movies

Jan. 3rd, 2019 07:18 am
hudebnik: (Default)
Since [personal profile] shalmestere and I have both been sick for the past week (nothing life-threatening, just seasonal crud), we've watched a bunch of movies on DVD, mostly checked out from the library a few blocks away. I'm not coherent enough to write reviews right now, so I'll just list them for now:


  • Dec. 30: Sorry to Bother You

  • Dec. 31: Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot

  • Jan. 1: The Time Traveller's Wife

  • Jan. 1: Blackadder Back And Forth, in honor of the New Year

  • Jan. 2: Philomena

  • [ETA: Jan. 3: Pirate Radio, which we saw when it was in theaters]

  • [ETA: Jan. 4: Persepolis, which we also saw when it was in theaters]

hudebnik: (Default)
I've been taking codeine-based cough syrup for the last few nights, so that may affect the quality of my dreams.

Night before last: I was charged with untangling Donald Trump's finances, using Quicken. I found that the most effective strategy seemed to be to recognize that two accounts were distinct in name but not in practice, so I would do a global search-and-replace to rename one of them to the other. Eventually I was down to one account labelled "What Donny Wants".

Last night: a series of vignettes about companies willfully and passive-aggressively over-interpreting privacy laws to make them such a pain that customers complain and get them repealed. For example, the magazine subscription that has to be renewed every two months because the company deletes your name and address from their database after two months so they no longer know where to send the magazine (although they've already charged you for the whole year).
hudebnik: (Default)
Just got a letter from the State Division of Parks and Recreation saying that our house (and several blocks around it) has been placed on the State Register of Historic Places, and nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.

We attended a community meeting about this a month or two ago, and were told "this designation doesn't protect the house from the owner; it protects the house from the government." So the downside is if you want to sell your house to the government, there are certain things the government can't do with it without consulting with the historic-district people. The upside is that if you make renovations to the house that are compatible with historic-district standards, you can get a 20% tax credit for them.

We have two projects in mind that might qualify. The second-story windows were all replaced, probably in the 1980's, with reasonably energy-efficient double-paned windows with obviously plastic frames. One of the double-paned windows got broken a few years ago (only the outer pane, so it hasn't been a high priority for us to fix), and the plastic frames have photo-degraded to the point that they crumble in one's hand. I'd like to replace them with something that's both energy-efficient and period-looking (the "period" in question being 19teens). We had an Anderson representative give us a spiel a few years ago, and were so put off by his hard sell and the plasticky-looking frames (I think they're actually a sawdust composite) that we never called him back.

The other project is removing the aluminum siding and restoring the house to its original cedar-shake shingles. We have some reason to believe the original shingles are still there under the siding, but they've been covered over for probably forty or fifty years so we have no idea what condition they're in, and assume we'd have to replace a good fraction of them. Problem is, we can't tell how many we'll have to replace, and thus estimate the budget, until we start ripping off the siding. Is it even possible to replace a shake shingle without replacing all the ones above it? (Our garage is shingled, and the bottom two or three rows of shingles, the ones closest to the ground, are in the worst shape. We might try re-shingling the garage as a warmup project, but that's a more dubious investment, as any future owner might knock down and replace the whole garage.)

Has anybody reading this done either of these sorts of home improvements?

Meanwhile, [personal profile] shalmestere has been looking at other houses in the neighborhood, with an eye to moving to a larger and/or more attractive house, since our income is about three times what it was when we bought this house. If we're serious about that, we should certainly skip the shingling project and possibly the windows project.
hudebnik: (Default)
There are people for whom Handel's Messiah is an annual Christmas tradition (although its first few performances were mostly at Easter). We are not among those people: [personal profile] shalmestere was in a performance of the Messiah once or twice in school, while I've done a Messiah sing-along and attended a handful of performances in my life. The last one I recall was a historically-informed performance at the acoustically-perfect Troy, NY music hall, and it was a revelatory experience: light, agile, and crystal clear.

