Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Twitter in June: Mood Swings

Looking back through my Twitter favorites for June, the issues spring out in reverse order: the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality, taking down the Confederate flag, and the killings in Charleston. First those three, starting with marriage equality:

A bit jealous that Minnesotans have a Black, Muslim congressman who supports marriage equality.
By Saladin Ahmed

Marriage used to be so simple. You'd meet a man, buy his daughter; make awkward conversation til she died in childbirth. What went wrong?
By Alice R Fraser

So gay marriage is a threat to Democracy, but Citizens United isn't?
By Robert O. Simonson

It was a 5-4 ruling: Men 4-2 against, Women 3-0 for. Another reminder of benefits of women in leadership positions.
By Vinicius Vacanti

If you had told me in 2004 that America would have a black president, universal health care, and gay marriage by 2015, I would have laughed.
By Ezra Klein

I'd take Scalia's concern about SCOTUS inventing laws more seriously if he hadn't recently waved his hand and turned companies into people.
By Ken Tremendous

Scalia's next dissent will consist of him singing "Daisy" over and over while he slowly winds down into nothingness.
By jay smooth

Weird that the US now sanctifies the right to marry but has no similar protection of the right to vote.
By David Roberts

How far we've come since the President Obama & Senator Clinton ran against gay marriage in 2008! People can change. Never give up.
By Michael Moore

Don't worry, conservatives. In a way, the Supreme Court stopped gay marriage for good. Because it's just "marriage" now.
By Hemant Mehta
Taking down the ridiculous Confederate flag:
"Southern Lives Matter." Even when showing their hate for Black people they manage to appropriate from Black people.

By William Anderson

We also have a heritage in Italy. It's called fascism. We don't celebrate it or miss it. Time to grow up for some Americans.
By Federico Viticci

I can’t believe we’re even discussing whether to take down the flag of a treasonous, racist revolt against our country.
By David Roberts

The people who are offended by "Happy Holidays" want to know what your problem with the Confederate flag is.
By Pete Nicely

Bree Newsome is like part Spider Woman, part Ida B. Wells:

By Disgruntled Haradrim
Reacting to domestic terrorism when it’s committed by a white guy, and the aftermath of the Charleston mass murders:
Dylann Roof gets "a difficult childhood,” Mike Brown gets "no angel.”
By Sarah Kendzior

Still a lot of talk about how moved folks are by the victims’ sense of "forgiveness." One way to reflect this is by taking down the flag.
By Ta-Nehisi Coates

In the black church forgiveness isn't to absolve the horror but to preserve one's soul from being consumed by hate.
By The Libyan

Go directly to forgiveness. Do not pass accountability. Do not collect reparations.
By Vandal

Like it or not, killers ARE human. There's nothing wrong with 'humanizing' white killers. The problem is that ONLY white killers get to be human.
By Saladin Ahmed

In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.
By Dan Hodges

Bobby Jindal says this is a time to say "we're not blacks or whites...we're Americans."
By Ana Marie Cox

Sure that works ... Unless of course you're ACTUALLY fucking Black.
By besos!

Same whites who claim the Charleston church shooting is an ”isolated incident" shout "culture of poverty" and "thug culture" to demonize the poor and blacks.
By Paul Thomas

"If they are to be a part of our society, they must do a better job of rejecting violence and fanaticism." Never said about young white men.
By Saladin Ahmed

"Troubled loner w/ mental illness" & "suggestible ideologue taking cues from racist superstructure" are not mutually exclusive explanations.
By David Roberts

We can't swim, we can't buy skittles, we can't listen to loud music, we can't shop, we can't play, we can't breathe, we can't pray.
By P.K. Eduah
And the rest of my favorite subjects and a sprinkling of chuckles and aha moments. (This list continues to run a bit shorter than average; I'm still not spending as much time as I was on Twitter before May.)
What if we made you terribly aware of your deficits every single day? What if you had to work on those deficits every moment of your day?
By Sisyphus38

Name-calling is what happens when you desperately want to argue, but you are in fact inarticulate.
By Neil deGrasse Tyson


By Sean Leahy

The Greek crisis is being fought over $240 billion in Greek debt. Wondering if stocks will lose over $240 billion in value because of it.
By Steven Greenhouse

!!! "In Alabama, an adult in a 4-person household w/ income of $4,400 a year earns too much to qualify for Medicaid." [Citing the New York Times.]
By Steven Greenhouse

I like the term "douchebag" because it means "a thing that women were historically told they needed, but actually does more harm than good."
By Occubrarian Rachel

Protest is confrontation. Protest is disruption. Protest is the end of silence. It is not the solution, it creates space for the solution.
By DeRay Mckesson

Hours/week associate professors spend on service by race/gender:

By tressie mc

The testing industry makes more money annually than the NFL and the box office.
By Nikhil Goyal

