Monday, March 28, 2016

Hillary and dishonesty

I don't have any insider knowledge to be able to assess Hillary Clinton's integrity directly. Indirectly, I arrive at the same inference that I have with respect to the health effects of caffeine: If there were a serious problem there, somebody would have found it, because so many people have been looking so hard for so long.

It does bother me, then, as it bothers Kevin Drum, to hear young progressive-types I know and respect rejecting Hillary on the grounds of dishonesty and corruption, charges that have been stoked for many, many years by well-funded right-wing smear campaigns. They have gotten nothing to stick, and not for want of trying.

So folks, go ahead and feel the Bern. You have good reason. Hillary is probably too friendly with the one percent, and possibly too eager to pursue the military option when Obamian patience would better serve. But remember that come November, this flawed but fundamentally competent centrist Democrat is going to need your participation and votes to prevent our flawed but fundamentally worth-saving country falling into the hands of the nutters.

Well, that's how I see it, anyway.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

What I did for spring break!

No Palm Springs or Cabo for me. Just a lot of preparing for my new Applied Econometrics course. Plus a hike up North Chalone Peak in Pinnacles National Park (not the best hike in the park by any means, but featuring condors, clematis, and commanding views); and a visit to the UC-Santa Cruz Arboretum, a very special place. If I weren't a committed California native plant gardener, I'd surely find myself collecting proteas and banksias.

Thursday, March 24, 2016


On my drive to Pinnacles National Park (thanks President Obama!) this morning for a spring break hike, I was listening to some California Republican officials/consultants on KQED's Forum show. They were sounding, not surprisingly in our very blue state, like ducks out of water, but also like human beings with a basic grip on reality, when a caller came on and quite sincerely took to defending Donald Trump's candidacy, and I had to change the channel. Well, actually I popped in my CD of Lee Morgan's Sidewinder, a recording I recommend to one and all.

But Lee, Joe Henderson, and company failed to take my mind off Trump, and much as I tried to banish the thought as I trudged the 3.3 miles and 2000 feet of elevation up to North Chalone Peak, I kept returning to the very real possibility that this guy could be our next president.

Based on his words and behavior as a candidate, if Trump were a kid in my son's seventh-grade class, he'd be the kid my son would have to send (repeatedly) to the office for being a disruptive brat or bully... not to mention a failing student and a bigot. But is it all an act?

I've wavered between two alternative theories of Trump. (1) He really is that way, in which case we would be better off with the median American seventh grader as our next president. (2) He is a talented if unpleasant showman, and this is the show he is putting on, because he has figured out that he can win the nomination by appealing to people who for some reason want a badly behaved 7th-grade boy as their president. Despicable, and bad for our country, either way.

I had been subscribing to theory (2) until I read the transcript of Trump's interview with the Washington Post editorial board. I recommend this to any and all citizens. Trump is so alarmingly and convincingly incoherent, I find it difficult to believe that he is having us on. He's not just despicable, but pathological and downright scary. I wish I had more confidence in HC. A lot could be riding on her success.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Phife, RIP

For an old-timer like me, hip-hop never got much better than the jazzy hippy humanistic sound of De La Soul, Jungle Brothers, and Tribe. Dying of diabetes at 45. Something wrong there. Sad.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Text sentiment visualizer

Andrew Gelman has a post about this interesting tool to visualize text sentiment, created by one of his students. The example he provides is below. I have three comments.

1. The opening of Moby-Dick is the greatest opening of a novel ever.

2. "Deep neural networks" appear to have some difficulty gauging sentiment. The lengthy fourth sentence has a quite negative tone, unless the software is picking up on the humor. Some of the sentences it identifies as strongly negative seem relatively cheerful to me, by comparison.

3. Conclusion: This text sentiment visualizer needs to read more great literature!

Monday, March 21, 2016

The promising spring bloom...

... is not quite fully on. So allow your eye to wander to other splendid things...

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Americans

It's back. Strong as ever. The best. Watch.

White male lexicographic preferences

Race > gender > class. Or maybe I am misinterpreting the evidence. "White men narrowly backed Hillary Clinton in her 2008 race for president, but they are resisting her candidacy this time around in major battleground states, rattling some Democrats about her general-election strategy." (NYTimes)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Proud to be an American...

... no, I don't mean the politics, of course, although I am all in for Hillary at this point, despite both my kids feeling the Bern to some degree. I am referring to what will always give me some hope about our fucked-up country, namely its music. Two excellent live shows in four days! Masters of Hawaiian Music: George Kahumoku Jr., Led Kaapana, and Jeff Peterson, at the Little Fox in up-and-coming Redwood City; and Cahalen and Eli at a house party in sleepy Palo Alto. Slack key guitar and old-time roots music, performed by true masters. God forbid we should ever have to survive President Trump, but at least we will have plenty to listen to.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 70

I'm a bit ashamed to say I didn't know this album. The most amazing piano trio ever assembled? Ellington sounds like Monk or Herbie Nichols. Which is really to say that Monk and Herbie Nichols sounded more like the Duke than I had known. Rhythm section of Mingus and Roach... who cares if they didn't get along?

Saturday, March 12, 2016

African-Americans don't have a monopoly...

... on Obama pride... or Obama withdrawal. As we count down the days of his last year as president, we will appreciate more and more this brilliant, principled, pragmatic, measured, articulate, funny, moral, dignified, accomplished, and underrated leader. Trump is appalling in any context, but especially compared with what we may have come to take for granted. We should not.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Postcards from central Florida

Well, I'm back in balmy, rainy Cali again, but I enjoyed my few days visiting the folks in sunny Florida. The lichens in Florida are nonpareil, the birds are plentiful (including the beautiful and curious purple gallinule), and the jello is bright blue, to complement the canned mandarins. As are the waters of Florida's threatened natural treasures, the freshwater springs.