Last night's performance by TENET and the Sebastians had similar forces: twelve singers, each of whom had a solo or two, and fifteen instrumentalists. The performing venue was a church in Manhattan, with very different acoustics: there was a fifty-foot long choir-and-altar space behind the performers, so the tutti sections weren't as "crystal clear" as in the Troy performance (although there were moments that, as [personal profile] shalmestere said, sounded like one voice). The instrumentalists included a pair of natural trumpeters -- at least, I didn't see any valves, although there was finger movement synchronized with the notes so I think each trumpet had a single cornetto-style finger-hole -- who did an impressive job. Some of the vocal soloists struck me as working too hard, with notey ornaments or overdone vibrato, while others (Michael Maliakel on "Darkness Shall Cover the Earth", Margot Rood on "Rejoice Greatly", and Helen Karloski on "He was Despised") knocked my socks off with their clear, natural-sounding control. All in all, an enjoyable evening, although we got to bed after midnight so I'm even more underslept than usual this morning.

Almost everybody in the audience stood up for the Alleluia chorus. This strikes me as a silly shibboleth of a ritual, so I didn't, but I guess it has the advantage of allowing people to stretch their legs a bit after two hours of music.
hudebnik: (Default)
We're all familiar with the song, and many people (by which I mean me :-)) never thought of it as politically incorrect until the past year or two. It was just a funny, light-hearted, exquisitely well-crafted song. And it still is.

Wait, sexual coercion is funny? No, of course not; that's not what's funny. The wordplay is funny. The clever, unexpected rhymes are funny. The two people talking over one another, and occasionally landing in harmony together, is funny, in the great tradition of patter songs from Gilbert & Sullivan to Sondheim (with perhaps a detour by way of Robert Altman).

And, frankly, the conflicting interests and the attempts at persuasion are funny because they're so universally human. Scarcely an adult human on the planet has not, at some point, tried to persuade the object of hir romantic interest to stay around and do something together (whether sex or a movie or church or a ride in a surrey with a fringe on top). The other, "I really must go" side of the song can be interpreted in different ways: either she really unambiguously doesn't want to stay, or (as I've always interpreted the song) she's dealing with an id/superego conflict between a desire to have fun and concern over what "the neighbors will think." Both cases are, again, near-universal human experiences, and therefore fodder for a good song.

In either case, of course, what she ultimately does is her decision, not anybody else's. But as I pointed out here, there has to be a legitimate place for persuasion in a romantic relationship, or nothing will ever happen unless both parties independently think of the same thing to do, with the same degree of enthusiasm, at exactly the same moment. The problem is that the line between persuasion and coercion is extremely fuzzy, and extremely subject to differing interpretations. Parts of the song are clearly on the "persuasion" side, while other parts (most obviously "say, what's in this drink?") hint at coercion. How you feel about the song as a whole depends on how much coercion you perceive and how you weight it against the appeal of clever songcraft and universal human feelings.
hudebnik: (Default)
Inspired by this post...

A few months ago, having heard a radio story or read a newspaper story or something about Octavia Butler, I went looking for some of her work to read. People suggested Kindred as a good place to start, so I walked into my neighborhood independent bookstore (I can say that! really!) and asked for it; conveniently, it was the only Butler they happened to have on the shelf.

So I read it, and didn't have nearly as strong a reaction as everybody told me I would. Yes, there's brutality and sadism and injustice, and sometimes bad things happen for no good reason except that Sometimes Bad Things Happen. Yeah, whatever: it's a speculative-fiction book, and I expect that stuff.

Much the same happened when, after years of hearing other people talk about it, I finally picked up and read The Handmaid's Tale. It's brutal and horrible and unfair and only a slight exaggeration of things that are actually happening in the real world. Yeah, whatever, more or less what I expected.

Have I lost the ability to be shocked? Has my whole culture lost the ability to be shocked?
hudebnik: (Default)
A few friends and I were lost in a maze of twisty little passages, all different. This particular section of the maze was on a "fractal" theme: you would frequently find yourself with a choice of several directions to go that all looked alike except for scale, and in fact took you back to exactly where you had just been except that you were now larger or smaller relative to the passages. Very frustrating.

