August 9, 2014

Tiny-house-ism.



I'm not buying the extreme libertarianism of this video, but I'm interested in the design of tiny houses, and the video is well made and presents a topic worth discussing.

"The situation near Erbil was becoming more dire than anyone expected. We didn’t want another Benghazi."

That's a quote from someone the NYT identifies as "a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe the White House’s internal deliberations."

The U.S. has a consulate in Erbil, so the similarity to Benghazi, if it were overrun would have been stark.

The linked article — titled "Fear of ‘Another Benghazi’ Drove White House to Airstrikes in Iraq" — has an interesting 11th paragraph, which seems to be a gathering spot for details that make Obama sound disengaged (but busy):
With nearly 50 African leaders converging on Washington, the president was fully occupied with a week of diplomacy and salesmanship on behalf of American companies — not to mention a White House dinner featuring entertainment by Lionel Richie. On Saturday, he and his wife, Michelle, were to leave town for two weeks of vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.
The Washington Post provides additional details. Even as the Yazidi were trapped and dying of thirst on a mountain in Iraq, the White House was serving "aged American beef spiced with chermoula, sip trendy Virginia wine (religion permitting)." And Lionel Richie's "All Night Long" seems to speak in an African language — "jambo jumbo... Oh jambali/Tom bo li de say de moi ya" — but it's just gibberish, "a wonderful joke," according to Richie, who contends that even in "made-up language... I am actually saying something, because even to this day, we’ll play India, and someone will tell me, 'Yes, you’ve touched on certain words in [our language].' As long as I am not cursing you out, I am going in the right direction."

Good enough for pop song lyrics, but I want more straight talk — more focus — from Obama on Iraq, where there are no wonderful jokes.

Maybe girls will buy it if it's pink...



That's Penguin's new cover for the Roald Dahl classic "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," as seen at "The five worst book covers ever." The other 4 are so much less bad that it's scarcely worth pretending this is a real listicle (even if writing a listicle were something worth aspiring to).

The worst book covers I ever saw were on display at the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, where I traveled in 1993. This was in the days before digital photography when I traveled without a camera in what I consider my "Get Me a Table Without Flies, Harry" period. On page 33 of what I call my "Amsterdam Notebooks" — at the bottom of the second image — I wrote and sketched about the various copies of the diary, translated into many different languages, with the Spanish version — "Cuentos" — featuring a smiling blonde girl and the French version reproducing an 1877 Renoir portrait of a rosy-skinned blonde woman in the most absurdly comfortable, cossetted circumstances imaginable:

"My heart is still deaf, and my allegiance is with the deaf community. After years of guardedness..."

"... my access to others and their easy intimacy unmasks me, and I don't always like it. Leaving my private world behind gives me what I call identity vertigo. I have to engage more, take more responsibility, and I'm out of practice. But now I've regained spontaneity in my life...."

"The uprooting of invasive 'non-natives' such as the Japanese knotweed is of course not necessarily motivated by racist intent."

"Yet accounts of alien immigrant invasions, weak native hosts bedevilled by larger, more aggressive, rapidly reproducing foreign species, and stable sustainable environments upset and jeopardised by overpopulation, clearly demonstrate a language that is shared in descriptions of human and nonhuman life."
When global economic and environmental crises reveal the fragility of the nation state, I suggest that a defence of British nature – expressed, for example, when the “native” red squirrel is described as being “driven out by the relentless northern march of the greys” – can become the site of displaced nationalist sentiments. 
That's from the sociologist Ben Pitcher, whom we were just talking about a few days ago under the post heading "Is it racist — or uncomfortably racist-like — to express hostility to non-native plants?"

Why the monkey selfie is in the public domain.

David J. Slater, the wildlife photographer, makes his best argument this way:
He claims that buying the cameras, spending thousands of pounds to transport himself to Indonesia, and performing the act of neglect that allowed the monkeys to steal his cameras entitles him to full authorship of the image, regardless of who pushed the button. “In law, if I have an assistant then I still own the copyright,” he told the “Today” show. “I believe there’s a case to be had that the monkey was my assistant.”
But his argument contains his admission of the flaw that wrecks it:
[I]f one is to believe his own telling of the monkey stealing his camera, Slater not only didn’t ask the monkeys to take the selfies but eventually took the camera away. Without intent (... Slater did not specifically set up an environment to take a photo), clear direction (monkeys do not listen to anyone), or an employer-employee agreement (no monkeys signed anything), Slater’s claims that the monkeys were acting on his behalf are absurd. If any reasonable person left her laptop in a café, and a poet picked it up, opened up a word-processing program, and typed out this generation’s Dream Songs, could she reasonably ask for much more than her laptop back?
Give it up, Slater, and embrace the publicity you're getting at this, your moment of greatest fame. Move on, photograph something else, and let us like you at this point — perhaps the only point — when we know you. Surrender gracefully to the Mona Lisa of Macaques and and let everyone... everyone...


David Slater / Wikimedia Commons

...  smile.

40 years ago today: Nixon resigned.

There are a lot of current stories reminiscing about what was, for most journalists at the the time, a day of jubilation. I'll link to The New Yorker, which brought my attention to this great reenactment of the event by Harry Shearer, showing how it looked and what was said before and after the part we saw on television:



And here's the real thing, including the pre- and the post- show:



"When you watch the actual footage from that evening, recorded by one of the TV cameras in the room, Nixon’s swaggering tone-deafness will make you squirm. Shearer’s reënactment magnifies that effect, both because the use of multiple cameras provides detail and depth, and because presenting the episode as a dramatic scene underlines the strangeness of the President’s behavior."

"In New Mexico... [t]he high desert is normally the color of baked pie crust; now, it's emerald."

"We now have this green carpet covering all the mesas, the lowlands... And we're just not used to seeing a pistachio-green color in the landscape out here. It's very, very unusual."

"Apparently, [John Kerry] still believes it’s 1984, and the only photographers are from the Globe..."

"... and if they take another embarrassing shot, he can just call Mr. Winship or Mrs. Winship and get it killed. Now, embarrassing photos go around the world when the Globe is Photoshopping tomorrow’s halo above Liveshot’s exquisitely coiffed mane."

"By now, my body resembles a corpse, thin with only skin and bones..."

