Honestly, I think sometimes Republicans actively seek the most ignorant thing they can say.

“Democrats are in a perplexing position. On the one hand, they’re trying to appeal to the gay community, but, on the other hand, they’re trying to also appeal to the Muslim community, which, if it had its way, would kill every homosexual in the United States of America,” Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said on a radio show Thursday.

The logic that Dems favor Muslims/terrorists over gays is coming down from the very top of the GOP 2016 ticket. Donald Trump, in his first major speech after the weekend’s tragedy suggested that Hillary Clinton “can never claim to be a friend of the gay community.”

“She can’t have it both ways,” Trump said. “She can’t claim to be supportive of these communities while trying to increase the number of people coming in who want to oppress them.”

More at Talking Points Memo.

The bar that used to be my living room

Venerable Montrose tavern Cecil’s Pub — where I spent a nontrivial part of the 90s, and met people who became lifelong friends — is up for sale after 26 years.

It was always a good place back then (and, I’m sure, now). The bartenders learned your name quickly, and became friends; one of them even became a pretend white supremacist on TV, much to our shared glee. Sometimes, celebs drifted through — I literally bumpted into Tim Robbins at the bar one night (“who the hell is this tall motherfucker in my way ZOMG I LOVED THE PLAYER“). The bar survived the early gentrification of the area, and even a fire (which, I’m sure, was probably the only way to clean the carpets at that point).

The Chron has a nice feature about it, and reminds us that it was featured in Dave Attell’s Insomniac back in 2001, the entirety of which is on YouTube so you can see pre-fire Cecil’s.

Owner Kimberly Blythe is selling to retire (and good for her), but hopes someone will take over. Even though I never go there anymore, I hope so, too.

Dept. of Updates, Comic Shop Division

Right, so, there have been some Developments.

When I posted my previous entry about Bedrock, I also tweeted it at them hoping to get some kind of reaction. Sure enough, a couple days later, I got a message on Facebook from the manager of the Washington Avenue store. To call it an abject apology would be to understate things by several orders of magnitude. John Scalzi has, somewhat famously, attempted to quantify what makes a good apology, and the Bedrock manager hit all the right notes.

In part:

I made a mistake, plain and simple. There is no store policy or company policy about having a phone number for having a box, it is just a requirement that I prefer we have. I like being able to reach people directly concerning any issues with the box. I set your form off to the side, again my decision, making a terrible assumption about when you would next be in the store. I incorrectly assumed you would be in the next week or the week after, I would then get the phone number and then enter the information in our system and get everything started. This, obviously, did not happen. I read your review on your blog and your anger is well justified. I should have reached out to you via email. Especially considering I deemed the phone number so important, but, in all honesty, did not even consider that. Again, this is all my fault and my responsibility, not an indictment of Bedrock City comics.

He doesn’t stutter or prevaricate; he takes full responsibility, and then comes the kicker: if I’d give them another shot, they’ll supply any issues I missed on their dime, even if they have to go to other dealers to do it.

Yeah, I can do that.

I had a bit of business travel last week, but yesterday Mrs Heathen and I went into Bedrock again and met with this manager. We gathered what they had of my pulls in house, plus another trade or two, and took inventory of what I needed that they didn’t have yet. Turns out I haven’t missed many issues after all, which is nice. Nicer still, the missing ones are from big-print-run Marvel books, so finding them will be trivial for Bedrock. (I should have them later this week, actually.) We started over, more or less, and I left there feeling good about the shop and about Eric the manager in particular, which is a long way from where I was on May 25. He didn’t have to reach out to me at all; that took actual guts and integrity, and he deserves praise for having the stones to do it. Moreover, they certainly didn’t have to comp my entire pile yesterday, which rang to the tune of $40 or $50. But they did, to make up for the hassle, and that’s how you recover when you fuck up.

That’s the lesson here, really. Every business will make mistakes, even good ones run with the best of intentions. The trick is all in how you recover, and Bedrock (and Eric) nailed the recovery in a way that’s really only happened to me one other time.

Nearly two decades ago, something similar happened to me with a car detailing shop: they lost my car key, and since it was a Porsche I’d bought used, it was the only one I had. Before I could even say a word, though, they were outlining how they’d fix it. Obviously, they’d pay for my replacement key. But also I’d have the use of the owner’s truck for the duration. They’d guard my car — it couldn’t be moved or locked without the key — until a key showed up from Porsche America, which turned out to be about 72 hours. And after it was all over, they’d clean up the various rock dings on the front air dam of the car for free, which I never would’ve done because it was about $500 worth of work. Ask me now: have I ever used another detailing shop? Nope.