Separate dream: for several months now, I've had a series of dreams that feel like episodes in an ongoing TV series: in each one, I'm called on to fix one or more localized problems that were each caused by future-me traveling back in time to test present-me. Or maybe it was past-me traveling forward in time to test present-me: I'm not sure, and it's always been very confusing. Two or three nights ago came an installment in this series that appeared to be the series pilot, because it actually explained what was going on without assuming the viewer already knew. But I woke up and forgot the explanation. Very frustrating.
hudebnik: (Default)
I was in a relatively-civil discussion on Quora with someone who was deeply worried about individual voter fraud, and it led me to the following reflections.

stuff about false positives and false negatives )
hudebnik: (Default)
According to this article, vanilla was in culinary use in Bronze Age Israel.

Huh.
hudebnik: (Default)
I was expecting, by now, to be en route to, if not at, the site for Musicians' Day, an early-music slumber party for thirty friends and acquaintances in a lodge in the woods, with a day of classes, hours of jamming, good food, a roaring fireplace, and all that stuff.

But when the first attendees arrived at the site (several hours before I could get there), they found another group already in the lodge, swearing that they had it reserved through Sunday evening, and had had it reserved since January. (We also were sure we had it reserved since January.) The organizer of the other group works for the Parks Department, and called the Park Superintendent on his private line to see what was up; he says the Superintendent confirms that he has the lodge reserved and we don't. I haven't talked to the Superintendent myself, nor have I been able to get anybody at the park to answer a phone in several days -- I've spent at least an hour wandering through touch-tone phone trees searching in vain for a human being.

Anyway, the event is cancelled on the shortest of notice. A good number of the attendees are probably still on the road driving to the site, and others may arrive tomorrow morning. #^*%^$^&%$*%^&
hudebnik: (Default)
I live in New York City. Like most New York City residents, my polling place is a 5-10-minute walk from my home. I walked in around 8 AM, took a few seconds to find the right table for my electoral district (about half a dozen share the same polling place), signed my name in the book (right under my "signature of record"; presumably they compare them somehow), and was given a paper optical-scan ballot and a folder to hide it in. I went to an empty ballot-filling-out station, used the pen at the station to fill in a bunch of bubbles, and went to one of the two scanner stations. One of them seemed to be having trouble, but there was no line for the other one, so I put each of the two double-sided pages of my ballot through the scanner, returned my folder, and left. Total elapsed time maybe five minutes. Got to work about the time I usually do, although state law guarantees me two hours of paid leave on election day. This is approximately what has happened every time I've voted in the past twenty years.

I'd like to say that's what it looks like when the local and state government actually want people to vote, rather than trying to prevent them from voting. Unfortunately, people elsewhere in New York City had very different experiences. Apparently the scanner machines at Brooklyn's Central Library (a major polling place) all malfunctioned, and voters had to put their ballots in a ballot box to be scanned later. There are scattered reports of long lines and jammed scanner machines in other parts of the city too.

National results: there was enough of a "blue wave" to give Democrats a majority in the House of Representatives, and to gain several governorships (which will make a difference to redistricting in 2020, and thus for the next ten years), but a number of the high-profile races still went narrowly to Republicans: Florida didn't elect a black Democratic Governor, Georgia still hasn't decided whether it will (which gives the Republican candidate still more opportunities to exercise his power as Secretary of State to put a thumb on the scale: how is it even legal for a candidate to supervise the voting in his own election?), Tennessee didn't elect a moderate Democratic Senator, Texas didn't elect a Democratic Senator (charismatic rock-star Beto O'Rourke failed to unseat Ted Cruz, who's intensely unpopular in Washington but fairly popular in Texas), that ex-Marine woman Democrat failed to get a House seat from Kentucky, etc. I guess the bright spot is that all of these elections were close, which tells the winners that they will face serious general-election challengers again next time so they can't afford to play exclusively to their base. Florida passed a ballot initiative restoring voting rights to 1.5 million ex-felons who have completed their sentences, so that will affect the results in 2020 and beyond. Florida seems to have also passed a ballot initiative outlawing greyhound racing, which may mean a flood of abruptly-retired racing greyhounds seeking homes in the next few months. And there are now two Moslem women in the House, and two Native American women in the House, and an openly gay Governor in Colorado, and so on... the Federal government will look just a bit more like the American people next year.

