frff-profile)
2016-03-08 04:50 pm

The numbers after Super Tuesday

Enough states have voted that the end is getting clearer.

TL;DR: Probably President Clinton. Well, it was already the most probably outcome before any primaries happened, but it's getting kinda close to near-certain now. Here's how I see the numbers...

Democratic primary... )
Sanders should keep on running... )

Republican primary... )
cos: (Default)
2016-02-01 02:57 pm

Daisies in Space

Recently, they made a zinnia bloom in space:
http://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/first-flower-grown-in-space-stations-veggie-facility

Turns out this wasn't the first flower to bloom aboard the International Space Station - a sunflower bloomed there in 2012:
http://www.space.com/31687-zinnia-not-first-flower-in-space.html

So it wasn't the zinnia, but the sunflower, that was the world's first asternaut!

(Apparently the Russians grew some beans and arabidopsis that flowered in space many years earlier, but no asters as far as I know.)
cos: (Default)
2016-01-08 04:54 pm

Six-word book descriptions

Alice posted this elsewhere:
"Describe your favorite book in exactly six words. And we can guess which it is!
mine: a dude hates a big whale."

I can't pick one favorite book, but I wrote six-word summaries of several of my favorites:

  1. Bear leads king's rise and fall

  2. Layered loops of logic form thought

  3. War distraction to sneakily destroy ring

  4. Wildlife links mountain strangers' love lives

  5. Europeans' militarism escalates far beyond expectations

  6. Doors lead to adventure under London

  7. Warning: Factory cuts trees animals need

  8. Injured brains work in bizarre ways!

  9. Teens transported to sinister Escheresque place


What's your favorite book in six words?
cos: (Default)
2015-12-06 11:25 am

"this is not a love song" Goli CD release

Goli's new album this is not a love song is just the second album in the band's ~8 years of existence, so some of us have been waiting a really long time for this! Last Friday night they celebrated with a CD release show including all of the musicians who played and sang with them in studio for the recording.

Here's Goli's entire set, including Valerie's endearing banter :)


Before Goli, Jaggery also did a kickass high energy set: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1ZoBN-CTA8

SkiM, a band I hadn't seen before, opened their show. I just got half their set on video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpwhTP0EiTA