It’s early yet, but right about now my bet’s that I’ll be buying comics at Bedrock for a long time, too.

Why are comics shops in trouble?

THERE’S AN UPDATE. SCROLL UP. HERE’S THE LINK.

It’s not so much online, or other demands on our attention. It’s because of gatekeeping behavior, I’m sure in part, but in my personal experience, the biggest single reason?

They are bad at their jobs.

Let me explain.

Comics are a periodical medium; it used to be they were tied to months in the calendar, but that’s not universally true anymore; new issues just come out when they come out. People keep up by dealing with a local comic shop and setting up what’s called a “pull list.” You go in, fill out a form with some contact data, and make a list of the titles you want “pulled” for you when they come out. Then, you go to the store at your leisure to pick up your accumulated comics.

Big fans who read many titles do this every Wednesday, which is traditionally when new comics come out (you may have seen DC fans in your life talking about buying a highly-anticipated comic at midnight last night, i.e. on the first moments of Wednesday; it’s also been a plot point in Big Bang Theory more than once). People like me who read fewer titles probably go in once a month, or even every couple of months, but the principle is the same.

For years I had a pull list at Nan’s Comics and Games. I finally quit when, for the umpteenth time, they just skipped a couple of my issues. This is a “you had one job” kind of situation, right? If I have The Avengers on my list, I expect to get every issue. If I travel a bunch and don’t come in for 6 or 8 weeks, the point of the pull list is that I don’t miss anything. Nan’s couldn’t be bothered to actually do my pulls reliably, and so I just quit reading monthlies because it was too much trouble.

Back in early April, though, I was tempted back by some really great writing by folks like Kelly Sue DeConnick, Matt Fraction, and others, plus the Ta-Nehisi Coates-penned revival of Black Panther. Returning to Nan’s was out of the question, but there’s a much shinier and newer shop — a branch of Bedrock City, which has several locations in Houston — up on Washington Avenue. It’s actually next door to my doctor, even (which is convenient for him, since he’s a big nerd too).

I went in and picked 5 or 6 titles, and then filled out their pull-list paperwork. They had my name, my email, my physical address, and I even provided a credit card number after we discussed the fact that I might not drop by for a month or so at a time. “If we have your card, we’ll just charge you for them after a month or two, and nobody worries about it.” Fine by me! Let’s do this! I had the guy review the paperwork to ensure all was squared away — this turns out to be important — and left looking forward to my comics.

I got busy. I ride a lot, and work’s been crazy. I was driving by Bedrock today, though, and — fueled by the knowledge that Black Panther #2 had just come out; n.b. I bought the first one when I was in there in January or February, so this is what “monthly” looks like for some titles — I stopped by to pick up my comics. I was even a little excited!

The girl at the desk, though, killed that with a quickness. “We don’t have a pull list for Farmer,” she said after checking the computer.

WAT.

“I’m pretty sure you do.”

She poked around a bit, opened a drawer, and pulled my form out of some kind of dead letter file. On the front was a PostIt saying that, because they didn’t have my phone number, they couldn’t set up the pull.

Mind you, they reviewed my paperwork back in April, and pronounced it find. Plus, my email address was RIGHT THERE ON THE FORM, in the box marked “email,” so it’s not like they couldn’t reach me. Even if they were dead set on having the phone number for the pull (which the guy in January didn’t care about), you’d think they could’ve reached out by email to get the phone number. These are people who, presumably, also care about comics, and understand that missing issues isn’t cool.

Apparently not. By now, I’ve missed at least one issue of everything on my list other than Panther, which (as I said) just came out.

I bought that, and only that, and told them not to bother with the pull after all.

Fuck you, Bedrock. I’ll buy the rest of the Panther issues somewhere else when they come out. The other titles I’ll get digitally, or buy the trade paperbacks when they come out. From AMAZON.

Why are comics shops in trouble? Shit like this right here, boyo. Shit like this right here.

(For the record, the girl behind the counter seemed to understand this was bullshit, but made clear the decision to behave this way wasn’t hers.)