And Donald Trump, who loves nothing more than an enemy to blame for his problems, will actually face some opposition on Capitol Hill, as he hasn't for the past two years. So far I haven't heard him complaining that all the Democratic House wins were the result of voter fraud and illegal aliens, but I have no doubt that that's coming.
hudebnik: (Default)
If we want to discourage "bad behavior" (whatever that means) in government officials, such bad behavior has to have negative consequences. If we're talking about partisan bad behavior, it has to have negative consequences for the party that did it. One could even imagine disincentivizing bad behavior on both sides at once by making sure that it has consequences that both sides dislike. An obvious example is a rule that legislators don't get paid if they don't pass a budget by the deadline. And like most obvious-common-sense rules, it has an unintended consequence: it empowers legislators who happen to be independently wealthy over legislators who actually need their paychecks. Another example, if you assume that balanced budgets are a Good Thing (which isn't entirely obvious), is a rule that if the legislature passes a budget with a deficit, it automatically triggers both spending cuts and tax increases, thus displeasing both the big-spending and the tax-cuts-uber-alles camps. It's tricky finding policies that everybody will like, or everybody will dislike, and it's even trickier in a highly partisan, divided environment because proposed policies are assessed on whether they help or hurt my party and its voters more than the other party and its voters, rather than whether they help or hurt the populace at large; it's an ill wind indeed that blows no-one good, and therefore that no-one has an incentive to see happen. So it is in the public interest to reduce that zero-sum thinking. How can we do that?

The last two Supreme Court nominees were confirmed on essentially party-line votes, and everybody on both sides reasonably assumes they will use their positions in a partisan way, destroying whatever was left of the Court's image as "above politics". The obvious way to avoid that is to return to requiring a super-majority for court confirmations, both Supreme and lower, so nobody gets on the court without bipartisan support (as used to be common a few decades ago). I get why the Democrats dismantled the filibuster for lower-court nominations: the Republicans in the Senate were stonewalling, blocking any nomination with the name "Obama" on the signature line, regardless of qualifications. The Republicans were clearly politicizing the confirmation process, but the immediate effect on the courts was merely understaffing, which (in theory) is bad for everybody but doesn't offer a clear advantage for one party over the other. Getting rid of the super-majority requirement did something worse: it politicized the courts themselves, by allowing a President and Senate of the same party to fill lots of judicial seats with dubiously-qualified partisans, as has in fact happened in the past two years.

The same reasoning goes at the state level: requiring a super-majority in the relevant legislative body to confirm a judge reduces the likelihood of strongly-partisan nominees getting through. I don't know how many states have such a super-majority requirement.

As for the legislative branch, the obvious problem is legislators who are more afraid of primary opponents than general-election opponents, and who therefore are more rewarded for ideological purity than for compromise and legislative effectiveness. As far as possible, every legislator, at every level, should face a realistic general-election opponent. That's really hard to do in deep-red or deep-blue areas of the country. A long-run answer is to get rid of primaries altogether and minimize the role of parties by some combination of ranked balloting, multi-seat districts, and ideas like that. (Proportional representation would help in some ways, but it enshrines parties into an official part of the system, and I want to burn them to the ground.) In the meantime, anything we can do to reduce gerrymandering and voter suppression will help by putting a more diverse mix of voters in the general election.

Gerrymandering is even more of a problem at the state level, where legislators can draw district lines not just for other members of their party but for themselves.