"I have no energy, and my hands and legs tremble. No power, no strength. I cannot walk far or do heavy work. Everyone works like animals, like machines, without any value, without hope for the future."

From the Diary of Poch Younly, dated February 9 to July 29, 1976.
“Why is it that I have to die here like a cat or a dog ... without any reason, without any meaning?” he wrote in the spiral-bound notebook’s last pages....

When Instapundit said this video is reminiscent of this other video, I was sure he was pointing at something else.

He wrote: "A SALUTE TO THE EUROPEAN YOUTH. Something about this seems kind of familiar, somehow."

I watched the "Salute to the European youth"...



... with growing certainty that the link on "familiar" went to the well-known "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" (the Hitler Youth scene in "Cabaret")...



But it went to this somewhat dopey but decent and innocuous video by Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher from 2009 with a bunch of young people pledging to do volunteer work and to be a good parent and friend and so forth...



That was weird.

August 8, 2014

The sunflower unfurls.

Untitled

Sorry about all the insects, especially the two that make me want to say: Get a room.

Untitled

Get a mushroom.

How bad was "Cash for Clunkers"?

Really bad.

I've always loathed "Cash for Clunkers." The destruction really bothered me — especially watching this video of wrecking a Corvette.

The medical examiner has ruled James Brady's death a homicide, 33 years after John Hinckley shot him, so could there be a murder trial?

"There is no statute of limitations on murder charges, but any attempt to retry Mr. Hinckley would be a challenge for prosecutors, in part because he was ruled insane, said Hugh Keefe, a Connecticut defense lawyer who taught trial advocacy at Yale University."
“They’re dead in the water,” Mr. Keefe said. “That’s the end of that case, because we have double jeopardy. He was tried; he was found not guilty based on insanity.”

But George J. Terwilliger III, who was the assistant United States attorney in Washington when he wrote the search warrant for Mr. Hinckley’s hotel room, said there might be grounds for a new trial.

“Generally, a new homicide charge would be adjudicated on its merits without reference to a prior case,” said Mr. Terwilliger, who became a deputy attorney general under the elder President George Bush and is now in private practice. “The real challenge here would be to prove causation for the death.”

Mr. Hinckley’s lawyer, Barry W. Levine, acknowledged new charges were possible, but said the possibility was “far-fetched in the extreme.” “There’s nothing new here that happened,” he said.
I can't imagine prosecutors choosing to go after Hinckley now, but is there any legal path here? I would have thought no. I'm surprised to see what Terwilliger said, but I'm not an expert on double jeopardy.

Mother, father, and baby...

... sandhill cranes:



Video'd by Meade a few days ago on the Capital City Bike Trail here in Madison. I was there too, as Meade crept up and they evaded.

Obama has spent $11 billion on high-speed higher-speed passenger trains, but where are they?

"... mostly nowhere..."

(The link goes to The New York Times, not to some Obama-bashing site.)

"Human beings crave order and simplicity. We cling to the hope that some day, if we really refine our world view and beliefs..."

"... we can actually find the fully correct way to think — the absolute truth and final side to stand on. People and systems craving power take advantage of this desire and pit us against each other using a 'this or that' mentality. The point is to create unrest, disagreement, resentment, and anger — a population constantly at war with itself, each side deeply believing that the other is not just wrong, but also a sincere threat to their very way of life and survival. This creates constant anxiety and distraction — the perfect conditions for oppression. The goal of this sort of politics is to keep people held down and mesmerized by a persistent parade of seemingly life-or-death debates, each one worth all of our emotional energy and primal passion."

From a surprising answer by Village Voice columnist Andrew W.K. to a question from a young left-winger about the problem that is his father's being a right-wing asshole.

"The three Sundays rule dated back to the Victorian era."

"It was felt to allow enough time for any new evidence to come to light, the convict to make his peace with his or her God and also to not prolong the inevitable wait to die."

The legal process was quick, and so was the execution itself:
"On the stroke of 8am they would enter the condemned cell, strap the prisoner's arms behind his back and lead him to the gallows. The whole procedure often took less than 10 seconds from the hangmen entering the cell to the prisoner dropping to his death."

The Democrats' Senate candidate in Iowa is going to lose because of chickens.

"At no time did I ever — ever — threaten a lawsuit or threaten litigation. Never. And anybody who says that I did is not being truthful," says Bruce Braley. "This was a personal dispute between my wife and a neighbor because chickens were on our property all the time."
Even if Braley didn’t threaten a suit, some around Holiday Lake bristled at his tactics. “They are not neighborly,” said [the chicken's owner Pauline] Hampton, a mental health therapist who uses the hens as therapy animals. “In Iowa, we are very well known for being friendly, and if one has a problem with another, we always talk to them face-to-face. This kind of floored me.”
What Braley's wife supposedly said to the therapy chicken lady, who'd come to the door with a gift of a dozen fresh eggs, was: "We aren’t going to accept your eggs — and we have filed a formal complaint against you."
Another neighbor, William Nagel, who sits on the homeowners association board, said, “Buddy, we’re here in Iowa. We talk like men here and we act like men. Usually, a man’s word is like gold. A handshake is a contract. Neighbors are neighbors, and if you’ve got a problem with your neighbor, you talk it out.”...

“You threaten to sue somebody because a chicken’s on your property? That’s absolutely ridiculous,” [said Braley's Republican opponent, Joni Ernst]. “In Red Oak, my neighbor next door, when we first moved into our house, their kids were raising chickens in the garage as a project. No big deal. Oh, my goodness. It’s Iowa. Come on. Get over yourself.”
Brayley is a lawyer, by the way, and Ernst is that lady who "grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm."

"I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq."

Obama assured the American people, even as he stressed the importance of doing something.

We watched last night. Here's the video. He was speaking in the White House dining room, without an audience, and he used the style of teleprompter reading that has him looking to one side for a while and then to the other, as if he were addressing a roomful of people. I guess there were people in the room, technicians and advisers, but we TV-watchers were the audience, and the side-to-side business felt evasive. He looked and sounded half robotic and half scared.

