Saturday, March 28, 2020


In a just world, Japanese-Americans would not have been interred at the start of World War II.

In a just world, frightened folks from Central America would be welcomed to sanctuary at our southern border.

In a just world, refugees from New York would not be hunted down like slaves fleeing slavery when they left the city.

This isn't a just world.

I know, it's complicated.  I don't particularly want to see cars with New York license plates driving down my street right now.  But we're all in panic mode.

It would be easier to take the high ground had the government started developing testing modalities when they first learned of the plight of Wuhan.  Better still, the Chinese government might have let the world in on their little secret a bit earlier.  Had that occurred, however, I doubt our government would have acted any more quickly.

But just as we shouldn't be condemning our elderly to make the ultimate sacrifice (I've got plenty of skin in that game), neither should we condemn our northern neighbors for not wishing to make that same sacrifice.

I know, we all need to shelter in place.  But like those cruise ships at the start of this exercise in futility, we shouldn't expect everyone to stay put when the virus is knocking at their door.  There's probably a more humane solution than sending them back.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Second Greatest Generation

Hey, Boomers, tired of living in the shadow of the Greatest Generation?

Now's the chance to make the supreme sacrifice for your country.

Ignore Covid-19 and get back out in society.  Quit your whining social distancing.  Put America back to work again.  Steepen that curve!

You may soon be dead, but you won't be forgotten for at least one news cycle.

You'll never be as Great as the Greatest Generation, but at least you won't be remembered as the Generation that Crashed the Economy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Steepen the Curve

We're all hunkering down in an effort to "flatten the curve" of the novel coronavirus spread.  In order to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed, we're supposed to help spread  out the incidence of the disease to a manageable caseload.

This is entirely backwards, and points out one of the many failures of the American health care system.

What are the economic consequences of shutting down the economy?  Aside from the so-far-projected $80 billion bailout of the airline industry, what about the $1,000/month basic income payment to each adult for, say, four months.  There's another trillion dollars.  We've lost a few trillion in "vanished" wealth in the stock market.  There are plenty of other victim sectors - just how well is the gig economy going to recover?  Ready for another housing market foreclosure debacle?

Suppose, instead, we had EXCESS health system capacity to care for the whole shebang.  Sure, we'd have to have more hospitals, and more health care professionals, all of which would sit idle during health emergency down times.  Still ... one can imagine the total economic costs would be considerably lower.

It would still be reasonable for us older, more vulnerable geezers to keep a low profile.  Retirees not going to work isn't going to cause much of a hit to the system.

In any system, enabling sick people to stay home from work would be a productivity-enhancing policy.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The "Good" Guys Need Bad Guys

In days of yore politicians often ran on "Lawn Order" platforms.  No, these weren't HOA's run amok when your grass got too high, it was frequently a pitch against those who got too high on grass.

That is to say, politicians argued for votes proclaiming they were going to make American safe again.

So, they got elected and passed laws that criminalized enough people for them always to have a straw victim they could blame when it came time to run again (usually the day after they were elected, but that's another story).

Did those politicians want to see crime go away?  Heavens now.  Without crime, they wouldn't have a leg to run on.

We now see this strategy elevated to the highest degree with Iran.

The President decries the behavior of Iranian rulers, then pursues policies to insure that behavior continues.

Today's elections in Iran are guaranteed to move that country to an even more America-unfriendly position.

Just what the current American regime wants.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

N&O vs. Women-in-Sports

I’ve just completed a very unscientific analysis of gender bias, or perhaps simply gender ignorance, in the sports section of today’s (Saturday, April 21, 2018) News & Observer.

I counted 18 stories.  One of them showed a woman’s byline – a contribution from the Associated Press.  One of them covered news involving women – another story about the gymnastics physician scandal, in which a woman was actually quoted.  And there was a photo that included a woman and a girl – surrounding their man in the stereotypical role of male athlete’s family.

Surprisingly, there was a protracted listing of the first-round standings from this weekend’s LPGA event.

The standings page also showed the ubiquitous listing of the NWSL standings.  At least the N&O puts these standings in the paper just about every day, whereas they don’t even bother with the MSL.  Maybe bias against soccer is stronger than bias against women.

Granted, there are a lot more men’s sports out there than women’s.  But the best professional team in the Triangle, the North Carolina Courage, can’t even get a few column inches, despite an important win this week over Seattle that moved them alone into first place.

Where, for example, is the story about tonight’s Courage match?

There were two stories about NHL hockey, including an opinion piece wherein Luke Decock doubles back on his previous analysis and decides Bill Peters should have been fired in the middle of the season, and a story about a nearby club – Las Vegas – that was probably inserted as a dig against the Hurricanes.

Given hockey is so much more newsworthy than soccer in this area, at least based on youth participation, I’m a little surprised I learned via a television sportscast that a member of the UNC women’s tennis team plays hockey for the UNC men’s club.  That's ice hockey, not field hockey.

I guess I should not be surprised that a liberal newspaper like the N&O would sport an all-male sports reporting staff, or that soccer, a game favored by less desirable elements of our society, would receive little coverage.  Maybe it’s part of an effort to dissuade the MLS from expanding to Raleigh?

