News and Reaction, Politics

BP Mini-Rant

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/07/01/bp-mini-rant/

When 9/11 happened we grounded all the planes until we got the situation sorted out.

When the volcano erupted in Iceland we grounded all the planes until we got that situation sorted out.

When one of many many offshore, deep-water oil rigs begins spewing oil all over the Gulf of Mexico we don’t shut down all the other disasters-waiting-to-happen. No, instead we complain that the President’s temporary moratorium on expanded off-shore drilling is reactionary and counter-productive.

(Posted as a comment to Tom’s Livejournal.)

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Featured, Politics, Sundry, Testimonials

Cutting Off Unemployment Insurance

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/07/08/cutting-off-unemployment-insurance/


I spent my share of time collecting unemployment insurance in the previous recession. I managed to land a job just as my benefits were nearly expired — I thanked my lucky stars on that one! Sure, the job paid 60% of my previous salary, but that was still several steps up from unemployment insurance.

Now I worry that the Republicans, in an uncharacteristic bow to “fiscal responsibility” have put the kibosh on extending unemployment benefits. It is rough out there and everyone expects the economic recovery that seems to have begun to possibly take a very long time. We have millions living hand-to-mouth somewhere between earning a living and being desperately poor. Now we want to cut the cord and let them plunge?

And, okay, let us say we are rugged individualists and we don’t care about the suffering of the unemployed. But . . . these unemployment payments go straight back in to buying groceries and other necessities . . . we’re taking a huge chunk of consumer spending offline! That means falling retail profits, that means more layoffs, a tumbling stock market . . . we are inviting upon ourselves the next Depression, or at least a “double dip” recession.

We need to not f*ck the economy in the rear while it is still teetering on its knees. I wish the nation were more shrill about this issue . . . I hope I am wrong but this just seems incredibly stupid and self-destructive. Americans will be hungry, times will be harder, and Obama will go down in history as one of those hapless liberal presidents who couldn’t rally the nation in a moment of crisis, to be replaced by some jingoist reactionary.

I hope I am wrong.

Update: Obama has a petition going . . .

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About Me, Excerpts, Featured, Sundry, Technical, Technology

T-Mobile myTouch Slide 3G: How’s the Keyboard?

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/07/13/i-like-to-type-on-my-smartphone/

I still fondly recall the nice rubber keyboard of my Sidekick 2. So nice, I was reluctant to “upgrade” to a G1, which has a nice enough keyboard. A few months back I got to spend some time with a Nexus One, which was really nice . . . but I just could not adjust to the on-screen keyboard. The on-screen keyboard has gotten very good for inputting addresses and short messages, but if you’re a compulsive typer like me you need an excellent physical keyboard.

So, I keep my eye out for an Android device with an excellent physical keyboard, and naturally I do a little research on this HTC “T-Mobile myTouch 3G Slide” . . . the name is truly awful, but it sounds like the keyboard shows promise. (It sounds like the physically-similar HTC “Touch Pro2” has an excellent keyboard, but I don’t want to run Windows on a mobile phone.)

So, in case, like me, you have wondered if the keyboard is any good, here is what various online reviews have had to say:

From http://www.intomobile.com/2010/06/14/review-t-mobile-mytouch-3g-slide-is-this-this-the-android-youre-looking-for/:

Of course, the main reason to get the myTouch Slide is for the full QWERTY keyboard. There are a few negatives but, overall, it’s an excellent way to bang out messages on the go. The shape of the keys are just right and the feedback and “clickability” make it easy to write long e-mails wherever you are. Hitting the secondary function or Caps lock key will bring up a handy light above the keyboard and I always appreciate dedicated comma and period buttons. There’s also pretty good auto-correction software with the keyboard so you don’t have to worry about throwing in apostrophes. The sliding mechanism produces a satisfying sound and it feels like it will hold up over time.

