Tragedy con Carne

Let us all take a moment of silence to reflect on the good things in life and their inevitable passing into the great beyond . . . specifically, let us deeply mourn the tragic demise of a pot of exceptionally delicious chili, which my wife left to cool on the stove after we supped of it last night and then was forgotten, never placed into the refrigerator and so thusly spoiled (as we all will) and had to be thrown away, with great sadness and regret, the meat and beans uneaten, laden with bacteria, and destined to decay and return to dust in the landfill . . . o woe, o woe, o greatest of all woes: a wasted pot of chili!

Desert Blues

Tinawaren-- the Taureg band that hails from a Libyan refugee camp-- has a new album (Elwan) and Kurt Vile makes a guest appearance . . . while I can't comprehend the lyrics, that just adds to the atmosphere, and the guitar work is mesmerizing, hypnotic, and rhythmic-- a dash of Zeppelin, a bit of Black Keys, and a lot of something I've never heard before.

The Test 78: Finish It!

This week on The Test, Cunningham starts it and Stacey and I finish it . . . or we try our very best; despites some bizarre asides, we're fairly successful . . . so give it a shot and see if you can finish it as well as we do.

Can My Dog Read My Mind?

My dog does not like water, and he's never happy about getting a bath-- and he has an uncanny sense of when I'm going to give him one; normally, he loves to go for a walk, and when you take the leash out and call his name, he comes rushing over and starts bouncing off the walls, but when I'm "tricking" him and pretending we're headed out for a walk, but we're really heading upstairs to the bathroom, he looks at me holding the leash and then slowly creeps into the room farthest from the stairs and lies down in a lifeless lump . . . then once I put the leash on him, he ever so slowly makes his way to the stairs-- like a dead man walking-- and he doesn't even glance at the front door, instead he grudgingly goes up the stairs and slouches into the bathroom-- and I'm not sure how he knows that it's bath time, perhaps he hears the word, or he hears me get towels out of the closet in Alex's room, but it's strange and perceptive and very funny; I need to take video next time it happens and post it up next to his typical behavior when you call him for a walk.

Fooling Around into the Future

Steven Johnson's book Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World is full of weird and wonderful facts that I will soon forget (e.g. the word checkmate is derived from the Persian terms shah and mat, which translate as king and defeat) but the tone and essential theme is something I will remember and enjoy: the future begins with how we play-- how we experiment with sound and taste and vision and games and fashion and public space-- and while there are detriments, of course, the cotton revolution and the ensuing development of the department store created the consumer fashion economy, but also drove Victorian women to kleptomania, as they were so enamoured with all the new wares on display . . . anyway, the book itself is a wonderland of the exotic and the diverse, because when there is new technology available, there is usually a Cambrian explosion (my metaphor) of diversity . . . two centuries ago, the West End of London hosted much more than conventional theatrical plays-- today you go there for content and quality of a particular format-- but in 1820 there were a plethora (that's right, El Guapo, a plethora) of formats: "there were plays and musicals, but there were also panoramas and magic-lantern ghost shows, and animated paintings populated by small robots-- and dozens of other permutations . . . the West End functioned as a grand carnival of illusion, with each attraction dependent on its own unique technology to pull of its tricks."

Recreational Athletics, Brinksmanship, and The Nuclear Option

An evening to go down in infamy: last night, I was coaching the grade 6-8 town basketball team-- both my kids play on the same team and my buddy John is the head coach, but he couldn't make it so I was in charge . . . and we were missing our two best players, and though we didn't have the personnel, I was trying my best to get the kids to run the overload offense against the 2-3 zone, but this South River team has some absolutely gigantic kids (and an awesome little point guard) so were taking a beating, and my son Ian -- a diminutive sixth grader-- was hacked while shooting by a giant 8th grader (the size difference at this age is nuts) and I gave the ref some lip because he didn't call a foul and he did not hesitate before issuing me a technical and Ian was holding his jammed fingers and crying, so I pointed this out to the referee and I guess he didn't like my tone because he gave me a double technical and said, "You're outta here!" which posed a problem, since I was the only coach-- and while I may have overreacted a little, I believe he overreacted a lot . . . but I followed the rules and watched the game from beside the bleachers-- luckily, a random dude that I play pick-up ball with happened to be there (we were both going to play over-30 pick-up after the game) so he took over, and I conveyed some substitutions through my friend John's wife; it must also be noted that the kids played like animals after I got ejected, and they mounted something of a comeback (though there was no way to beat a team with kids this enormous) and I'd also like to point out that I apologized to the ref after the game and explained that it was my son who was hacked and crying, his tiny sixth grade fingers swollen and jammed, and that in that moment I became more of a dad than a coach, and he said, "You were a little over the top" and I should have said, "So were you" but I took the high road and walked away and I'll be glad when it's soccer season because the field is larger and the referees can't hear me.

