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The NYT said something about Londoners reeling after the attacks yesterday. Certainly the families of those attacked must be, but there were lots of tweets todsy in response, with photos of people at street markets, having brunch, etc. Another thing people do on Sundays is go to church (or at least ring bells to call people to church. Those activities didn't happen today at Southwark Cathedral, pretty much in the corner of the bridge and the borough market, within the police cordon, but at the other end of the bridge, things were as usual at St. Magnus the Martyr, as long as one could get there. I copied these complicated directions from their web site:
>>TERRORIST ATTACK - IMPORTANT NOTICE: For St Magnus people and our visitors, at the time of writing (07.53hrs), latest info from the police sentry nearby: Lower Thames Street is shut to traffic but you can walk in from the tube. Unfortunately, you are advised to take the walk from Tower Gateway rather than from Monument unless you want a very circuitous route as they're not allowing people directly down Fish Street Hill but Lower Thames Street is currently open to walkers and cyclists from either end. London Bridge itself remains firmly shut!

FURTHER UPDATE: Fish Street Hill is fine to walk down but DLR and Monument Station are shut completely. Bank Station however will be open and is probably the best tube for St Magnus this morning<<

There were six people murdered in Chicago this weekend, just for contrast. Probably nobody's route to church was changed.
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My first response to the news from London Bridge was that I should buy a ticket to go along with Arthur in a couple of weeks, and defiantly walk across bridges. As opposed to walking across bridges as a convenient way to get someplace, which I have done many times. The bad guy witches in Harry Potter (don't remember which movie) destroyed the Millennium Bridge, but people with vans instead of brooms couldn't get onto it. After the initial response (not practical, if only because I have parental visits during Arthur's trip), I felt guilty about how UK-centric my reactions are - I eat a lot of ice cream, but didn't jump on a plane to Bagdhad to eat in solidarity with the residents there after the fatal bombing of an ice cream shop by ISIS last week.
Edit - the ice cream shop re-opened today (Sunday). Is there some way for an English-only speaker (me) to send them a bunch of money so they can give out free cones?


Jun. 1st, 2017 10:45 pm
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I went for part of a Town Hall meeting appearance by Senator Markey, held at the Paramount Theater in Boston, which has replaced its burnt-out bulbs since last fall. I arrived a little late, due to getting to Alewife half an hour behind schedule. Road construction all over Lexington, plus usual rush hour stuff, seriously affected the bus timing. For about the first half-hour, he made a sort of speech, ragging on the president, comparing him unfavorably with JFK (in honor of the latter's 100th birthday last week, I think), complaining about how many jobs would be lost due to the betrayal of carbon reduction goals and the proposed budget, especially cuts to the NIH, plus jokes about the relationship between Trump and the pope, and some other tangents. Then he opened it up for questions. The first one was from someone who wanted to know how he thought the Senate version of the AHCA was going to end up. She unfortunately added something about since it was being decided by a dozen white men, "no offense." This led to a long digression on his part about how white Malden high school was when he was young, and how evenly balanced it is racially now. After a few minutes of this, she started yelling at him to answer the question. He said "I'm Irish. An answer comes with a story."
The actual answer seemed to be that he had no idea what is being framed, but he is hopeful that we'll end up with the ACA mostly as-is anyway, because the Republicans in the Senate don't all agree with each other, and the Democrats don't agree with any of them, and even if the Senate came up with something, the people in the House wouldn't compromise. The next person, in an obsequious way, asked if he would be willing to work together with Republicans like Collins to make sure this was true, and he said yes, of course, implying that some kind of across-the-aisle stuff is possible. Having been warned that all answers would be story-time, I left.
I feel well represented by him, but don't necessarily feel a need to hear him speak again.

Good one-liner: "a vision without funding is a hallucination"

Sgt Pepper

Jun. 1st, 2017 01:25 pm
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News guy Henry Santoro on WGBH radio: (approximate quotation) "we've been saying that today is the 50th anniversary of the release of Sargeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. There is someone fixing a hole outside our window right now."


May. 31st, 2017 04:41 pm
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There is TV commercial for Stella Artois cidre (sic). I watched it without paying much attention, and then rewound it.

