Sunday, July 21, 2024

Wordle 1128 Hint

Hint: Failing to solve today's Wordle might be a blemish on your record, but it would be a very tiny blemish. A mere dapple, really.

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First Letter: S

Saturday, July 20, 2024

The Latest In A Series Of Attempts To Outsource My Entertainment Budget

Whereas, I intend to see Deadpool & Wolverine on the big screen, either on opening day or over opening weekend; and

Whereas, I intend to re-watch the first two Deadpool films over the coming week; and

Whereas, I intend to lean on Tamara to re-watch the first two, and go see the third, with me;

Be it resolved that the $25 Regal gift card on My Amazon Wish List would pay for my ticket, with some left over toward expensive concession stand goodies*, while the $50 gift card, also on My Amazon Wish List, would cover my ticket and Tamara's ticket with some left over for expensive concession stand goodies*.

Blessed are those who buy Regal gift cards for Tom to see Deadpool & Wolverine, for they shall be fondly remembered in Tom's future MCU reveries.

Final trailer (less funny, more tear-jerky than previous ones):



* Usually Tamara and I combined buy one large tub of popcorn, one soft drink, and one bottled water. And that's not cheap.

Max Borders Offers a Name for the Democratic Strategy I've Been Talking About

He calls it "The DNC Euphoria Wave Strategy."

Pick a random, but historically very short, time frame and you get the old saying "[time frame] is forever in politics." The usual minimum I see for that phrasing is in the three to six month range.

We are now less than four months from the 2024 presidential election ... a lot can still happen.

But if we take it as a given that among the things that are not going to happen are:

  1. Some kind of miraculous cognitive/energy bounce-back on Joe Biden's part or
  2. Some kind of moral/legal lapse on Trump's part that costs him the support of people who have continued to support him, or at least consider supporting him, after nearly eight years of too many moral/legal lapse stories to count;
Then the Democrats have two choices:
  1. They can reconcile themselves to losing the presidential election, possibly losing control of the US Senate, and almost certainly not gaining control of the House; or
  2. They can nominate someone other than Biden for president.
If the latter, they need to choose wisely and think about what they hope to accomplish.

If they're convinced that nobody can beat Trump, then they might nominate a pair of obvious losers (partial list to choose from: Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Gavin Newsom, Gretchen Whitmer, Beto O'Rourke) just to get those losers out of the way by letting them crater this year so that the field is clear for someone viable in 2028. I don't think that's a great strategy -- "fuck it, we're not even really going to try this year" has longer-term consequences of its own -- but I suppose they might go that way.

If they're convinced that someone could beat Trump, they need to pick that someone. It needs to be someone who already has near-100% name recognition. It needs to be someone most voters at least like (to persuade "swing" voters") and Democratic voters unconditionally love (to get and keep the base highly motivated for more than three months).

The name I've heard mentioned most often for such a candidate is Michelle Obama. Everyone knows who she is. Most Americans seem to like her. Most Democrats seem to adore her. She has experience on the campaign trail and with donor relations. She doesn't have a personal political record to live down, but she picks up at least some reflected credit for her husband's record (as you may recall, that husband was elected TWICE).

Borders mentions Obama, and also Oprah Winfrey.

I don't think the latter would be a good pick, for several reason. A big one is that she's 70 years old and the electorate seems at least somewhat age-sensitive lately. Obama is ten years younger, meaning that even after eight years in office she would still be younger than either Trump or Biden were at their first inaugurations.

There might be other good "euphoria wave" picks, but Obama does fit the bill.

She would instantly re-energize her party's voter and donor bases, and that energy would likely remain high through election day.

She would also instantly re-set the race where "reluctant or not fully decided" voters are concerned.

If this election cycle was a baseball game, right now the Democrats would be in the bottom of the ninth inning, down by three runs with no one on base and with the count 0 and 2 on a very weak batter. What are the chances that that weak batter, and two others, get hits to load the bases, then a fourth batter hits a home run to win the game?

A "euphoria wave" strategy would make this election a whole new ball game.

It's also useful to recall that this business of everyone knowing by April or May who the major party nominees were going to be is very recent  -- the "national binding primary" system only dates from 1972. Even after that, in 1976, there were enough uncommitted delegates at the Republican National Convention that it wasn't until the actual balloting that the public knew whether Gerald Ford or Ronald Reagan would be the nominee. That was in late August.

Whether it feels like it or not, this is actually early days.

Wordle 1127 Hint

Hint: Trying to get a handle on today's Wordle? Perhaps you should hire a private investigator (ask Ernest Tidyman for a recommendation/referral).

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First Letter: S

Friday, July 19, 2024

The Biden Updates Today Include ...

NBC NewsBiden's family starts discussing his possible exit plan from the 2024 race

Members of President Joe Biden’s family have discussed what an exit from his campaign might look like, according to two people familiar with the discussions.  ... White House spokesman Andrew Bates denied that any such exit discussions are happening among the family.


Vice President Kamala Harris is set to address a network of major Democratic donors on short notice Friday afternoon, according to two people invited to the call. ... It is unclear whether Ms. Harris plans to encourage the restive donor base to calm down or to deliver some other message. A campaign official who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter said Ms. Harris was joining the call at the request of the White House.

Are either of the stories true? I don't know. They're obviously leaked/planted, but the questions are by whom and for what purpose? They could be "official" leaks/plants, intended to pave the way for  and soften the blow of a drop-out, or they could be "unofficial" leaks/plants, intended to encourage a drop-out.

I strongly suspec the former. But as always, I could be wrong.

 

I Can Only See One Purpose ...