Praise, Criticize . . . Who Cares?

A fun Tversky and Kahneman finding that's easy to test on your own is the "regression to the mean" fallacy-- the super-duo of behavioral economics observed this and wrote a paper about fighter pilots, but it's also a great thesis for sporting events . . . here is the logic:

when you criticize someone after they commit a boneheaded mistake, they are likely to improve in their next attempt, but if you praise someone after a brilliant maneuver, they rarely repeat their excellence on the next try-- but this does not mean you should criticize everyone all the time . . . it's not the criticism or praise that causes the shift in performance, it's the regression to the mean . . . most of the time, people perform somewhere between excellence and boneheadedness-- especially if it's something in which they are fairly skilled, such as playing a sport or flying a plane, and so after a boneheaded error, there is a statistical likelihood to be an improvement-- a regression to the mean-- caused by math, not criticism, and after a brilliant performance, people are likely to regress back to their regular old average ways, so that it seems as if praising them actually had a deleterious effect . . . the takeaway is this: yell whatever you want at your kid's soccer match-- if you want to feel consequential, then criticize him, but if you want to have a pleasant time, then praise him-- because neither action has much consequence (especially if it's soccer, because your son or daughter probably can't hear you anyway).

The Simon and Garfunkel of Behavioral Economics

I'm probably constructing an illogical metaphor here-- perhaps Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman are more like Sonny and Cher or Sam and Dave-- but my "representativeness" heuristic immediately latched on to Simon and Garfunkel because of the lopsided nature of the duo; the odd thing about Tversky and Kahneman's symbiotic academic relationship is that both members spent some time in the spotlight . . . both members got a turn at being Paul Simon; at the start of their astoundingly fruitful collaborations, everyone doted on Tversky and no one knew Kahneman's name, and now --ironically and tragically, because of Tversky's death from cancer in 1996-- Kahneman is the famous one (I highly recommend his book Thinking Fast and Slow) and Tversky is forgotten; if you love Moneyball and The Blind Side, then at least read the first chapter of this book-- Lewis addresses the fact that Richard Thaler, another behavioral economist, had one criticism about Moneyball: it didn't address why professional baseball overvalued sluggers . . . and Thaler suggested that for the answers, all you had to do was look back to a wacky duo of Israeli psychologists and their experiments and papers . . . the first chapter of The Undoing Project tells the story of Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, and how he tries to overcome the irrationality of the human mind-- loss aversion and the influence of narratives and regret over decision making-- and while there is plenty of psychology and descriptions of experimentation in the rest of the book, it's also heavily concerned with the weird, wonderful, sometimes strained and awkward relationship between these two geniuses.

POTUS Before and After Pics: Specious at best

Everyone loves POTUS before and after pics-- look how the job aged him!-- but I think we need to look at some pictures of regular people over an eight year span before we make any assumptions . . . we need to add a control to the experiment; I couldn't find any quick examples on the internet-- everything had to do with WeightWatchers-- and I can't use pictures of myself, since I'm a bit of an anomaly (I haven't aged a day in the last eight years-- Another time Macleod!) but I'm going to put a portfolio together soon and then we can decide if being president really ages you faster than working some other job.

Dumb and White = Success?

