Why donate to a non-profit with a hard-to-pronounce name?

Go to miraheze.org, and find the green “Donate!” button!
…or the purple “Donate Today!” button. Both work.

This could end up being more rambly than normal, so I’ll cut to the chase: there’s a few things I’d like you to do:

  1. Go to https://miraheze.org
  2. On the top right, you’ll see a green button with a gift icon labeled “Donate!” Click on it.
  3. Follow the instructions, and make a modest donation (e.g. $10 is truly appreciated; $20 will probably be appreciated more)

Since most folks that I know haven’t heard of Miraheze (and probably aren’t sure how to pronounce it), I’m not entirely going to blame you for not racing to donate. I might be quietly judging you, but I won’t be blaming you. 😉 Seriously, though, if you’re willing to trust me and donate to Miraheze, you don’t need to read the rest of this.

Why am I doing asking you to donate to Miraheze? Well, it’s a lo-o-o-n-n-ng story, full of tangents. That story goes back to 1994…

Continue reading “Why donate to a non-profit with a hard-to-pronounce name?”

Jimmy Carter, populism and Donald Trump

Jimmy and Rosilyn Carter, surprising the crowd by walking instead of riding in a limo (image from Carter Library via National Archives)

In January 2016, before either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump had secured their nominations, I posted an article on Daily Kos titled “What Donald Trump and Jimmy Carter have in common”. Since Republicans hadn’t settled on Trump yet, many Democrats were not-so-secretly hoping that Trump would win the nomination. I felt pretty alone in suggesting that Trump might not merely win the primary, but he might even be able to win the general election. That filled me with dread, but took comfort in the conventional wisdom of the day that Trump couldn’t win.

The comparison of Carter to Trump in 2016 still holds true today in 2017. Though that gave me dread in 2016, it gives me hope looking forward to the 2018 election. Let’s revisit the topic, because the subsequent election of 1980 holds lessons about 2020 that feel less dreadful IF we learn from history.

The comparison:

  1. Departed deity that was in charge in the receding party’s glory days
    1976 : FDR (Democratic President: 1933–1945)
    2016 : Reagan (Republican President: 1981–1989)
  2. Party with receding wave
    1976 : Democrats (New Deal)
    2016 : Republicans (supply-side economics)
  3. Party with rising wave
    1976 : Republicans (“government is the problem”)
    2016 : Democrats (“we are the 99%”)
  4. “Obvious” safe choice for party
    1976: Gerald Ford (the White House incumbent)
    2016: Hillary Clinton (“realist” choice)
  5. Candidate riding rising wave
    1976: Reagan (narrowly lost 1976 nomination)
    2016: Sanders (narrowly lost 2016 nomination)
  6. Unlikely party outsider for receding party
    1976: Jimmy Carter
    2016: Trump

Now to explain:

Continue reading “Jimmy Carter, populism and Donald Trump”

Western accent?

There’s a fantastic discussion of red state politics on the wellRED podcast interview of Sarah Smarsh by the three hosts of the show. At the 46:00 point in the podcast, the group discusses how they all deliberately chose not to lose their respective accents. Smarsh says as part of journalism school, she needed to learn how to make her voice more “neutral” (a.k.a. “General American” as it’s referred to on Wikipedia). For the three guys (Trae Crowder, Drew Morgan and Corey Ryan Forrester), I can understand the handwringing. Listening to them, even though I find myself agreeing with much of what they say, I have to be mindful of potential bias when I hear their accents.

With Smarsh, it’s different. She grew up in Kansas, which is culturally/linguistically not much different from where I grew up (all over the U.S. west), where my mom grew up (midway between Omaha and Kansas City), and where much of my extended family still is (Kansas City area). As my mom would point out, modern newscasters (of the day) treated the Nebraska accent as a “neutral” accent — and many TV celebrities like Johnny Carson and David Letterman benefited from their upbringing in neutral accent territory.

It may be that my western upbringing is the reason why I don’t detect an appreciable accent, but others would. The only regional aspects of my younger accent that I’m aware of dropping is referring to carbonated beverage as “pop” (I say “soda” now) and treating “pen” and “pin” as homophones (not anymore). Given how minor the changes to my speech have been since moving to the west coast (living in either Seattle or San Francisco since 1993), I haven’t considered my accent to have changed much since I was young.

In the past few years, I’ve gotten more comfortable speaking warmly of my humble-ish upbringing. Further more, I’ve happily adopted “y’all” in spite of not growing up using the phrase. Some of my fondest memories of my dad were of his cowboy-culture way of talking, which wasn’t that different than the cattle cop highlighted on Planet Money a few years ago. Whenever something would splash all over the place, Dad frequently said it “splattered like a cow pissing on a rock”. He implored me to be more mindful by telling me to “get your head out of your ass”. He frequently claimed that many politicians were “crookeder than a dog’s hind leg”. I’ve carried some of his cowboy-isms forward, but I don’t have the same cowboy cred that he did. Plus, I’m prouder of the fact that I was occasionally able to beat Mom at Scrabble in her prime, and pretty sure that anyone reading this would have had about as tough of a time doing it as I did, no matter how much of a smartypants you think you are.