On the downside, I found the Tab button and A a little too close together and this led to multiple frustrating typos. What’s even worse is that the top row doubles as the number keys. This happens on many keyboards but usually you’ll have the letters and numbers a different color or font size to help you quickly find what you’re looking for. The myTouch Slide has “T5” “Y6” “I8” and others the exact same color and size, which can take some time to get used to. None of these quibbles are deal breakers though, as I was quickly able to get up to speed with my typing.

(The keyboard has four rows instead of five, and the top row reads “Q1 W2 E3 R4 T5 Y6 U7 I8 O9 P0” which looks dumb and would take some getting used to. Alas, the Touch Pro2 has five rows, like all the keyboards I am used to.)

From http://mobile.engadget.com/2010/06/01/t-mobile-mytouch-3g-slide-review/:

The keyboard is one of the best four-row designs we’ve used in recent memory (LG, seriously, take some pointers from this before you go releasing an Ally 2) with great feel, spacing, and clickiness — it’s readily apparent that HTC’s deep experience in making these kinds of keyboards is paying dividends. They’ve made room for all of the most important keys that you should be able to access without pressing Shift or Alt, notably the comma, period, and “@” symbol, plus you’ve got Home and Search keys and duplicated modifiers on the left and right sides. HTC aficionados will also be pleased to see that they’ve carried over the lit Shift and Alt symbols above the numeric row, which makes it super easy to see what character you’re about to press. It’s a nice touch.

From http://www.phonedog.com/2010/06/03/noah-s-mytouch-3g-slide-review/:

Keyboards are a very personal thing, and personally I love Slide’s QWERTY. While not quite as luscious as the Touch Pro2 on which it’s based, mT3G Slide’s thumbboard has been a joy to use save for some minor issues I have with the labels on the keys. Buttons on the keyboard are offset and isolated and have decent travel and solid tactile feel – in other words, its the exact opposite of the Moto Droid‘s flat grid of near motionless buttons, which I can’t stand. If you just read that sentence and wrote off the rest of my review because you love, love, love Droid’s QWERTY, then you may well hate Slide’s keyboard. Like I said, QWERTYs are a highly personal matter.

From http://www.mobileburn.com/review.jsp?Id=9572: “the keyboard has great feel, but is visually flawed.”

From http://www.mobilecrunch.com/2010/06/10/review-t-mobile-mytouch-3g-slide/: “who is this for? It’s for folks who miss their Sidekick and want a keyboard for messaging. The MyTouch 3G Slide’s processor won’t win the blue ribbon at the County Fair, but it is an impressive bit of cellphone.”

My verdict? I would want to try it out in the store, but it sounds like the keyboard would probably be “good enough” for me. That said, I think I will continue to hold out on upgrading for the following reasons:

Given that it may be either a hassle or an impossibility to upgrade my phone without paying more money each month, an expensive “upgrade” had better be worth it. The Slide sounds like it would be good enough as a new phone–a better alternative to the G1–but it has a few too many compromises to justify the cost of upgrade.

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Featured, Good Reads, Sundry

Book Giveaway: My High School Nephew

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/07/13/books-for-demetrius/

We are preparing to move back to California, and my nephew has reported that he has no plans for this summer before his senior year of high school, so late one night I tore through the shelves for volumes I thought might find a suitable home with his family. I figured to create an “annotated bibliography” and why not post such a thing online for the sake of possible discussion?

See the World

“Vacation Work’s Work Your Way Around the World” by Susan Griffith
An outdated guide that can give a sense of ways one might spend more time overseas. (Though the first advice is that the best place to work and save money for travel is usually the USA.)

“Dark Star Safari” by Paul Theroux
Paul Theroux is best known for his books about railroad travel, but in his overland journey from Cairo to Capetown, there are few trains. A taste of travelling in Africa, including an actual wild life safari.

“Japan” by Lonely Planet
An out-of-date guidebook which might have interesting stuff for a Japan-o-phile to read.

“Teaching English Overseas: A Guide for Americans and Canadians” by Jeff Mohamed
Worth a skim if you think you might want to live overseas one day.

“Overseas Timetable: Surface Transport for Africa, Asia, North and South America and Australia” by Thomas Cook
Outdated, but fun “travel porn” if you wanted to fantasize or estimate the different ways you could get around the world’s surface. Europe has its own book of the same size.