Walkable cities called "a trend." Hardly: thriving cities have been walkable for centuries. Planning around cars is a blip in comparison.
By jennifer keesmaat

Don’t reactionaries ever notice how much they have in common with other reactionaries, even their purported enemies?
By David Roberts

Remember: when someone calls you a resource, call them overhead.
By Sean Cribbs

When I was in college a pack of smokes was $1.50. Everyone smoked. Now they’re $10. Almost no one smokes. Make bullets $1000.
By Mike Monteiro

It’s dangerous to assume that you are a better human than slaveholders. It misses the great power of structures, and furthers the myth of the individual.
By Ta-Nehisi Coates

The idea that the solution to gun violence is more guns is analogous to the medieval belief that you cure syphilis by giving it to a virgin.
By Neven Mrgan

Don't do this, Target:

By abi who?

Local grocery store has baby formula locked in glass cage, across from security desk. Think what it means that baby formula is a theft risk.
By Andy Barenberg

Shout out to the people outraged that the president said "nigger" once but don't care about the countless times he's been called it since ’08.
By Marc Lamont Hill

obama: racism is real. media: ... obama: racial tension in the US is a serious issue. media: ... obama: "nigger.” media: OOO U SAID A BAD WORD.
By blacklivesmatter

For every criminal killed in self defense, 2 people die from misfire, 34 die from gun homicide, and 78 die from gun-suicide. So the "logic" that more guns would prevent gun violence is not only crazy, it is demonstrably false.
By Jonathan Foley

The world spends $15 billion each year on ocean cruises while all it would take is $11 billion to provide clean drinking water for all.
By Injustice Quotes

I wish we could have expansion of train service, just one more train to Chicago a day from Union Depot.
By Avidor

“What are we supposed to do, just have dirt around our house on four acres?” Rich Californians on water limits.
By Joseph Nathan Cohen

I think it is OK when women are really into furniture and property because it used to be our cousin.
By Aparna Nancherla

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” ― Ernest Hemingway
By David Roberts

And this is what happens when your education system dies:

By Charles Hoskinson

In conversations with peers in my school district I notice that they talk a good game about innovation and change but they really want known and sameness.
By Sisyphus38

On an average day, an offshore wind turbine produces the energy needed for production of 20 tonnes of steel, paying back the energy invested.
By Kees van der Leun

Tell me more about how hiring people you feel comfortable with, based on an interview, is going to change your school.
By Sisyphus38

Your afternoon reminder that masculinity is the most fragile thing in the world:

By c_d

It's crazy that once personal video recorders became ubiquitous UFOs stopped visiting Earth and cops started brutalizing people all the time.
By Stephen Judkins

America is founded on "the race card," the false superiority of whiteness. "Don't pull the race card" is code for "black folk be silent."
By DeRay Mckesson

Online is a horrible urban legend come to life. If you say a brand's name too many times, it appears in order to torment you.
By Matt Christman

If America's police for one day treated white kids like kids of color, they'd all lose their pensions. [Referring to the police overreaction at a Texas pool party.]
By Andrew J. Padilla

Bullet points and spacing can add clarity to your writing:

By Jason L. Sparks

Monthly reminder: They're not SPEAKING through a translator; you are LISTENING through a translator.
By Merlin Mann

Learning should help child discover unique talents, not standardize them.
By John Chase

A useful response to *so* many Twitter conversations:

By Tom Tomorrow

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Few Photos from Kansas City

I just spent a couple of days in Kansas City, Missouri, mostly in the Westport neighborhood and the nearby area around the art museums. As usual, I notice more things when I am away from home than I do when I'm in familiar settings.

First, a few images from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Outside the main door, in the 20+-acre sculpture garden, are four giant sculptures by Philip Haas, who renders the works of Renaissance painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo into three dimensions.

They're about 15 feet tall.

The museum had a special exhibit of American folk art. It was heavy on 19th century work, and dominated by portraits, which aren't my favorite kind of folk art. But it did have this cool carved set of dentures, which were a dentist's trade sign from about 1890.

Moving on from the art museum, a few shots from the street:

First, this ineffective logo. Am I the only one who sees it as a reference to flames more than blood, and even to tortured souls burning in hell? Yes, I know it has the stereotypical "drop of liquid" shape, but the oval at the bottom reads as a head. I think it's meant to read as a head, in fact -- representing the "human element" that clients always seem to ask for when they're getting a new logo. But in this case, it looks like the human element is being tortured for all eternity.

I know that I am one of the few people who is this sensitive to kerning, but when I look at this sign I read it as the "SAY LES" Building, rather than the Sayles Building.

Finally, two shots from another building:

First I noticed the metal "plants" and made a joke that this is what they should be growing out in California, given the drought.