Robert D. Putnam pointed out in his latest book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis that poor kids with very high grades and test scores are less likely to get a college degree than low-scoring rich kids-- so much for the egalitarianism of the American Dream-- and here's another damning addendum to that theme; the median white family headed by a high school drop-out has $7700 more net worth than the median black family headed by someone with some college education . . . the cause of paradoxical gap this is unknown in a specific sense, but there are certainly some factors to consider: discriminatory housing and loan policies, redlining, generational wealth, and prejudicial hiring are a few that come to mind, but the lesson is this:

you might believe that you are a free-agent, responsible for your choices and deserving of your granite countertops and big TV, but that's a simplistic view of things-- and if you're black and live in America and make the right choices, you're still probably earning less than a white high school drop-out, and if you're rich and live in America, then you have the luxury of being dumb, but if you're poor then intelligence won't necessarily lead you to a life of luxury.

The Test 77: The Big Naked Apple

Melt away those little town blues this week on The Test and see what you know about all things New York City ( if you're pressed for time, then head straight to the 16-minute mark for an important fact that Nick read).

Karma on Its Way

Just jumped a guy's car at the park . . . his cable wasn't long enough (and the clamp broke off-- he said "Haram" in response to this, which I haven't heard since I was living in Syria-- it literally means "forbidden" but everyone in Syria used it to mean "that's too bad" or "it's a pity") and so I dug my cable out from the mess in the back of the minivan-- it's extra long-- and it took a few minutes but his engine finally turned over . . . I'm assuming the universe will send a good deed my way in response (perhaps a particular travel soccer player who needs to turn in his paperwork will bring it to practice tomorrow?)

Dave Can't Control Harbingers and Omens

I had to stop interacting with Stacey at work today because I kept revealing clues as to the questions I am going to ask her tonight when we record the podcast . . . so if she does really well on the next episode, you know why.

Zen and the Art of Middlesex County

I am home, drinking a beer, and proud that I didn't lose my shit after an epically long day rambling around central Jersey: taught Shakespeare and Philosophy at East Brunswick in the AM, then left-- half-day personal-- headed back to Highland Park to walk the dog and prepare my Google Slides for a workshop presentation in Perth Amboy for a bunch of high school history and social studies teachers, helping them incorporate writing into the curriculum (I need a new laptop for podcast editing, so I'm doing some extra work) then headed back home again to Highland Park, drove over to the Middle School to pick up Ian from his Arts Program (the bus got lost and so he spent some time rambling around Middlesex County as well) and then we ate dinner and piled in the van to go to our away basketball game, and I fought through Route 18 traffic to get to South River-- blasting Run the Jewels to get the kids pumped-- but after much difficulty finding the gym (you've got to park in the big lot and then walk down a bunch of stairs) we realized that the game was NOT in South River, it was back in Highland Park, so we piled back into the van and drove to the Middle School (again) but the Middle School gym was empty . . . the game was at Bartle-- the elementary school two blocks from my house; we could have walked, and my brother was reffing (no help there, we still got slaughtered).

Chris Thile and Brad Mehldau Need to Listen to Dave

Virtuoso mandolinist  Chris Thile and experimental jazz pianist Brad Mehldau have released a spectacular sounding eponymous album-- Mehldau's piano is sparse and soulful and Thile's alternately staccato and melodic mandolin peeks through the cracks and crevices left by the piano . . . but I had to thumbs-down half the songs on Google Play Music because they are utterly ruined by jazz singing: everyone who reads Sentence of Dave knows how much I hate jazz singing, and in this case, the vocals are truly a tragic addition to the album, because the pairing of the piano and the mandolin is so perfect on its own . . . perhaps Thile and/or Mehldau will read this and release a voiceless version just for me.

Dave's Brain Has the Right Stuff!

Last week in the English Office, my friend, colleague, and age-twin Liz wondered aloud about the origin of the phrase "pushing the envelope" and I took the bait; though I could care less about word origins, I'm always willing to take an etymological moonshot (because it's so fun to be correct) and I said, "I don't think it's about regular envelopes at all . . . I think it's about the envelope of air in the atmosphere . . . I think it's from The Right Stuff," and this top-o-the-head conjecture, this specious speculation, this frothy cream of my consciousness, this absurd lexical reckoning turned out to be spot-on, and while I know that those of you with razorlike CPU memories are thinking: who cares? what is it to retrieve a memory? what's the big deal? I would like to speak for the other folks, I would like to advocate for those of us who live on the flip side of the coin, the people who can't remember words and phrases and places and names, the people who struggle to recall what they had for breakfast, the people who can't always remember exactly where they live . . . this hypothetical person, when he is asked to produce his address, at the front desk of a certain electronic store (it might have been Circuit City, but-- typically-- I can't remember) completely freezes up and not only forgets his address but also can't recite his phone number . . . this is a person, who can't even remember if he's started or ended his parentheses, this kind of person, when he remembers something from many many years ago, and remembers it in context, and produces it-- like a magician . . . like a lexical Houdini-- then this person should be lauded and congratulated and celebrated, because his neurons have demonstrated the right stuff, and there's nothing more inscrutable and black-boxy than a bunch of neurons; not only are they hard to control (and harder to corral) but when they behave properly in context, then great celebration and rejoicing should ensue.