Perhaps the Courage would receive better coverage were they to start losing.

Oh, wait, there’s a little banner at the bottom corner of the standings page that includes a list of some of the staff, including Jessaca Giglio, Assistant Sports Editor.  I take it all back.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Oh Yeah, I Remember Now

While playing a round of golf yesterday, I found myself trying to recall the name of the actress who portrayed Phoebe on "Friends."  Should have been easy enough.  I've been watching season one of her show "The Comeback" over the past couple of weeks.

First I went through the cast of Friends, replayed a few episodes of "Episodes" (Joey ... er Matt LeBlanc), and then went to the tried-and-true method of running the alphabet.

I played the back nine much better than the front, which I might attribute to the listing of actresses that distracted me from concentrating too hard on my bad shots.  It was really an impressive list.  There are a lot of C's.

But I never came up with the name, and finally managed to forget my pursuit.

Until Peter Pan came on (#peterpanlive if anyone's looking for me).  At the end of the show, Future Wendy looked like another actress, what was her name?  It was right on the tip of my brain; it had even come up during my alphabetic exercise on the golf course.  Something with an "ie" in it, wasn't it?

Before that, I was mesmerized by Marnie portraying Peter Pan.  No amount of alphabet scanning would have turned up Allison Williams for me; she is Marnie.  And I was proud of her.  She was able to rise above (literally, visible wires notwithstanding) the contemptible character Lena Dunham has forced her to be.  Live on television.

The lesbian scene we haven't seen on "Girls" yet.  I expected Lena Dunham to strut, naked, onto the set of PeterPanLive at any minute.

Oh yeah, I remember what I was writing about.  When future Wendy came on I remembered not being able to remember Phoebe's actress name.  Or Minnie Driver.  So I headed to the computer to cheat.  And I typed "Lisa Kudrow" into the Google search bar.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Selfie Generation vs. Usenet

This is a non-graphic selfie, inspired by the introductory story to a series on the Millennial Generation on Morning Edition.  In the story (more of an essay), narrator Selena Simmons-Duffin, a member of the Selfie Generation, claimed : "Millenials aren't simply users of social media.  We invented it."

Rather than going straight to my contradictory claim, let me first assure the 80 million Millennials who outnumber us Boomers that I don't hate them.  (" ... if you're not a Millenial, you kind of hate us.")

But what I really want to suggest is that social media were not invented by the Millenials.

In my own experience, social media, or at least one social medium, was invented in 1980s by a couple of Duke computer geeks, Jim Ellis and Tom Truscott (a couple of Boomers, incidentally), and called Usenet by Ellis.  When they connected Duke to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, they created a social network.  (ARPANET preceded UseNet as the progenitor of the Internet, but I don't think it was exactly social.)

In trying to figure out just when I started using Usenet, I had a little forehead-slapping moment.  I found a reference to the creation of sci.econ.research, which I created, in June of 1993.  Then I remembered taking a computer science course at Duke in spring 1990 (I can date this because I had to take the exam early because I was getting married during exam week) from, here's the forehead slap, Jim Ellis.  It was, incidentally, the most interesting computer course I ever took:  Ellis (who died around 2001) took a Microsoft-based CAD program for designing a computer and ported it to the SUN OS we our class used in the computer lab, with which we could put together virtual computer parts, "wire" them together, write an instruction set, and pass virtual current through.  We effectively built a virtual computer using the same parts as in a real 8088 processor, and we could then write code to generate outcomes.  I think that gave me an insight into computers that served as a solid base for my career in computers and networks.  I can't swear that I was into Usenet by then, but I can't swear I wasn't, either.

But back to social computing.  Usenet was a collection of newsgroups, which function much like bulletin boards or forums.  They were very much like Facebook in that you could share your thoughts with others in a public arena (as opposed to email).

This was the day of command-line-only computing; GUIs were just around the corner, but the only graphics you'd see were ascii art.  One night I was Usenetting about college basketball, a message from one of the other correspondents on the group (, I believe) suddenly appeared on my computer screen.  We carried on a real-time "conversation."  I think this is what the Selfies call texting nowadays.

The biggest difference, other than slickness of the application layer, between then and now is that on UseNet information was categorized at the subject level.  On Facebook at Twitter, the subject is "me."  If you want information at the subject level, you turn to Google or Wikipedia, which aren't really social.

Whereas I contendt the Selfie Generation did not invent social media, they did invent making money off it.

One of my earliest endeavors in computer user support was to attempt to install the new Usenet reader software, trn, the upgrade of the standard rn then current in the standard unix distro.  When I was having trouble getting the code to compile, I dropped an email to Wayne Davison, the programmer who wrote the software, and he guided me through the process.  No charge.  The trn reader was one of the most important innovations of its day, but if you look up Wayne Davison you don't see any reference to him being a billionaire.  I wonder if Mark Zuckerburg would help me with my Facebook photo gallery.  I also got a lot of freeunix help from a Dutchman named Caspar Dik.

I'd like to point out that the Millenium did not start in 2000, the Y2K plague notwithstanding, but it started in 2001, so none of the Millenials were even born in the Millenium.