But then I realized that the brick wall is topped with triangular metal protrusions that are clearly meant to keep people from resting on the wall. And then I thought, wow, that's just unfriendly. Who wants to sit on their skinny wall anyway?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Taking Credit Where Credit Is Due

Last fall, I shared a photo of a Menards billboard that lacked a hyphen. At some point during the winter, I noticed they had changed the billboard to add the hyphen, but it's taken me until now to get a photo of it:

Still not a great photo (taken -- by the non-driver -- from a car going 70 miles an hour down an interstate), but it's better than nothing: proof that either they're listening or someone finally thought of it on their own.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

New Reading from Doug Muder

A Facebook friend (no, not that friend) just shared an article called Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party. Highly recommended reading.

It's written by Doug Muder, an ex-mathematician from Nashua, New Hampshire. A white guy about my age who's been thinking and writing online for about ten years, though I've never heard of him.

So now I've got a whole bunch of new stuff to read, with titles like The Distress of the Privileged, Why I’m Not a Libertarian, Six True Things Politicians Can’t Say, “Religious Freedom” Means Christian Passive-Aggressive Domination, and Red Family, Blue Family.

So, sorry for the short post, but I have some reading to do. And see, sometimes it does pay off to hang around on Facebook.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Chris Monroe, Now Online

I've written about Minnesota cartoonist Chris Monroe many times, but I've never been able to link to her work online. That has finally changed: Her home-town newspaper, the Duluth News Tribune, has recently begun posting her weekly comic "Violet Days" on their website.

Here's one from the past few weeks:

The whole archive is here and can be checked weekly for the latest with much larger images than I have shown here. Finally!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Disliker of Your Likes Is Not Your Friend

If you use Facebook, you may know that it's fond of telling you when your friends "like" some random post or page. None of asks to be shown this stuff -- in fact, I've never found a person who wants their likes to be shown to their friends. If I want my friends to see something, I share it -- I don't want any odd time I click "like" to show up in the feeds of old friends, casual acquaintances, or people I met through work.

Would you? Why does Facebook do this, since it's pretty obvious it's not something users asked for? What does Facebook get out of  it?

Here's one of the things this "feature" showed me yesterday, as liked by a high school acquaintance, whose name I have blurred at the top:

This is one of the more reprehensible things I've seen personally on Facebook (not including things that were drawing general outrage from some part of the media or the interweb).

The original graphic isn't the problem -- it's the ALL CAPS comment from Gidon Yoel Eilat, who not only can't spell "stinking," but also wishes the president dead at her feet (implying she had something to do with his death).

I dared to read through the comments, hoping that some significant number of people would condemn this violent hatred, but I was disappointed in that hope. One person did dare to go against the stream of invective, and was roundly abused for it. A few commented positively on the idea of Obama quitting, and some called for him to be brought to trial, but most were violent, including several photos of nooses.

And someone I used to know liked this. A woman who from her Facebook posts considers herself quite a Christian, I would note. It's almost always God or grandchildren with her. I'm sure she doesn't want others to see that she liked this, but now I have to unfriend her or at least mute her or something.

Would I be better off not knowing she thinks this? Maybe not. Maybe I should thank Facebook for letting me know this. But it makes me sad.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Things Go Better with Cook

I recently spied a new product in a grab-and-go cooler:

A new beverage targeted to cooks? What will they think of next?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Burning Piggies

A recent Star Tribune business story told of how a local company had been acquiring other companies that specialize in animal-related products, and illustrated it with this photo:

I looked at that photo for way too much time, and admit I had to read the caption to really understand what it showed. That is a litter of gray piglets, and a person is holding some type of high tech scanner (maybe infrared?) that reveals something about the animals.

But what it looks like is a burning fire inside the device, right? And the gray color of the device blends into the gray hair of the animals, making it all the more confusing.

The caption reads:

Animal Health International was purchased by Patterson Companies last week for $1.1 billion in cash. Animal Health supplies animal health, food and software products and services to farmers and ranchers.
Topping off the oddity of the image, the photo is credited to istockphoto. What?! There are stock photos of piglet scanners?

I suspect that the credit is an error, and that the photo was actually supplied by the company. Searching istockphoto for the words "piglet" and "lying" didn't turn up this photo. (There are 52 pages of results for just the word "piglet," which I didn't feel up to perusing, so it's possible I missed it by adding "lying" to the search parameters, though that did result in 181 images.)

So, all in all, pretty weird, Star Tribune

Monday, June 22, 2015

The DNA of Europe

As a young reader, I loved Rosemary Sutcliff's historical novels for kids, which were mostly set in the British Isles between 3,000 B.C. and 1,000 A.D. From these stories, I got a sense of the ongoing waves of migration (or invasion) that happened there, leading to present-day Britain.

Often in the Bronze Age stories, there would be "hill people" or "little dark-haired people" who lived nearby the main characters. They were never explained, but clearly they had been there first.