Is it supposed to be a take on the dance scene in Bande à Part (1964), in which they do The Madison?
(start at about 0:28)
Arthur didn't see the resemblance, and I guess he's right, but I immediately thought of it.
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My only real observance of the day was stopping by the display on the Boston Common yesterday, 37000 little US flags flowing down the Charles Street side of the hill, like a river. The organizers call it a garden, and it does look kind of like a flower bed - that many flags, that height and proximity, don't look like individual flags, but just like blue and white for the most part. Unless it's an incredible coincidence, the number must be rounded, but they are supposed to represent all the military people from Massachusetts killed in action since the Revolution.
I don't know whether those numbers include people who have died by suicide, rather than in battle (or car crashes, or of disease - remember how many Civil War soldiers died of measles and diphtheria). There was a very sad and infuriating segment on The Takeaway this morning, about the lack of recognition given to the (on average) 20 veterans a day who die by suicide. In general, not honor guards or military funerals, and their families feel the neglect.
Also, it will be interesting to see whether veterans Ricky John Best and Richard Collins III, killed in the past week by white supremacists, will get ANY official recognition. Best was with Taliesin Namkai Meche (and surviving defender Micah Fletcher) on the light rail train in Portland. Trump has thus far ignored them all.
Speaking of the Trump family, Ivanka has gotten a lot of sarcasm on twitter this morning for suggesting that the way to note Memorial Day is to make champagne popsicles. I agree (she works in the White House - she should be out at Arlington Cemetery, or some other military memorial site). On the other hand, we are taking a store-bought pie to a picnic gathering today. The treat-food aspect of the day is hard to ignore.
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I have a lot of small superstitions. I touch wood after saying something good. I worry about jinxes (same thing, I suppose). The one that popped up this morning is the idea that bad luck runs in threes. I have been planning for a couple of weeks to attend a memorial service on June 3rd. Now I have another one the day before. It has made me worry that someone will die, in order to be memorialized on the 4th, for example. The power of three shows up in other places ("we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground"; "what is your name? what is your quest? what is your favorite color?"), so there must be something in the way our minds find three anythings special. I wonder if the bad luck in threes idea is related to the idea that one can't safely light three on a match.
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When I heard of the bombing in Manchester UK, my first expectation was the commonplace (and apparently correct) one. There is a reason that there is a standard profile (I love that the Financial Times online is still pink).
My second thought was IRA,oddly. We'll see if the Troubles come back after Brexit, when Ireland gets split again in a new sense.
My third thought was something I didn't believe, but could see as being useful if I were running a conspiracy website. It was that someone in Theresa May's campaign had done it, knowing that if she came across as calm and firm her poll numbers, which have been dropping, would go up. It turns out that I am not the only person who made up this conspiracy, but as Andrew Scattergood, HannahJane Parkinson, and others pointed out on Twitter this morning, in 2015, TM, then Home Secretary, was warned by Manchester police about harm due to the cuts (20,000 nationwide) in community policing and similar police jobs that she supported.