HOWTO: Stealthily Market to Gays and Lesbians in the Early 1990s

This fascinating story details how, in the early 90s, Subaru (a) realized that their cars were surprisingly popular among a certain demographic and then (b) began explicitly marketing to that demographic, but without other groups really noticing.

What worked were winks and nudges. One ad campaign showed Subaru cars that had license plates that said “Xena LVR” (a reference to Xena: Warrior Princess, a TV show whose female protagonists seemed to be lovers) or “P-TOWN” (a moniker for Provincetown, Massachusetts, a popular LGBT vacation spot). Many ads had taglines with double meanings. “Get Out. And Stay Out” could refer to exploring the outdoors in a Subaru—or coming out as gay. “It’s Not a Choice. It’s the Way We’re Built” could refer to all Subarus coming with all-wheel-drive—or LGBT identity.

Check out the graphics — some of the stuff you’d noticed today (the rainbow flag sticker, e.g.), but plenty of it is very, very subtle. It’s like the evangelical dog-whistling that Bush and Cruz (& etc) have used, except not awful and evil.

Also, this bit makes me smile:

In response to the ads, Subaru received letters from a grassroots group that accused the carmaker of promoting homosexuality. Everyone who penned a letter said they’d never buy a Subaru again.

But the marketing team quickly discovered that none of the people threatening a boycott had ever bought a Subaru. Some of them had even misspelled “Subaru.”

“I’m gonna be honest with ya. I’d go buy another bag of pretzels.”

One of my favorite sketches ever is from a super obscure place: something called The New Show, which ran for a grand total of 9 episodes in 1984.

Produced by SNL founder and emperor Lorne Michaels, the show really only existed because of what we might call The Michaels Hiatus Period in SNL history. Sure, he founded the show in 1975, and ran it through 1980, but after 5 years he felt the need to seek out other opportunities. He left the show to Jean Doumanian, who was replaced after a single season by Dick Ebersol (who’s more of note for his role with NBC Sports, but whatever).

Anyway, so, Michaels is off doing other things after 1980. Late in his hiatus — he took SNL back in 1985 — Michaels was back with another sketch show. This one was entirely pre-taped, and had no shortage of serious talent, but for whatever reason it failed utterly.

I remember watching it, but hand to God the only bit I can say I truly remember is this: Roy’s Food Repair, featuring John Candy, Paul Simon, and Dave Thomas (among others). It’s the absurdity and the delivery that still kill, 32 years later.

Dept. of Completely AMAZING Obliviousness

Seen today, on my neighborhood’s Facebook group, where someone is actually upset that their new tax appraisal is more than 10% higher than last year (i.e., the homestead limit) because they added a pool, a two car garage, and an elevator.

Blind to privilege anon

In the future, you can watch your home burn down from anywhere in the world!

A Fort McMurray family had a Canary system, apparently, and so they were able to watch their home burn down in real time on their phones. The fire comes in through the window at the left.

There’s audio. You can hear the glass breaking, and, eventually (but far too late), the smoke detectors going off around the time visibility becomes 0. The video continues after you have no more meaningful visuals, but given that audio continues the whole time I’m not sure if this is because the smoke was too thick, or because the video element perished ahead of the rest of the device.

In any case: Eeek.

Are you guys watching The Americans?

You love it? Yeah? Well, have I got a story for you. Turns out, the whole thing is based on truth — including the idea that the kids wouldn’t even know their parents’ real identities. Tim and Alex Foley were caught completely by surprised when, in 2010, the FBI raided their home and took their parents away in handcuffs. (It was the same operation that netted Anna Chapman, as it happens.)

Born in Canada to “illegal” agents just like Paige and Henry on the FX show, they eventually naturalized as American citizens living in Cambridge. Both citizenships have been rescinded thanks to their parents’ clandestine careers, so the only passports they hold are Russian — i.e., a country to which neither have a real connection.

[Via MeFi.)

Friendly reminder: Cops can steal your cash for no reason. You probably can’t get it back.

An Arkansas court has ruled that the $20K taken from him during a traffic stop — during which he was not even ticketed, let alone arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime — will not be returned.

Back in July 2013, Guillermo Espinoza was travelling with his girlfriend to Texas, when they were pulled over by the Arkansas State Police. During the stop, a drug dog alerted to a computer bag. Inside, police found $19,894 in cash, which they promptly seized. No contraband was found during the stop.