Listening to Smarsh talk about the assumptions that people seemed to make about her that she ascribed to her accent, it makes me wonder: am I deaf to her accent because of my similar upbringing? Do I have a “western” or “midwestern” accent that might have caused the kinds of discrimination they discuss in this show? Have I just been luckier than Smarsh, or am I just blind to being treated like I just fell off the turnip truck?

Media companies really shouldn’t let this strike drag out

The writers strike has temporarily saved me from staring zombie-like from my slouched position on the couch, and instead has me typing zombie-like from a differently-slouched position on my couch. After seeing a couple of mildly amusing clips from on-strike writers (from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report), I was curious enough to poke around the writers’ website and see them make their case. Regardless of the merits of the strike, the writers are in a much better position to make their case than they were the last time they did this.

But I think it’s a lot worse than writers with extra YouTube posting time on their hands. There’s a piece in the L.A. Times about how non-Hollywood money is starting to find good writers (via pmarca)
Continue reading “Media companies really shouldn’t let this strike drag out”

Inflated house prices

I like reading Paul Kedrosky’s Infectuous Greed blog, even if I think he occasionally says some things that are completely moronic. One reason I do, though, is the occasonal food for thought, like this post on inflated house prices.

Yale economist Bob Shiller says in the weekend issue of Barron’s that he’s still looking for 20-30% housing price declines over the next 5-10 years — including in untouchable cities like San Francisco and New York (and I’ll include Vancouver)

He goes on to quote the article, talking about the relocation that’s occurring. Some folks left comments that pointed out that there are always going to be people drawn to jobs in hot markets like New York or San Francisco, but I know of at least one San Francisco-based company that’s looking to hire outside of the city.

28 years of “You Light Up My Life”

I’m a big supporter of moving back to a 28 year maximum term on copyrights. I’ve been thinking about how to describe that, and I think I’ve come up with one way of doing it. Rupert Holmes would still be able to earn a living off of his 1979 hit “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)”, but Debby Boone would just now be asked to hop off of the “You Light Up My Life” gravy train that left the station in the fall of 1977. I think that that’s more than enough economic motivation society should provide to ensure the creation of such … (ahem) … classics.

“Playing politics” is Bush-speak for “thinking critically”

It seems that whenever Bush or the Republicans trot out the phrase “playing politics”, they really mean “thinking critically”.  Just visit the following links, and replace the phrase “playing politics” with “thinking critically” to see what I mean.

“But here’s the question.  The question is, how do you respond to [the intelligence failures]?  Do you respond to it by correcting the intelligence, or do you do what the Democrats are doing, which is [thinking critically] with it.  And I think the president’s point was at this critical moment in this critical war, with this central front in the war on terror, [thinking critically] is not what we should be doing.”  Chairman of the Republican Party, Ken Mehlman – Transcript for November 13 – Meet the Press, online at MSNBC – MSNBC.com

Some of our elected leaders have opposed this war all along. I disagreed with them, but I respect their willingness to take a consistent stand. Yet some Democrats who voted to authorize the use of force are now rewriting the past. They are [thinking critically] with this issue and they are sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy. And that’s irresponsible.  President Delivers Remarks at Elmendorf AFB on War on Terror

I’m sure there are other substitutions that can be made, for “sending mixed signals” and “rewriting the past”.  In fact, I’m beginning to think it’s possible to translate Bush-speak into something intelligible.  Heh…nevermind…I can’t believe I just said that.

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For the past couple of months, I’ve been working on Electowidget. Electowidget is a plugin for MediaWiki designed to make it possible to conduct Internet polls and elections using many different voting systems, including the Schulze method, Instant Runoff Voting, Approval voting, and even plain old Plurality.

Electowidget isn’t designed for secure public elections. Rather, it’s designed for the types of informal polls and elections that currently happen on wikis today. It’s also designed as a tool to help election theorists provide comparitive examples of how a given result will be tabulated comparing multiple different systems.

All data is stored on wiki pages, in JSON format, and some parts of the system currently require you to get your hands dirty editing JSON. My next step is to hide as much of the JSON away from the end user as possible, so that editing raw JSON
isn’t necessary. One nice bit about JSON is that it’s a very machine-friendly format, so I don’t anticipate that step being too tough to accomplish.

The ultimate goal is to make a library that can plugged into most any CMS or other PHP application. A lot of the functionality is already such that this is possible.

This work is seemingly unrelated to my work on Spectaclar (user management project), but there is a tie-in. I’ve done some initial work on a CMS-independence layer which can be helpful in porting plugins to different CMS systems. I haven’t decided yet just how far I’ll take this, but I keep this idea in the back of my mind whenever I’m in that part of the code.

Anyway, I hope people find this useful. I anticipate it’ll be useful for at least some of the things I’m doing, so I suppose that’s good enough for me.