kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
For anyone who's interested, hint.fm/wind shows the wind directions and speeds from all the U.S. wind measurement stations, animated, updated roughly hourly. Currently it's showing Hurricane Irma in the upper left corner of Florida. Especially useful to grasp the overall size of the storm.
kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
Happy birthday, TwistedChick!
kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
I went to the Boston Rally for Science today. We had a rally instead of a march because, after the organizers estimated how many people were likely to show up, and consulted with the police and City Hall, they concluded that marching *tens of thousands of people* through downtown was not safe. Have I mentioned I love living in a highly intellectual area?

There were a lot of good signs.

There were a lot of variations on "I'm with Her" with an illustration of the earth. Several variations on "There is no Plan(et) B". Two or three variations on "I bet the dinosaurs thought they had time - Stop Global Warming!'

"I'm from Indiana and I'm very sorry about Mike Pence."

"They tried to bury us - they didn't know we were SEEDS."

"Information wants to be free, so libraries need funding!"

One said "Fund Libraries" with a picture of the Statue of Liberty holding up her library card, her books curled in her other arm.

"Got polio? Me neither. Thanks, Science!"

"Remember when we cured polio? That was pretty great."

"Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less - Marie Curie"

"WPI resists!" with a picture of an electrical resistor. (WPI is Worcester Polytechnic Institute.)

"Science > opinion. Alternative facts = Dark Ages."

"Alternative facts are [square root of negative one]."

"May the Facts be with you."

"No Science = No Beer"

"Donald: Fund the NIH and we'll grow you some real hair!" (NIH is the National Institute for Health. The sign was illustrated with a picture of his toupee.)


"Act now or swim later."

Image of a polar bear, saying "Let us now paws for a moment of science."

"If you say 'it's just a theory', I hear 'I don't have a basic understanding of science'."

"Change the politics, not the climate!"

"Resist: the siren song of techno-utopia."

"Less invasions, more equations."

"Atoms make up everything. Presidents shouldn't."

And, of course, "What do we want? Real science! When do we want it? After peer review!"
kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
Or renewing an old one, and it's been so long you forget how to do it.

Some of us in the U.S. have been advising each other to get passports, and I was meaning to, but I last got a passport when I was in college, and my mother walked me through it. Also, recent discussions have made it clear there are a lot of socially-anxious people among us, for whom having to ask directions is a major barrier.

The State Department has your back on this; they have downloadable forms and instructions and step-by-step wizards at travel.state.gov. Or you can get a form at the Post Office and take it home to fill out.

If you want to renew a passport, and it was issued less than 15 years ago (so, it expired less than five years ago), you can do the whole thing by mail! Details at the renew-by-mail instructions page.

If this will be your first passport, some of it has to be done in person, but you can prepare. Budget about $150 for a booklet-style passport in no hurry.

I just went and applied at my local Post Office. It was $140 to "U.S. Department of State", because I wanted the booklet and the card. Dept. of State will accept check or money order, and I think the Post Office can make the money order for you, on the spot, if you bring cash.

I also paid $40 to the Post Office: $25 handling fee and $15 taking-my-picture fee. They will take cash, check, and I think credit cards.

The application is about two pages, mostly stuff that will be very familiar to everyone who's taken standardized tests. I did have to ask my parents for their place of birth and date of birth.

When you go to get photographed or present your application at the Post Office, expect a line. I arrived at 2:35 on a Friday afternoon, and I got to the head of the line at 2:55.
kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
--Update 2016-11-30: After the Green Party filed for a recount and paid Wisconsin's estimated fee, Wisconsin more than tripled the fee: Now WI wants 3.5 million dollars. And they're trying to get away with just a machine recount, not having real human beings examine the ballots.

Hillary is now suing to make Wisconsin do a real hand recount. And she's recruiting volunteers to help with the hand recount.

Also, Wisconsin's initial vote tallies include at least two places with more ballots cast than registered voters, a Trump campaign staffer in MI has been convicted of felony election fraud, and - in this year of massive public focus on the presidential race - Michigan and Florida claim that amazingly large numbers of people voted on every question except who should be President.

Pretty much all my news tonight is from http://www.palmerreport.com/


Nov. 26th, 2016 09:34 pm
kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
A computer scientist has pointed out irregularities in reported election outcomes in at least three states, in this 2016 US presidential election. These irregularities correlate with counties that use electronic voting with no human verification.

The only people with legal standing to request a hand count of all votes are the candidates. There are two barriers to requesting a recount: one is how it will look, and the other is cost. Recounts triggered by a state's automatic-recount law are paid for by the state, but a candidate requesting a recount has to pay for it themselves. There is a federal law that all recounts must be completed by Dec. 13th, so the nation can have a firm outcome and get on with life. Election workers will have to be paid for a lot of hours, including a lot of nights-and-weekends overtime, to finish by the deadline.

Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, has filed a petition for a full hand recount in Wisconsin. She has a fundraiser up to cover recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania too; all three states had suspicious results.

Ms. Stein says this is an effort to ensure results are valid, and that everyone's vote is recorded correctly. That's all true and important. Honest and accurate elections are the basis of democracy.

I'm glad to see this is happening. I don't trust electronic counting one inch; you can display anything on a computer, regardless of what was scanned into one of its ports.

And I can't help noticing that Wisconsin has 10 electoral votes, Pennsylvania has 20, and Michigan has 16. Trump's total margin (reported) was 20 electoral votes.

Please, if you are a U.S. citizen or legal resident with any donation budget left, donate to the recount. We need to know the truth.