... to this possibility:


[Hat tip -- Martha Bueno]

The sole plausible purpose I can see for a Harris/Buttigieg ticket is using the 2024 nomination as a way of letting two losers eliminate themselves from consideration 2028 so maybe they can pick themselves some winners.

Which does make sense, if the Democrats believe that nobody has a chance of beating Trump in November.

Interestingly, I had one of those rare "turn on the TV news" lapses a couple of hours ago ... and ran across a Buttigieg speech for literally the first time ever during his tenure as Secretary of Transportation. Looked like the Department of Transportation equivalent of a Rotary Club talk. So I suspect maybe he's being talked up outside of Abramson's X feed.

If I Was A Conspiracy Theorist ...

... I might ascribe a great deal of significance to a global IT systems failure resulting in -- among other things -- travel disruptions, caused by a cybersecurity firm which helped perpetrate the "Russian hack of the DNC" scam and occurring in the hours likely preceding the Democratic Party's presidential nominee dropping out of the race.

Just sayin' ...

Wordle 1126 Hint

Hint: "Allude" is a more casual/indirect form of this palindrome.

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First Letter: R

Thursday, July 18, 2024

He Is Not A Fat Lady ...

... but WaPo reports he is singing:

Former president Barack Obama has told allies in recent days that President Biden’s path to victory has greatly diminished and he thinks the president needs to seriously consider the viability of his candidacy, according to multiple people briefed on his thinking. ... Behind the scenes, Obama has been deeply engaged in conversations about the future of Biden’s campaign, taking calls from many anxious Democrats, including former House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and has shared his views about the president’s challenges, according to people with knowledge of the calls, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. A spokesperson for Obama declined to comment.

As I've previously stated, I think the maximum impact/benefit would come from Biden announcing his withdrawal/endorsement right about the time Donald Trump walks onto the Republican National Convention stage to accept the GOP presidential nomination this evening. But Friday, or even Saturday, would also be reasonable when it comes to minimizing or eliminating any post-convention "Trump bump" in the news cycle and in polling.

Wordle 1125 Hint

Hint: Like the members of  Lambda Lambda Lambda -- the ones at Adams College, anyway.

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First Letter: N

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

I've Got A Gut Feeling ...

... about this.

But my gut is unclear on the matter. Top two possibilities:

  1. We will hear soon that, after a "meeting with advisors" under cover of the COVID-19 claim, Biden has reluctantly decided to withdraw from the presidential race; or
  2. We will hear soon that Biden has tragically succumbed to COVID-19, which IMHO would more likely be the American equivalent of the Russian "accidental fall from a window" than the truth.

Wait ... "Only?"

Axios reports on an AP/NORC poll:

Overall, 70% of U.S. voters* want Biden to withdraw from the 2024 race, while only 57% want to see former President Trump withdraw.

Emphasis mine.

In what universe is 57% an "only" kind of number? I could see using "only" next to 5%, maybe even 10%, but not 57%.

* Contra the Axios reportage, the poll is not a poll of "voters." It's based on data collected from "a bi-monthly multi-client survey using NORC’s probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population ... with adults aged 18 and over representing the 50 states and the District of Columbia." Only (cough) 86% of the respondents claim to be registered to vote.

Initial Versus Current Impressions of JD Vance

Back in 2019, I rather liked JD Vance's autobiography/memoir, Hillbilly Elegy.

Last night, I started watching the film version, and expect to finish it tonight. I'm also planning a re-read of the book, because both the differences between the book (as I remember it) and the film, and the differences -- if they are differences in him and not just differences of impression -- between JD Vance circa the book's publication and JD Vance now have me reconsidering my initial impressions.

My thinking at the moment, as is often the case, substantially resembles that of, and/or is prompted by another writer. In this case the former. I was talking about it with Tamara this morning, then noticed Kevin D. Williamson opining in the same vein at The Dispatch:

[H]e is so transparently a man who will say whatever his betters require him to say to get what he wants from them. Telling people with money and power what they want to hear is the only consistent throughline in his career, from Hillbilly Elegy to the present day. Once an appendage of Peter Thiel’s, now he is an appendage of Donald Trump’s after a long and bitter apprenticeship of sycophancy. ... Vance has every indicator that he is capable of being a man who profoundly doesn’t matter. It is a kind of skill.  Vance is whomever Trump needs him to be -- the perfect would-be vice president ...

While the film version does give quite a bit of credit to Vance's "Mamaw" for intervening to keep him off the worst tracks, as does the book, the combination of the film version and Vance's subsequent path has me thinking of him less as the "incredibly lucky, but to a large degree up by his own bootstraps" guy I thought I saw in the book and more as an "incredibly good at climbing the corporate/political ladder by kissing ass" type.

While I am definitely moving fast toward Williamson's evaluation of Vance's character, I'm less sure of Williamson's dismissal of Vance as a likely contributor to Republican success in November:

In the short term, Vance probably will not be much help to the Trump campaign. He may help to motivate a few disaffected young men to climb up out of Elon Musk’s digital sewer for 20 minutes and actually cast a vote, but the Trumpist base he is meant to excite is already excited .... the idea that Vance will help the campaign connect better with Rust Belt and Midwestern voters is nonsense: Vance is an Ivy League lawyer and Silicon Valley money-monkey whose literary success came from writing about poor white Appalachians rather than writing to them or for them.

I think Williamson may be under-estimating the appeal of fake "populists" to regular people.