A Humble Suggestion for the Harlem Globetrotters: Lead Basketball!

We saw the Harlem Globetrotters last night at the RAC, and they performed as-billed, putting on a spectacular circus-like performance in the guise of a basketball game, but my favorite portion of the show was more annoying than athletic-- at one point the game transmogrified from hoops to football, a passing play into the end zone (over the baseline) and the Globetrotters questioned the referee's call: "Incomplete!" and so they literally rewound the play and performed it in slow-motion, so that the ref could better see the catch-- the rewind was wonderfully annoying, every action, motion, and piece of dialogue that occurred during the play was run backwards and the slow-mo was endless, with all kinds of extra details that were obviously too fast for the naked eye (including a box of donuts that made its way through the entire play) and at times it seemed as if the Globetrotters were having more fun than the audience during this endless bit, and this reminded me of when my buddy Whitney and I would play the "lead game" in college-- once we hit a certain stage of inebriation, we found it extraordinarily funny to pretend that everything in the room was made of the densest, heaviest lead and so doing simple tasks-- escaping from under a lead blanket or taking a sip of a lead cup or getting pinned to the floor of The Weeping Radish Brewery by a lead condiment-cup full of lead horseradish-- would take an inordinate amount of time and effort-- usually so much time and effort that all our friends would abandon us-- and we'd be left alone, unable to understand why our audience didn't appreciate the brilliant slow-motion slapstick of the lead-game . . . anyway, the Globetrotters should definitely take a page from our playbook and add a lead-basketball to their routine (a perfect complement to the helium filled ball that floats to the ceiling when the rival team takes a free throw).

Arachnids and Dramaturgy

In Philosophy class last week, I introduced my new students to the idea of a heuristic-- a quick and dirty problem-solving technique that someone employs to make it through the day-- and I contrasted this with what Bertrand Russell's calls "philosophic contemplation" . . . the latter mindset obviously takes a great deal more time and mental effort, and while we were discussing this, I was searching through my desk drawer for a paper clip and I saw a spider, which I promptly killed with my stapler-- so that I didn't have to feel the crunch-- and then we went back to the problem at hand, that with limited time it is impossible to philosophically contemplate every moment and dilemma that a typical day brings, and so we use heuristics to navigate most of our decisions (what to eat for breakfast, how fast to drive, who to sit with at lunch, whether or not to copy someone's homework, etcetera) and then I revealed to them that there was no spider-- I was acting-- but that many people use a kill-creepy-crawly heuristic instead of thinking deeply about the spider and its right to live . . . most of the students were glad that I didn't actually kill a real spider and they were impressed with my acting ability (I even picked up the nonexistent miniature carcass with a tissue . . . I learned everything I know from Master Thespian Jon Lovitz . . . acting!) but then I told them the story of the groundhog that I euthanized with a shovel and they were properly appalled; anyway, if you want to learn more about heuristics and just how screwy they are, read the new Michael Lewis book The Undoing Project . . . it's the story of two Israeli psychologists-- Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky-- who uncovered fundamental truths about the flaws in economics and the human mind, and there is liberal use of the word "heuristic" . . . I'm halfway through the book, and I'm hoping for an occurrence of the word "ersatz" as well.