(Edited to add the detail that only U.S. citizens or legally resident aliens (Hi! Your tentacles are looking gorgeous today!) can donate for this.)
kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
Happy birthday, Oursin!
kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
I've been meaning to recommend The Marriage Bureau for Rich People for a while. Especially since K. Tempest Bradford suggested reading more non-white-males.

The short recommendation is, if you like Jane Austen you will like Farahad Zama.

The long version is: the author is from India. He lives in the U.K. I think he wrote this because he was homesick. It is a lovely cozy story where pretty much everyone is nice, and there are lots of details of daily and domestic life. The interest and tension come from watching very nice, virtuous people struggle with social and economic constraints.

It's a lot like Jane Austen: you are expected, practically required, to get married. There is an appropriate age: early to late twenties, no later. Divorce is a terrible, life-blighting scandal. Parents have a lot of power over even adult children's lives.

It's an ensemble story, but it centers on Mr. Ali, who recently retired from government service and starts a matchmaking business on his front porch, to keep busy. (The 'rich people' of the title means doctors, lawyers, engineers: people making the equivalent of $50,000 American, enough to afford the services of a professional matchmaker.) It also centers on Aruna, the young woman he hires (on his wife's advice) as an assistant.

Mr. and Mrs. Ali are Moslem. Aruna's family are Hindu and Brahmins. The author shows how both households are run and shows a Moslem wedding and a Brahmin wedding. Anyone who's been enjoying the adventures of Madame CC will probably also enjoy this.
kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
Happy Birthday, Oursin!

Apologies for missing the day.
kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
Happy Birthday, Box of Delights!
kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
Happy Birthday, Oursin!
kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
I saw this video on James Nicol's page of honey badgers escaping from their pens. The thing that caught my attention was the ones in a pit, like a house foundation, deliberately taking hold of a long object and tipping it against the wall, then climbing the object to get out. That's tool use.
kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
Happy Birthday, BoxofDelights!
kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
Happy birthday, Oursin!
kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
I went to a hippie college. We didn't have fraternities and sororities. We didn't even have sports teams. We were an unworldly bunch who were frequently to be found in the library, working on class stuff, of a Saturday afternoon. Or out banding seabirds, for the more field-biology-oriented types.

But there was a neighborhood soccer league. Enough people from my college joined that eventually there was a whole team formed of college hippies. They were vaguely aware there was a convention of naming sports teams after fierce, impressive predators: Lions or Tigers or Bears.

The college was in Maine.

The team name was the Blackflies.
kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
I have been reading economics articles, and noticing how much "wealth" gets invoked. Investment-advice columns talk endlessly about investing your wealth, and wealth-accumulation strategies, and the average wealth of the average American family.

And the thing is, the average American family does not actually have any wealth. There was a recent survey that reported about half of Americans would have a hard time coming up with a thousand dollars on a week's notice (which is more notice than you actually get of the car or the furnace breaking down).

It's all surprisingly reminiscent of women's supermarket magazines, with their endless articles on "beauty" and beauty tips and beauty regimens and beauty products.

In both cases, we're facing a huge tide of propaganda, attempting to convince us that we have what we don't have---or rather, that we can have it if we buy their products.
kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
I was just reading yet another political argument where yet another person argued that we can't ever have an egalitarian society, or even a society with a reasonable baseline level of well-being guaranteed to everyone, because people want to outrank their neighbor on a relative scale more than they want to be prosperous/safe/happy on an absolute scale.

I don't think that's true. At least, it isn't true of everyone. Most of the people I know want a comfortable life with the chance to pursue their hobbies, and no one picking on them. Provided they can have that, they don't care if someone else has more/better/trendier whatsits.

I am willing to believe that some people really do want to be the least-poor person in a poverty-stricken society more than they want to be prosperous and surrounded by other prosperous people, but not many. Furthermore, they fuss a lot at the shock of losing status symbols, but once they're over that they are just as focused on getting minimum needs met as the rest of humanity.

So I think the repeated rhetoric about 'people will never accept a strong safety net or taxation to pay for universally-valuable services' is mostly propaganda, with just a thin backing of people who care a lot about being on top.
kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
When I was growing up, we kids liked ramen noodles. But Mom wouldn't let us eat them plain -- she said they weren't nutritious enough. So the way we were allowed to eat them was:

Ramen Noodles with Green Peas, Cheese, and Yogurt

1) Take one package of ramen noodles. Remove the flavor-packet. Put a (small) pot of water on to boil.
2) Chop up one to two ounces of cheese. I prefer cheddar or colby.
3) When the water boils, drop the ramen noodles in. Turn down heat a bit so it won't boil over. Poke the noodles a bit with a fork so they'll all get wet.
4) Get out frozen peas.
5) At the three-minute mark, pour some peas (maybe a quarter-cup? as many as you'd like) into the boiling noodles and water.
6) Immediately drain off all the water.
7) Put pot with noodles and peas back on the stove. Stir to release steam. Immediately dump in the flavor-packet. Also dump in the chopped cheese. Stir cheese in so it starts to melt.
8) Promptly (before the cheese finishes melting) get out the yogurt and dump a couple big spoonfuls into the pot. The idea here is to use unflavored, unsweetened, nonfat yogurt: it adds protein without adding fat. And fruit flavoring just would not go at all.
9) Stir thoroughly.

This produces warm-but-not-hot noodles with some vegetable content, some protein content, and a mellower and less overwhelmingly salty flavor. It's very cheap, only takes fifteen minutes to make, and only uses one pot.

It tastes exactly the same after it's cooled. This may not sound like a selling point, but it meant this was my default food for carrying along with me: safe for several hours without refrigeration, and just as appetizing as when it was new.