If a guy who inherited hundreds of millions of dollars and claims to have ended up with billions (although fewer billions than if he'd invested his inheritance in an S&P 500 indexed mutual fund instead of embarking on a multi-decade career as a "famous for being famous" real estate scammer) can sell himself, with considerable success, as a "man of the people," Vance probably can too.

Wordle 1124 Hint

Hint: Today's Wordle is the most ... or at least considerable.

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First Letter: Q

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

So, What Are You Buying for Amazon Prime Day?

I went "zero cash out of pocket because I racked up $30 in gift card credit over the last week through various rewards programs" and bought a guitar pedal board (not an affiliate link). I've only got two pedals (chorus and delay) and a third on the way from Temu (compression), so I don't really need a big one. If I pick up a fourth pedal it will be a looper. A fifth would be a wah.

Tamara went bigger -- after the ER scare last weekend, she finally decided to get a "fitness tracker" that monitors heart rate (not an affiliate link).

Y'all?

That Word, "Instant" ... I Do Not Think It Means What They Think It Means

Screen shot of an ad I just saw on the web:



For the Security/Anonymity Minded ...

There's a cool tutorial at The Intercept today on how to set up Signal (an encrypted messaging app) without revealing your phone number.

It looks like a real pain in the ass, and there are alternatives to Signal without the phone number requirement. But Signal is also quite popular and it might be easier to go this route than convince your friends to switch to something else.

On the other hand, unless those friends also pull the "not my phone number" schtick, then any government agency wanting to find you could just subpoena their phone numbers and torture them into revealing your identity, right?

Alternative method to The Intercept method: Instead of trying to find a pay phone, find some way to use a stranger's or business's land line.

OK, Let's Take One of the Conspiracy Theories Seriously, Just For the Sake of Argument

I'm not seeing a lot of this one, but I'm seeing some of it:

"The attempted assassination of Donald Trump was faked by Trump / the Trump campaign."

Do I believe that to be the case? No.

Why don't I believe that to be the case? Because I've seen no evidence to suggest that it's the case.

But I can make a case for how it's not impossible.

  1. The conspirators recruit a naive, troubled 20-year-old who's also clearly a poor marksman (cut from his school's rifle team). He's the "patsy." Precisely what he believes himself to be doing or why is unknown -- perhaps he thought he was a local recruit to the "Trump Security Team?" -- but he's induced in some way to crawl up on a rooftop with an AR-15 so that he can be shot dead when ...
  2. An actual shooter, who can put bullets where he wants them to go, opens fire and intentionally hits a few bystanders to cause panic, while ...
  3. Donald Trump ducks down behind the podium, slaps the side of his head with a small packet of fake blood, lets himself get dogpiled by Secret Service agents, then gets up, raises his fist, and yells "fight." Instant "the man meets the moment" energy.
How many conspirators would that require? At the absolute minimum, Trump and the two shooters. But really several others. There'd need to be a doctor willing to hide the fact that there was no real wound. There'd need to be either an operation to distract the Secret Service probably involving several people, or one or more conspirators within the Secret Service, or both.

And then everything would have to go perfectly.

And then everyone involved would have to either remain silent, or be silenced, or be discredited if they talked.

"Not impossible" is not the same thing as "plausible." It would take credible evidence to get from the former to the latter, and I haven't seen any such evidence yet.

Wordle 1123 Hint

Hint: Don't be deceived -- today's Wordle is just a distraction!

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First Letter: D

Monday, July 15, 2024

Some Early Thoughts On That One Thing (You Know The Thing)

I don't fear contradicting the "official narrative" on any subject.

Nor am I inclined to reflexively write off "conspiracy theories" without actually looking at the supposed evidence for them.

So far, the evidence I've seen for a conspiracy in the Trump assassination attempt comes to:


THIS SPACE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK

Of course, me not having seen any evidence doesn't mean there isn't any evidence. If there is any evidence, and I see that evidence, I'll re-think.

Based on what I have seen, this so far looks like the work of a single, not very competent, wingnut who got far luckier than he had any right to expect to get, and still managed to fuck it up. Because:

  1. Bringing an AR-15 to a "sniper" situation is the equivalent of bringing a butter knife to a gunfight. It's a small-caliber round (barely larger than a .22 -- and if it is military-grade it is jacketed so as to tend to go through the target rather than mushrooming/fragmenting inside the target to produce more catastrophic injury). For sniper work you want at least a .30 caliber/7.62mm.
  2. Not being able to get a solid hit on a target the size of a fairly large human at 130 meters from a prone position is poor marksmanship even with an under-powered weapon like an AR-15. I guess the kid did fairly well if he was going for a head shot. But for that situation he should have been aiming center mass. He was clearly not properly trained for this thing.
So, let's think about this from two conspiracy standpoints:

  1. If the conspirators were, say, Democrats or Never-Trump Republicans who wanted to kill Trump, they would have either recruited a better shooter who could make the kill at that distance, or used a second shooter who could get the job done while Mr. Crooks was distracting the counter-sniper team.
  2. If the conspirators were MAGAts who wanted that heroic raised fist, etc., there wouldn't have been a shot that actually came anywhere near their hero, and certainly not within a couple of inches of killing him.
I'm open to evidence that tends to contradict those initial opinions. But those are my initial opinions.

And, of course, the obligatory disclaimer: I don't support political assassinations. I don't have a moral problem with murderous scumbags reaping the terrible karma they've sown, but I do have a moral problem with innocent bystanders being injured or killed. And as a practical matter I just don't think it's likely to produce good results.

Word PSA

cowardly, adj. Wanting courage; basely or weakly timid or fearful; pusillanimous; spiritless.