I don't know what was really going on in his head...
... thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain death.... operations to help save Iraqi civilians stranded on the mountain... hiding high up on the mountain, with little but the clothes on their backs.  They’re without food, they’re without water.  People are starving.  And children are dying of thirst... descend the mountain and be slaughtered, or stay and slowly die of thirst and hunger... on that mountain -- with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale... what we’re doing on that mountain....
The vision of children dying of thirst on a mountain haunts the President, but not unmixed with the nightmare of the looming fall election. 
... the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye.  We can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide.  
Doing nothing is not an option, but we also cannot do too much. Obama is trapped on his own mountain, but what he owes us — we who have put him on the mountain — is to do what is right, without taking any account of the fall elections, but you can see in his face and hear in his voice that he won't do that.
... targeted airstrikes, if necessary.... humanitarian airdrops of food and water... consulting with other countries -- and the United Nations -- who have called for action....
That's not much, and it must cheer the enemy in Iraq. Instead of explaining why he wouldn't do more, he spoke next to Americans he pictured thinking even this is too much:
I know that many of you are rightly concerned about any American military action in Iraq, even limited strikes like these.  I understand that.  I ran for this office in part to end our war in Iraq and welcome our troops home, and that’s what we’ve done.  As Commander-in-Chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq.  And so even as we support Iraqis as they take the fight to these terrorists, American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq.  The only lasting solution is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi security forces.
I picture the enemy watching this video and laughing.

ADDED: "U.S. military jets carried out two airstrikes Friday on Islamist militants outside the Kurdish capital of Irbil, hours after President Obama authorized attacks against the Sunni extremists advancing on the northern Iraq city."

August 7, 2014

Freedom of religion includes not just the freedom to believe but the freedom to try to believe.

This is an interesting concept I noticed as I reread the Hobby Lobby case today, from Justice Kennedy's concurring opinion (boldface added):
In our constitutional tradition, freedom means that all persons have the right to believe or strive to believe in a divine creator and a divine law. For those who choose this course, free exercise is essential in preserving their own dignity and in striving for a self-definition shaped by their religious precepts.
I've written a number of times on this blog that I think many people don't really believe the religion they profess to believe, and in the cases about freedom of religion — including Hobby Lobby — the courts tend to regard sincerity as a necessary component of a freedom of religion claim. But here is Justice Kennedy lumping striving to believe in with actual belief. There's still a sincerity issue, since one might pretend to believe without seeing the nonbelief as a problem to be overcome.

"In today’s America, to not be able to get down, or at least pretend to, is to be inarticulate. We live in a distinctly swaggery age."

"Obama, then, speaks a larger English than Romney – or Reagan, or Kennedy. It complements the fact that he is the first president since Martin Van Buren, who grew up speaking Dutch and broke into it when angry, to be raised in a household where more than just English was spoken. It’s stupid enough that Obama has to downplay his command of Indonesian to avoid looking like a Muslim; must we jump him for using the Black English spice kit?"

Says John McWhorter.

70 years ago today: IBM presented the Mark I computer to Harvard.

"The Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (Harvard Mark I) was the first operating machine that could execute long computations automatically."
A steel frame 51 feet (16 m) long and eight feet high held the calculator.... The ASCC used 500 miles (800 km) of wire with three million connections, 3,500 multipole relays with 35,000 contacts, 2,225 counters, 1,464 tenpole switches and tiers of 72 adding machines, each with 23 significant numbers.

"She’s a Harvard-educated multimillionaire who rarely goes to church; he’s a middle-class son of a preacher who is just now trying to complete his college degree."

Politico has an article on Mary Burke: "The woman who could beat Scott Walker."
Taking on Walker would be a daunting challenge for the most seasoned pol, let alone a candidate making the rough equivalent of a major league debut in the playoffs. Burke has improved on the stump since she jumped into the race last year, even Walker’s team acknowledges. She hired an A-list of former Barack Obama advisers, including respected adman Jim Margolis. But while she’s become more at ease, at times her inexperience shows. Burke was caught off guard, for example, by a straightforward question about what she thinks of the president’s performance.

“He got us out of the deepest recession that the country has seen,” she said during an interview, “and uh, are there things I agree with him on? Absolutely. Are there things I disagree with him on? Absolutely.”

Like what?

Burke paused for 12 seconds....

Burke is not, however, a natural champion of the left.... “I assessed her as a 1-percenter at the time, but she’s a 1-percenter with one great conscience,” said John Matthews, who heads the Madison teachers union.

A life sentence, 40 years after the fact, for Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, who are 83 and 88, respectively.

"Both men denied the allegations against them, although Khieu Samphan did admit that mass killings took place – blaming Pol Pot’s extreme brand of communism."
"It is easy to say that I should have known everything, I should have understood everything, and thus I could have intervened or rectified the situation at the time," he said. "Do you really think that that was what I wanted to happen to my people?"

"Merkel's Christian Democratic Union political party has vowed to stop organizations and doctors it claims are profiting from vulnerable patients seeking to kill themselves."

"Euthanasia foes are also concerned that Germany is surrounded by countries with pro-euthanasia and assisted suicide laws, some of which are being broadened."
Michael Brand, who is coordinating the CDU and its allies' efforts on the ban in the German parliament, says... that the question of assisted suicide is particularly sensitive in Germany because of his country's Nazi history and the Holocaust.

"We live in a society where everyone today is productive, fit and healthy," Brand says. "We need to be careful not to put pressure on those who are nearing the end of their lives, who are sicker, who are disabled. Who has the right to decide what life is worth living or not?"

"We are being slaughtered! We are being exterminated!"

"An entire religion is being exterminated from the face of the Earth. In the name of humanity, save us!"

Is it racist — or uncomfortably racist-like — to express hostility to non-native plants?

This is a question I've asked many times — jocosely and semi-seriously — in my prairie walks with my gardener husband Meade, who emails me an article about a sociologist — Ben Pitcher — who raises the topic on a British radio show:
"Gardeners’ Question Time is not the most controversial show on Radio 4, and yet it is layered with, saturated with, racial meanings. The context here is the rise of nationalism. The rise of racist and fascist parties across Europe. Nationalism is about shoring up a fantasy of national integrity. My question is, what feeds nationalism? What makes nationalism powerful?"

Dr Pitcher said there is a "crisis in white identity in multicultural Britain" caused by the fact that "white culture" is historically associated with racism and far-Right views.

