Monday, January 31, 2011


while there have long been people who don't think that they should have to pay taxes and who believe that there is too much government interference in the life of most americans, i am profoundly frustrated at the way that this sentiment is gaining popularity.

at least in part because of the continued presence of the teabaggers tea party in american political life, i keep reading about (and talking to) people who insist that "the government" meddles too much in their affairs and takes too much of their money.

recently i was talking to someone who had spent the last few years on unemployment, and whose spouse retired early from a federal job, receiving a substantial severance package. also, the federal retiree had always held the insurance for the entire family (they raised several children.) however, despite what seemed to me like several dramatic examples of interaction with the government being the only thing standing between them and total financial ruination, this person vehemently announced to me that the government had "no business" besides national defense, and expressed strong wishes toward a total cessation of all government activity not directly related to national defense.

and it has really gotten me thinking about this whole "no taxes, government bad" approach to policy. while few people actually enjoy paying taxes, rational grownups should be able to see that taxes are not, in fact, the result of a power-mad, bullying government stealing money from defenseless citizens, but actually a reasonable way to pay for things we want and need. markers of civilization, actually, which sounds hyperbolic at first but really isn't.

here's something that taxes pay for:
1. paved roads. i read a horrible article about a 23 year old woman in alabama who ran over a pothole and dislodged a chunk of highway that went through the windshield of the truck behind her and killed the woman in the front seat, who was riding with her husband and their two small children. no one was doing anything wrong; the first driver was cleared of any wrongdoing. she hadn't been speeding, she was driving safely, they road simply hadn't been maintained. the state says they can't afford it. now the first driver is wracked with guilt, and the husband is a widower, a single dad with two small kids. because there wasn't money for highway repairs.

so "tea party patriots," are you ready to volunteer your time for road crews? or should someone set up toll booths all over the place to fund roadwork? (followup question: should that be the government? or a private company collecting money? if a private company, will there be any oversight? how do you propose to supervise this effort without government involvement? does the mention of tolls constitute a "tax" that will get you all worked up?)

to be continued.

lack of context leads to unintentional hilarity

frequently when i'm on the telephone with the nephews' mama, she says funny things. sometimes this is on purpose (she is a pretty funny lady, and we've known each other so long that we have plenty of inside jokes and references that wouldn't mean much to anyone else but that crack us up.)

and i like it when she makes me laugh intentionally, i really do.

sometimes much funnier, though, are the times when what she says is totally reasonable for the circumstances in which she finds herself (and the nephews), but totally hilarious to people (me) without the same context.

let me demonstrate:

"you guys can play baby all you want but you're not going to be in the fridge."

of course, since i'm a good friend, i try to support her parenting by not laughing loudly while she's disciplining the children.

sometimes i fail.

sometimes certain names work better in ad campaigns than others

photographed by the ever-patient captain awesome (who never seems to mind when we're on the way somewhere and then all of the sudden i really want him to take a picture of something), and who comments: "christian the worst kind."

dear flu,

great news! you can go now.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

never let anyone try to tell you that you won't learn about cartilaginous fish in astronomy class.

tutor nick, on hammerhead sharks: "those guys can calculate distances much better than we can do because the eyes are so much further away."

Friday, January 07, 2011

i have recently had an important revelation about the future.

flying cars are a terrible idea.

i know that they're supposed to represent the awesome inventions that science has in store for us and the triumph of technology and progress...but have you ever really stopped to think about it for a minute?

i did for the first time yesterday, when i was reflecting on how bad lots of people seem to be at driving their normal, non-flying cars. i've started riding my bike just about everywhere recently; i don't really drive much anymore (and when i do it's only a non-flying car) and riding the bus isn't usually much faster than riding my bike. and it costs money. and it doesn't burn calories. and it sometimes involves standing around outside for a long time.

all this time on my bike has given me a lot of chances to interact with drivers. and many of them are awful at driving. it's really helped me to appreciate the car-free parts of the city—i love the greenways and bike paths that make it possible for me to get places without much car traffic.

but it's also made me realize that we are far from ready for flying cars. can you imagine what it would be like? it's bad enough to have to deal with cars in the same plane as you when you're riding a bike—but from now on, when i have a close call with someone i'll remember: at least they didn't have the opportunity to crowd me from above!

science, i own you an apology. i'm sorry for being disappointed in you for all these years for your failure to produce flying cars. i think you really have our best interests at heart. please don't ever make flying cars happen, ever. teleportation devices, on the other hand, are long overdue.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

"heartbeats" by the knife, or covered by josé gonzález: both excellent. happy new year!

"heartbeats" the knife

"heartbeats" josé gonzález

i apologize for the inevitable ad for bp's youtube channel where you can watch lots of pr bs about how they're "making it right." do they really think we're that stupid?

free advice for bp: you "make it right" by actually making it right, not by spending millions of dollars on a media blitz in which you talk about making it right. thanks for ruining everyone's ocean.

bonus video because it is really fun and to avoid ending on a cranky note:

"heartbeats" josé gonzález and a lot of bouncy balls in san francisco.