George W. Bush in particular seems to have a problem using this word properly.

In 2001, he used it to describe 19 men, armed with nothing but boxcutters, seizing control of multiple airliners and crashing them at the inevitable and predictable cost of their own lives. The 9/11 hijackers were certainly evil, but they were hardly "cowardly."

Over the weekend, Bush doubled down on the word, using it to describe a 20-year-old who climbed up onto a roof with (so far as I know) nothing but a single rifle and attempted to assassinate a politician with one of the most well-armed, best-trained bodyguard details in human history, said detail including a counter-sniper team. I have no idea what Thomas Matthew Crooks's motivations were, but the suggestion that he lacked courage is clearly stupid. Doubly stupid coming from a guy who got Daddy to swing an Air National Guard billet for him to avoid fighting in Vietnam ... then deserted.

Wordle 1122 Hint

Hint: You're gonna want a fainting couch, and possibly smelling salts, for this one.

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First Letter: S

Sunday, July 14, 2024

This Last Week Was One of Those That Left Me Feeling Like ...


I expect I'll be over it within the next few days, though.

Wordle 1121 Hint

Hint: Today's Wordle is an armed and dangerous killer! Approach with caution, especially if you happen to be a radio star!

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First Letter: V

Saturday, July 13, 2024

Within Limits ...

... that Android tablet I bought back in March (not an affiliate link) turned out to be a good choice.

As you may or may not remember, I bought it with a specific use in mind: I wanted to see if I could substitute a tablet with keyboard for my Chromebook as a "travel work rig."

I couldn't.

My requirements aren't for a crap ton of RAM or processing power. I mostly just visit web sites and edit text.

But I absolutely require the ability to run multiple tabs, accessible with one click (rather than by clicking three dots at the top right of the screen, opening a list of tabs, and going to the one I want), in both my browser and my text editor.

That doesn't seem to be a thing in Android. I have yet to find a working browser or text editor that does that.

High on the list, although not an absolute requirement, is the ability to run two screens. I have a USB travel monitor. It works with the Chromebook. It doesn't work with the tablet.

So, not a "daily driver," or even "traveling light" work machine.

Since March, the tablet has basically been an occasional "play Bejeweled" machine, something I can keep next to me while watching TV or in the car in case I'm stationary somewhere with wi-fi and want to check my email, etc.

Last night, on the way out the door to take Tamara to the emergency room, I grabbed it for the latter purpose. For the next six hours, as she mostly slept while awaiting a bunch of tests and test results, I used it to check email, do the day's Wordle, listen to a local radio station over the web, and, yes, plaay Bejeweled. I probably could have used it for messaging to update the rest of the family, but I had my phone and that was at least as easy.

So, decent buy.

And yes, Tamara is OK. Some ongoing symptoms -- consistent with a heart problem -- that I had been badgering her to get seen about got suddenly worse, and she finally gave in. EKG, chest X-ray, and contrast CT came back looking good. Still not sure what's going on, but now I'm not as worried about her ticker suddenly exploding or something. Definitely some bradycardia going on, though.

Wordle 1120 Hint

Hint: Actors do this with plays; politicians do it with legislation.

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First Letter: E

Friday, July 12, 2024

Wordle 1119 Hint

Hint: Today's Wordle brings an aftertaste of peanut butter, but only for about as long as it takes light to travel one fermi.

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First Letter: J

Thursday, July 11, 2024

OMG! DEFLATION!

OK, not really. Reuters reports that the Consumer Price Index fell 0.1% in June, but "Core CPI" still went up by 0.1%.

Keep that up for another month or two, and whoever's running as a Democrat for president by September will be claiming that Biden's policies "whipped inflation" (while the Trump campaign claims that the prospect of his return to the White House is "restoring consumer confidence").

But if CPI is still falling by the end of the year, we'll definitely see hand-wringing about deflation.

Wordle 1118 Hint

Hint: If Wordle ever appears in a movie, it will likely play this kind of role.

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First Letter: C

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

An Illustrated Prediction Concerning Likely Consequences of Certain Proposals


When You've Lost George Clooney ...

Per The Hill:

Last month, Clooney joined former President Obama and actor Julia Roberts for a buzzy and record-breaking Los Angeles fundraiser for Biden’s campaign. The event raised $30 million.

This month, though ...

It’s devastating to say it, but the Joe Biden I was with three weeks ago at the fund-raiser was not the Joe 'big F-ing deal' Biden of 2010. He wasn’t even the Joe Biden of 2020. He was the same man we all witnessed at the debate .... We are not going to win in November with this president. On top of that, we won't win the House, and we're going to lose the Senate.

I just can't see anything coming up for Biden except his drop-out. And I expect it to come between July 15 and July 18, specifically to steal the spotlight from Trump and the Republican National Convention.

Wordle 1117 Hint

Hint: Hint pickings are exceedingly slim for today's Wordle. Perhaps old John (the Duke of Lancaster) could lend a hand, or at least a glove to put one in?

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First Letter: G

Tuesday, July 09, 2024

What If The Coming Biden Drop-Out Was A Long-Term Plan?

I was probably wrong in December of 2021 when I thought that Joe Biden had no intention of seeking a second term as president.

And heck, I could be wrong in my prediction that he will drop out on or about July 18.

But assuming I'm not wrong, what if it's something other than what it looks like?

What it looks like:

Biden really, really, really, really wants to (or is at least under e.g. family pressure to) be the Democratic nominee, but is being dragged kicking and screaming toward an exit.

Alternative hypothesis:

At some point prior to the primaries, Biden decided he wasn't going to run again.

