Giving Pie a Bad Name

I love pie.  Apple pie, pumpkin pie, lemon meringue pie, coconut pie, pecan pie, really goopy, syrupy  pecan pie, cherry pie and blueberry pie.  I love meat pies, too.  When you break the pastry, thin as the ice  in  April, and underneath is all this steaming hot life energy, and, like a pizza, it is just the  right size and shape.  I even have tremendous appreciation for pie spelled  without  the final e, that Greek letter that symbolizes the most irrational  of  all  irrational numbers, which we  need to calculate the area of a circle, but whose lack of completion means we  can  never do that with perfect  accuracy, it’s like one of the mysteries of the universe, a timeless paradox.

But, I do not like Ajit Pai.  He is giving pie a bad name.  Net only does he reverse Net Neutrality (of course, there will still be challenges and court battles, but he certainly seems to have gotten away with it in the short term) but he’s made a video about  it, just to rub our noses in  it.  Like “You’ll  still be able to post pictures of kittens and stuff,” when he knows as well as we do that people are a lot more worried about controversial content being blocked, sneaky charges  being added, advertising being prioritized over information, and a general slowing  down in the ability to spread  new information and  ideas.
And he does it all  with a smirk and some silly  costumes and internet graphics.  Smarmiest prick since Martin Shkreli, and that’s saying a lot.

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Late

I often tell  my students “You have to be smarter than the tram to catch the tram” when they walk  into class with that lame-ass “I missed the tram/bus/train” excuse.
Well, egg all over my face this morning, that’s for sure.
It was a short schedule for some reason, I didn’t have my first class so had until 8:50 to get to school, and that’s a bit dangerous because I  underestimated the time I’d need and when I  got off  the Metro at Strašnicka, I  knew I  was cutting it close.  Still, I figured  if the tram came within 5 minutes or so, I’d make it.  It didn’t.  After almost ten minutes, and I was resigned to being five minutes  late, a young lad said to me “The 26 isn’t running” and I  wondered how he  knew I was waiting for the 26.  I  realized  after a bit that  he must be one of my students – one of those who doesn’t show up very often – there are a few of those.
So, I ran around the corner (about 4 or 5 blocks) to catch the 22.  Two of the students from my first class arrived there around the same time.  I could hardly lecture them about being late when I was in the same situation.  Also, I had them call their friends in the class to let them know I’d be late, so I’m quite glad I ran into them.  A couple of trams went by but didn’t let anybody on, and  eventually one of the drivers clued us in that no trams were running, some problems with the track I guess.
Still, Prague is pretty  good about laying on auxiliary buses when there’s a problem like that and one came along pretty quick, but it took an alternate route  and got stuck in traffic.  When I got to my first class, it only lasted about 15 minutes.  I’m sure the students didn’t mind.

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Moore No More

Yes, it is a good day and we can all  heave a huge sigh of relief that Roy Moore is not going to be a United States Senator.  It is also  good news that Doug Jones will  be, although we don’t know much about him.  He’s likely to vote against Trump’s so-called tax plan, which isn’t really a tax plan at all, but a bill that says ‘money belongs to rich people, and the rest of you are shit out of luck.’  So, that’s a good thing.

But, I’m reading from a lot of Democrats that this is a sign that the tide has turned, that we’ve reached bottom and begun the long climb out, that Moore’s loss (and it is much more Moore’s loss than Jones’ win) is a sign that Democrats will win  big in  2018.  I wish that were so, but it’s not.

First, the Democrats would have to make sure that ALL of their opponents are child molesters, at the very least.  Remember, that was  only enough to BARELY win  the seat.
Secondly, they would have to reunite the party and they are fighting against that tooth and nail.  It’s not that they’ve failed to learn  the lesson of 2016.  They aren’t that  stupid.  It’s that they have REFUSED to learn  the lesson of 2016.

And there are two reasons for that.  First, that truly learning the lesson would mean they’d have to relinquish the iron grip on power they have.  Actually, they’ve doubled down so  hard and so often, it would just mean they’d have to step aside, and modern politicians don’t do that, even if they’ve been fooling around with 14 year old girls.  (Franken is a wimp.  Republicans just say ‘No, I  ain’t standing down’ and they get away  with it, often as not)

Second, it would mean doing without all that sweet, sweet corporate cash.

Now, admittedly, that’s going to be a problem for Berniecrats.  Not every candidate is going to be able to raise funds like he did.  Also, people have a limit.  After a certain point, the average individual just doesn’t have any money to give to politicians.

So, the Democrats (if they turn against the corporations, which they must.  The corporations already own one party, and that’s enough) will  have to be a bit more creative, will have to find ways to generate publicity and win without money.

First, they should have  about 30 or 40 debates, the way that Republicans do.  That’s free coverage, and Hillary Clinton just threw it away because  she knew it would  favor Sanders and, in fact, any candidate who wasn’t her.  But, she’s not involved any more and so  there’s no reason  not to.

Open the party up, instead of actually  discouraging people from registering as Democrats by scrubbing them from the rolls, or  giving them a ‘provisional’ ballot, which they then turn around  and don’t count.