Then there's the executive branch. Most Presidents in history, after running partisan campaigns, have made some effort to become President of the whole country rather than only their partisan base (the current President being an obvious exception). I don't see any systemic changes that would further encourage the former behavior; at some point we have to rely on electing leaders more concerned with their reputations and the judgment of history than with short-term partisan wins.

I guess the same reasoning goes for Governors, although states are more likely to be deep-red or deep-blue, so it's easier to ignore the partisan minority, than the whole country is.
hudebnik: (henry)
First period: Busnoys
Second period: Ciconia
Lunch (now)
Third period: Dufay
Fourth period: Isaac

Life is good....
hudebnik: (Default)
Let's imagine a world in which somebody with Donald's Trump's wealth and holdings got elected President, and actually wanted to be viewed as an honest public servant rather than as running the government for the benefits of himself, his friends, and his family. What would he have to do?

Any business he owns into which people can put a lot of money would be suspect as a bribery channel: I want favorable treatment from the President, so I'm going to stay at his hotel, golf at his resort, pay membership to his club, and make sure he knows it. (The same applies, of course, to the President himself patronizing his own businesses on the taxpayer's dime.) So all such businesses would have to be liquidated, the proceeds put into a truly blind trust which could invest in stocks, bonds, real estate, even hotels and resorts, as long as nobody (including the President) knew that he owned them. Which of course means they couldn't have his name on them.

Transferring ownership to somebody else for the duration of the presidency would seem better than nothing, but the American people need to know that the President (and his heirs) will *never* benefit from people patronizing that business during his presidency. Which would be a nightmare to administer: how do you run a business while promising not to do anything with its current income that increases its future value?

Likewise, if there's a property that the President doesn't own but gets a variable income stream from, like a hotel that licenses his name in exchange for a cut of the profits, that deal would have to be terminated.

To guard against the possibility of foreign governments holding leverage over the President, any significant income stream he owned in foreign countries or dependent on foreign government activity (licenses, patents, contracts, etc.) would likewise have to be liquidated. Again, if the blind trust invests in foreign countries, that's ok as long as the President doesn't know what he owns in which countries.

All this would be extremely difficult, especially trying to do it in the two and a half months between election and inauguration. You never want to sell something that everybody knows you *have* to sell *soon*: you'll get a below-market price for it. So what solution would satisfy both good government and fairness? I think it would be possible to transfer most of the businesses into a blind trust, and get a good start on taking the President's name off them, in a few months. It's ok if he still owns them for a while, as long as they're being sold off and he doesn't know when they have been.

And, of course, his finances would have to be transparent, so the American people know this has all actually happened. The blind trust would still be blind, but pretty much anything the President can see, so can reporters.

But what about somebody like Trump, for whom the name *is* a major asset itself? I wouldn't weep too many tears for him: four or eight years as President of the United States will leave him with more name recognition than he ever had before, and if the blind trust makes at-all-reasonable investments, he'll still have the wealth he had before, so he can rebuild a name-based business empire with no difficulty after he leaves office.

So it could be done. A billionaire becoming President faces hurdles that don't face an ordinary millionaire President like Clinton or Obama, but they'd be solvable with the aid of good lawyers. The candidate could even describe his plan for liquidation and the blind trust while campaigning, as evidence of his commitment to the public ahead of himself.

If, that is, he *were* committed to the public ahead of himself. Which alas is still only an imaginary world.
hudebnik: (Default)
With the end of the Federal government fiscal year, I present the latest installment of national debt numbers and graphs, for those who are into that sort of thing.

ETA: updated again on Oct. 2 because the previous update didn't include Friday, the last business day of the fiscal year; now it does, as usual. Surprisingly, this makes a difference, because for whatever reason, last Thursday's national debt was $30 billion different from Friday's, Wednesday's, Tuesday's, and Monday's.
hudebnik: (Default)
but only read summaries after the fact, mostly in the Failing New York Times (whose circulation seems to grow every time Trump does another outrageous thing).