But he didn't want a messy primary season. He wanted considerable control over the nomination, even though he didn't want the nomination.

So he cleared the decks of plausible contestants by announcing his candidacy for re-election, meaning that there wouldn't be any serious primary contests ... and meaning that when he withdrew, very close to the actual nomination vote date, whichever successor he endorsed would be the inevitable nominee because no one else would have time to put together any kind of real effort to sway the voting delegates.

Maybe his cognitive situation went downhill faster than he expected, and maybe he's just gutsing it out a little longer to keep the withdrawal/nomination time frame compressed, but the hypothesis here is that he had already decided to drop out some time last year at the latest.

Maybe his chosen successor knows this is coming, maybe not. But I have noticed, over the last several months, rumors of Michelle Obama privately meeting with big party donors, and right before "that debate" there was a series of obviously planted stories about how she is no longer "close" with the Bidens. Does she have a campaign in waiting already pretty much set up?

This is just a hypothesis. It could become a testable/provable theory if source materials (e.g. correspondence, call logs, etc.) are eventually released. Or Biden might just come out and say so. In fact, if it's true, I expect him to say so after he leaves office, as a "legacy-builder" way of showing that he chose, rather than got forced, to quit. Mastermind rather than dimwit, so to speak.

Wordle 1116 Hint

Hint: As types of sounds go, today's Wordle is loud and usually considered unpleasant.

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First Letter: B

Monday, July 08, 2024

Election 2024: People Are Starting To Notice My Go-To Bellwether

Salena Zito, writing at RealClearPolitics:

Once a solid county for Democrats in statewide gubernatorial elections as well as federal elections for president, U.S. Senate, and Congress, Erie [County, Pennsylvania shocked the world when the county went from supporting President Obama by a whopping 16 percentage points in 2012 to supporting Donald Trump in 2016 by 40,000 votes. Four years later, Biden would win the county by roughly the same amount; in between, Democrats Josh Shapiro and John Fetterman would also win the county for governor and U.S. Senate, and a Republican won the county executive’s race for the first time in decades. In short -- win Erie, you win the state.

It's more of an "interviewing the man on the street" -- or, rather, the voters hanging out at the butcher shop -- piece. On a quick look, I don't see any county-specific presidential polling, so I can't say how it's going.

But I find it interesting that Erie County is starting to pop up as a "bellwether" with others, as it has with me for several years now (here and here, for example).

We can talk about "double haters" and "swing voters" all day long, but as I've written a bazillion times, the real key is getting out your vote. Erie County seems to be a recurring illustration of what happens when a candidate does, or doesn't, manage to do that.

In Praise of Longer Films

Michael Rooker's pitch for Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter 1, Kevin Costner's self-funded western, defends its length (per the Independent, riffing on a TMZ interview):

We’re used to 90-minute movies. Everything’s 90 minutes … Oh come on, give me a break … Get over that s***. Let’s watch a movie that actually tells a story, where you learn about the people and grow to like them, or hate them. It’s not all fast cut, cut, cut.

The movie didn't do well over its first weekend, and Rooker seems to think its three-hour running time in our "TikTokified" era is much of the reason.

I think he may be right. For some reason, people pay high ticket prices for the privilege of paying even higher concession stand prices ... but don't seem to want to get more than an hour-and-a-half of entertainment out of the deal. I'm not sure that's a new/TikTok-related thing, but it's definitely a thing.

Intermission: Horizon Trailer




I was actually thinking about the "long movie" thing over the weekend while watching Martin Scorcese's The Irishman (3 1/2 hours) for the third time.

It came to mind when I pointed out to Tamara that in The Irishman, Joe Pesci's character (Russell Buffalino) sends Robert De Niro's character (Frank Sheeran) to deliver weapons for the Bay of Pigs operation, while in JFK Pesci plays David Ferrie, who receives those weapons. JFK is another three-hour-plus movie I've watched and enjoyed many times.

I like a longer movie, if the writers, director, et al. can keep it interesting.

Granted, I like a long movie better at home, where I can hit "pause" for bathroom breaks, or even split it up over a couple of days.

And home is where I'll likely watch Horizon, simply because I don't do the theater thing as often lately and am saving my theater dollars for Deadpool & Wolverine later this month.

But if I was really wanting to hit the theater right now, Horizon might well be my pick.

Yes, I know. Two entirely different kinds of movie. But I've not seen a Deadpool flick on the big screen yet and want to.

End Credits: Deadpool & Wolverine Trailer



Wordle 1115 Hint

Hint: Three examples of today's Wordle: Point, triangle, sphere.

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First Letter: S

Sunday, July 07, 2024

Wordle 1114 Hint

Hint: A defined body of work, such as "the books of the Bible" or "the plays of Shakespeare."

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First Letter: C

Saturday, July 06, 2024

This is NOT Investment Advice, But It's How I "Buy The Dip"

Hypothetical Situation #1: You buy 1,000 shares of stock in Company A at a penny per share. The price rises to two cents per share. You sell your shares.

Hypothetical Situation #2: You buy 1,000 shares of stock in Company B at $100 per share. The price rises to $100.01 per share. You sell your shares.

In each case (excluding things like brokerage fees), you turned the same profit ... ten bucks. The difference is that in Hypothetical Situation #1 you risked $10 to earn $10, while in Hypothetical Situation #2 you risked $100k to earn $10.

I don't consider myself a cryptocurrency "investor" or "speculator" for the most part. I'm more interested in using cryptocurrency in commerce than I am in "buying low, selling high."