I was on a Jetblue flight last night (managed not to be downed by the tornado in mid-NC). Except when they don't work, JB planes have little TVs with a variety of cable networks (not PBS, BBC America, or Syfy). I was flipping around, watching parts of the Weather Channel's show about plane crashes (good news - airports do a better job of de-icing than they used to), some archeology show, and MSNBC. Rachel Maddow has done some great work, but also is clearly just trying to get ratings by a basic level of "coincidence? I think not" journalism. After the amazing segment about the "body slam" of Ben Jacobs by Greg Gianforte, which was happening in real time as I watched (he was at the hospital at the time Maddow was talking about it), she moved on to the Russia stuff, and started talking about possible (no proof) connections between Trump's debt to Deutsche Bank and his problems with Russia. I get that she is entertainment, not journalism, but this seems a bit beforehand.
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I travel a lot, mostly to see parents and parents-in-law. This past weekend, in connection with Arthur being in CA for a talk on Monday, we spent a weekend with our daughter in the Bay Area.
She has recently, temporarily, moved to Berkeley after years in Oakland, and may move Eastward. Or not. She would be leaving behind a much-loved tap class, some friends, and a couple of other features of the place. We didn't know any of this when we planned the trip months ago. I had wildly over-scheduled us. Saturday morning I went to a couple of her tap classes. She doesn't usually go to the 9 AM, because it is too low-level for her, but went with me. It was too hard for me, although if I attended many times, I might get up to speed. I actually found parts of the 10 AM class, for a higher level, a little easier, because the routine they are working on for a showcase includes tributes to some items in the standard repertoire, and I was able to do a simplified version of some of it. But it set the tone for an unfortunate aspect of the weekend - me apologizing too much. I apologized for not being up to snuff in the tap classes. I apologized for choosing an out-of-town outing in the afternoon that put us in lengthy traffic jams (although seeing parts of Muir Woods and beach was great). After a lot of negotiation a long time ago, I had signed us all up for the Bay to Breakers race on Sunday morning. Arthur and Flo walked, I ran. For me, this was an inferior experience compared to the time I ran it a number of years ago - that time I was much faster, starting near the front of the mob (but after the elite people, of course) and it was like a running race. This time, I truthfully put myself into one of the later (slower) corrals, and we spent more than an hour waiting to start. I kept apologizing for that, and for making sure we got up quite early in order to be on time. By mid-morning, the assumption seemed to be that anybody in the street was there to party, not to run, so there were spots on the course in which the actual runners were on the sidewalk, because the unregistered, often drunken, non-runners were standing still or walking slowly the entire width of the street. So I spent a good bit of the time disgruntled, while Flo and Arthur had an enjoyable walk while looking at costumes. My favorite costume set of the day was three women who were clearly recognizable from afar as Rockville Peaches, whom we originally saw on the BART platform at about 7 AM, but Arthur and Flo liked the Wizard of Oz folks the best. They must have separated over time, because I only saw Glinda and Dorothy, but apparently there were many early on.
We went to see an Oakland A's vs Red Sox game (or part of it) that afternoon, arriving in about the 4th inning, because we got to the end of the race so late (due to all the waiting around). I apologized for bad planning. It was about as ideal as it could be, though. It was sunny, but I had chosen carefully, and our seats were in the shade. Not too hot, not too cold, some good baseball. There were people at the stadium bar watching the same game on TV, even though it was a one minute or less walk to the regular seats. Mysterious. As we were walking to the BART station afterward, we saw the Peaches again, but not the friends of Dorothy, as it were, or many other people in costume, although I saw a couple of B to B shirts. I made no apologies for two visits to the vegan cinnamon bun establishment near UC Berkeley.
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Boston Mayor Walsh got a lot of flack (deservedly, in my opinion) for blaming the (potential) victims in car & pedestrian crashes. He said that people should not look at their devices while walking, and should use the crosswalks. Of course both of those things are true, and even more detailed situational awareness is good, but drivers are at fault at least as often, and they are much deadlier when they make a mistake. Emphasizing this, there was a disastrous car vs walkers incident in Times Square NYC today. I'm sure people will try to make it be a terrorist attack, but the NYPD doesn't think so. Just a remarkably dangerous driver in a crowded place. Human bodies are so resilient, and yet so fragile.
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I can't say anything better about the Comey stuff than John Scalzi said here:

I do believe that there was Russian (governmental?) involvement in the 2016 election. I am mad about it. I don't know that we need an independent prosecutor. I can't stand Senator Burr in general, but I think he may be trying to do the right thing with the senate investigation. I am reserving judgment about whether there were overlaps in sneaky data abuse in both the Leave campaign in the UK and within the GOP in the United States. But my main worry is that it's mostly a distraction. If there had not been so much gerrymandering, voter exclusion, and so forth, the election would have gone to Clinton. I have no doubt about that whatsoever. I am grateful that SCOTUS has spoken (indirectly) by refusing to to consider the NC Republican appeal of the knocked-down Voter ID law, leaving the 4th circuit decision to stand. It annoys me that Roberts claims this doesn't indicate an opinion about voter ID, though. Tracking down outside interference in our elections isn't my priority. I'd like to have the Voting Rights act back, but that's not going to happen in a country in which there are marches to support Confederate leader monuments. (my take on that - the individual guy statues in municipalities should go. The statues in museums or the equivalent, like National Battlefields, should stay. The statues commemorating generic dead soldiers should stay).
The Russian fixation is a distraction from all kinds of stuff. The 13 old white guy senators who are deciding on the next iteration of the AHCA is really important. The review (presuming to flip any Obama declarations) of a bunch of National monuments is important. Net neutrality. Name your cause - bad things are happening. The news media need to spread the information around, not focus so much.