News of some recent DNA research brought it all back to me. Scientists analyzed skeletons from a range of sites across Europe and found that three particular genetic groups dominate the DNA and can be dated:

[From about 45,000 years ago] until about 9,000 years ago, Europe was home to a genetically distinct population of hunter-gatherers, the researchers found. Then, 9,000 to 7,000 years ago, the genetic profiles of the inhabitants in some parts of Europe abruptly changed, acquiring DNA from Near Eastern populations.

Archaeologists have long known that farming practices spread into Europe at the time from Turkey. But the new evidence shows that it wasn’t just the ideas that spread — the farmers did, too.

The hunter-gatherers didn’t disappear, however. They managed to survive in pockets across Europe between the farming communities.

“It’s an amazing cultural process,” said David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School who led the university’s team. “You have groups which are as genetically distinct as Europeans and East Asians. And they’re living side by side for thousands of years.”

From 7,000 to 5,000 years ago, however, hunter-gatherer DNA began turning up in the genes of European farmers. “There’s a breakdown of these cultural barriers, and they mix,” Dr. Reich said.

About 4,500 years ago, the final piece of Europe’s genetic puzzle fell into place. A new infusion of DNA arrived — one that is still very common in living Europeans, especially in central and northern Europe.

The closest match to this new DNA, both teams of scientists found, comes from skeletons found in Yamnaya graves in western Russia and Ukraine.
So Sutcliff's hill people were those original hunger gatherers. The Celts were most likely descended from the Middle Eastern farmers. And her Bronze Age redheads were late-arriving Yamnaya descendents.

The new DNA evidence sheds some light on scholarly discussions about the spread of Indo-European languages as well. The DNA evidence shows the Yamnaya went east into Siberia as well as west in Europe:
For decades, linguists have debated how Indo-European got to Europe. Some favor the idea that the original farmers brought Indo-European into Europe from Turkey. Others think the language came from the Russian steppes thousands of years later.

The new genetic results won’t settle the debate, said Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary biologist at Copenhagen University who led the Danish team. But he did say the results were consistent with the idea that the Yamnaya brought Indo-European from the steppes to Europe.

The eastward expansion of Yamnaya, evident in the genetic findings, also supports the theory, Dr. Willerslev said. Linguists have long puzzled over an Indo-European language once spoken in western China called Tocharian. It is known only from 1,200-year-old manuscripts discovered in ancient desert towns. It is possible that Tocharian was a vestige of the eastern spread of the Yamnaya.

“We can just say that the expansion fits very well with the geographical spread of the Indo-European language,” said Dr. Willerslev.
Now if they can just fill me in on how much Neanderthal DNA is in these Yamnaya samples...

Sunday, June 21, 2015

When Negative Is Good

Here's my nomination for the best use of negative space on a poster, 2015:

I'm suspect the design wasn't actually printed with wood type on a letterpress, but it's a good representation of it nonetheless. And that use of the space in the M made my night.

Seen at Izzy's Ice Cream... the event is today.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Sticking It to the Comma-Loving Liberals

It's probably just my imagination (or confirmation bias), but it seems like every vehicle I see with bumper stickers that go out of their way to insult liberals (or progressives or anyone to the left of Bill O'Reilly) is an SUV or light truck.

Here's another one:

The sticker on the right says:

Silly liberal checks are for workers
No comma allowed in that reference to the old breakfast cereal catch phrase.

The faded one on the left reads:
Annoy a Liberal [line break] Work [space] Succeed [space] Be Happy
The black-and-white sticker at the top says "Danger Will Robinson." I'm not sure how that makes sense in this political context, but the lack of punctuation fits right in.

Friday, June 19, 2015

What Really Happened in "South Coast"?

I grew up listening to Kingston Trio records and have fond memories of many of the songs. Yesterday I was listening to the ones I have in iTunes while gardening, and heard one called "South Coast."

It struck me differently now, as an adult woman, than it had as child. Here are the lyrics as sung by the Kingston Trio (who frequently shortened songs):

South Coast, the wild coast, is lonely.
You may win at the game at Jolon
But the lion still rules the barranca,
and a man there is always alone

My name is Juan Hano de Castro.
My father was a Spanish grandee
But I won my wife in a card game,
to hell with the lords o’er the sea.

I picked up the ace. I had won her!
My heart, which was down at my feet
Jumped up to my throat in a hurry-
Like a warm summer's day, she was sweet.


Her arms had to tighten around me
as we rode up the hills from the South.
Not a word did I hear from her that day-
or a kiss from her pretty red mouth.