Dave Almost Helps an Old Lady (But She's Too Quick For Him)

The streets and sidewalks in Highland Park were very icy this morning-- I almost fell while walking the dog-- and on my way to work, as I was about to turn off Third Avenue onto Benner, I saw an oldish woman walking at a rapid clip up the street; she was wearing a yellow and orange crossing guard vest and earmuffs and I could immediately sense that there was no way she was going to stop walking to let me turn-- she was looking straight ahead, resolutely, and there was the air of great determination about her, though-- oddly-- her gait was a bit gimpy, perhaps the result of a stroke or a bad hip or the start of some degenerative disease, so though she was moving quickly, it was in a herky-jerky manner, and the street she was about to cross was covered with an inch or two of ice; I watched in horror-- knowing it was coming-- as halfway across the street she wiped out, hit the ice hard, and rolled over . . . it was a terrible fall, made more so because of her palsied stride and so I opened my window to ask her if she was okay (and so did the lady in the car opposite me, on Benner) but before we could get her attention, she was back on her feet, chugging along-- I'm not sure if she had to be somewhere in a hurry, or she was an actual crossing guard getting an early start to the day, or if she just wore the vest for visibility and safety-- but whatever the case, she took that awkward fall like a champ and deserves to be memorialized here on Sentence of Dave for her effort, unflagging focus and perseverance . . . I hope when I'm that age I can take a fall like that.

Alex and Ian Spin an Exhausting Web of Disinformation

The trick with fake news and disinformation is to mix the real story with so many lies, alternatives, and obfuscations that it becomes exhausting and possibly even counterproductive to pursue the actual truth to its end-- it becomes more efficient to deal with the dilemma at hand, in the present, and forget about judgement and justice . . . here are a couple of cases in point . . . two recent incidents with my children:

1) Alex was certainly wrestling with three of his friends in the locker room before gym class, and he may have been warned twice to get out of the locker room by the gym teacher, he may have pinned down one of his friends, beaten him, and he may have also kneed this friend in the testicles-- causing him to cry-- although Alex claims he was only warned once to leave the locker room and did not knee his friend in the testicles . . . and then Alex definitely got very upset and lost his shit because the gym teacher would not listen to his side of the story and told Alex he was writing him up and calling home and Alex definitely used some profanity, and this profanity may have been directed at the gym teacher (or, as Alex claims, the expletives may have been directed at himself because he was upset that he was going to get in trouble) and then Alex probably smacked the write-up off the teacher's clipboard-- but it was initially reported that he smacked the write-up out of the teacher's hand . . . which certainly would have been worse, but now we've come to the consensus that the clipboard was on a desk in the gym, next to the teacher, a marginally better detail (but not much better) and there were definitely calls to my wife about the incident from the gym teacher (who did not mention the clipboard smack, possibly to protect Alex) and the vice-principal (who did report about Alex smacking the disciplinary write-up) and I think Alex and his friends went to the office to tell their side of the story, that it wasn't a real fight and they were only fooling around, and that Alex wasn't the testicle-crusher . . . but the story got so complicated that it became futile to try to figure out the actual truth-- and we explained to him that no one cared about the truth . . . he was acting like a total idiot and so were his friends, and once you're in that context, you don't get to explain slight gradations in culpability because everyone involved is in trouble and we left it at that and grounded him for two weeks and made him write a letter of apology to the gym teacher for being a complete nightmare . . . and we're not sure what the consequence will be at school, but there hasn't been anything yet (besides the phone calls home) and so they may be experiencing the same disinformation exhaustion that much of the country is working through;

2) last week, Ian may have mistakenly touched the spray bottle that he uses to humidify his lizard tank with the ceramic heat emitter-- a flattened bulb that screws into a clamp lamp, gets rather hot, and sits on top of the mesh top of the tank-- when I noticed the horrible plastic burning stench, this is what Ian claimed, and then he pointed out a tiny melted spot on the bottle, but today I noticed that the lamp was not turned on, and so I turned it on, and within minutes, the same burning plastic smell began emanating from the ceramic bulb and when I investigated closely, I noticed there was a bunch of brownish gunk on the ceramic bulb, and after further interrogation, Ian admitted that he had touched the bulb to another piece of plastic-- perhaps the top to a Play-Doh box-- and this was done purposefully and in the name of experimentation, I think, and then he turned off the ceramic heat bulb because he noticed it was making an awful plastic burning stench and didn't tell us anything, and I could not remove the melted plastic from the bulb, though I tried alcohol, vinegar, and bleach, and so he's going to have to buy a new one and we gave him a lecture about starting fires, doing dangerous things in the house, and not telling us when he's damaged something vital-- he could have killed his lizard (either with plastic fumes or lack of heat) and I told him that I did many similar experiments when I was young (and was often obfuscating with my own parents . . . why is there a sock marinating in lighter fluid in the basement? why is this squirt bottle filled with kerosene? where did all these melted lead D&D figurines come from? why does it smell smoky in the basement?) and that I understood his inquisitive nature . . . but he was still going to have to pay for a new ceramic heat emitter . . .

