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A large, vivid modern painting.

Dragon Slayer (1966), by Sandor Molnar (1936 - ). Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest. Filed in Europe.


 

 

Me: Frank Lynch. These are my daily rants, mostly political. For something less spontaneous, I maintain The Samuel Johnson Sound Bite Page (over 1,800 Johnson quotes), perhaps your best online resource for insight into his thinking.

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Bio: Born 1957, raised in Florida, moved to New York area in 1982; now live in Brooklyn. I work in marketing research for Abt SRBI. My opinions should not be construed as representing those of my employer.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Well, isn't THIS special?

No offense to the families of all who died on September 11, but this morning felt worse to me than 9/12. On 9/12 I was confident of a way forward, and knew that war and retribution can be quickly engaged in. I knew that the destruction of the prior day would be quickly avenged. (Of course, I didn't have any idea it would be used as leverage to invade an uninvolved country, but there you go, those were innocent times.) However, with Trump's victory and the Senate still in GOP hands, the Republicans now hold all three branches of government; and changes to SCOTUS have a way of lasting generations. The Republicans aren't being slow to seize the day: Speaker Ryan is claiming Trump has a mandate in spite of the fact that Clinton won the popular vote. If Trump received a mandate, what did Clinton recieve? Only a consolation prize?

I'm not sure how soon we will see starker evidence of how polarized this country has become: that in spite of how reviled Clinton is, people would still choose Trump over her. A man who mocked the disability of a disabled journalist; a man who denegrated women and beat his chest about his ability to violate them at will; a man who wanted to block out adherents of one of the world's largest religions; a man who twisted the truth at every opportunity, flipflopped at will, encouraged the Putin to hack Clinton, encouraged violence at his rallies, mocked McCain for having been captured in war. Imagine the voter who chose all that over Clinton.

You know something? Trump told us himself but we didn't listen. He said he thought he could walk out on Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and it wouldn't cost him a vote.

Link | Comments | 6:48 PM
 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Budapest.

So this year we were able to go to Europe, and we wisely went to Leiden to visit long time friends and meet their sons, and wanting a second destination after that we chose Budapest. I have to tell you that it was an eye opener for me; I had no idea that it was such a target for invading armies, retakings, and so on. That was prior to the 20th Century. In the 20th Century it went from being a monarchy to being under Nazi control, then Soviet control, and then with the fall of the Soviet Union, a democracy. Hungary has only been a democracy for about 25 years; it's not a young country, but the mantle of democracy is new to it, and the people we spoke to seemed to approach their nation with a freshness, a less "taking for granted-ness," if you will.

We were only Budapest tourists, and I have to remind myself that the people we spoke to may not be representative of others at large. But I felt as if there was a pride in what their country has become, and that's worth applause, because they've been through a lot.

Other random observations:

  • You can generally get by in Budapest without knowing Hungarian. The people in the restaurants and shops seemed to know "trade English," that is, the English that relates to serving you or whatever. If you want to be friendly and broaden the topic to discuss the weather, you'll quickly find language barriers.
  • We were lost at one point in the outskirts, and when Ab began a question for directions with "Do you speak English?" the gentleman replied "Of course I do" and then gave us wrong directions. He needs to get out more and understand that 1, not everyone in Budapest does, 2, he doesn't have a tatoo on his forehead saying "Ask me English language questions," and 3, his directions aren't always accurate.
  • Streets in Budapest are occasionally laid out in a grid, but not always. They are more like London, and main thoroughfares are diagonal and curve. And their names change every eight blocks or so, and I don't know if this is in order to squeeze in honoring major statesmen, but it is confusing. You'll need an app to help you navigate, and a data plan too.
  • Navigational difficulties (if you don't have a data plan) are increased due to the fact that a given individual honored with a street name can be honored with all sorts of streets, lanes, plazas, terraces and so on after them. It is difficult to escape the feeling of "didn't we just pass that?"
  • The city was unnecesarily opaque to us. It was a couple days into our four-day stay that it occurred to me to look for a map app, and quickly found a very useful one which included maps of two of the three main transit maps (subway and tram, but not bus). We would have gotten more out of the city had we downloaded it at the start.
  • All things considered Budapest is a relatively inexpensive destination. But maybe that's how I feel as a New Yorker? That being said, we were told it was less expensive than destinations like Copenhagen (another contender for our second city after Leiden).

We had four days there, in addition to bookend travel days. They were unseasonably cold, with rain on two of the four days. But we still enjoyed ourselves, and took advantage of the diverse offerings: national museums, a House of Parliament tour, an evening cruise on the Danube with brilliantly lit buildings, Roman ruins, a historic cemetery, street meanderings, great food and pilanki. Aside from the weather it was fairly perfect, but hindered by our lack of a data plan and smart phone navigation. If you're planning Europe travel, consider Budapest as an add on.

Link | Comments | 9:51 PM
 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Who would you rather have a beer with?

Remember that abysmal poll question asking who you'd rather have a beer with? Bush or Gore? It was a silly question supposed to imply Presidential capacity (even setting aside the fact that Bush was an abstaining drinker). And I don't mean to gloss over the difference between a beer-mate and a President of the United States.

But perhaps you'll allow me this crazy extension? Who would you rather have over for Thanksgiving dinner, Clinton or Trump?