We came to my cabin at twilight.
The stars twinkled out on the coast.
She soon loved the valley- the orchard-
but I knew that she loved me the most


Then I got hurt in a landslide
with crushed hip and twice-broken bone
She saddled our pony like lightning-
rode off in the night, all alone

The lion screamed in, the barranca.
The pony fell back on the slide.
My young wife lay dead in the moonlight.
My heart died that night with my bride.
The key elements are:
  • A Spanish-descended man living in central California (in the Big Sur area, relatively near the town of Jolon) wins a young woman in a card game.
  • He takes her back to his house, located in a remote area of canyons where there are mountain lions.
  • He breaks his hip in a landslide.
  • She rides off on his pony and gets killed by a mountain lion.
Listening to it now, here's what I think about:
  • Women are property. How did she feel about being "won" in a card game?
  • The whole story is from his perspective. Was she actually happy as his "wife"?
  • When he's hurt and immobilized... why did the mountain lion go after her on the pony instead of him lying on the ground, defenseless?
  • How does he know she was attacked by a mountain lion if he's lying there with a broken hip? Was she nearby even though she "rode off in the night all alone"?
  • Was she really going for help, or was she escaping her captor?
  • If it's such a remote area and she died going to get help, how did he survive, lying there with a broken hip in the middle of a landslide with mountain lions in the area?
I now wonder if perhaps he's the one who got killed by the mountain lion, and she escaped. Makes me want to write an alternate version from her point of view.


The full lyrics are here; it appears the song is neither old nor originally Spanish, but was instead written in 1953 by three Anglos with the lyrics by a woman named Lillian Bos Ross. Nice show of solidarity, sister.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

I Am a White Woman. No More Murder in My Name.

From Sociological Images:

By Lisa Wade, PhD

Many important things will be said in the next few weeks about the murder of nine people holding a prayer meeting at a predominantly African American church yesterday. Assuming that Dylann Roof is the murderer and that he made the proclamation being quoted in the media, I want to say: “I am a white woman. No more murder in my name.”

Before gunning down a room full of black worshippers, Roof reportedly said:

I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.

For my two cents, I want to suggest that Roof’s alleged act was motivated by racism, first and foremost, but also sexism. In particular, a phenomenon called benevolent sexism.

Sociologists use the term to describe the attribution of positive traits to women that, nonetheless, justify their subordination to men. For example, women may be described as good with people, but this is believed to make them perform poorly in competitive arenas like work, sports, or politics. Better that they leave that to the men. Women are wonderful with children, they say, but this is used to suggest that they should take primary responsibility for unpaid, undervalued domestic work. Better that they let men support them.

And, the one that Roof used to rationalize his racist act was: Women are beautiful, but their grace makes them fragile. Better that they stand back and let men defend them. This argument is hundreds of years old, of course. It’s most clearly articulated in the history of lynching in which black men were routinely violently murdered by white mobs using the excuse that they raped a white woman.

I stand with Jessie Daniel Ames and her “revolt against chivalry” in the 1920s and ’30s. Ames was one of the first white women to speak out against lynching, arguing that its rationale was sexist as well as racist. Roof is the modern equivalent of this white mob. He believes that he and other white men own me and women like me — “you rape our women,” he said possessively — and so he justified gunning down innocent black people on my behalf. You are vulnerable, he’s whispering to me, let me protect you.

All oppression is interconnected. The matrix of domination must come down. I am a white woman. No more murder in my name.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Associated with Discrimination

When I first moved to the Twin Cities in 1987, I opened a checking account at Riverside Bank, a locally owned institution a few blocks from the University of Minnesota's West Bank campus. Over time, I found out that it was considered a true community lender, responsible for funding many small businesses. When I bought my first house in the early 1990s, I connected with a mortgage lender through Riverside, though the bank wan't doing mortgages in-house at that time.

A decade or more ago, Riverside was bought by Wisconsin-based Associated Bank. I stuck with them for a while, but finally decided they weren't the same and switched to another community bank instead, and later to a credit union.

Well, I guess there was more to my discomfort with Associated than just the fact that they were bought by out-of-towners: A few weeks ago, they settled a suit brought by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The bank was charged with discriminating against black and Latino home-buyers between 2008 and 2011, and for that they will pay $200 million, promise to stop discriminating, and do additional work to encourage black and Latino home buyers.

According to the Star Tribune story linked above,

HUD’s analysis of Associated Bank’s mortgage lending indicated that, compared to other mortgage lenders, it made few loans in minority neighborhoods while approving mortgages in nearby, predominantly white neighborhoods.

In a statement, officials called it “the largest settlement of this kind HUD has ever reached.”

Keenan Raverty, a vice president at Bell Mortgage and two-time president of the Minnesota Mortgage Association (MMA), called the settlement “staggering,” and certainly the largest he’s seen in his 23-year career.

“HUD doesn’t reach settlements like this often,” he said. “The sheer dollars involved will bring attention to this issue.”
But the dollar amount hasn't called much attention to the settlement that I've noticed, other than this one story. I did notice that Associated is suddenly advertising about how great they are, though. Huh.