White people are therefore forced to find other ways of talking about white identity – such as through gardening – so they do not appear to be racist....
One response is to say this is "utterly absurd" (which is what a horticulturist on the show said), but overreaction like that displays defensiveness. Pitcher's point is that racists and other persons with racial sentiments that they must otherwise stifle find relief in opining about plants. If that's in fact what's going on, I would expect them to protest when someone threatens to blow their cover.* The way to appear nonracist — that is, the way to keep your cover if you need it — is to find the suggestion intriguing and to explore it with mild intellectual vigor and a delicate infusion of humor.
____________________________

*This is what "protest too much" means. Here, Wikipedia has an entry for "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."
In rhetorical terms, the phrase can be thought of as indicating an unintentional apophasis — where the speaker who "protests too much" in favor of some assertion puts into others' minds the idea that the assertion is false, something that they may not have considered before.
"Protest too much" is useful, but it's overused and sometimes used morononically... Morisettishly:
Alanis Morissette wrote a song titled "Doth I Protest Too Much" [sic] for her album So-Called Chaos.

August 6, 2014

Waiting for the sunflower.

Untitled

"[T]he federal government’s... cost-benefit calculation... assumes that the benefits from reducing smoking... have to be discounted by 70 percent to offset the loss in pleasure that smokers suffer when they give up their habit."

"Experts say that calculation wipes out most of the benefits from the regulations and could make them far more vulnerable to legal challenges from the tobacco industry. And it could have a perverse effect, experts said. The more successful regulators are at reducing smoking, the more it hurts them in the final economic accounting."

Experts, eh? Didn't experts also make the calculation?

"Maybe many young people waste too many hours on futile things... Our life is made up of time, and time is a gift from God, so it is important that it be used in good and fruitful actions."

Said Pope Francis, citing as futile: "chatting on the Internet or with smartphones, watching TV soap operas, and (using) the products of technological progress." Technology, he said, "should simplify and improve the quality of life" and not "distract attention away from what is really important."

When Michelle Obama says "life is short and change is needed and women are smarter than men"...

... it's highlighted at Breitbart, but why? I suspect the Breitbart folks think it shows that MO is arrogant and feminism has gone too far and want to stir up readers to say Look! Now men are being oppressed and civilization doomed unless we get a vigorous injection of social conservatism.

But I'm hearing the First Lady's rhetoric as corny and old school, like the way men of the so-called Greatest Generation used to talk about their wife, their better half. It was once standard etiquette for a professional man to aver that his homemaker wife was, of course, much smarter than he. It was part of maintaining the old order. And Michelle Obama has taken the behind-the-scenes homemaker role in relation to her husband. She's being old fashioned and speaking in an old fashioned way.

And yet those who feel true nostalgia for the past won't acknowledge this, because they don't like where her husband wants to take us. So perhaps I'll stand alone in what I'm saying, but I'm old, and I remember. I lived through the 50s and the 60s, the pre-women's movement era, and I remember the kind of talk that I hear resonating in her words. It drove me mad, and it still makes me mad. I don't think it's feminism and I don't think it's good for women. It might be good for men... if they understood how to use it... like the Greatest Generation guys they imagine they can emulate.

"Starter Husband Hunting" ad for high-heel shoes goes easily viral.



Who says you can't run in high-heel shoes? You can run right into the arms of the feminists who either can't take a joke or must generate another topic for another column about the cultural battleground that is the female body.

Maybe the men's-rights crowd is ventilating too. I haven't dug that deeply.

"[T]his moronic New Republic thing, 'Liberals Are Killing Art: How the Left became obsessed with ideology over beauty'..."

"... my response to which, based on years of bitter experience with actual kulturkampfers, is basically WTFingF. For the moment I will only mention that author Jed Perl cites absolutely no allegedly art-killing liberals of the present time that you've ever heard of, and that his first references are to Robert Hughes' Culture of Complaint (1993) and Lionel Trilling's The Liberal Imagination (1950), which basically makes me want to say, why don't you and Roger Kimball go back in time and fuck each other on a pile of old New Criterions?"

Roy Edroso reads and reacts to a New Republic essay that I noticed in the middle of the night, between sleeps, endeavored to read, but I nearly lost my mind. I was saved by second sleep, overslept, and awoke refreshed enough to know I didn't ever have to figure out whatever it was Perl meant to say or what nightmares I might have had and forgotten about Lionel Trilling and the rest of the old-time culture-cogitators who beset the minds of old men.

But how old is Perl? Wikipedia tells me he was born in 1951, and I am brought up short. I was born in 1951. "Jed Perl initially trained as a painter." Well, hell, I was initially trained as a painter (not that "trained" is the right verb, but I did squander my undergraduate journey in the painting studios of my university's art school).

I should be sympatico with Perl, but he seemed to be citing all the characters that seemed so important to our parents' generation. I can't believe it matters, but then again, I can't seem to care at all about any art that got made in the 4 decades since I escaped from art school. If Perl knows, he's not expressing it in a form that gets past my filters.

"After that, every time I heard of another stolen bike or burglary — or needed to saw a piece of metal — I regretted returning the hacksaw."

"But at least when walking the streets at night I didn’t have to worry that I might encounter a bunch of angry guys looking for a hacksaw thief."

Rosetta flies 4 billion miles to rendezvous with a comet called 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenk.

The spacecraft has now slowed to a speed of 2 MPH relative to its comet, nicknamed C-G, and the two travel together at a speed of 35,000 MPH for a distance of 330 million miles toward annihilation in the sun.
In November, a small 220-pound lander is to leave the spacecraft, set down on the comet and harpoon itself to the surface.

That will be the first time a spacecraft has gently landed on a comet....

... Rosetta will observe as the comet goes from a quiescent ball of ice and rock to an active comet spewing out dust and gas and then make before-and-after comparisons. “We’ll observe how this occurs, how this activity is onset, how it fluctuates, really how a comet works over a long time period,” Dr. Taylor said. “That’s really the difference between this and anything that’s been done before.”
We'll observe the beautiful, doomed relationship of the cosmic couple Rosetta and her Churyumov-Gerasimenk.

I was going to write: Rosetta is all about sending selfies to everyone in the world. But Rosetta doesn't send selfies. She sends millions of photos of the clod to whom she's devoted her monomaniacal life, and I doubt whether Churyumov-Gerasimenk gives a damn.


