Nevertheless, They Persisted

Thursday, January 7th, 2021

Yesterday, a joint session of Congress met to affirm the results of the 2020 presidential election, which determined that Joe Biden would be the 46th President of the United States. What should have been a ceremonial exercise had instead been engulfed in controversy for weeks. Despite a complete and utter lack of evidence of widespread election irregularities, and despite dozens of court rulings condemning the notion, multiple Republicans stated that they would object to the vote from certain states which had gone against Donald Trump.

These politicians intended to carry out a craven, self-interested charade to appease Trump and his followers, all the while knowing it would not change the result, and knowing that it shouldn’t. They were kicking at one of the key foundations of our democracy, the orderly transfer of power following free and fair elections, in the hopes that it would further their future political ambitions. Such fecklessness was despicable, and it should have been the worst news of the day.

Instead, things got worse, in far more visceral fashion. Following a fact-free speech from Donald Trump at his “March to Save America” rally, a small band of insurrectionists stormed the US Capitol building. Due to an inexplicable absence of proper security, Congressional members were forced to flee the chamber. In a matter of minutes, thugs were literally able to physically overtake the seat of the legislative branch. It was horrifying to witness, and it was a direct result of Trump’s refusal to accept his loss.

Make no mistake. Donald Trump encouraged this action, as did those who have cynically enabled him in both the past two months, and over the past four years. All that preceded yesterday’s events should be dissected at length, and we should do all we can to avoid ever seeing something like this again. Lies and hypocrisy must be called out, criminals must be prosecuted, and democracy must never be taken as a given. When it comes to Trump specifically, the rhetorical two-step that Donald Trump should be taken “seriously, but not literally” must finally be rejected by all. Time and again, Trump has shown exactly who he is. He is serious and literal, and he would do anything to hold on to power, including tearing down American democracy itself.

There must be a reckoning in the coming weeks, months, and years. Republicans must see that placating and cozying up to lunatics is playing with fire, and eventually, we’ll all get burned. Dangerous conspiracy theories and alternate realities must be quashed, because it is more clear than ever just how much they threaten our society. Let us remember yesterday as a terrible day, but also as a death throe, marking the end of an awful era.

While this is generally a humor site, I simply can’t find a joke anywhere in all of this. Nevertheless, I can still find hope. At present, I hope the following will be the ultimate story of January 6, 2021 (as well as the wee hours of January 7): After a demoralizing day of rioting and mayhem in our nation’s capital, Congress got back to work, and certified Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. Despite the noxious lies from Trump and his acolytes, despite the violence perpetrated by a small band of anarchistic thugs, our system once again held. In just over 13 days, the Trump presidency will end. Where we go from there, only time and our actions, will tell.

Madea Went to the Polls 

Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

On Monday, the eve of the Senate run-offs in Georgia, I came across this tweet from writer/director/actor/producer Tyler Perry. It seemed he was having trouble voting in those critical races.

Hey Georgia,
Is anyone else having this problem? I ordered my absentee ballot on December 2nd. I’m told it was mailed on the 4th. I still don’t have it!

Many replies urged Perry to vote in person, as it would now be impossible to vote absentee. Voting rights dynamo Stacey Abrams herself even chimed in:

Hey @tylerperry, we’ve got you. Requested a ballot but haven’t received it? Vote in person on Election Day! Just tell the person at the check-in table that you wish to cancel your ballot & vote in person. Go to https://iwillvote.com to find your assigned polling place.

While I hoped Perry would manage to vote, I also didn’t have particularly high hopes. If he needed an absentee ballot, it seemed likely that it would be impossible for him to get to the polls in person.

So I was delighted yesterday afternoon when VoteRiders posted a video from Perry showing off his Georgia peach-themed “I Voted” sticker. He had indeed made it, and I was impressed at his dedication. A few hours later, I learned Perry had actually flown home to vote in person. Tyler Perry worked his ass off to make sure his vote counted. Let it be an example for all of us in the future.

It’s His Loss 

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

In July of 2020, Justin Fernandes was struck by a hit-and-run motorcyclist, and lost his right leg. After many emails and phone calls, he now has an unusual memento:

the articulated bones of his lost limb, a testament to the struggles he went through in a year unlike any other.

It is apparently not at all easy to get your own dismembered body part back. The process required hundreds of emails and dozens of phone calls, but with help from the Prehistoria Natural History Centre, Justin Fernandes has been reunited with his leg.

Some might find this morbid, or disturbing. For them, Fernandes has a simple message.

“You grieve however you feel is the right way to grieve. It’s your loss.”

I like this alternate use of “your loss”. I also like his unique coping mechanism.

An Air-Powered Costume Is a Bad Idea 

Monday, January 4th, 2021

Previously, we had superspreader Santa. Now, it appears a Christmas tree costume may have led to the infection dozens of people in San Jose, and at least one death so far.


[Photo via Marianne Favro]

There are countless ways folks are being foolish as this pandemic rips through America, and it’s quite literally killing people. Wash your hands, wear a mask, stay home.

Twentieth Century Browsers 

Friday, January 1st, 2021

The treaty containing the terms for Britain’s exit from the European Union is an enormously consequential document. Given that, it probably shouldn’t contain copy and pasted details that reference technology which hasn’t been current in over two decades, like Netscape Communicator.

I’m Saving Hundreds of Microseconds Each Day

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

In 18+ years over at my day job, we’ve shipped over 800 different software updates for our products. Sometimes, those updates contain a slew of new features and changes, given us lots to talk about and promote. Other times, well, it goes the other way. It can be difficult to come up with interesting marketing copy when a release mostly just cleans up some boring things on the backend, invisible to the user.