Larry Wilmore took a stab at changing that lack of attention a few days ago on The Nightly Show. This short video is worth the watch, and it includes this image which reminds me a bit of the ads Associated is running currently:

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sacrilegious Sandwich

I really must begin collecting signs made by nondesigners. They are just delightfully clueless sometimes.

Or maybe this one was done on purpose? Maybe some snarky kid thought it would be funny to use the Christ fish to illustrate a fish sandwich sign... and the owner doesn't realize. Or maybe the owner is the snarky one. Who knows.

In case you don't know what the reference is because you live in a part of the country where people don't plaster their cars with religious symbols, here's what I'm referring to:

The sandwich sign was seen at a locally owned seasonal ice cream stand, Connie's Creamy Cone, on Dale Street in Saint Paul.

Monday, June 15, 2015


There's not a lot to say about Jeb Bush's recently unveiled logo for his presidential campaign that isn't covered in this graphic by Simon Maloy:

Using an exclamation point is informal enough, but having the big ol' bottom dot go below the baseline of the "e" and "b" trivializes the whole thing even more.

I know that most people don't hate exclamation points the way I do, but gee, Jeb. Get just a little bit serious.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

There's a Puzzled Businessman for Every Occasion

From today's Star Tribune business section, the top half of two adjacent pages:

Note that both stock illustrations are credited to istockphoto.com. Both feature the back of a generic white businessMAN figure as he tries to figure something out in a symbolic but heavy-handed way.

Would it have made any difference if the dollar sign image had been used with the stock-savant story and vice versa? No, in fact, the decision headline probably works a bit better with the multiple-arrow illustration. I'm not quite sure what the dollar-sign-shadow-figure-that-might-be-a-deep-hole-in-the-ground image is supposed to mean, though.

One thing I do know for sure: the designers of these two pages were phoning it in.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Jeopardy! Job Titles

My recent habit of watching Jeopardy! on a regular basis does more than leave me with a welter of facts I may not remember. It has made me think about the changing nature of work and occupations, as reflected in the job titles used when the contestants are introduced.

Sure, there are still teachers, attorneys, students, professors, actors, and many other occupations that a person from 1970 would recognize. But on a daily basis, there are employment phrases that would have sounded made up even 20 years ago.

Here are a few:

  • Marketing content manager
  • Data repair technician
  • Information manager
  • Royalties manager
  • Strategy consultant
  • Grants analyst
  • Software architect
  • Global talent management associate
  • Visual information specialist
  • Government relations liaison
  • Telecommunications technician
  • Operations analyst
  • User experience designer
  • Financial services officer
  • Customer due diligence specialist
And my favorite of all:

Character trainer, a job title given by a woman who trains the people who wear cartoon animal suits at Disney World.

Friday, June 12, 2015

A Reminder of Ellen Raskin

I loved this 1959 cover illustration as soon as I saw it posted on Tumblr:

But then I saw the credit to one of my all-time favorites, designer Ellen Raskin, and almost swooned. What a talented person she was. I miss her every day.

And it looks like a book that would be worth reading, too.

(Posted originally on JelloBiafraSays.)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Glass Houses, Selling Out

Two noteworthy bits of media goodness from the Star Tribune commentary pages today. First, the cartoon by Steve Sack:

And then there is the editorial. I almost never care much what the Strib editorial writers have to say, but today their thoughts on our legislature's upcoming special session nailed it, starting with the headline: Special interests win, environment loses.

The ag and environment bill, they write,

rolls back or undermines important safeguards. Among the lowlights: raiding millions of dollars from landfill cleanup funds, abolishing the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Citizens’ Board, exempting mining sulfide waste from solid-waste rules, allowing cities to unsustainably tap dwindling aquifers, and putting in place costly and time-consuming new hurdles clearly intended to keep state pollution control officials from doing their jobs.

At a time when there’s international alarm about shrinking bee populations, state lawmakers also approved funding to put deceptive “pollinator-friendly” labels on products that are not. Lawmakers also reprehensibly broke a widely heralded agreement that would have provided incentives for advanced biofuels development while spurring farmers to grow more perennials or cover crops as the raw material. The landmark incentives for these corn alternatives, which can help curb erosion and runoff, were jettisoned.

There’s more than a whiff of political payback in this bill and in another key action taken this session. The move to eliminate the 48-year-old MPCA Citizens Board came after its members voted in 2014 to require an environmental-impact statement from a proposed 9,000-head dairy operation, spurring outrage from some in agribusiness.
And all this in a state with a Democratic governor and the Senate controlled by Democrats (although key Senate leaders are from areas with strong mining interest groups). Imagine how much worse it could be, I guess.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wisdom of the Ancients

I spent most of the day out in the garden, and the rest reading. So that makes this message magnet worth sharing for today:

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Kalief Browder: Remember His Name

Twenty-two-year-old Kalief Browder hanged himself last week. This brief story reports on his death, and this longer story explains why you should care.