European Space Agency

August 5, 2014

The boy has a way with an adverb.

And the adverb is "apparently."



It's Noah Ritter of Wilkes-Barre at the Wayne County Fair.

Equality in...

... fat shaming.

I'm really afraid of the effect pop music is having on our young people.



Have we lost our minds? Is it satanic?

"It’s pretty cynical and presumptuous to ask friends, family and strangers for money for crazy expensive IVF."

"It’s tacky and tasteless. What are they going to ask for next? The child’s private school or college fund?" said bioethicist Jennifer Lahl, looking at crowd-funding projects by couples who need money to make their baby.
But the Paranada-Frieds shrug off her assessment. “The circles we move in are not judgmental,” says Scott, 35, a teacher who wed his actor boyfriend in Manhattan last summer. “They know that Jay and I will make wonderful parents. That’s all that matters.”
If you think that's making it sound more like etiquette than ethics, the linked article include advice from the author of "The Etiquette Book: A Complete Guide to Modern Manners." She says:
"Whenever someone says anything that is offensive or inappropriate, you just reply, 'Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.'"
That sounds hard to say without a sarcastic edge. Let me suggest instead: Oh, my, and I was just thinking that the circles we move in are not judgmental.

"This is what happens when you think you are more intelligent than the Internet."

The internet talks back.

Patricia Krenwinkel talks feelingly about how she threw her life away for Charles Manson, 45 years ago.


That film, by Olivia Klaus, is published in The New York Times.
Seeking to inspire a race war, Manson ordered Ms. Krenwinkel and other members of his group to commit a series of murders. Over the course of two nights, they savagely murdered seven people, inflicting more than 130 stab wounds. One of them, the actress Sharon Tate, was eight and a half months pregnant. At their trial, the women shamelessly admitted their crimes and flaunted their allegiance to a leader they loved, but who clearly controlled their minds.

The Robinowl and the Scottie Selfie.



Fernandinande transformed my photograph, the one of the fledgling robin in whose eye I saw myself, and Meade came forward with his own accidental selfies in the eyes of an animal:

P1160583

ADDED: See the entire adorable the 10 month-old Scottish Terrier Gillie at Meade's blog Puparazzo.

"I know I would not be sitting here in this damn wheelchair if we had common-sense legislation."



James Brady, dead at age 73, 33 years after he was shot along with President Ronald Reagan, for whom he served as press secretary. In happier days...
"He was... known for his wisecracks, though they sometimes boomeranged on him. As Reagan’s director of public affairs and research during the 1980 presidential race, he was barred from the campaign plane for a week. The offense: He and another Reagan aide had shouted, “Killer trees, killer trees!” while flying over a forest fire. The remark was a not terribly subtle reminder that Reagan had once identified trees as a major source of air pollution.

When your Airbnb guests become squatters, isn't it nice that Airbnb seems willing to cover the rent they're not paying and also your legal expenses?

But what else would you expect it to do when it's getting hundreds of millions of dollars in venture funding and "a potential valuation of $10 billion"?
It’s a bit mind-boggling that Airbnb, fraught as it is with legal issues, is valued so highly, although admiteddly [sic] $10 billion is the new $1 billion valuation for hot startups in the current over-heated tech boom. For example, ride-sharing service, Uber Technologies Inc., received additional funding in June at a valuation of $18.2 billion....

“Airbnb’s business is not a simple app like Twitter, Instagram or WhatsApp, where the service is entirely virtual,” said Sam Hamadeh, founder and chief executive of PrivCo, which analyzes private companies, in an email. “Most of Airbnb’s business is inherently unlawful, violating a combination of short-term hotel regulations and taxation, tenant leases relating to subletting, and condominium and co-op bylaws requiring board approval for any sublets.... The Airbnb squatting debacle is simply underscoring the constant risks and liability exposure to Airbnb that makes it — and many other sharing economy startups — overvalued on a risk-adjusted basis.”

The conundrum of the monogamous bisexual.

Larry King is very old and he asks questions, often (and quite successfully) from the dumb guy perspective, but his simple, conversation-advancing "Are you a non-practicing bisexual?" and "But you were bisexual?" — asked of Anna Paquin — moved Amanda Marcotte to tongue lash the elderly interviewer.
Your sexuality may exist inside your head, but most people are going to judge your orientation by who you’re partnered with. And so monogamous married people tend to “read” as gay or straight, but some may actually be bisexual. “When you're bisexual or pansexual, but you're in a long-term relationship, your bi/pansexuality can become invisible,” Greta Christina, the author of Coming Out Atheist and expert on all things coming out sexuality-related or not, explained to me. “People often assume that you're gay or straight, based on who you're involved with now—and it kind of eradicates your history and your identity.”

This is a problem because, as the gay rights movement has shown, visibility helps—a lot. There are many myths that proliferate about bisexuals, including the myth that they are oversexed and can’t be monogamous, a myth that King was pushing with this line of questioning whether he intended to or not....

Inevitably when you start having discussions about this, someone feels the need to pop in and say, “Why do we need labels at all?” But the problem of bisexual invisibility shows exactly why we need labels and how much good they really can do. Naming a phenomenon makes it visible. Populating that name with examples that people can relate to makes it understandable. People who are putting their face out there and declaring their bisexuality are helping demystify it. Though it would be nice if they could do it without being peppered by a bunch of rude questions from Larry King.
I think it's rude to say that Larry was rude. Also to call him dumb. Though it's kind of complimentary to characterize his questions as a peppering. I'd thought he was considered maddeningly bland. But good for Larry that anybody still cares what he might be implying and for getting reasonably relevant pop culture characters to receive a peppering of his old-man questions.

As for bisexuals married to opposite-sex partners, do they have a special exception from the usual rule that a married person ought not to talk about his or her sexual attraction to persons who are not his or her spouse?  If they do, is it because we think they have a more persuasive argument that there's something they want that they're not getting from their spouse, or is it the seemingly loftier goal of increasing visibility for a group that monogamy would otherwise erase? 

And I suspect half my commenters are about to write something along the lines of: Why does anyone need to talk about the orientation of their sexuality? How about everybody shutting up about it?