Campaign hard on  questions people really care about.  You know the  ones.  Bernie talked about  them all  the time.

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Parker’s Point

Y’all remember Sean Parker?  He was kind of important in the early days of Facebook (and before that Napster) and so now he’s a billionaire.  He’s the one who was played by Justin Timberlake in “The Social Network,” the quite excellent film about Facebook’s beginnings.  He’s basically the one who realized the potential of the idea and convinced Mark Zuckerberg to expand it beyond a couple of college campuses to the rest of the world.
Now, he’s shared some regrets.  In a speech  in Philadelphia (which was supposed to be all about cancer research, because that’s what he’s into now) he said  “The thought process that went into building (Facebook and all that kind of stuff) was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?'”
That doesn’t really sound that odd.  It’s what TV has been trying to do for years, radio before that, and newspapers before that.  It’s what we do with each other in our private lives.  Some people are needier than others, but we all want at least a bit of others’ time and attention.

“And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s going to get you … more likes and comments.  It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”

Perhaps so, but if all  it  takes to give people a bit of validation, a sense of communication with the greater society, is a like button and  a few emojis, I  count that as over all a social plus.  Yeah, maybe it means people don’t go out as much.  Maybe people don’t talk face to face as much.
But a lot of people didn’t socialize that much to start with.  Facebook is popular because it filled a need.  Some day (I hope it’s soon) somebody will come along and invent something more popular than Facebook, an even more vibrant artificial life style, and  we’ll all jump ship.
So, thanks for the warning , Sean, but it’s too late.  Facebook is the kind  of thing  which was  bound to happen in an environment of internet innovation.  It’s sort  of like with  Democracy.  The people get what the people  deserve.

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An Ordinary Day

I have no particular topic tonight.  There is nothing Trump (or Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, his shameless apologist) can do or say that surprises anybody.  We have a nearly retarded president and it’s completely normal.
Of course, some Democrats are saying that he should  resign over his sexual offenses, but that’s not  going to happen.  They have absolutely zero influence on  him.  Apparently, they can force a Democratic Senator to resign, but anybody  who thought that was going to have an intimidating effect on Republicans is living an  illusion.
It was not a bad day of teaching, although it started off with an hour of screaming at the second graders.  That class is getting worse instead of better.  I had an extremely simple lesson planned.  Give me the _____.  It’s a key  phrase, and once you learn it, you can build thousands of English sentences just by filling in the blank.  It was not a great  success.  What I  discovered was that a lot of the kids, including  one I’d thought was reasonably bright, don’t know any English at all and can’t  grasp even the basics, even when I explain them, slowly and specifically, in Czech.

Tomorrow I have to go to the foreign police to renew my permanent residency.  It was valid for 15 years, so the  fact  that I’m renewing it two weeks after it expired is  entirely my  own fault.  Hope  there are  no  complications.

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Flatliners

Sam wanted to go to the movies because was discount night, a mere 80 crowns, about half (of course there’s the popcorn and drink, which means it’s not totally cheap in the end, but we don’t go that often, so it’s cool).  I would have loved to have seen Blade Runner but, there’s the whole thing about how  if I want to see a film, he doesn’t, which can make it difficult to find  something  we both want to see.  I also would have  been  happy with Justice League or  Ragnarok (well, I mean, I  would have  been happy to go to them, I  have no idea if I’d have been happy afterwards or not.)

His suggestion  was Flatliners.  I’ve never seen the original, but  remember wanting to, and it sounded like an interesting premise, so I agreed.  Then I noticed that it got a huge Suck rating from Rotten Tomatoes, but by then I was committed.

What do critics know, critics are stupid.  It was a great film.  Kind of a medical film,  struggling students  offering suggestions in a Dr. House type meeting, kind of a horror except after the first death, when I thought it was going to veer in the classic ‘everybody dies except for maybe the  central  couple’ direction, but it did  not.
I wish they’d gone a bit deeper into what was  actually happening inside their heads, like scientifically, but they got  about as much  into  that as they could  without it being a documentary.
I’d give it a four out of  five stars, at least a three and a half.  It won’t change your life, but it will keep  you entertained all  the way through  it.

 

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A Wee Suggestion for Mark Zuckerberg

One thing I find frustrating on Facebook is when you want to leave and do  something else, you get that little box saying, ‘You have not finished, if you  leave now your work will  not be saved’ or words to that effect and the reason I find it frustrating is that there’s no way  of knowing which of my comments I failed to complete.  Of course I  can scroll back through, and sometimes I do, but it takes forever and, often as not, I cannot find the dangler.  Other times, when I do, I think, dang, I wasted 10 minutes trying to find this and all I said was …..

I’ll usually go ahead and hit send and get on with the day, but I wish, instead, they would give you that little rectangle and instead it said “You have not completed your comment on Joe Blow’s post” or “You have not completed the status update you started” or “Happy Bir is not even a full sentence, you moron.”  You know, something that would give you a clue.
I’m sure  Zuckerberg and co. have the programming smarts to do  that, but they seem to spend all their time figuring out what to censor and what not.

That’s about it, short blog for the night, it was a pretty  good day but I’m done.  Talk to you tomorrow.

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