Republican Senators, and Judge Kavanaugh, are right to worry about a system in which a party that objects to a nominee on partisan grounds can scuttle his/her nomination by making up an uncorroborated accusation of wrongdoing from decades before. That would be a Bad Thing for Democracy, I think we can all agree. But the fact that that hypothetical situation would be bad doesn't tell us whether or not we're actually in that situation now.

Republican Senators and Judge Kavanaugh have made much of the Democrats' "timing" -- bringing up this accusation "at the last minute", after the main hearings were over, just in order to delay things, and other accusers with hard-to-prove-or-disprove stories coming out of the woodwork even later. But really, if the accusations had come up two weeks earlier, would anything have been different? Republicans on the Committee would still not have called any other witnesses, and they still wouldn't have asked the FBI to investigate the charges, and they still would have tried to wrap things up as quickly as possible before other similar accusations could pop up. But even if Senator Feinstein did choose the timing to maximize disruption and delay, as they say she did, so what? What matters is whether the accusations are true or not. If they're true, then it shouldn't matter when the charges came out; Kavanaugh was a drunken, sexually aggressive jerk in high school who has repeatedly lied under oath about it this month, and both of those facts should be considered in deciding whether he belongs on the Supreme Court. If they're not true, then it shouldn't matter when the charges came out; they're irrelevant to his confirmation.

I do not "believe" Dr. Blasey-Ford. I do not "believe" Judge Kavanaugh. It's clear that at least one of them is either lying or seriously mistaken, but I have no basis for "believing" either of them, having no priors about the credibility of either. Obviously, he has more incentive to lie about this than she does -- if he's lying, it's in order to get a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court, whereas if she's lying, it's in order to keep someone she hasn't seen in 35 years from getting a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court. Let's look at the probabilities, given the fact that Dr. Blasey-Ford has come forward with these accusations.

Case 1, the null hypothesis: Dr. Blasey-Ford does not believe she was sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh. Then there must be some other reason for her to go to such lengths, risking her own and her family's safety, to accuse him: either she really really hates him for some other reason, or she's a really passionate partisan who seeks even a slim chance at blocking a Trump nominee, at considerable cost to herself. I haven't heard any evidence of either of those things, nor have I heard any other plausible explanation proposed for her actions.

Case 2, the alternative hypothesis: Dr. Blasey-Ford honestly believes she was sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh. Then one would expect her to be traumatized for months or years (as sexual-assault victims frequently are), and not to report it either to her parents or to law enforcement (as young sexual-assault victims frequently don't), and to try to put it behind her for many years until her attacker forces himself into her consciousness by being in the national news (as Anita Hill did) -- in short, to behave exactly as she has done.

Dr. Blasey-Ford's behavior is very unlikely given the null hypothesis, and quite plausible and likely given the alternative hypothesis, so we can pretty firmly reject the null hypothesis, and ask next whether she is correct that she was sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh.

Case 2a, null hypothesis: she believes it but is mistaken (either she was sexually assaulted by somebody else she mistook for Kavanaugh, or the whole episode is a figment of her imagination). Republican Senators and conservative bloggers have suggested several other people it might have been, including (I gather) two different anonymous people who confess to having been the one who assaulted Dr. Blasey-Ford at that party, which sounds like a stretch to me. However, she certainly knew him at the time, and would have recognized him, and she describes herself as "100% certain" of her identification, so mistaken identity is moderately unlikely. In this case, one would expect Kavanaugh to (honestly) deny the accusations, as he has done.

Case 2b, alternative hypothesis: she actually was sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh. What we know about memory formation in traumatic situations makes it quite plausible (though not certain) that she remembered clearly her attacker's identity and that of the other boy in the room while forgetting more peripheral issues like the date of the attack and whose house it was. In this case, Kavanaugh might acknowledge the charges and apologize for his adolescent behavior (it does happen sometimes), or flatly deny them (as many other high-profile men have done in recent years when accused of sexual harassment or assault and their careers were on the line). For that matter, if we're in case 2b but Kavanaugh honestly doesn't remember the episode (due to drinking or some other reason), he would again probably deny the charges.