Man hears baby crying in "Game of Thrones," which he's been watching for quite some time...

... and it jogs him into remembering that he left his own foster child in his car.

"Has any other country, in any other war, been expected to keep the enemy’s civilian casualties no higher than its own civilian casualties?"

"The idea that Israel should do so did not originate among the masses but among the educated intelligentsia," writes Thomas Sowell in a column that cries out for the old George Orwell quotation: "Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them."

Sympathy for the slave owner...

... in The Washington Post.

"Otherwise, tax rates on recreational marijuana will be easily subverted."

The last sentence of the "Better Way to Tax" section of the NYT editorial "Rules for the Marijuana Market," the newest entry in its series promoting the legalization of marijuana.

Having read that section, I think the sentence works better without the word "Otherwise."

The editorial author — Vikas Bajaj, who specializes in economics —predicts that the price of marijuana will crash  when it is legal, which will make the tax, if it's a percentage of the sales price, very low. And he portrays the low price as a problem not because the lure of tax money might prompt legislators to legalize, but because low prices will entice consumers to use too much marijuana. To bolster the price and thus stave off drug dependence, Bajaj says we'll need a heavy excise tax.

But heavy taxes lead to tax evasion, right? Bajaj does acknowledge the incentive to go for medical marijuana — which is tax free — but he says nothing about the black market, which is also a way to avoid taxes. We already have a flourishing black market, and the product is an easy-to-grow weed.

Bajaj proposes cracking down on the doctors who give out too many recommendations for medical marijuana, but this hasn't worked out well even in the current legal environment with the federal law ban. If it hasn't been possible to control doctors, how will the black market be controlled? The government's inability to control the black market is key leverage for "ending Prohibition" — as the Times likes to put it — so what can be said on this point? Read the column. The answer is: Nothing.

There's another section of the editorial titled "Don’t Market to Minors." The term "minors" is used even as the ban is proposed to extend to those all the way up to age 21. The under-21 consumers are already a big part of the black market, and they will remain excluded from the legal market. This group of consumers will — along with heavy taxation — keep the black market going. And, remember, the price is going to crash, and it's a weed that can be grown at home. Bajaj just talks about restricting advertising by the legal marketers.

This editorial is presented as if the problems can be carefully thought through and solved through regulation. This is the greatest delusion about government. I'd like to believe that if experts analyze things they can propose reasonable regulations that will generally benefit all of us, but so often the experts participate in the political game of lulling us into believing this lovely thing that we'd like to believe. But the gaps here are so obvious. I'm not lulled.

August 4, 2014

Reflections in a bird's eye.

Remember the fledgling robin, blogged here?

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I just noticed that my entire body is reflected in the bird's eye:

- Version 2

Soon we'll have bikes and shoes that buzz...

... to tell you when and which way to turn.

"Brain chemistry causes some people to notice food more."

"Researchers in a study found that dopamine activity in the striatum, an area of the brain sensitive to food reward is linked to how quickly men noticed a food picture hidden among neutral pictures...."

"Last week's Jeopardy! Teen Tournament ended in a two-way tie after a super-easy Final Jeopardy question..."

"... Under normal circumstances any contestants tied for first place move on to the next day's game, but a tournament needs a sole winner. So there was a sudden-death Jeopardy-off..."

"We've heard your cries for..."

"... more realistic sex positions. So here they are. Real sex positions. Modeled by real people. Completely unretouched. We're calling it Fifty Shades of Missionary. You're welcome."

Via Salon, "Cosmo’s craziest sex tips yet: 50 takes on the missionary position."

"It’s very odd. I’ve never seen a dollar counterfeited before in my life."


It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense."

Thoughtful and pointless.

Notes left in the guest book...

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... at a gallery here on campus.

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Malia Obama goes to Lollapalooza...

... "in a summery daisy-print skirt and top and some grungy boots suited for the muddy field."

How we judge people by their facial features.

Some science: "Small changes in the dimensions of a face can make it appear more trustworthy, dominant or attractive."

Are you happy now?



Really happy?



Lego offers satisfaction to the women who've been complaining about the incomplete representation of women in science in the Legosphere.

"What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap, and starts shooting machine-gun fire into your nursery?"

"What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?"

"I am amazed — and troubled — by the large number of 20- and 30-somethings who acknowledge watching and listening to sports programming as long as they are awake."

"This makes it all the more imperative that what sports journalists and commentators say and write does not feed the most regressive parts of an industry that at its worst can be homophobic, misogynistic and racist."

From a NYT sports column by William C. Rhoden about the suspension of ESPN sports commentator Steven A. Smith, who said something that, oddly enough, isn't even quoted in the article. Rhoden seems to want to say something, but I don't know what it is. Maybe: You have to be careful what you say. Well, then this column is a great object lesson, because Rhoden is pussyfooting around so much I can't tell what he means to say.

Rhoden ends with:
If there is a lesson to be learned from the spate of suspensions, it’s that in our zeal to tap new markets and attract new readers, viewers and listeners, we relinquish a sliver of our conscience and our responsibility to at least try to create order out of chaos.

As we chase dollars, we make progressively less sense.
Maybe he's chasing dollars. You know, if you actually care about creating order out of chaos, you could say something clear.

Curious about what Smith actually said, I found this CNN article by Marc J. Randazza, identified as "a Las Vegas-based First Amendment attorney." He says:
If you listen to his entire statement, [Smith] said nothing to suggest that Rice's now-wife, Janay, "had it coming," nor did he make any excuses for Rice's behavior. The only offense he committed was that he blathered so incoherently that he made it hard to see how he managed to get a TV show in the first place. So, if ESPN wants to take him off the air and replace him with a better commentator, I'm all for it.  But I'm disgusted at the rancorous, politically correct swarm that descended upon Smith, and the spineless reaction of the management at ESPN. And once the swarm gets into "beast mode," there is no recovery....
I still don't have a quote of what exactly Smith said. There's video at the link, but it's just CNN talking heads emoting about it, playing some emoting by Rush Limbaugh, then emoting about Limbaugh, whose use of the phrase "elderly feminazis" sidetracks them (which I'm sure delights Limbaugh). 

Okay, here it is. Here's Steven A. Smith saying what got him suspended:



I can see why no one quotes him. It's so long, and it's long because it's so furiously hedged with disclaimers and qualifications.

