I need an icon that expresses exhaustion

I contemplated using my "zero fucks" icon but that's not right either. There are a lot of things I care about a great deal and I cared a great deal about many things that happened this past weekend. I'm just worn out. This entry was started two days ago; now it's Thursday and I'm having trouble staying awake at work. I kind of spectacularly failed my 5-2-1 this year, mostly the 2.
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Overall this Arisia gets a 6/10 from me. With better planning and foreknowledge on my part that would've been an 8/10. Live and learn.

Cross-posted from Dreamwidth, at http://drwex.dreamwidth.org/940143.html. You can comment here or there.

How mad is Ted Cruz?

Three things are true:

1. Prior to the most recent election season, Ted Cruz was willing to run the American economy off a fiscal cliff by political maneuverings around paying national debt.

2. During the recent campaign, Cruz was repeatedly humiliated by Trump, both politically and personally.

3. The debt ceiling will need to be raised again this year, possibly as early as March, though I'm seeing some pundits saying that could be stretched until June. A lot depends on the economy performance and taxes. All of this is independent of changes Congress will make in the next six months. It's possible they could pass some of Trump's more expensive ideas and the reckoning will come sooner. Regardless, it's single-digit months away.

If Cruz remains angry at Trump this would be a perfect opportunity to put the new President into a very uncomfortable position. I think Cruz and Congress would lose this again - just as they lost it the last few times around - but if Cruz is personally mad enough he just might not give a sh*t.

Players in this fight will (assuming Trump gets his nominees railroaded... err, approved into office) include a budget director who is on record (as a Congressman) as opposing raising the debt ceiling, and a bevy of Wall Street insiders who will utterly freak their faces off if it looks like US debt reliability is going to be called into question.

Things to look forward to...

Cross-posted from Dreamwidth, at http://drwex.dreamwidth.org/939868.html. You can comment here or there.

We saw Rogue One and I was so uninspired I waited this long to post about it

Normally I write up the movies I see within a few days. Sometimes I wait to read others' commentaries (which I usually avoid beforehand because spoilers) afterward in order to help coalesce my thinking. This time it was more of a "hey, I could do this other thing."

I think part of it was that I went in with relatively high expectations - The Force Awakens introduced us to the idea that there were more Star Wars stories to tell and gave us an intriguing and moderately well-fleshed female lead. Yes, it was a ton of fan service and I wasn't all that impressed but OK, it had potential.

This movie... does not. It's a mess. It's full of characters that are supposed to have interesting backstories and interesting interactions and who get us set up for the events of the (real) first Star Wars movie and
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Cross-posted from Dreamwidth, at http://drwex.dreamwidth.org/939721.html. You can comment here or there.

The center cannot hold


Interesting read from Think Progress's Ned Resnikoff. It's kind of a deep exploration of how white nationalism came to be a dominant theme in this election and to some extent around the world. The theory, if I have it right, is that racism has always been there. Agreed. I've long said Trump was a symptom, not the problem itself.

But racism (the theory goes) can be subdued by peoples' self interests and particularly their economic self-interests when it appears everyone is getting ahead. This sort of self-interested centrism is labeled Third Way (presumably neither right/left nor liberal/conservative) and was kind of the consensus view from Clinton through Bush and into Obama. But when people (feel that) they are not getting ahead then racist tendencies move to the fore, and Resnikoff argues that an ideological vacuum and misapprehended economics have led to a collapse of this centrist ideology.

In its place we get authoritarian white populism, but not a typical right-wing sort. Instead you get a mix of ideologies from typical left (protect welfare state) and typical right (greed is good) - what they call "welfare chauvinism" mixed with "market nationalism". Both feature an "us first" twist that appeals to people who feel that free markets and free trade aren't benefiting them (they're right) and who feel that the government is unfairly favoring minorities and non-citizens (they're wrong).

So generally I'm nodding along with this - you should read it to get all the background and details I'm leaving out - and I come across this:
Under no circumstances should [supporters of pluralist democracy] back away from its commitment to pluralism. The aim of white nationalism is to destroy the multiracial democratic state, and any attempt at compromise will only bring it closer to that goal. People of color, women, LGBT people, and members of other marginalized groups are not a liability to the resistance against Trump; they are its leaders.

Which I sort of agree with - as I've written, I reject compromise with this brand of fascist ideology. And I certainly want to retain a movement that connects with the communities that make up a pluralistic society, including city dwellers, rural inhabitants, people of all ages and education levels. Marginalized groups are an important part of that coalition.

But if we (white dudes) are going to expect those under attack to lead the counter aren't we shirking our responsibility? I believe that Trump and Trump-ism (which I'll continue using as a shorthand for this kind of white nationalism, even though I realize it's a multi-country problem) is a white dude problem. We made this mess - why should we expect the people most hurt by it to lead the clean-up?