anyway, I hope this illustrates my point-- it was exhausting trying to get to the truth, and I don't think we were successful; God only knows if our punishments fit the crimes, and while we tried our best to give each child pertinent lessons for future situations, they never seem to apply anything they "learn" from us . . . but it's not like there's a better way to go about it.

No School Trumps Trump

I was going to post a long-winded rant about the awful injustices of Trump's hastily drawn terrorist travel ban-- the Orwellian fact that he's "solving" a problem that never existed, as we're already doing "extreme vetting" of refugees; listen to the new This American Life for more information-- but I just got the call that there's no school tomorrow, so instead I'm going to drink some beer and enjoy the imminent storm (the oddest thing is that it's 60 degrees here now . . . the boys and I played some basketball at the park, but then I tried to take the dog for a stroll around the neighborhood and he balked at it . . . despite the warm weather, he could feel the storm coming).

Litmus Test of Dave

There is no more surefire way to a judge a person's character-- according to Dave-- than by inquiring about their devotion to the TV show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia . . . the more they like it, the more I like them (and while there may be an exception to this rule of thumb, I haven't encountered a black swan yet).

Hero to Zero and Back Again (Sort of)

Get ready for Dave's Self-Esteem Rollercoaster Ride in three acts:

1) last Thursday afternoon, and a cold Thursday afternoon it was, my wife called from her school to report that her car was dead-- totally dead, the vehicle remote wouldn't even lock the doors-- and she wanted me to come jump start the engine, but I told her that it sounded like the battery was kaput and advised her to call AAA-- they replace batteries-- and I said I would come over and wait in the cold for AAA to arrive and she could drive my car back to our warm and cozy home, because I'm a great guy and she had a bit of a cough and some laryngitis and she called me a "hero" and thanked me for waiting . . . and it was very cold and AAA was supposed to arrive within the hour, but that turned to 90 minutes and I was closing in on the two-hour mark, shivering heroically in the car, reading and listening to podcasts, when the AAA truck finally arrived;

2) a stout African-American woman got out of the truck, and I told her the situation-- that the car had just had some bodywork done on it, and perhaps the mechanic left the lights on or something, and I believed the battery was totally dead-- and while I was telling her this, she was looking under the hood, and she jostled one of the battery wires and it sparked and she said, "Looks like this wire is loose" and she grabbed a socket wrench, tightened the screw, everything in the car came to life, and she asked me to put on my brights-- they worked fine-- and I suddenly felt totally dumb and emasculated, if I had checked the battery connections, I would have fixed the car in ten seconds and avoided this whole scenario, and if I had actually tried to jump it, I would have noticed this . . . but the AAA lady was gone before I could even apologize-- I'm sure she sees stupidity like this all the time, and my self-esteem really took a hard hit;