Great up-voted comment on a Daily News column that argues that the "broken windows" approach to law enforcement "subjects minority and poor New Yorkers to harassment for no good reason."

"Stealing bundles of The Daily News from in front of yet to be opened stores is a Petty Crime. Many minority men have been arrested for stealing bundled newspapers. I believe this crime should also be wiped off the books. Let every one who wants to take newspapers have them. These entrepreneurs do poor people a service by selling them cheap News Papers near subways.  Maybe writers of the DN could take a pay cut in order to offset the loss of income."

Ramsey Orta, who video'd the NYT police choking a man to death, is arrested on a gun possession charge.

"Police union officials said Mr. Orta’s arrest showed the dangers faced by officers in that area of Staten Island."

August 3, 2014

Lake Mendota, this evening.

A quietly festive crowd filled the Union Terrace...

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... as the sun began to set...

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Frenemies.

"Actually I soon discovered that a substantial number of names listed in my address book belong in the category of Frenemy, an incredibly useful word that should be in every dictionary, coined by one of my sisters when she was a small child to describe a dull little girl who lived near us," wrote Jessica Mitford in a NYT op-ed in 1977.
My sister and the Frenemy played together constantly, invited each other to tea at least once a week, were inseparable companions, all the time disliking each other heartily.

I wonder whether most of us do not, in fact, spend more time with Frenemies than actual friends or outright enemies? The fringy folk whose proximity, either territorial or work-related, demands the frequent dinner invitation and acceptance of their return hospitality....

But real friends — ah? Who are they? Mostly people, boys and girls whom we knew and laughed with, and loved passionately circa age 20....
But that is not the original usage of the word in print. The columnist Walter Winchell used it in 1953 in the Nevada State Journal — not that Mitford's sister cribbed the coinage — "Howz about calling the Russians our Frienemies?"

I got that from the Oxford English Dictionary, where I looked up the word "frenemy" today after seeing it in The Daily Mail. I was reading "Woman, 62, with cancer survives being trapped in car for EIGHT days without food and only rain water after getting lost and stuck in the mud" when I glanced away over into the sidebar and saw "BFFs again? Kim Kardashian shares a laugh with frenemy Paris Hilton in new Instagram snap/Enjoying a laugh together in Ibiza."

Ah! The Daily Mail! Oh, the decline! Let's cleanse our palate with a quaff of the fresh rain water that was journalism in the 1950s:

"Take a class outside your major just because you’re interested in it. (Gender and Women’s Studies 103 is highly recommended — if you can make it past the waitlist.)"

#45 on the "Bucky List" — a list of 50 things a University of Wisconsin student newspaper tells undergraduates to do before they leave. I wasn't going to blog this because #1 is something you should not do and too many slots are given to encouraging young people to drink or just naming typical things that are always suggested as something anybody — of any age — ought to do if they come to Madison, most notoriously — guess what? you can buy vegetables in Madison — the Farmers' Market. But the parenthetical on #45 made me laugh. Ruefully. And I thought it would be useful to rewrite it:

Take a class outside your major just because [...]. ([...] is highly recommended — if [...].)

ADDED: Here's pretty similar list from a year ago, somewhat edgier and dirtier, but somehow still including the tired nudging to go to the damned Farmers' Market. I need to make my own list of UW tips:

1. Come up with a stock line to utter when you're told – as you will be — that you must go to the Farmers' Market. Examples: I prefer vegetables from South America, I'm phobic about extremely slow-moving crowds, Does walking counter-clockwise turn back time?

Manned and unmmanned, in a crouch and on a couch... and not on a couch.

Sometimes Maureen Dowd gets weirdly caught up inside her own lingual playfulness. Today's column mostly poops on George Bush's new art project — a book about his father — but let me highlight this:
Even though both Bushes protested that they didn’t want to be put on the couch, historians will spend the rest of history puzzling over the Oedipal push and pull that led America into disasters of such magnitude....

W.’s fear of being unmanned led to America actually being unmanned. We’re in a crouch now. His rebellion against and competition with Bush senior led directly to President Obama struggling at a news conference Friday on the subject of torture. After 9/11, Obama noted, people were afraid. “We tortured some folks,” he said. “We did some things that were contrary to our values.”...

The Bushes did not want to be put on the couch, but the thin-skinned Obama jumped on the couch at his news conference, defensively whining about Republicans, Putin, Israel and Hamas and explaining academically and anemically how he’s trying to do the right thing but it’s all beyond his control.
Remember when it was completely the norm for elite cogitators to do Freudian analysis?

But what I to know is why Dowd — having analyzed Bush's writing a book about his father — gets to the topic of Obama and never mentions that Obama wrote a book about his father... especially when she's imposing a Freud template. Freud wrote "The Interpretation of Dreams," and Obama wrote "Dreams From My Father."

Let's be old-timey elite cogitators and crouch psychiatrically by Dowd's couch. When something so obvious is not said, that's a very meaningful statement. Why are you repressing that?

And speaking of repression, Obama's writing a book about his father is a magnificent repression of the truth of the childhood he actually lived, with his mother, not his father. That's the Oedipal dream, to have the mother all to yourself. What was missed — says the old codger cogitator dredging up Freudianisms — was the opportunity to kill the father. The father was already gone. Bush Jr., as Dowd expounds, had to develop his psyche in the shadow of a toweringly great father. (I chose tower as my image intentionally.) If you're writing a column... and, of course, column ≈ tower ≈ phallus... if you're writing a column comparing Bush to Obama, we've got a lot to talk about here. What happened to Obama, a man who began with the Oedipal dream fulfilled? He had to create his dream-book to resurrect the dead father to make something out of the nonachievement of beginning with the full possession of the mother.

If we're going to go old-school and get Freudian, let's say all the unsaid things. If you don't want to, I'll talk about your problem with repression.

And Dowd is highly attuned to language play, but I think she would have edited out the word "crouch" if she'd noticed the resonance with "couch," a word she used 3 times and which formed the concrete image of psychiatry (her central theme). I think "crouch" was an expression that slipped out, that missed the usual filter and is therefore quite telling. She uses "crouch" to signify weakness, but crouching has a closer association with a strong animal lying in wait, ready to spring:
Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
When they crouch in their dens,
Or lurk in their lairs to lie in wait?
That was God — did you recognize His voice? — talking to Job.