Although prosecutors in Hot Spring County never charged Espinoza with a crime, they filed a complaint to forfeit his cash in civil court. Espinoza challenged the forfeiture, arguing that “the stop, search and seizure by law enforcement officers was unreasonable, unlawful and unconstitutional” and violated the Fourth Amendment. He also submitted paychecks and tax filings to show that his seized cash was “lawful earnings,” and not drug money. “The state should not be permitted to profit from its own wrongdoing,” he added.

The courts disagreed, because (presumably) they prefer not to give up money once they have it, especially when the victim in this case of literal highway robbery lacks the resources to force true accountability.

HOWTO: Extort Prisoners and Their Families, and Make Everyone Else Pay For It

Step one is to establish extortionate long distance rates as the only possible way to talk to inmates. In the world you and I live in, long distance costs are effectively zero; not so for prisoners, where $14 a minute isn’t unheard of.

These rates are decided by legal limits, not actual costs; prison phone providers have repeatedly gone to court to prevent the FCC from imposing rate caps here; those suits are ongoing — but the cap is still a very high 11 cents per minute.

Step two? Eliminate actual visits in favor of video calls with absurdly high per-minute charges.

Travis County ended all in-person visitations in May 2013, leaving video visitation as the exclusive method for people on the outside to communicate with the incarcerated. But Travis County is only on the leading edge of a new technological trend that threatens to abolish in-person visitation across the country. Over 600 prisons in 46 states have some sort of video visitation system, and every year, more of those facilities do away with in-person visitation.

[...]

For the families of the 2.3 million incarcerated Americans nationwide, crippling costs are part and parcel of supporting a loved one in jail. A sweeping survey of families by the Ella Baker Center showed that more than 1 in 3 families goes into debt just to cover the costs of keeping in touch with their loved one. Of everyone pouring money into those systems, 87% are women.

These fees are the linchpin in an elaborate racket between telecommunications providers, prisons and local governments. The business model for the three major prison telecoms is built around long-term contracts that establish them as the sole provider in a given county or state. In order to win these contracts, the major companies promise each county or state “site commissions” — a euphemism for kickbacks. These deals are lucrative: In Los Angeles County, for example, it brings in a baseline, contractual guarantee of $15 million a year. In some counties, this money trickles back down to the prisons.

Both of these plans make it much, much more difficult for those inside to maintain relationships and connections with friends and family outside — which is absolutely counterproductive. Having an active, non-felon support network upon parole or release has been shown over and over to keep people from ending up back behind bars.

The minute you set up a system where people can literally get rich in the prison industry, you have fucked up, because rapacious soulless assholes will have absolutely zero problem screwing these people over. Repeatedly. The end result is a net higher cost to society, because the worse we make prison, the higher the recidivism rates go — which means we all end up paying Big Prison more money to house more prisoners for more years.

Prison operations companies and those that feed at the same trough see this as a feature, not a bug.

Dept. of You Have Got To Be Shitting Me.

JoePa knew 40 years ago.

Throughout most of the Sandusky scandal, Joe Paterno claimed that he was unaware that his assistant coach was sexually abusing children; 2012′s Freeh Report showed that Paterno was aware of a 1998 incident and told Sandusky he could keep coaching. Today’s opinion from Judge Glazer—relying on sworn deposition from numerous witnesses—holds that Paterno knew about Sandusky’s behavior much earlier.

From the decision:

Sandusky was employed by PSU as an Assistant Football Coach and Assistant Professor of Physical Education from 1969 until his retirement in 1999.1 PMA claims Sandusky committed several acts of molestation early in his career at PSU: in 1976, a child allegedly reported to PSU’s Head Football Coach Joseph Paterno, that he (the child) was sexually molested by Sandusky; in 1987, a PSU Assistant Coach is alleged to have witnessed inappropriate contact between Sandusky and a child at a PSU facility; in 1988, another PSU Assistant Coach reportedly witnessed sexual contact between Sandusky and a child; and also in 1988, a child’s report of his molestation by Sandusky was allegedly referred to PSU’s Athletic Director.

BigFootball is a cancer.

“I’m John Laurens in the place to be!”

A few fine quotes about Hamiltons’ pal John Laurens:

[Laurens] became close friends with his fellow aides-de-camp, Alexander Hamilton and the General Marquis de Lafayette. He showed reckless courage at the battles of Brandywine, Germantown in which he was wounded, and Monmouth, where his horse was shot out from under him. After the battle of Brandywine, Lafayette observed that, “It was not his fault that he was not killed or wounded … he did every thing that was necessary to procure one or the other.”