3) until this morning: we had a lock-down drill first period, which is when I'm in the cafeteria, monitoring the late-in seniors-- and the janitor told us all to go into the staff lunchroom, so my students and a study hall from the other side of the cafeteria, and a number of teachers who were on duty in the vicinity all poured into the staff lunchroom and we were standing there awkwardly in the dark, shushing the students, and I asked the lady next to me if the door was locked and she said, "I think so" and I said, "I'd better check" and the door was unlocked so I spun the little locking mechanism and locked the door and moments later the door handle shook-- the security team was checking to make sure all the doors were locked . . . because that's the most important part of a lockdown, that you lock the door . . . and the lady who told me she thought the door was locked reacted as if I actually saved the entire room from a brutally violent massacre, she said,"That was awesome, you locked it right before they tried to get in! It was so close! You should play the lottery today!" and so I had to remind her that it was only a drill, and that I didn't actually save everyone from bloody death (and so I probably didn't deserve to win much in the lottery . . . maybe five dollars) and while I'm the first to admit that this was not a genuine act of heroism, it was certainly an ersatz act of heroism . . . and I also passed a second lockdown drill test, but one I'm not sure I agree with-- after they rattled the door to check the lock, then the security crew knocked-- very crafty-- and we've been told that once the door is locked, we should take a utilitarian stance and not open the door for anyone-- the lives of the many are worth more than the lives of the few, especially if they aren't punctual for the locking of the door . . . and so I didn't fall for this malevolent ruse, I did not open the door, but I think if it was a real lockdown, and a person in danger (or a school-shooter posing as a person in danger) knocked on the door and pleaded for me to open it, I'd probably open the door and take my chances, as it would be hard to leave someone in the lurch just outside the door . . . but that's a dilemma for another day, the important thing here is that I acted (hypothetically) heroically and depressed that little locking mechanism in the nick of time.

The Test 76: We've Got Places All Over the Place

I go rogue on this episode of The Test and cut out the ladies (just like college!) and design a quiz for my buddy Whitney, but the questions are general enough for everyone to answer and enjoy-- plus the ladies make a much needed cameo, breaking up the bromance-- so take a load off and listen and learn about a couple of genuine American adventurers, doing their best to navigate this wild and wonderful country of ours.

Dave Almost Forgets to Write A Sentence . . . Or Does He?

Yikes . . . I got so preoccupied with soccer stuff and Texas Hold'em today (I played poker with my kids in the afternoon and then all evening with grown-ups at Stacey's house) that I nearly forgot to write a sentence . . . but I got this baby in under the wire just before the stroke of midnight-- or did I?-- I might have written it Sunday morning and postdated it . . . in Trump's America you shouldn't trust anything on the internet, as truth is a relative thing . . . especially in a world where I raise a big pre-flop bet from good position, go all in on Ace/Queen suited-- the hand I've been waiting for-- and match up well against K/J unsuited, draw a queen on the flop, nothing on the turn, and then my opponent pulls a king out of his ass on the river . . . in a world where something like this happens, you've got to be skeptical of everything.

Why Does My Phone Think It's Clairvoyant?

My phone autocorrected a number today . . . I was trying to text the digits 3241 (part of an address) but my phone kept changing this number to 532411 . . . and this makes no logical sense, as this new, autocorrected number isn't the zip code of the address, nor is it the area code of phone numbers associated with this place . . . if anyone knows why my phone (older model Samsung Galaxy) thinks it can read my mind when it comes to numbers, please explain.

Bosch (and Connelly) Do It Again

No spoilers, but Bosch (and Connelly) get it done again in The Wrong Side of Goodbye . . . and they get it done twice-- the book is a mystery wrapped in an enigma: I got so wrapped up in the interior serial rapist case that I forgot about the larger private case that framed the story, so I finished with one mystery and there were still fifty compelling pages left; not only that, but I learned why Harry Bosch doesn't eat Vietnamese food . . . when he was a tunnel rat back in 'Nam he had to eat spicy noodles and such every single day, every single meal, because when you're down in the tunnels, in such close quarters with the enemy, defusing booby traps and hunting Viet Cong, then you need to smell like them or they'll suss you out . . . and you smell like the food you eat, so it was all pho for Bosch, and that was enough of it.

Trump, Stop Being a Coward (I'd Use the P-Word, But It Would Be Gauche)

The hope that Trump might preside more moderately than his campaign rhetoric indicated has been shattered by his polarizing inaugural address and the hastily mandated executive order to ban Muslims and refugees from America . . . and while I was trying to ignore much of the day-to-day furor over his policies, I think he has drawn the proverbial line in the sand; if you're confused on this issue, I humbly present a few things you should digest and think about:

1) the new episode of The Weeds (The Don't-Call-It-A-Muslim-Ban) does a great job of parsing out the policy and the contradictions and problems with it-- you'll understand why there have been stays by federal judges enacted in regards to the ban;