Coming of Age

“The White Boy Shuffle” by Paul Beatty
A fictional coming-of-age experience of a nerdy young black man in California. I particularly enjoyed the parts that recounted the LA Riots.

“Not Without Laughter” by Langston Hughes
Another fictional coming-of-age of a young black man, this time in the 1930s.

“Apartment 4B, Like in Brooklyn” by Evan Ginzburg
Short stories of what it was like to grow up in 1960s Crown Heights, as the neighborhood turned black. (This year I have lived in the same area, which is “gentrifying.”)

“Son of the Revolution” by Liang Heng
An autobiographical account of growing up in Communist China, through the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. This is a book I had to read in college which I held on to because it is such a great story of what it is like for a young man to grow up under vastly different circumstances.

Question Convention

“No More Prisons!” by William Upski Wimsatt
A very different kind of book: Wimsatt explores different ways to make life more fulfilling and successful. It was originally published by the anarchist Soft Skull press, if that gives you any idea. The title serves as both a call against our modern prison system, but also for emancipation from the less visible prisons we find ourselves trapped in.

“Heart of a Dog” by Mikhail Bulgakov
A short, sweet novel narrated by a dog in Moscow.

“Death at an Early Age” by Jonathan Kozol
Explains the numerous failings of public education in 1960s Boston. It was weird how much similarity I had personally witnessed in the Chicapo Public Schools of the 1980s.

“The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan
A long-winded exploration of the failings of our contemporary food system, and how we might go about eating right.

“The Years of Rice and Salt” by Kim Stanley Robinson
An alternate history of a world in which no Europeans survive the 14th century Black Death.

“The Diamond Age” by Neal Stephenson
Science fiction set in a near future where there is no longer any shortage of food or stuff: now humanity has thoroughly different problems. Totally blew my mind.

“The Myths of Innovation” by Scott Berkun
How great technological advances actually come about. (And how they don’t.) Good storytelling helps to better understand the creative process. (Signed by the author.)

“Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything” by Levitt and Dubner
Applying the science of economic statistical analysis and field research to explore questions economists don’t usually explore, like the economics of drug distribution in Chicago. A fun way to look at things from a different angle.

“Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser
The history of fast food in America and how it works today, between government and industry, and how it is hurting us.


“A History of the World in Six Glasses” by Tom Standage
A unique and enjoyable World History told from the point of view of how different beverages through history influenced the shape of particular civilizations.

“A Little History of the World” by E.H. Gombrich
A quick way to get up to speed on the idea of history, and some of Western History in particular. The intention is a good story-telling narrative for kids, but the narrative quality is inconsistent, and there is a definite German cultural bias. Possibly worth a quick read.

“David Thompson: The Epic Expeditions of a Great Canadian Explorer” by Graeme Pole
Among the things one might do with one’s life, surveying the Western Wilderness of Canada in the early 1800s . . . definitely an excellent adventure!

“To Live” by Yu Hua
Inspired the Zhang Yimou film of the same name, a fictional autobiography that starts at the end of Imperial China, through personal tragedy, the Japanese occupation, the civil war, and trying to raise a family through the difficulties of the Communist era. The protagonist and his story are so engaging I couldn’t put the book down.

“How to See Europe on 50 Cents a Day: A Tramp’s Trip” by Lee Meriwether
This guy sounds like Uncle Bill or maybe even Grandpa Howard: Lee Meriwether travels around Europe, mainly on foot, in the 1880s, conducting surveys of the economic circumstances of Europeans. It is fun to see what “backpacking” was like in a much earlier time, and I enjoyed the peeks into traditional European peasant economics.


“Drawing for Older Children and Teens: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too” by Mona Brookes
I never got in to this book, so hopefully some people with more free time than I have can dig it.

“Sams Teach Yourself GIMP in 24 Hours” by Joshua and Ramona Pruitt
An outdated edition that might still help someone learn a thing or two about editing computer graphics.