(Freudian side note: Joe Biden calls himself Joe — not Joseph — so that you will hear the name "Job" in the spoken "Joe Biden" — Job by den — Job, crouching by the den, lurking and lying in wait.)

And why did Dowd say "jump on the couch"? The thin-skinned Obama jumped on the couch... A psychiatric patient does not jump on the couch, even when he is enthusiastic about beginning the session. It's a dog that jumps on the couch. So it slips out again, the animal imagery. Crouching. Jumping.  Why liken Obama to a dog? Why liken Obama to a dog at the precise moment when you are referring to his skin?

Oh! This Freudianism is great fun. Thank you, Maureen Dowd, for inspiring me to display these insights of mine, such as this revelation of your racism.

And thanks be to God who has put wisdom in the mind and given understanding to the heart...
Who can number the clouds by wisdom?
Or who can pour out the bottles of heaven,
When the dust hardens in clumps,
And the clods cling together?
ADDED: "When the weather was good, my roommate and I might sit out on the fire escape to smoke cigarettes and study the dusk washing blue over the city, or watch white people from the better neighborhoods nearby walk their dogs down our block to let the animals shit on our curbs—'Scoop the poop, you bastards!' my roommate would shout with impressive rage, and we’d laugh at the faces of both master and beast, grim and unapologetic as they hunkered down to do the deed."

Do you recognize the voice? It's Barack Obama, in that book about his father.

AND: "Rising ground, and on it something like an open-air latrine; a very long bench, at the end of which is a wide aperture. The whole of the back edge is thickly covered with little heaps of excrement of all sizes and degrees of freshness. A thicket behind the bench. I urinate upon the bench; a long stream of urine rinses everything clean, the patches of excrement come off easily and fall into the opening. Nevertheless, it seems as though something remained at the end. Why did I experience no disgust in this dream? Because, as the analysis shows, the most pleasant and gratifying thoughts have cooperated in the formation of this dream...."

Do you recognize the voice? It's Sigmund Freud in his book about dreams, pouring out the bottles of heaven.

Men in shorts, dogs with tongues, football teams with greatness.

P1160382

Photo by Meade, from "It was a hot day at the dog park."

Am I wrong about greatness?

"With the single exception of Homer, there is no eminent writer, not even Sir Walter Scott, whom I can despise so entirely..."

"... It would be positively a relief to me to dig him up and throw stones at him."

Said George Bernard Shaw about William Shakespeare, from "Shakespeare sucks: a history of Bard-bashing."

ADDED: Speaking of George Bernard Shaw, his name comes up twice in (the book I'm reading) "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich." At pages 242-243:
No one who lived in Germany in the Thirties, and who cared about such matters, can ever forget the sickening decline of the cultural standards of a people who had had such high ones for so long a time....

The theater, it must be said, retained much of its excellence as long as it stuck to classical plays.... The Nazi playwrights were so ludicrously bad that the public stayed away from their offerings, which invariably had short runs. The president of the Reich Theater Chamber was one Hans Johst, an unsuccessful playwright who once had publicly boasted that whenever someone mentioned the word “culture” to him he wanted to reach for his revolver. But even Johst and Goebbels, who determined what was played on the stage and who played and directed it, were unable to prevent the German theater from giving commendable and often moving performances of Goethe, Schiller and Shakespeare.

Strangely enough, some of Shaw’s plays were permitted to be performed in Nazi Germany— perhaps because he poked fun at Englishmen and lampooned democracy and perhaps too because his wit and left-wing political views escaped the Nazi mind.
And pages 783-784:
The Special Search List, G.B. (die Sonderfahndungsliste, G.B.) is among the more amusing “invasion” documents found in the Himmler papers, though of course it was not meant to be. It contains the names of some 2,300 prominent persons in Great Britain, not all of them English, whom the Gestapo thought it important to incarcerate at once. Churchill is there, naturally, along with members of the cabinet and other well-known politicians of all parties. Leading editors, publishers and reporters, including two former Times correspondents in Berlin, Norman Ebbutt and Douglas Reed, whose dispatches had displeased the Nazis, are on the list. British authors claim special attention. Shaw’s name is conspicuously absent, but H. G. Wells is there along with such writers as Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, Aldous Huxley, J. B. Priestley, Stephen Spender, C. P. Snow, Noel Coward, Rebecca West, Sir Philip Gibbs and Norman Angeli....
 AND: I accidentally wrote over this post, so I'm reconstructing it. Here are all the original comments:

Why we traveled to Colorado because there was something in particular we liked about the law there.

No, not the marijuana. It was 5 years ago, remember?
August 3, 2009 — We're here in Colorado not just for the scenery, but for the law.

What is the law we love so much — this beautiful example of the benefits of federalism? I will tell you soon!
In the comments, Freeman Hunt made the marijuana guess:
One of you is sick, and you think marijuana will help?
That was back before Colorado extended its marijuana tolerance beyond those seeking relief from medical afflictions and on to people in search of a bit of fun and relaxation, but it was not why we came to Colorado. And in fact the first commenter, reader_iam, had already guessed it: "Are you wanting to solemnize your own marriage, as opposed to having an officiant required?" LarsPorsena was right there with the "Colorado legal stuff for AA":
"....Solemnizing a Marriage: Couples themselves may solemnize their own marriage (perform one's own marriage ceremony). According to Colorado Revised Statute 14-2-109, a marriage may be solemnized by a judge of a court; by a court magistrate; by a retired judge of the court; by a public official whose powers include solemnization of marriages; by Indian tribe officials; by clergy; by the parties to the marriage. If you wish to solemnize your own marriage, you will be responsible for acquiring, completing and returning the license to marry to the appropriate county Office of the Clerk and Recorder...."
From the comments, I said:
Commenting from a mountaintop: we are still sitting on the rock where we exchanged rings, and now we are married.
That comment became the title of the next post, which you can read here. And here are the details of the smallest possible wedding on the rock in Colorado, which looked like this:

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The smallest possible wedding took place on a small rock 5 years ago, and here we all still, alive in the beautiful world, on the metaphorical rock of marriage...

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