2) a flat out "Muslim" ban is unconstitutional, so Trump had to make do by banning people from seven mainly Muslim countries-- but putting Syria on the list means that Trump can't help prioritize Syrian Christians-- or any other Christian refugees seeking asylum-- though Trump claims he would like to do this;

3) Trump suspended the US Refugee Program for 120 days and capped refugee admissions to 50,000 (instead of Obama's 110,00, which is still rather paltry considering scope of the crisis . . . global displacement is at an all time high);

4) in 2016, the United States accepted 12,000 Syrian refugees (Germany took in a million in 2015 and 300,000 in 2016) and Trump's executive order bans all Syrian refugees . . . this brings up the point that we weren't doing a terribly good job of addressing this refugee crisis under the Obama administration, and we certainly had a hand in creating this crisis because of our various military actions and inactions in the Middle East, and we are now presenting ourselves as an ugly selfish "America first" nation that is willing to turn its back on a heinous and horrible humanitarian tragedy;

5) if you need something more vivid to illustrate the toll of being a refugee, listen to This American Life: Are We There Yet?

6) if you want to feel especially shitty about your country-- and this is before Trump enacted the total ban on refugees from Iraq, then listen to This American Life: Didn't We Solve This One? and you'll hear the stories of Iraqi translators and defectors who helped us in the war in Iraq, were promised visas, and then were abandoned and left out in the cold . . . Trump expressed his solidarity for the "forgotten man" in America, but these people have been forgotten by America in an exponential and existential sense, and now they have no chance of receiving their due . . . this bureaucratic betrayal sounds like the perfect template to create terrorists;

5) you don't have to tow the party line on this, because tone and attitude towards immigration isn't a Democrat/Republican thing, it's a moral stance . . . for a startling example, check out the video of Bush and Reagan one-upping each other on how welcoming they would like to be and how many services they would like to provide for illegal immigrants . . . and Bill Clinton-- welfare reformer-- slammed illegal immigrants and their drain on social services;

6) Trump signed his executive order over the Holocaust Memorial weekend . . . I don't have to explain the irony;

7) America is a country with great wealth and resources and we are often big-hearted and welcoming to refugees and immigrants . . . but some of our most regretful and humiliating moments are when we treated foreigners poorly-- the Japanese internment and sending a boatload of Jews back to Europe to be slaughtered by Nazis are incidents that come to mind;

8) we are also a country where freedom of speech trumps all other rights-- this is no place for cowards-- and while it is extraordinarily rare that an immigrant commits an act of terrorism, this is a possibility-- but it is a possibility that we must endure if we are going to be a free country;

9) while I find it absurd, it's not illegal in America to literally believe in the words of the Koran or the Bible or any other outdated religious text . . . and it's not illegal in the United States to have radical religious opinions or radical political opinions or any other kind of belief, even if it be ridiculous unfounded and stupid, and because of this ur-policy, we are going to occasionally suffer some collateral damage-- but again, this is not a country for cowards . . .

10) the 2nd Amendment allows for the proliferation of guns and conservatives are fine with the collateral damage associated with this;

11) Trump and the Republicans want to deregulate environmental rules and regulations-- they're willing to let people drive around as much as they want, and pollute as much as they want, though this leads to the warming of the globe, the loss of biodiversity, and the death of lots of folks in automobile accidents . . . but conservatives show no fear of these dire consequences of their policy;

12) conservatives are also not afraid of obesity, going without health insurance, and pandemics-- Trump don't need no stinking vaccines . . . so if Great Americans, Trumplike Americans are not afraid of any of this, if they are willing to embrace death in so many ways, then I'd like to implore them-- Trump, his followers and the rest of the conservatives-- to stop being so cowardly about immigration; we love danger here in the US, whether it's getting run over by a drunk driver or shot by some lunatic in a movie theater or daring the oceans to rise and swallow our coastal cities, so let's embrace the danger and embark on a great adventure and let in all kinds of asylum seekers and immigrants-- let's expedite the system instead of drawing it to an ugly halt-- and let's do it for the forgotten men and women of the world, the people that have truly lost everything, who have nowhere to go and no one to look out for them . . . the huddled masses, the wretched refuse, the homeless . . . this is a concern that is beyond political polarization . . . where you stand on this issue determines not only what kind of American you are, but ultimately, what kind of person you are.
A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.