Unfortunately, his luck ran out at the 1782 Battle of the Combahee River in South Carolina, when he was only 27. Washington said

In a word, he had not a fault that I ever could discover, unless intrepidity bordering upon rashness could come under that denomination; and to this he was excited by the purest motives.

And, of course, from Hamilton himself:

I feel the deepest affliction at the news we have just received at the loss of our dear and inestimable friend Laurens. His career of virtue is at end. How strangely are human affairs conducted, that so many excellent qualities could not ensure a more happy fate! The world will feel the loss of a man who has left few like him behind; and America, of a citizen whose heart realized that patriotism of which others only talk. I feel the loss of a friend whom I truly and most tenderly loved, and one of a very small number.

John Laurens is buried in land that is now a Trappist monastery (Mepkin Abbey) in Moncks Corner, South Carolina.

(Laurens was the only of Hamilton’s crowd to die before he did. Hercules Mulligan died in his eighties, and is buried at Trinity Church, which is also where you’ll find Hamilton’s tomb. Lafayette died at 76; he’s interred in Paris, covered in small part by soil brought over from Bunker Hill. An American flag always flies over his grave.)

The ongoing collapse of the justice facade

We’re systematically making the justice system increasingly unfair to those least able to fight back: the poor.

The situation in South Dakota highlights the insanity of this. South Dakota charges a defendant $92 an hour for his public defender, owed no matter the outcome of the case. If a public defender spends 10 hours proving that her client is innocent, the defendant still owes the lawyer $920, even though he committed no crime and his arrest was a mistake.

Failure to pay is a crime. Someone who qualifies as indigent may be acquitted, only to be convicted of being too poor to pay for the legal services the Constitution requires the state to provide.

My superpower is Excel combined with an unseemly attachment to numbers.

When I was first riding pretty seriously as an adult, back in 2014, I tried to keep up a hundred-miles-per-week goal, and I tracked it in Excel.

Obviously, that 2014 sheet is kind of depressing now, since it shows me doing exactly that for weeks on endf — rom June until the week I got hurt in November, and then a loooong sequence of zero mile weeks starts up.

When I started riding again, after rehab in spring of last year, I started a new sheet. I was weak, obviously, and was turning in at best one or two rides a week for a long time. My first ride in that sheet was in the week ending 3/29/15, but I didn’t get over 70 miles in a week until June, and I didn’t top 100 again until the week ending July 19, when I rode my first significant distance post-injury at the Katy Flatland ride. I skipped the century in favor of the “metric century,” i.e. 100 kilometers, or 62 miles. So that week’s a bit of a holiday for me.

In all, I had 15 weeks at 100 miles or better in 2015. I finished up with a shade under 2,800 miles for the year, which I’m kind of proud of given the slow start and the fact that I missed the entire first quarter.

I’m back in the thick of it now. My goal is still 100 a week, but now I have a long term goal, too: I want 5,000 miles in 2016. I’m on track for it, too — slightly ahead, even. For the year, I’m at 1,714 miles, with an average of about 97 per week.

Anyway, it occurred to me to check what my actual mileage and average was since that Katy ride last summer, and now i know: In the 42 weeks since then, I’ve ridden 3,806 miles, averaging about 90.6 per week.

I’ll take it.

As predicted: More law enforcement overreach

The illegally collected NSA eavesdropping data will soon be used for normal policing despite earlier assurances that the information was being collected only for “national security” reasons in “terrorism” cases.

As wise people have been pointing out since, well, 12 September 2001:

It’s all another sobering reminder that any powers we grant to the federal government for the purpose of national security will inevitably be used just about everywhere else. And extraordinary powers we grant government in wartime rarely go away once the war is over. And, of course, the nifty thing for government agencies about a “war on terrorism” is that it’s a war that will never formally end.

Forget EGOT. The new hotness is MacPEGOT.

What’s EGOT? It’s when you’ve won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. That’s a rarefied group — think Richard Rodgers, or Rita Moreno, or Audrey Hepburn, or Mel Brooks.

What’s a MacPEGOT? It’s an EGOT winner who’s also bagged the MacArthur and the Pulitzer, and Lin-Manuel Miranda is well on his way.

  • Miranda won two Tonys in 2008, for his first musical In the Heights.