And just in case you'd forgotten how the whole thing went, here's Yeats's The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Cross-posted from Dreamwidth, at http://drwex.dreamwidth.org/939265.html. You can comment here or there.

We interrupt your usual stream of updates for an important message



It is omfg amazing. Just listen, I'll wait.

I am not normally a fan of full or nearly full orchestration on most things. Her voice works so well with this I didn't even realize how much backing she had until the camera panned over them.

Also, I'm getting the sense that London Grammar are no longer a hidden secret thing. This video went up on Dec 31sh and is well over half a million views already. That doesn't stop me wanting to tell everyone about it because wow.

We now return you to your regular updates. I'll do a regular music post at some point I promise.

Cross-posted from Dreamwidth, at http://drwex.dreamwidth.org/938862.html. You can comment here or there.

The holiday and New Year's report card

The last sort of update was all about the accident we stopped for along the way so let's pick up from there.

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So now I'm back at work, trying hard to convince myself that I don't have whatever virus has knocked out Pygment and Thing 2 this week. There will be no smooching strangers until further notice.

How was your New Year's Eve? Do anything you want to share with me? Please share.

Cross-posted from Dreamwidth, at http://drwex.dreamwidth.org/938708.html. You can comment here or there.
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Science is not a special interest


As of this morning, 1187 members of the MIT community and 626 faculty/lecturers/researchers had signed on.

I continue to be proud of my time at MIT and often proud of the 'tute. This is one of those moments. Like any organization composed of fallible humans, MIT sometimes does not live up to the values that it promotes. But those values exist as goals to strive for and now is a particularly good time to be reminded of that.

Cross-posted from Dreamwidth, at http://drwex.dreamwidth.org/938301.html. You can comment here or there.
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Things that did not suck in 2016

Among the end-of-year lists I found this: https://medium.com/future-crunch/99-reasons-why-2016-has-been-a-great-year-for-humanity-8420debc2823#.mfog3m4ex

A list of 99 things that happened that were actually pretty good this past year. Most of them happened outside the United States, like

  • Life expectancy in Africa has increased by 9.4 years since 2000

  • Thailand became the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis

  • In 1990, more than 60% of people in East Asia lived in extreme poverty. As of 2016, that proportion has dropped to 3.5%

  • Italy became the last large Western country to recognise same-sex unions

Some were international, like

  • acid pollution in the atmosphere is now almost back to the level that it was before it started with industrialisation in the 1930s

  • global malaria deaths have declined by 60% (something that mostly affects non-white, non-US people but still a world problem)

  • the number of women dying from pregnancy and childbirth has almost halved since 1990

So there are bubbles and there are bubbles. Inside our US-centric bubble things were still pretty terrible. But the US is not the whole of the world. I don't think it makes what has happened here any less awful, nor what is to come any less terrifying. But if we are realistic people we should look at the whole world, realistically. We are used to America being first and best and brightest. But if we're not, at least there are other countries to carry the world forward.

Cross-posted from Dreamwidth, at http://drwex.dreamwidth.org/938155.html. You can comment here or there.

The last music post of 2016

Work has been dead but I've not posted music. Sue me. I still haven't sorted out the tags issue on DW so I'm going to originate this post on LJ.

This appeared on one of the "best of" lists I scan and I picked it out for comment. I like the video and the dancing. But mostly I like Underworld. I've been listening to them for a really long time and unlike other acts whose style has evolved away from what I like I feel that Underworld still makes new and interesting music that isn't the same thing recycled and yet is unmistakably their sound. This is a great example of that. Seeing them live is still on my bucket list, though I expect it'll cost a fortune if I ever get a chance to do so.

"Last Night a DJ Saved My Life" is one of those tracks that's been around forEVER. I had to look it up - it was released back in 1982 and yet it persists in the club scene. It gets remixed a lot and occasionally covered. Of the past efforts, my favorite remains the Milk, Inc version (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEMov9b37Jw) and recently this edit from Coco Fay caught my ear. It's a little nu disco, a lot electronica, and a nice update on a classic.

Jacob Banks put together a nice combination of jazzy sounds, African-influenced backing vocals and rhythms, and modern EDM beats. Then throws in some fast-slinging rap vocals. I know that's not everyone's cuppa but I really like the use of a variety of styles and influences.

This is a fun mash using several well-known base tracks and updating them as they get mashed together. WBBL throws in the Dibby Thing, which I'm not that fond of but I like the other sources well enough to overlook the repetitive dibby.

I wanted to end the year with something chill. Given what a rampaging shit-show it has been I feel a need to draw a deep breath and try to let go of some of the tension. To that end, here's EZPZ from DJ Steveboy, a chill and relaxed mix he put together some months ago. Easily my favorite track of the set is pulled out in the second link: Wild Culture's "Fade". I love the vocals, and the relaxed beats behind this one.