In my opinion, Trump is the epitomization of the Crazy Uncle. Your choice might depend on 1, whether or not you want a Crazy Uncle at Thanksgiving, and 2, whether or not you already have a Crazy Uncle for the chair.

But wow, day after day it seems as if Trump's been looking at casting calls in Variety for the Crazy Uncle, and saying to himself "Trust me, I can do this."

Link | Comments | 8:51 PM
 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I just don't know where it's going to stop, or how it will end.

Trump's call out to Russia, to show whatever emails they might have scooped off of Hillary Clinton's serverrs, is of course unprecedented. He didn't actually say they should go in and see what they could find; but then again, Dubya never exactly used the exact word imminent. Communication is a function of interpretation, and Bristol-Myers was was put in the penalty box for leaving people with the impression that Listerine could prevent colds, even though they only led you to connect the dots and didn't actually say it.

If I wanted to put this in the most generous terms possible, I still can't imagine it in a positive light.Assume for a moment that he actually did not ask Russia to now hack her servers. Is he asking Russia to take a fresh review of any thing they might have found? Is he asking Russia to actually be a force in our elections?

Neither of them are good. And the concept of a President appreciative of the graciousness of Putin in getting him elected is reprehensible. If there's a stronger word, I'd like to know it and use it. A President like that would have questionable loyalties. It's really time for the GOP to disavow their candidate. (As if that's going to happen, since they need down ticket votes; they will put Trump in every sexy negligee on the planet.)

Link | Comments | 8:57 PM
 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Cuomo takes advantage of a distracted public again.

The tradition of the late Friday document dump is well known and often used. But a skilled politician who really wants do something without attracting notice knows that people are especially less attentive on Saturday mornings in Summer. And if you have the opportunity to do it before a three day weekend in Summer, why who would pass that up? Certainly not the current governor of the great state of New York.

On Friday, NYS released a report (three months late) on the progress of the taxpayer-funded Start Up New York jobs program, showing that the program had created 408 jobs to date. Four hunnert and eight. That's against "tens of millions of dollars" promoting it, and $1.19 million in tax benefits (although the companies receiving the benefits have invested $13 million in the NYS economy).

I'd like to point out that there's a lot of actual journalism going on in the NYT piece: it notes the timing of the release, hiding key figures in footnotes, and the obfuscation of results. They clearly went soft on Cuomo during the primary against Zephyr Teachout.

Link | Comments | 6:13 PM
 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Was "The New South" just marketing hype?

It might only have been due to the fact that I was at work that I didn't do a full "What: Huh?" over a 7-1 ruling the SCOTUS issued today, over the obvious exclusion of blacks from a jury in Georgia. (To be clear, SCOTUS ruled the jury selection was unfair; and you should read the article to see the extent of how serious and blatant it was.) And I'm like, this made it all the way up to the Supreme Court? This wasn't obvious from the get go?

I've never really felt like I was in the diaspora; I chose to leave the South. But I have some close friends who are still there, and whenever they ask me when I'm coming back to visit, I'm total Henry David Thoreau, asking Waldo why he hasn't left yet. But not really, because I know they are fine people, and no region can afford to be without fine people.

But seriously: the NC bathroom bill, the personhood amendments, Rick Scott, the Oklahoma bill making it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion. (Just make the law less vague and I might sign it, the governor said. Oh, she also said it was unlikely to withstand a Constitutional challenge [good], but it's not like she said it was wrong and stoopid.)

Ah, the New South. Hustlin' round Atlanta in them alligator shoes.

(Yes, I know the narrator has a legitimate point about racism in the north. But the narrator is using that as a salve.)

Link | Comments | 7:43 PM
 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Exactly.

This was a very, very good thing for Donald Trump to say about the election of the new mayor of London, a Muslim he might let in:

"I was happy to see that," Mr. Trump said of Mr. Khanís election. "I think itís a very good thing, and I hope he does a very good job because frankly that would be very, very good."

The man is never at a loss for words. In fact, he knows lots of them. Tons. Very good tons. like, totally very good tons of very goodness.

Link | Comments | 10:30 PM
 

Monday, May 9, 2016

How not to report science?

Not sure if you saw John Oliver last night, but his weekly rant was about problems with how scientific experiments are conducted (too few replication studies to confirm results, as it's not newsworthy or underfunded; too small sample sizes; relies on tests with mice) how it's reported in press releases (over simplified or dramatized), and how it's chewed out by popular journalists (no examination of the viability of the methodology, just running with a tidbit which will generate eyeballs).

I can personally relate to some of what Oliver points to (my thesis advisor wanted me to delve into my data to find some stray way of reducing the error term and increasing the statistical significance of my results from 90%, good enough for my degree, to 95%, good enough for publcation, ooh baby). But I'd also love to know what proportion of the published results really deserve his mockery. I'm sure the number is high, but the number of studies in the journals etc and research experiments where this doesn't happen is probably also very high.

From my own, singular experience (singular meaning I have zero degrees of freedom, that being n minus one, where n equals one) we did not gussy up our findings on our study of truck drivers and harassment a bit. Not only did we fail to reject the null hypothesis (which says OK we found a difference -- we said we didn't) we also did what we could to make sure a difference wasn't hidden by other factors.

Further, the trucking industry publications reported our non-results dutifully, directly quoting our major conclusion that we didn't see anything substantial. None of them did anything to contradict what we'd written, even though there was a section of the report on the study's limitations.

Link | Comments | 10:00 PM
 

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