My usual version of "selling high" is that there's something I want to buy but I delay doing so until the US dollar price of whatever crypto I'm holding goes up versus the US dollar price I got it at such that my purchase leaves me with the same US dollar balance that I had at the former point.

But when Bitcoin takes a big price hit (as it has this last week for various reasons), I sometimes "buy the dip" by converting some of my BTC balance to a very-low-price cryptocurrency which has been falling as well, probably further/faster than BTC.

For example, yesterday I swapped about $50 worth of BTC (US dollar price $50-some-thousand per BTC) for about $50 worth of FIO (US dollar price about 2 cents per FIO). With swap fees, I think I paid about $52 worth of BTC for about $49 worth of FIO.

Over the next 30 days, I think it's a LOT more likely that FIO will double in price than that BTC will double in price (FIO was worth twice as much as it is now as recently as April; BTC has never been worth twice as much as it is now).

If FIO does about that well, I swap back and end up with a highter US dollar value in BTC than I had before. Not a huge amount of money, but not a huge amount at risk either.

I have secondary motives for picking FIO beyond it being very low in price.

One is that I like its purpose ("one identity for all your crypto"), which I've blogged about before.

Another is that in the past, I've done what I describe above and have ended up "making money." Not big money, but enough money for it to have been worth my time to mess around with it.

Wordle 1113 Hint

Hint: As "sneer" is a facial expression, today's Wordle is the verbal/audible equivalent.

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First Letter: S

Friday, July 05, 2024

Election 2024: The Money's Already Moving Elsewhere

Per NYT:

After several days of quiet griping and hoping that President Biden would abandon his re-election campaign on his own, many wealthy Democratic donors are trying to take matters into their own hands. ... A group of them is working to raise as much as $100 million for a sort of escrow fund, called the Next Generation PAC, that would be used to support a replacement candidate. ... Other donors are threatening to withhold contributions not only from Mr. Biden but also from other Democratic groups unless Mr. Biden bows out.

The authors (Kenneth P. Vogel, Theodore Schleifer, & Lauren Hirsch) aren't just speculating. They have the receipts, actual quotes from actual big money donors saying "nope, not this time, not for that guy."

Bill Kristol, with whom I seldom agree on much, opens his Friday musings at The Bulwark with "When, a week from now, President Biden will have withdrawn as a candidate for reelection ..."

My take:

Biden's scheduled for an interview with George Stephanopoulos today, to air on ABC at 8pm Eastern. Quite a few people think (and I agree) that the interview is his "last stand."

I don't expect him to announce his retirement in that interview, but I won't be terribly surprised if he does so either.

I expect that he'll wait to see whether the interview plays well enough with the public to get him back in the game.

I also expect that it will not, and that Kristol is right ... but perhaps a little off on the timing.

The Democrats are holding an early "virtual nomination" instead of waiting until their formal national convention (August 19-22).

Fox News suggests July 21 as the magic date for that nomination vote to be held. Biden needs to do the dropout/endorsement before the vote.

The Republican National Convention is schedule for July 15-18.

If I was a DNC strategist, I'd arrange for Biden to "address the nation" with his dropout/endorsement about the time I expect Donald J. Trump to walk on stage to accept the GOP nomination.

That would give the DNC a couple of days to complete preparations for a virtual nomination vote that doesn't include Biden and does include his endorsed replacement.

It would give the Democrats a month to build up to a huge beauty pageant / rally for the replacement (if I was betting, my money would on Michelle Obama, but I'm FAR from certain enough to bet on it at all -- they might pull a gigantic brain fart and go for Kamala Harris or Gavin Newsom) at the physical convention.

And it would steal a crap ton of thunder from the GOP in general and Trump in particular.

But, as always, I could be wrong.

Wordle 1112 Hint

Hint: A tight-fitting crowd, or a popular orange soft drink.

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First Letter: C

Thursday, July 04, 2024

New On My "Where To Eat Out" Favorites List

I like "all you can eat buffets."

I like them even when I don't want to pig out, because some variety is always nice.

I've been hearing about Brown's Country Buffet in Alachua for several years, and had been meaning to give it a try.

So yesterday I hopped on the ol' scooter and took a nice 20-mile (not counting getting lost, so call it 25 miles getting there, 20 miles getting home) ride for a late lunch. Fun ride, about half on "country" highway.

The quick skinny:

  1. Not as big a place as I expected. That's not a complaint. In fact, it was nice to not find a football-stadium-size building with a thousand people lined up to argue about who gets the last spoonful of green beans. "Intimate?" Not quite that small, but small enough to be navigable.
  2. Sufficient variety. I don't know what they change up from day to day, but yesterday's theme was definitely "chicken" -- the meat dishes consisted of fried chicken, grilled chicken, chicken a la king, and chicken and dumplings (and some meatballs off to the side). Several hot vegetables to choose from. Two kinds of bread (white rolls and cornbread). A salad bar of reasonable size. A dessert bar of reasonable variety.
  3. Reasonable price -- $15.50 including drink, $20 including tip (well-deserved -- the servers were friendly, quick to show up and offer drink refills, helpful when I requested directions since I'd gotten lost getting there). These days you can spend more than ten bucks on a fast food "combo meal."
And the food was good. I had three plates. Not huge plates, but I wanted to try as much as I could: Three kinds of chicken (all except the grilled), both kinds of bread, some veggies (the mashed potatoes with gravy were my favorite, but then they are always my favorite), and dessert (I limited myself to one small piece of chocolate cake).

They also have a breakfast buffet, and you can just order a la carte stuff off the menu if you don't want "all you can eat" (they seem to be renowned for their pork chops -- my only disappointment was that they weren't on the buffet, but they may change things up each day for all I know).