  • He picked up his first Grammy the next year, for the show’s soundtrack album, and then got another this year, for the soundtrack to Hamilton.

  • He wrote a song (with Tom Kitt) for the Tony Awards in 2014, and won an Emmy for it.

  • And, of course, this year he’s picked up the MacArthur and the Pulitzer.

Turns out, the only one he doesn’t have is an Oscar. But he’s doing the music for an upcoming Disney animated feature (“Moana”), and a filmed adaptation of Hamilton seems inevitable, so…

Oh, we should probably mention that “MacPEGOT” isn’t actually a thing yet, because no one’s done it. (Only Richard Rodgers and Marvin Hamlisch have added the Pulitzer to their EGOT.)

(There’s obviously a Wikipedia page about the EGOT, which helpfully includes lists of folks with 3 of the 4 EGOT awards.)

Dept. of Turnabout-Is-Fair-Play

You may or may not be aware of the fact that Antoine Fuqua is remaking the 1960 classic The Magnificient Seven; he’s pulled together a hell of a cast for this retread — Denzel, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, D’Onofrio — but at the end of the day it still makes me ask “um, why?”

However, in discussion of this on Facebook, something actually interesting cropped up. I’m assuming anyone reading this is aware that the original Magnificent Seven was itself a US retelling of Akira Kurosawa‘s 1954 film Seven Samurai. Remakes are one thing, but cross-cultural adaptations can actually be interesting.

Such adaptations are mostly east to west, at least heretofore, but turns out, Japanese cinema can do it, too. In 2013, they made an adaptation of Eastwood’s 1992 Oscar-winner. Ken Watanabe stars; it’s also called Unforgiven, at least in English (in Japan, it’s apparently “Yurusarezaru Mono”).

Here’s the trailer:

I think I need to see this.

So, I did a thing again.

In cycling, we talk about the “century” ride, which is 100 miles. The first day of the MS150 has three starting points, so you can choose your own level of difficulty. If you start in Waller, you do 75 miles. If you start in Katy, it’s 85. And if you start at Tully Stadium on the west side of Houston proper, your first day is a century.

When I did my first MS150 in 2013, that’s where I started, and on that day I notched my first century since the Reagan administration. I rode from there in 2014, too, on my second MS; here’s the summary of that ride:

Screen Shot 2016 04 17 at 12 45 51 PM

My time two years ago was better than my time in 2013, but not substantially so. After that ride, I got much more serious about cycling. I started going to regular rides with people who’d kick my ass, and I got strong enough to hang with them. I lost more weight. I even bought a fancy new bicycle to facilitate go-fast behavior. I averaged in excess of 100 miles per week for most of the year.

Then, of course, there was the crash. In November of 2014, I had a little mishap that resulted in pretty serious broken bone, surgery, two hospital stays, and the inability to walk for three months. I was off the bike for six months, and I was weak as hell when I got back on it.

But I kept at it.

And here we are. Yesterday, I rode my first century since day one of the 2014 MS150.

Screen Shot 2016 04 17 at 12 46 08 PM

I’m still not a speed demon, but I’m pretty damn happy about turning in a post-injury time over an hour faster than my 2014 effort. I’m not super excited about yesterday’s performance; I didn’t feel particularly strong, and felt like I was capable of better — maybe it was nutrition, or a failure to taper properly; I dunno. But I’m happy about the trendline. And I couldn’t possibly be more thankful for the people who helped me get here: Erin, first and foremost; my team at Karbach Brewing; and my friends from my Tuesday/Thursday rides.

Now: when’s the next ride?

(PS: If you’d like, it’s still possible to donate to the 2016 MS150; this is my fundraising link — I’d be much obliged!)

Remember my post about Mississippi?

Well, Talking Points Memo has noticed the same thing:

The economy in Mississippi is different from those many other states that have recently addressed legislation impacting the LGBT community. The state, which has one of the lowest GDPs in the country, is not home to any Fortune 500 companies, lacks a significant tech sector, and has no major pro sports teams.

With relatively nascent LGBT movement, Mississippi was not ripe for the kind of backlash the country has seen recently in Georgia and North Carolina, where Atlanta and Charlotte house major national corporations, more established LGBT communities, and cosmopolitan attitudes. Mississippi has no major metropolitan area.

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, the executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, a LGBT advocacy group that does work in Mississippi and North Carolina, told TPM that Mississippi lacks the “nexus where the corporate world meets the political world meets the cultural world” that exists in states like Georgia and North Carolina.