At age 14, Browder was arrested on suspicion of stealing a backpack in the Bronx. He ended up spending three years at Rikers Island without a trial, two years of that time in solitary confinement, being beaten and starved by guards and abused by other inmates.

He maintained his innocence throughout, even though he was constantly told that he should just plead guilty so he could get out. The charges against him were finally dropped.

As his lawyer put it last night on All In with Chris Hayes, Browder's case crystallizes everything that's wrong with our criminal justice and prison system.

Kalief Browder in July 2014. Photo by Zach Gross.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Only in Wisconsin

It's not the first time Wisconsin's love of bratwurst has brought it to gentle ridicule on this blog (here's the other time).

But I think this tiny little Brat Barn may be funnier than the Brat Days sign:

One can only imagine what goes on inside the Brat Barn. Is it a place where the brats sleep at night on straw beds after a busy day of brattiness? Or is it a cousin to the old-fashioned woodshed where a brat might go to be hit with a hickory stick?

Only the people of Mauston, Wisconsin, know for sure.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Thinking About Cities with Driverless Cars

If you haven't thought much about the advent of driverless cars, this recent article by Thomas Fisher, outgoing dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, makes a good introduction.

I've read about the cars' possible effect on traffic and parking. Did you know there are three parking spots per car in this country? That's a lot of wasted space that will become available rapidly as cars stop being something you own and instead become something you call for when you need one.

Fisher quotes John Eddy, a leader at the engineering firm ARUP, who recently presented at the Science Museum of Minnesota:

“The first driverless cars will be part of fleets providing mobility services — sort of a cross between car sharing and a taxi service,” he said. And by “lowering the total cost of driving by 40 to 70 percent over the cost of traditional car ownership,” he added, along with rising insurance rates for those who want to keep driving and cause most of the accidents, driverless technology will see rapid and widespread adaptation.
I hadn't considered the likelihood that the cost of insuring a human-driven vehicle will go up once driverless cars become the norm.

Eddy also said that “Every major car manufacturer, many of their suppliers and some of the biggest tech companies are developing fully automated vehicles to operate alongside our current fleet of manually operated vehicles” with the entire car industry becoming a mobility service rather than a seller of objects.

Car2Go -- owned by Fiat (Chrysler) -- is an early version of this. Even though the cars are still driven by people, they are deployed across an entire city and parked on the street in any legal parking spot for free. Add in the ability of the car driving itself to pick you up instead of you having to walk to get to the car, and they've got a system already set up for driverless cars.

Fisher concludes the article:
When car-sharing fleets have driverless cars, we will be able to buy a mobility service for about a quarter of the cost of owning and driving our own cars. And with that will go the need for parking. We will call up a car that will take us where we want to go, dropping us at our destination and then moving on to its next call, like some automated chauffeur service.... This will reduce the number of vehicles by at least a factor of four [Eddy] estimates, and, except perhaps in the middle of the night, eliminate parked cars. “Imagine our cities without parking lots or houses without the need for garages and driveways,” said Eddy. Parking ramps may go the way of horse stables.

Streets will also change. Unlike our current road system, designed to reduce the accidents that come from human error, driverless streets will need only two lanes each way, Eddy said, a “through lane and a drop-off lane,” each narrower than what we have now [either nine or 10 feet, versus 11 or 12 now]. The added space in the public right of way can then go for bike lanes, wider sidewalks and the planting strips that make walking safer and more pleasurable, and keep stormwater cleaner and more on-site.

Driverless cars may also encourage greater density as mobility services charge by the distance vehicles travel and as response times improve accordingly. All of which will come as good news to governments struggling to maintain and repair the overextended infrastructure we have in place because of the automobile.

As with any technological disruption, there will be winners and losers. The winners include the 25 percent of the population, according to Eddy, who cannot drive: the elderly, disabled and youth; the poor, who will have access to vehicles at a fraction of the cost; and commuters, who waste the equivalent of one week a year stuck in traffic. Municipal budgets, public health, urban life and the natural environment will also benefit enormously from this change, as happened a century ago when cars replaced horses.

The losers? Those in the automotive industry who ignore the disruption headed its way; those living in remote locations who may have to pay higher rates to still drive a car, and those who deny that the American love of the automobile will ever end....
I wonder a bit about how payment will work for these driverless car fleets. Do you have to have an account that's billed to a credit card? Seems pretty likely in our increasingly cashless economy. How is that going to work for the poor, who supposedly will benefit so much from this change, but are often unbanked or have bad credit and can't get cards?

If the payments do go onto credit cards, they'll be at higher interest rates than the typical car loan, so that would eat up part of the savings.

And I wonder how all of these cars will be gassed up. Or if they're electric, what infrastructure is needed to charge them all?