If you're in the area, I highly recommend giving them a try. I'll be taking the family there some time when we have a "family eats out together" occasion.

Fingers Crossed ...

I've been planning major -- but hopefully mostly invisible -- matching site updates to The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism and Rational Review News Digest for some time now ... and what better time than the beginning of a long weekend, so that if everything goes to shit I am less hurried trying to fix it.

So that's done ... maybe. Before I explain further, if you happen to be willing and have a moment, go visit those sites and let me know (in comments) if anything looks bizarrely wrong. Thanks in advance!

The explanation:

I've historically had terrible luck with a combination of things.

Ingredient #1 is Wordpress and/or various plug-ins demanding that I update the PHP version my shared web hosting account operates on.

Ingredient #2 is everything falling to pieces, despite assurances from various parties that that could never happen, any time I actually update the PHP version my shared web hosting account operates on.

So I've been putting off any PHP version changes for at least two years now. They almost always end up basically requiring complete site rebuilds.


It's WordPress, the way WordPress used to be before the fancy-schmancy "block editor" and so forth. Did I mention that I don't use the "block editor?" I had a "classic editor" plug-in installed because I prefer the old way of entering posts.

And there's a plug-in that makes moving a site from WordPress to ClassicPress as easy as pressing a button!

Well, OK, no. As easy as:

  1. Pressing the button and finding out that even though the documentation said I wouldn't have to change my PHP version, I have to change my PHP version;
  2. Changing my PHP version and for once not having things completely explode, but heck, I'm committed to the change so might as well get on with it;
  3. Finding out that some of the plug-ins which the migration plug-in thought would be compatible aren't compatible;
  4. Disabling all my plug-ins (via cPanel, because now all the site will do for me -- or anyone visitng -- is announce a "critical error");
  5. Going back into the ClassicPress manager and re-enabling the plug-ins one at a time to find the culprits (then de-activating and deleting the ones that cause problems);
  6. On one site, figuring out a different (and arguably better!) way to do a thing that a supposedly compatible, and non-site-crashing, plug-in no longer actually does.
Not nearly as bad as it could have been ... unless some problem that isn't obvious at the moment becomes obvious down the road, anyway.

If everything is as it seems, I should be safe from "update your PHP version!" demands for a long time, and now I have what amounts to a version of WordPress I like  (pre-5.0) rather than the bloated, gimmicky, cranky newer version.

I expect it may also perform better from the reader end. ClassicPress is about half the code size of current Wordpress, which seems like it might require less CPU time to do X, where X is "pull up and display a list of posts."

Hopefully the nerve-wracking portion of my holiday weekend is over with!

Wordle 1111 Hint

Hint: A first formal public appearance, not unlike the one made by the United States, 248 years ago today, with the Declaration of Independence .

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First Letter: D

Wednesday, July 03, 2024

Wordle 1110 Hint

Hint: When it comes to fried chicken, I prefer this piece, or the breast, to the leg or wing.

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First Letter: T

Tuesday, July 02, 2024

Come To Think Of It ...

... according to the US Supreme Court ruling in Trump v. United States, Joe Biden could declare Donald Trump an unlawful enemy combatant, drone strike his ass at Mar-a-Lago, Trump Tower, or the Republican National Convention, and unless the US House of Representatives impeached him for it (likely) and the US Senate convicted him of it (unlikely), he'd legally be golden.

It would clearly be an "official act," and moreover one for which there are clear precedents (e.g. Anwar al-Awlaki).

Wordle 1109 Hint

Hint: One thing embedded in another (for example, mother of pearl in Gibson guitar necks).

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First Letter: I

Monday, July 01, 2024

Thanks For Asking! -- July 2024

It's monthly AMA time! Ask me anything (yes, anything) in the comment thread below this post, and I'll answer either in, or linked from, comments.



Wordle 1108 Hint

Hint: You know what they say about today's Wordle -- it's kinda proverbial.

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New to Wordle? You can play it at the New York Times, and here are some thoughts on how I go about solving each day's puzzle.



First Letter: A

Sunday, June 30, 2024

What If They're Giving Up ... Strategically?

I'm writing this before the Sunday morning news/talk shows, but I can confidently predict the big weekend topic: Whether Joe Biden's disastrous debate performance is the breaking point at which it's time for him to withdraw (or get withdrawn) from the presidential race, and if so who should replace him.

In the past, I've discounted the possibility that Kamala Harris would be the alternative pick, for two simple reasons:

  1. Nobody seems to like her very much, and therefore
  2. She wouldn't be able to beat Donald Trump in November
BUT!

What if the people in the DNC's smoke-filled rooms -- the people who would presumably facilitate a midstream change of horses -- have already decided that nobody can beat Donald Trump in November?

If that's the case, Harris might well be their pick of preference.

If Trump's going to win no matter who they pick, why not pick someone they don't want to run in 2028, and someone who ticks certain boxes that can be used to their party's benefit?

"America just couldn't bring itself to vote for a black woman -- THAT's why Trump won; oh, by the way, notice that WE nominated a black woman" would work well as a starting point for trying to get black voters and female voters more firmly back in the Democratic column four years from now.

I've mentioned prospective better replacements for Biden in the past (Democratic governors who've proven they can win in red or purple states), but it's pretty late in the game for that. A Jared Polis, Laura Kelly, or Andy Beshear would have to jump in without much prep or infrastructure. And if no one can beat Trump, none of them want to look like losers if they go for it four years from now.