Still pondering on visiting Russia in fall, when Arthur goes for a conference. We are at the second (of several) steps toward a visa. Maybe my application will be turned down - I didn't do anything illicit when I was in the Soviet Union in 1976, but it might flag me in some way. More likely I will be granted the visa, and then I really will have to decide about the morality of spending my tourist dollars on a place with a really corrupt government. Until I quit in disgust a couple of weeks ago, I had been doing daily lessons in Russian, using the Mango program borrowed from the library (on my tablet). I was pleased at how much I remember. It is interesting how much of the grammar is just getting given as an aside, without any explanation. I sometimes felt the need for index cards with case endings, but I haven't written them out yet. I also wonder about a lot of their choices. I think putting caviar on blini would be an abomination. I don't have any interest in buying fur anything, much less needing a bunch of different fur garments. They haven't taught me how to say "What's your position on the state murder of gay men in Chechnya?" or "Do you have relatives dying in the army, in an immoral war in Crimea?" (not an official one, I guess). I'll go back to it, though. Why waste the chance to (re)learn something?
There is an emotional tug there. Someone was complaining about the amount of attention Russia gets, considering how insignificant Russia really would seem on the world stage if it weren't for their nukes. I felt indignant, and thought "They stopped Napoleon! They knocked back Hitler!" Really beautiful icons. Embroidery (although my interest there is actually Ukrainian). Not too relevant, maybe. I don't think I can completely explain it.
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I have a cold, which has progressed to the nose dripping and occasional cough stage. I need to be on an airplane in the morning, then two days of driving parents to medical appointments. I should wear a mask, to reduce the infection of strangers, but I'm having trouble with the idea of actually making myself wear one. I sometimes see people of Asian ancestry wearing them on the T. I volunteer at MGH. Volunteers and staff people who are coughing are supposed to stay home. That same cohort gets flu shots for free. If you opt out, during peak season you're supposed to wear a mask. I have found a pattern online. If I put in the work to make one, would that increase my motivation to put it on?


May. 9th, 2017 03:42 pm
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As mentioned previously, I've been skimming through the Shalene Flannigan's cookbook. The recipe for gingerbread looked really good. I haven't made it because I keep forgetting to buy rye flour (although I bought fresh ginger), but she does allow the substitution of teff or whole wheat, so I'm going to try it today. The more I looked at the recipe, the more familiar it seemed, and I realized it was a lot like the gingerbread recipe I used in the 1970s, from the New York Times Natural Food Cookbook. It's not *exactly* the same, as one has an egg while the other one doesn't, and there is the flour thing (the NYT suggests WW flour). Still, some of the offbeat ingredients (like yogurt) are the same. How different does a recipe need to be to no violate copyright? Or are recipes copyrightable anyway? Clothing designs are not, which is why knock-off manufacturers can copy something famous without reprisals. There are oddities about this. The costume designer for "Outlander" has stopped posting her designs, because she knew they would be copied for someone else's profit. She has good reason - there is a Simplicity pattern that is a superficial exact copy of one of the outfits from the show, except that the TV costumes hare more historically accurate. So even though someone at Simplicity copied the look of the garments and the printed patterns are under copyright, Terry Dresbach doesn't get credit or royalties.
Still from the show:

Simplicity pattern, made without permission (not legally required):
I saw someone at Arisia wearing the exact outfit. I didn't ask if she used the Simplicity pattern, or worked it out on her own.