Things to think about. I'm most interested in the effect on street size and the change in parking infrastructure. Getting rid of all that wasted space opens up the possibility not just for development in key areas, but possibly for affordable housing if enough pressure is brought to bear.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Old Things in Hardware Stores

I love hardware stores, especially ones that have been in the same building for many decades. You never know what you'll find. It seems as though they never throw anything away, but it's probably just that hardware store owners value their history and don't see any reason to get rid of useful items.

This scale is a good example. It's clearly still in use at the Noll Hardware Store in Saint Paul. It even has a Minnesota Department of Commerce sticker showing that it's been checked for accuracy.

It was patented on August 16, 1872.

This phone on the wall at Noll is not in use, however.

This display at the Olympia (Wash.) Supply Company is similar -- these tools are not for sale, and I doubt the store still has a lay-away plan. But I'm grateful they have it up there for us to see.

Friday, June 5, 2015

A Dollar with a Message

I came across this dollar bill the other day:

The stamps are made (and sold) by People for the American Way.

Now I have to go put it back into circulation so others can see it too.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Two Examples of Suburbs Showing the Way

The Minneapolis suburb Shakopee recently decided not to give a big tax subsidy to Amazon.com, which is planning to build a distribution warehouse in the town. Yay for Shakopee!

Today's Pioneer Press carried a letter from local business owner Dan Marshall, who congratulated Shakopee on its decision:

'Projects they subsidize'

As a local business owner, I was very pleased to hear that the city of Shakopee and the state of Minnesota will not be giving tax subsidies to Amazon.com to open a distribution center. Given the fact that Wisconsin recently paid it more than $20 million to open a warehouse in Kenosha, this is a remarkable achievement.

Hopefully, this will prove to cities and states all over the country that, despite its claims to the contrary, Amazon does not require taxpayer subsidies to build a warehouse. Indeed, Amazon is a fierce and efficient competitor that has a net negative effect on jobs. According to a study by the Institute for Local Self Reliance, Amazon destroys seven retail jobs for every two that it creates. The venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, an early backer of Amazon.com, estimates that "Amazon probably destroyed a million jobs in our economy" since its inception.

I'm proud to be one of more than 300 members of the Metro Independent Business Alliance, the only local business group that lobbied against giving taxpayer dollars to Amazon in Shakopee. As Amazon seeks to establish more distribution centers throughout the Twin Cities, our local governments should be thoughtful about the quality of projects they subsidize with their limited resources. Huge multinational job-killers like Amazon just don't fit the bill.
Marshall's Peapods toy store is one of the highlights of Twin Cities retail.

Another bit of good news from a Twin Cities surburb: Bloomington's city council has voted to consolidate trash hauling, setting area-based contracts with seven haulers. Currently, over a dozen haulers cover the entire city, contracting directly with individuals, which results in multiple trucks thundering down the streets and alleys every week.

Maybe Saint Paul's city council can get a spine and follow Bloomington's example.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Percy Jackson and the Grammo of Stupidity

Lately, I've been reading my way through the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan. I don't see what all the fuss is about, but then, I'm not the intended age target.

Structurally, they're clearly derivative of the Harry Potter series (outsider boy with powers he didn't know about meets extra smart girl at a school/camp and ends up trying to keep an evil lord from coming back into power).  I hear they get better as they go along, so I'm giving them a chance to convince me.

But meanwhile, I had to comment on one textual error that I found:

I don't remember seeing any other typos or grammos along the way, but this one is a doozy. "I'd just assume keep it" -- ? Did you mean "I'd just as soon keep it," copy editors?

This doesn't even qualify as an eggcorn, because it doesn't make any sense.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Fact to File Where You Can Find It

You know that assumption we're supposed to have in this country, that everyone has opportunity if they just work hard enough? A poor kid who's smart can go to college and come out ahead, right?

Well, yeah, it is possible, but it's not as possible as most of us think. Here are some stats from a study that followed high school students from 2002 until now.

The students were divided into quartiles by their parents' incomes, education levels, and occupations. Overall, 70 percent of students planned to earn at least a bachelors' degree (87 percent of the top quartile kids vs. 58 percent of the bottom quartile kids, but still -- pretty high percentages).

Thirteen years have gone by since the study began, 10 years since the students would have graduated from high school. How many of each group have achieved their goal of a bachelor's degree?

Sixty percent of the top-quartile students. But only 14 percent of the bottom quartile students.

And this is where someone insists that the top-quartile students are just smarter than the bottom-quartile students, right?

Wrong. The high school students were given a number of tests in math and reading, so the researchers have an idea about the aptitude of the students from the different quartiles. Top-quartile students who scored 75 percent or higher for the math test graduated from college 74 percent of the time. But bottom quartile students with the same scores graduated only 41 percent of the time. According to the story, "a poor teenager with top scores and a rich teenager with mediocre scores are equally likely to graduate with a bachelor’s degree."

None of this says that a hypothetical poor kid can't "make it" today. But the odds are not in your favor. That's the opposite of the country I want to live in.