Thus, I can understand how the makers of Weather Line (an excellent weather app for iOS) wound up here:

Feature touting the addition of a degree symbol for “fastr glance-ability”

That understanding didn’t make it any less ridiculous, however. Just to compare, here’s a before and after shot:

Image showing temperature without a degree symbol, and then with a degree symbol

I don’t know quite how much time that “faster glance-ability” is saving me, but I’ve probably blown several lifetimes’ worth of savings writing this post. And then you read it! Thank you for joining me on this time-wasting journey.

We’ve All Had Days Like That 

Wednesday, December 30th, 2020

As has been well established, I really like octopuses. Now, there’s yet another reason to appreciate them.

Scientists have discovered that, on occasions, an octopus will “punch” a fish for no reason other than “spite”.

I feel you, octopuses. I feel you.

Progress in Major League Baseball

Tuesday, December 29th, 2020

Winter has just begun here in America, but recently, two positive announcements were made relating to the boys of summer. First, at some point in the near future, Cleveland’s baseball team will have a new name.

The decision follows a similar move by the NFL’s Washington Football Team. Unlike the Washington Football Team, however, Cleveland’s baseball team will continue to be known as the Indians — the name it has carried since 1915 — until a new name is chosen and various branding and trademarking issues are resolved.

I’m not sure why they’re taking a half measure for now, but it will be good to get rid of this name (and worse, the terrible “Chief Wahoo” logo). For now, there’s nothing stopping all of us from just calling them the Cleveland Baseball Club, and I intend to.

Shortly after Cleveland’s announcement, Major League Baseball stated that the the Negro Leagues would now be considered as ‘Major League’.

Major League Baseball is correcting a longtime oversight in the game’s history by officially elevating the Negro Leagues to “Major League” status…With this action, MLB seeks to ensure that future generations will remember the approximately 3,400 players of the Negro Leagues during this time period as Major League-caliber ballplayers. Accordingly, the statistics and records of these players will become a part of Major League Baseball’s history.

From 1920 to 1948, African and Latin Americans players competed at a tremendously high level, but were excluded from the all-white Major League Baseball. That exclusion can never be undone, but recognizing the accomplishments of those players is a positive move nonetheless.

Both of these changes have been a long time coming, but late is far better than never.

Take a Day Off, Coach

Monday, December 28th, 2020

Regular readers will know about my love-hate relationship with the Apple Watch, which I often refer to as my dumbwatch. While I appreciate the activity tracking it does, I’m often confounded by many of its behaviors. Perhaps my least favorite feature is the Activity app’s “Daily Coaching”. According to Apple, this is intended to “help you complete your Activity goals and Monthly Challenges”. I leave this turned on so that it can helpfully notify me if the day is winding down, but I need a bit more activity to reach my goals.

However, this same feature also nags me at other times throughout the day, in ways that are anything but helpful. I run in the morning most days, but occasionally, I’ll run in the afternoon. At eleven or noon on those days, the Watch will note with alarm that I’m behind my usual pace. I’ll get there, dummy. Worse, this warning sometimes pops up earlier, right after I’ve woken up and put on the Watch in the morning. I’ve even seen it as early as 1 AM, which is just ridiculous.

Other times, possibly because it’s bored, the Watch will issue a needless status update. When the below appeared, it was shortly after high noon, and I was over halfway to my calorie goal.

Here's a look at today's progress - 50% done, halfway through the day.
Begging for attention

I really don’t need or want an Everything’s OK alarm.1

This past Friday, my Watch popped up with this:

The Apple Watch saying “Keep it going - Yesterday, you rocked your exercise ring. Unstoppable, Paul. What will today bring?”

Now, read in the right cadence, that’s downright poetic. But it’s also a rhyming pain in the ass. For the love of Saint Nicholas, that was Christmas morning. The day brought some time lounging about in pajamas, followed by talking with loved ones while sitting around on the couch. Maybe Apple could provide this digital coach a calendar, because shattering personal records on December 25th is simply not in the cards for most people.

The day after Christmas, however, I ran a half-marathon. It was a cold, windy Saturday, and when I was done, I was done. This was my last race in a virtual distance medley. Over the past three months, I’d trained for and run a 5K, 10K, and now a half-marathon. I intended to take it easy and recuperate on Sunday.

So of course, shortly after I woke up the next, my Watch hit me with this:

The Apple Watch saying “Keep it going - Yesterday was all about your Exercise ring, Paul. Boom! Go for it again today.”

No! No I will not. It is OK to do less some days than others. Boom? Boom yourself, Watch.

What’s maddening about virtual assistants like this is the wildly fluctuating levels of intelligence. The same device that can check both my calendar and local traffic, then helpfully remind me when I need to leave for a doctor’s appointment, is also completely oblivious of concepts like holidays and rest days. Apple and others have created semi-intelligent facsimiles of a human assistant, but it’s clear there’s a lot of work left to be done.

For now, it provides me with a harmless outlet for anger and mockery. The Apple Watch has no feelings, so I’m blissfully free to tell it to shove its encouragement up its own ass.


Footnotes:

  1. As always, the relevant video is archived here.↩︎

Scottish Gritters Have Great Names 

Friday, December 25th, 2020

The transportation department of Scotland has 213 snow plows, which they refer to as “gritters”. Every single one of them has its own name, and they are wonderful. My current favorites are “Spready Mercury” and “I Want To Break Freeze”, but there are so many to enjoy. View (and track!) the Scottish snow plows yourself right here.