Then there's Gavin Newsom, who likely also can't beat Trump, who likely also harbors 2028 ambitions, and who's a party insider darling.

The big Hail Mary people have been talking about for months is Michelle Obama, and I suppose they could go that way. I also think she'd beat Trump like a red-headed step-child. But the smoke-filled room types might not think so, and she might not be willing.

At the moment, assuming Biden goes out (and I think he probably will), the plan may just be to let Harris take the ass-whipping in November rather than risk the political futures of any of the better candidates.

Wordle 1107 Hint

Hint: This motor scooter model is the Genuine article (some of my pals, especially Thane Eichenauer, will  recognize the hint immediately).

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First Letter: B

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Wordle 1106 Hint

Hint: Most answers to most questions aren't entirely black and white. But today's Wordle is.

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First Letter: Z

Friday, June 28, 2024

So, What Do YOU Think?

I haven't watched any "highlight" clips or anything yet, but this morning's Internet punditry consensus seems to be that Joe Biden "lost" last night's "debate." That includes calls in traditionally Democrat-leaning publications for him to withdraw from the race.

I remain skeptical that two cognitively impaired old guys yelling at each other on TV can produce a "winner" (or really be called a "debate" in any meaningful sense). My default inclination is to assume that both geezers, and America, "lost."

So, while I'm catching up (I'll probably go looking for them there "highlight reels" later today), I'm interested in YOUR opinion of last night's proceedings. Let's talk!

Wordle 1105 Hint

 Hint: If you're several miles away from your home, today's Wordle may explain how you got there.

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First Letter: D

Thursday, June 27, 2024

An Experiment

Lately, I've noticed a new pop-up when I highlight text in Microsoft Edge -- "Rewrite with Copilot."

Microsoft Copilot is (according to Microsoft Copilot) "an AI assistant that leverages the power of language models to enhance productivity, creativity, and understanding." It seems to run on GPT-4.

So anyway, here's what this entire post looks like when re-written by Copilot:

Recently, I've observed a new feature when selecting text in Microsoft Edge: "Rewrite with Copilot." 
Microsoft Copilot is described as "an AI assistant that utilizes language models to boost productivity, creativity, and comprehension." It appears to operate on GPT-4. 
Here is how this entire post would be rephrased by Copilot:

So, whose writing do you prefer -- mine, or Copilot's?

Wordle 1104 Hint

 Hint: Like Joy Division, but New.

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First Letter: O

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Removed From My Amazon Wish List ...

As I recently noted, I've been using my Aeropress Go (not an affiliate link, and they're wanting more than twice what I paid for it) to brew up my daily espresso (which is then chilled overnight for two cold morning lattes).

And as I noted in that same post, I had added a couple of accessories to my Amazon Wish List to improve the experience.

Those items have been removed. I've got the Aeropress Flow Control Cap on the way (from Walmart, because I had a credit balance there), which should solve the minor problem I have using it to brew espresso.

The problem: The Aeropress drips. Whether you're using paper or metal filters, throwing some coffee grounds in and then pouring water over them results in pretty much instant "pour-over" brewing.

That's fine if you're just wanting drip coffee. But if you're wanting espresso, you need pressure. And if you're not using a high-pressure machine, you need the grounds to steep for at least a couple of minutes instead of dripping through the damn coffee.

There's a kludge that doesn't involve additional accessories: Set the thing up upside down, with the plunger barely inserted. Pour in your coffee, pour in your hot water, screw on the filter and filter cap, wait for the coffee to steep, then flip the thing over and press the plunger to create that pressure.

That kludge is imperfect for at least three reasons. One is that unless you get everything perfectly even and straight, the damn thing wants to fall over. Another is that when you flip it, you have to be careful that the plunger doesn't come out and pour water and coffee grounds all over the counter. And the third is that when you do flip it over, you're getting immediate drip before you start putting pressure on it.

Like the Prismo and the Joepresso, the existence of which seem to have motivated Aeropress to introduce their own version, the Flow Control Camp screws on to your Aeropress and holds all that liquid in until you put pressure on it. Without having to flip the thing over, and without "early dripping" before you start pressing.

So I'm expecting my Aeropress espresso to get both much better and much more convenient when it arrives.

There's still stuff on my Amazon Wish List, though, for those who want to shower me with love and gifts.

I Finally Found A Weakness With My Ultra-Cheap Mini-PC

I've had my $150 CyberGeek Nano J1 Linux Mini PC since last August and remain positively impressed with its performance.

I've also become comfortable enough with that performance that I hadn't bothered checking certain things for a little while.

But for some reason the other day I glanced at the Psensor app ... and my CPU cores were at about 90 degrees celsius!

It didn't take long to figure out why: Slack.

I'm not big on desktop messaging apps, and seldom use them, but recently I've had reason to.

When Slack isn't running, CPU temps are normal (at the moment, 48 degrees celsius).

When Slack is running, they shoot up into the 80s.

And not just when the Slack window is open, but whenever the little Slack status gadget is present in my task bar to aleart me about new messages.

So now I'm relying on email notifications and opening the app every day or two to check manually.

IMHO, that's not really a weakness in the Mini PC, it's a bug in Slack. Any app that produces those temperatures in a machine with four fast CPU cores and lots of RAM needs fixing.

Wordle 1103 Hint

 Hint: If you're doing this, you might be a baker. Or a masseuse.

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First Letter: K

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Wordle 1102 Hint

 Hint: Enjoy today's Wordle as you would a fine meal.

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New to Wordle? You can play it at the New York Times, and here are some thoughts on how I go about solving each day's puzzle.



First Letter: S