[...]

“The political climate in Mississippi remains quite conservative on the whole. We are seeing increasing levels of support for LGBT issues around the kitchen table and anecdotally in families, but when you look at, say the public discourse say around the Confederate flag issue, I think that’s a very accurate barometer of how conservative the rhetoric and discourse in the public square continues to be in Mississippi,” Beach-Ferrara told TPM.

In which I’m nerdy about keyboards

So I have a great keyboard, but it turns out one of the things that I really love about it — fantastic mechanical switches that feel really nice under my fingers — also makes it kind of loud, and even though I work at home, turns out I’m on the phone a LOT. And even though I use a headset most of the time, the Kinesis is clickyclacky enough that people ask me to mute ALL THE DAMN TIME.

Well, since the Kinesis — which was a gift from a pro bono client ten years ago, which shocks the hell out of me; who makes keyboards that last ten years? — really needs some TLC, I figured I’d try out one of the more well-reviewed other ergo keyboards in the interim: the Microsoft Sculpt.

Yeah, I know. But, turns out, lots of Mac nerds love it, and it’s cheap (or, at least, it’s cheap compared to the Kinesis, and so now I’m typing this on one.

It’s true: key feel is, while inferior to the mechanicals on the Kinesis, still far better than I’d expected. But it’s a different beast. All ergo keyboards have some idiosyncrasies; my Kinesis has for years been the functional equivalent of typing on an RPN calculator. Guests just can’t use it. But it’s not just the radical shape of the thing — even though the keys are essentially in a standard Qwerty layout, the modifiers are all over the place. I’ve been hitting enter with my right thumb for a decade.

Space is there, too. Backspace and delete are under your left thumb. Control, command, and alt are thumb keys on the Kinesis layout, too. That’s not all, either; the arrow keys are split between left and right (below the bottom row on the left) and up and down (same position on the right). To describe the Kinesis as eccentric is to understate things rather dramatically, but holy hell is it comfortable once you get the hang of it. (Obviously, all this assumes a pretty complete committement to touch-typing; the last time I checked, I was somewhere north of 90 words per minute.)

Microsoft’s entry here is almost quotidian compared to my Old Reliable. It’s still goofy compared to a flat keyboard, but it’s far closer to the norm than the Kinesis. It’s got a normal (but split) spacebar. The arrows are in an inverted T on the right, as you’d expect. The biggest shocks for me, in terms of adaptation, are doubtless to be

  • The placement of control/command/option on either side of the space bar, which isn’t terribly comfortable, and is especially hostile to the motions I’ve learned on the Kinesis for Cmd-Tab and such; and
  • The utterly baffling choice they’ve made with the number row.

Of the second point, let me explain. On the old keyboard the split was logical: 1-5 on the left and 6-0 on the right. This allows the keyboard to be used just as a traditional touch typist would, and it’s a critical thing.

Microsoft has, once again, gone its own way for no discernible reasons (and have apparently been doing this since their first “Natural” keyboard back in the 1990s). The numbers are unbalanced; the left hand handles 1 through 6, with 7-0 on the right. This might seem like a minor change, but as I noted it’s like nails on a chalkboard for anyone that actually knows how to type.

Plus, numbers aren’t the end of it — obviously, if the number row is shifted left, so too are the shifted versions of those keys; shift-8 is asterisk on most any keyboard, but now the eight and the asterisk are in the wrong spot. Plus the keys to the right of zero are now in the wrong spot, too (hyphen/underscore and plus/equals).

It’s a little thing, but it may well be enough to have me send this thing back. I can’t even fix it with remapping software, because there aren’t enough keys on the top row to shift things right (backspace is to the right of plus/equals).

The tl;dr here is that yeah, once again, I’ve run into a place where Microsoft subverts an agreed-upon standard for no good goddamn reason. What IS it with those guys?

No, YOU’RE a two-rotor wankel

Even people who aren’t gearheads tend to be at least provisionally aware that the Mazda RX-7 and RX-8 used a very different sort of engine than pretty much every other car. While the rest of the auto world had long since settled on a piston-and-cylinder design, the RX cars used something else: the Rotary or Wankel engine.

I knew this, too, and even had a vague idea how it actually worked — just a lot MORE vague than my understanding of conventional cylinder engines. However, if you’re curious, this excellent video runs down exactly how rotaries work by walking you through the actual parts involved (in this case, from a 1985 Rx-7). It’s pretty awesome.