Full disclosure - I made a gray version of the knitted item, based on a pattern on Ravelry.
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Last night I watched most of the the first Nike #breaking2 attempt at a 1:59:59 marathon.
This has been in the works for three years, partly (mostly?) as a publicity stunt for Nike, but partly as an exercise science and technology experiment to see whether a person can run 26.2 miles in less than two hours. Extraordinary runners have come relatively close under sort of normal circumstances (the record is held by Dennis Kimetto, who won the Berlin marathon in 2014 at under 2:03). To give maximum advantage, many famous runners were screened. Three were chosen, plus a group of 30 pacers, and then Nike scientists developed custom made shoes, clothes (compression shorts made to the runners' exact measurements, etc), gels, and so forth. There was a pace car, on a formula one track (so no potholes to worry about, unlike Boston), and the time was chosen for ideal temperature.
I had planned to watch until midnight (it started at 11:45 EDT, because it started at 5:45 AM in Italy. I finally turned off the iPad (it was streaming) after 1 AM, when the last runner who had been keeping the required pace slowed down by a second at about 30 KM. When I checked this morning (after about five hours of sleep, because I tend to wake up when the sun does), he had clocked 2:00:25. Oh, well. It was still fascinating to watch, and to learn about. The background part I liked best was about the shoe design. The Nike company folks assumed the runners would want something minimalist (for weight reduction) with modified spikes. Nope. One of them said "not lightweight, but the right weight." They knew they would be running on pavement, and wanted some cushioning, as long as it wasn't *too* heavy. The shoes have received a lot of publicity about whether it's a cheat, because they have a reboundy thing inside (not the technical language). It does seem to make the foot strike and follow through look a little different to me.
Science! and People!
Other organizations are working on it as well, but it's fairly arbitrary - the marathon is its current length because of the 1896 Olympics. The distance to carry the news in the original run was a bit shorter. Also, why is two hours magic?
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There was a half-page baseball photograph on the front of the Boston Globe's Sports section on Sunday morning. The caption was "a young fan congratulates Hanley Ramirez after his home run" but my only response was "That's Mike O'Malley!" Apparently, in my reactions, a cute kid and a baseball player (in focus) are trumped by a slightly out of focus actor who is also in the frame. O'Malley was not named. I wonder whether the photographer had any idea that a non-player famous person was in the picture. It was nice to see hoards of people in Cubs shirts doing Boston tourism stuff over the weekend. Their world series win last year was in some sense a win for everybody, because it had been so long.
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I have maintained my attendance streak on May Day by the river - every year since 1978. I am not planning to strike or march otherwise today.
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Wednesday evening I was waiting around for a bus at Alewife station when I saw an acquaintance. We chatted briefly, about how I arrange the timing of some things to fit with the bus schedules. He asked if I don't drive. I said that I do, but that I find it a quality of life improvement not to do so. He was visibly surprised, and I gave my reasons, but I'm pretty sure I gave a vibe of someone who had ease of life available to me that is not available to him.


Apr. 30th, 2017 05:19 pm
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Last night's Doctor Who. I agree with this review completely.

Yesterday I got to the Climate gathering on Boston Common after many people had left, but there was still music and the tables from many organizations were still there. I could not work up the nerve to ask anybody for carbon offset suggestions, especially after overhearing people who were in despair about the airline industry. Our carbon footprints are enormous, mostly because of flying. We are both strong supporters of carbon taxes, including the Massachusetts version put forward by our own state senator Mike Barrett. I went away from the Climate thing resolved to get more people to push for it. In the meantime, I'd like to do something to make up for all the carbon I chuck into the air. I'm not going to stop flying as long as we have family members scattered around, and I also do other flying occasionally.
After that, we went to a couple of the Lexington Open Studios sites. One was fascinating multi-media works (photos, collages, overlaid with oil or acrylic paint). At the other place, there were rooms full of artworks covering at least twenty years of her career, but I was mostly interested in her work space.

I was so pleased by watching the London Marathon last week that on a whim I registered for a half-marathon, which took place this morning. The last time I did a run that long was five weeks ago, so I wasn't really well-trained, but it wasn't too hot and I ended with a time that pleased me (2:20:32). The race started and ended in Amesbury, MA, and the circuit went through a couple of towns in NH. New England on display. Amesbury still has the mill race (the old brick buildings are no longer mills, but are still in use) and a bunch of functioning downtown businesses. We had not known that cartoonist Al Capp(L'il Abner) lived and worked there. It was fine at the time (would have been better if the forecast for an overcast morning had proved true), but I'm sore now. I hope I'll be able to dance around at dawn (May Day by the river) and tomorrow evening at tap class. We'll see. I had a long hot soak in the tub and have been using ice topically.

I didn't go to the Blue Heron concert on Friday night and decided to buy the CD that was being featured. The only CD player I have is in the car, but that might be good enough. When I followed the link,
I was given the choice of a CD, an MP3, or streaming. I gave up. I use an iPad but have not bought music for it.
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