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Featured, Sundry, Testimonials

A Rally for Mehserle, Too

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/07/13/black-and-white-beyond-the-oakland-hills/

So, if you don’t live anywhere near Oakland, CA the long and the short of it is this past New Years Eve there was a bunch of youthful rowdiness at a train station, and the transit police came in to try to deal with the situation, and at one point a cop named Johannes Mehserle had a kid named Oscar Grant pinned to the ground, then he reaches for his gun and fatally shoots Oscar Grant in the back. (He said he thought he was reaching for his taser, which doesn’t make a lot of sense, but who knows what was actually in his mind?) The shooting was caught on grainy cell phone video from multiple angles.

Also, Oscar Grant is black and Johannes Mehserle is white, so . . .

Last Friday the verdict was read out for Mehserle, and Oakland braced for race riots, which aside from some vandalism downtown didn’t really happen. Thank goodness. Mehserle was found not-guilty of murder, which requires “malice aforethought” but he was found guilty of “involuntary manslaughter” which on the one hand sounds about right: it would be difficult to prove that he intended to kill Oscar Grant but a lot of people get upset at “involuntary” because the man voluntarily pulled his gun out of his holster and pulled the trigger. Due to the firearm, Mehserle faces 5-14 years in prison when he is sentenced.

Now, it seems there are only two ways to see what happened:

If you are a liberal person of color living in the flat part of Oakland then you never know when your kid will go out at night and be harassed, even killed by racist cops, who will then be slapped on the wrist because the system doesn’t care about the life of a black kid.

If you are a white Republican racist living in the posh Oakland Hills or beyond, then you see a poorly-trained officer of the peace working overtime on New Years to maintain public order in the face of black kids acting all “gangsta” on the train system. Dude made a horrible horrible mistake, and has to live with Oscar Grant on his conscience the rest of his life. He has to be sent to jail otherwise those kids down below will riot and burn their town again and blame it all yet again on white people.

I feel both ways about this. I’m dubious of Mehserle and I’m dubious of kids who want to run around fighting and acting like fools at night. I feel for Grant’s family and I also feel for Mehserle and I’m glad that when I screw up in my job nobody dies by my hand. I feel a vague sense of outrage at the entrenchment of black poverty and continued racism, especially when it involves cops, who do have really rough jobs and hell yeah I think rioting is about the most stupidly self-destructive reaction we could expect. And I’m really effing glad riots didn’t happen and I think that is something for which Oakland should hold its head high.

There have been demonstrations and what not in support of Oscar Grant. Today, apparently, there will be a rally for Mehserle in Walnut Creek, which if you don’t know is in the dry, hot inland just beyond the Ocean-cooled hills of Oakland. I have lived in different parts of the Bay Area, including Walnut Creek: it is the fault line between the outer fringes of Bay Area liberal orthodoxy and what I can only describe as “frat boys and wealthier rednecks.” So when word gets out that the inland rednecks are rallying for the trigger-happy cop, the reaction from the likes of sfcitizen.com reads:

“Anyone who supports Johannes and our Law Enforcement Officers may attend. This is a peaceful rally to show our support for Johannes and the injustices he is experiencing.”

I don’t know, I’m not sure which “injustices” we’re talking about here. Killing somebody by mistake, that can put you in prison, right? Is anybody saying that the jury verdict of manslaughter is an injustice? (Obviously, the absurd murder charges* just weren’t going to happen, right? So, what else was there for the jury to choose from?)

Anyway . . . I don’t think I’d call the verdict an “injustice” and I doubt I’d want to attend this rally but dammit, if a few folks out beyond the ocean-cooled hills want to get together and have their own rally for the other party to this awful tragedy, we can snicker at their obviously racist delusions, or we can accept that this is a complicated mess and not merely the simple black-and-white 1960s oppressor-victim narrative that is so precious to Bay Area social-political orthodoxy.

This is 2010. In this day our hearts should be large enough that we can afford compassion not merely for Oscar Grant and his family and friends, for the life cut so suddenly and brutally short, but also for Johannes Mehserle and his family, the other lives that are forever derailed in this stupid tragedy.

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