Dr. Blasey-Ford's behavior is moderately unlikely in case 2a, and likely in case 2b; Judge Kavanaugh's behavior is almost certain in case 2a, and still quite likely in case 2b; it doesn't give us much information. We can't really reject either case, although 2a seems somewhat more implausible.
hudebnik: (Default)
I knew Google was celebrating its 20th anniversary today, so I opened a new browser window to see the Google Doodle. I got a sorta-old-school-looking page labelled "search" in Google colors, which seemed sorta plausible, but I would have expected the name "Google" in one of the early, serif fonts. It didn't seem quite right. There were a couple of links at the bottom left corner of the page: "About Us", "FAQ", etc. all of which told me about something called "WeKnow", not Google.

Turns out WeKnow is a well-known browser hijacker that usually installs itself through a download page that claims to be an Adobe updater. (I'm not sure whether CleanMyMac is also a front for WeKnow, or is itself infected with WeKnow, or is just an unrelated but legitimate aggressive commercial software product.) There are a lot of pages on the Web about how to remove it, most of which tell you to pay and download their commercial product, which for all I know is actually WeKnow all over again. It had apparently infected both my Chrome and my Safari installations. The Safari installation can be fixed through the Preferences window inside Safari; Chrome was trickier. The most successful and believable instructions I found are shell commands to be executed from the Terminal window:

defaults read com.google.Chrome
to see all the currently-stored system defaults for the Chrome browser. Some of these will probably point to URL's containing "weknow.ac". Once you've confirmed the infection in this way, ...

defaults write com.google.Chrome HomepageIsNewTabPage -bool false
defaults write com.google.Chrome NewTabPageLocation -string "https://www.google.com/"
(or some other default location that you trust)
defaults write com.google.Chrome HomepageLocation -string "https://www.google.com/"
(ditto)
defaults delete com.google.Chrome DefaultSearchProviderSearchURL
defaults delete com.google.Chrome DefaultSearchProviderNewTabURL
defaults delete com.google.Chrome DefaultSearchProviderName

Then quit Chrome and restart it. (Just to make sure, I restarted the computer too.)

Pocahontas

Sep. 22nd, 2018 07:53 am
hudebnik: (Default)
Donald Trump, like most of the playground bullies you remember from grade school, likes to make up mocking, insulting nicknames for anybody who doesn't worship him. One of the best-known of these is "Pocahontas" for Senator Elizabeth Warren; the nickname is shorthand for the dog-whistle accusation that she lied about or exaggerated her 1/32 or whatever Native American ancestry in order to get, through affirmative-action preferences, educational and professional opportunities that she wouldn't have gotten based solely on her own merits. To evaluate the truth of this accusation, you would need to check whether (a) Warren lied about or exaggerated her Native American ancestry, and (b) Warren actually got substantial advantages through affirmative-action programs for Native Americans that she wouldn't have gotten otherwise. I don't know of any evidence for either of these, but I haven't looked into it particularly closely. (The Washington Post has.) And as always with Trump, the facts are fairly irrelevant.

I'm more interested in a different question. Whenever Trump utters a wild story, one is forced to wonder whether he actually believes it or is just saying whatever is advantageous to him regardless of belief. In most cases I conclude the latter, but on the Pocahontas story I think he may actually believe it, for the simple reason that it's exactly what he would do in her situation. Trump's philosophy of life has always been to amass as many advantages as possible, as much leverage as possible, before going into any negotiation. So you can bet that if he had a drop of Native American blood, he would take every opportunity to use it to his advantage: only a fool leaves an advantage on the table. We've seen his monumental sense of victim-hood, which would thrive and blossom on even the tiniest bit of racial-minority blood. And, as we've seen over decades, he's never been a stickler for the truth when it comes to saying things that could reflect to his advantage (whether the size of his crowds, the height of his buildings, the extent of his wealth...)

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