You may have also noticed that, well, not only were the Mazda RX cars the only cars to use these things, but not even Mazda makes them anymore. Why is that? Well, fortunately, the same guy also made a video about why the rotary engine is dead. Again, I knew some of this, but not the underlying causes for them. Great, very accessible work here.

The tl;dr here, though, is kind of simple: because of the way the engine works, there’s an irregularly shaped combustion chamber, and that leads to inefficient combustion. A rotary is absolutely going to end up emitting unburnt fuel, which is terrible for fuel economy and terrible for emissions. The problem is exasperated by the fact that combustion only happens on one side of the chamber, which leads to enormous temperature differentials, which leads to problems in sealing, which means inefficient combustion, which means bad emissions and bad fuel economy again.

But watch the videos. He explains is really well.

Mississippi, Goddamn.

I grew up in Mississippi. It’s not a secret; most people know this about me. It’s also not a secret that I left as soon as I was able. I always knew that I would. I attended college out of state, and have made my home in Texas since soon after college. Mississippi was never an option for me.

I cannot say their governor’s enthusiastic adoption of a discrimination bill surprises me at all; that ship has sailed. Once the issue was raised, there was never any doubt in my mind that Mississippi would lead the pack rushing to adopt such a measure. Sure, other states did it, too, but the Magnolia State was right in the thick of it.

Then some interesting things happened. In Georgia, the governor — realizing just exactly what a shitstorm their bill would produce in terms of litigation costs and lost revenue — vetoed the measure, and reasonable people in that state breathed a sigh of relief.

Not so in North Carolina, where the aggressively retrograde governor beat Mississippi to the punch by approving a law perhaps even worse than Mississippi’s. As anyone with two brain cells could predict, the reactions were swift and furious. The law will absolutely not survive challenge on Constitutional grounds, but they’re already losing millions in tax revenue. PayPal cancelled a planned office there. Film and television productions are relocating. More costs will follow. Eventually, those costs, together with the growing litigation bill, will force the law in North Carolina off the books — perhaps even sooner than later, and perhaps even without a Federal court ruling. There are enough people there who will stand against bigotry. There are enough business interests who realize that hate isn’t a good business plan.

This is exactly why I find the Mississippi development more horrifying than the North Carolina one: North Carolina will reap the whirlwind and likely correct course. Mississippi will not, because they have very little to lose.

They do HAVE some industrial investment — Nissan has a factory north of Jackson, for example — but the kinds of investments that the tarheels are now losing really don’t consider Mississippi very often, and the ones that do aren’t the PayPals of the world because there’s no tech corridor to join.

With no immediate and obvious financial repercussions, it’ll stay on the books until it’s litigated away, which will take years (and millions that state doesn’t have). And when that inevitable happens and the law is struck down, the bigots there will moan and cry about “activist judges” or some shit, and the whole aggrieved idiot class will count themselves martyrs, and in the meantime more and more companies will have investigated Mississippi — land IS cheap, and cost of living IS low — and then passed them over because of the law, the workforce available, the lack of amenities in the metro areas, the more appealing locations in Alabama or Georgia or whatever, etc.

I’ve wondered, ever since I left, what it would take for Mississippi to make a real and substantive recovery, and leave the bottom of every list that matters. I even had hope about it at one point. Not any more, though; the leadership there is aggressively telling every smart kid with options that it is not the place for them, especially if they’re gay or trans or even a little weird. (I mean, good CHRIST I was a white, straight, upper-middle class preppy kid BORN THERE, and I never felt especially welcome 30 years ago. And it’s worse now.)

The Mississippi GOP has decided bigotry is a hill they’re willing to die on — they’re keeping the Treason Flag, and they want EVERYBODY to know how much they hate the queers, and that it’s legally okay to do so. I have no fucking idea how they pull out of this. I really, really don’t. It looks like a death spiral, which breaks my heart because I have family there, many of whom cannot leave for various reasons.

Bacon, bacon, bacon, bacon and bacon.

This excellent commercial for a British film download service stars Kevin Bacon, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Bacon, and Kevin Bacon. Enjoy:

(I think the best part is that the jerk — who turns 58 this summer — has aged so well he can plausibly reprise characters from 1980 (when he was 22), 1984, 1992, 1995, and 2000 in one commercial and have them all be immediately recognizable.)