January rambling #2: Robert Mueller action figure

Code Switch podcast from NPR: Intrigue At The Census Bureau

Three Holocaust survivors open up about the rising tide of anti-semitism

What’s Behind Our Obsession With Political ‘Likability’

Here’s the Robert Mueller action figure you’ve been waiting for

Weekly Sift: The End of the Shutdown and Extortion Tactics Have No Place in American Democracy

Research suggests his election has been detrimental to many Americans’ mental health

The Religious Left Is Finding Its Voice

Code Switch podcast from NPR: Intrigue At The Census Bureau (January 24, 2019)

Many Voters Think He’s a Self-Made Man. What Happens When You Tell Them Otherwise?

Impeach him

The World Economy Runs on GPS. It Needs a Backup Plan

The economy is great for billionaires, not for working people

Weekly Sift: My Wife’s Expensive Cancer Drug

Millions of Americans Flood Into Mexico for Health Care

My life after a heart attack at 38

In Newly-Found Audio, Bayard Rustin Says Coming Out ‘Was An Absolute Necessity’

Misty Copeland, Calvin Royal III and the rarity of a black couple dancing lead roles

Former Northwestern PhD student accused of stealing his own car settles with Evanston

Civility - #drawninpowerpoint
Civility: #drawninpowerpoint – original comics, published occasionally by Craig Froehle. Creative Commons license “Attribution-NonCommercial”

Geographical dystopiary

RPI Model Railroad Club Getting Derailed?

The Christmas watch

A Girl Is Born

A Deadly Tsunami Of Molasses In Boston’s North End (1919)

How to rescue your car from two feet of snowbank

A profile of Mr. Eric Idle

Comic book artist George Perez retires; I hired him once, for the FantaCo chronicles for the Fantastic Four

Considering the new DC Universe streaming channel

Alan Alda Just Wants to Have a Good Conversation

Fallacies of composition and division

Now I Know: 150 Years After the Civil War, They’re Still Paying the Bills and How Tesla’s Death Ray Killed a Bill and The Intentionally Bad Novel That Became a Best Seller and Harry Potter and the Uniform of Temporal Distortion and The Man Who Inched Away at History

Becoming a digital near-native. Or not

MUSIC

Shed a Little Light – The Maccabeats and Naturally 7

Feed the Birds – Richard Sherman

Loving You With My Eyes – The Starland Vocal Band

Lola – Lake Street Dive

I Want You Back – Twice

Rimsky-Korsakov’s Cariccio Espagnol with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein

Sweet Child O’ Mine – Scary Pockets

Hazy Shade of Winter – Gerard Way, featuring Ray Toro

Running Up That Hill – Candy Says & Marc Canham

Coverville: 1248: Cover Stories for the Yellow Submarine 50th and Crash Test Dummies and 1249: Covering the 2019 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

K-Chuck Radio: Our Native Brothers and Sisters

Grammy-winning soul legend James Ingram dead at age 66

Land of Confusion – Genesis

The economics of streaming is making songs shorter

U.S. Vinyl Album Sales Grew 15% in 2018, Led by the Beatles, Pink Floyd, David Bowie & Panic! at the Disco

Seeking Deep Peace midst cold, snow, ice

Several boats yanked free by an ice logjam on the Hudson River closed several  bridges.

gaelic blessingSUNDAY: Almost every church in the area was closed, with heavy snow overnight. It was changing over to sleet and freezing rain around 7 a.m., just as I began shoveling for the first time.

Our church, however, was open. At the 8:30 service, the two pastors, their elder daughter, the tenor soloist, the organist and the couple who ushered were present. My wife and I took the bus to church because getting the car out of the parking space was impractical in the time frame.

At the 9:30 choir rehearsal, there were but nine of us and the director, plus the organist. The choir director was impressed that we had that many, and we carried on, with a total of 26 at that service.

My wife and I with our friend Sue went to lunch at Mamoun Restaurant that 1) was open, 2) has very good Mediterranean food, and 3) is only a couple blocks from my church. We thought Sue had been attending the church longer than we had,, but it turned out it was that we all started attending the same year, 2000.

We returned to church for the 3 p.m. funeral of Charlie Kite. Eleven in the choir now. to sing A Gaelic Blessing by John Rutter, subtitled Deep Peace..

The Kite friends and family were out in force, and it was a great event with the church 3/4 full on a lousy day, weatherwise. In-laws, kids, grandkids and old friends all paying tribute. Among other things, we heard how Charlie loved boating.

After the reception, my wife and I went home, and after a change in footwear, started digging out her car around 6:30 p.m. We were tired, but we knew snow emergency called for Monday night, plus the forecast of plummeting temperatures meant that we did it then, it would be too difficult the next day.

MONDAY: An Arctic blast. as it was a federal holiday, I didn’t have to go anywhere, and except removing the snow that the city plows applied in blocking in the car, I never left the house. My daughter’s play rehearsal was wisely canceled.

TUESDAY: Library Foundation meeting, then work. Moderating temperatures.

THURSDAY: Because it was exam week, and my daughter was home alone most of the week, I took the day off, and in the afternoon, went to the movies. It was raining all day, but the temperature began sinking. I took the bus to church.

As I was getting off the bus at Washington and Lark in Albany, some guy sitting in a seat to my right hit me in the arm. It didn’t especially hurt, but I stopped and said to him, “What did you that for?”

The burly white male maybe half my age said: “Just keep going.” I repeated my query. “I’m crazy. You know. I could kill you if I wanted to.”

“No doubt that’s true. But why are you being such an @$$4013?” (I had decided that showing fear to this dude was not in my self-interest.)

I tried to retreat to the rear entrance, but he blocked that.  I went out the front entrance, as he continued to yammer something. I gave a WTH look at the driver and got off. The guy did not follow, fortunately.

Taking the bus home after rehearsal, the problem was black ice, especially stepping from the roadway to the sidewalk. I’m shocked that I did not fall.

FRIDAY: More black ice on the way to the 11 a.m. funeral of Bob Lamar. The choir must have numbered over 30, including a few folks from other FOCUS churches. we sang How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place from the Brahms requiem, in English. I’ve it so often, I pretty much know it by heart.

A full house for the service, despite some roadway chaos in the area. Several boats yanked free by an ice logjam on the Hudson River closed several bridges.

Among the tributes was one by the former bishop of the Albany diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, Family, friends and former colleagues spoke, and golf was a repeated theme.

At the reception, I saw my old racquetball competitor, Ward Greer, formerly the head of the Albany United Methodist Society. I was talking to Ken Screven, a retired local news legend when one of the choir members said he has a voice like a Stradivarius, which is true.

I was really touched to note that my blog post about Bob Lamar was included alongside family photos. One of my wife’s colleagues expressed surprise that she would take off from work for the funeral of someone not a family member. Bob was a huge part of our church family for a lot of years.

Disease: flu epidemic of 1918-1919

The flu epidemic spread following the path of its human carriers, along trade routes and shipping lines

flu epidemic.I knew there was a terrible flu epidemic near the end of what we now refer to as World War I. The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 struck young people particularly hard, and killed between 20 and 40 million people worldwide, including an estimated 675,000 Americans, far more than the war. But what CAUSED what was perhaps the second deadliest disease outbreak in human history?

The EcoHealth Alliance’s Robert Kessler shares some facts:

“In researching his book The Great Influenza, John M. Barry discovered that in January 1918, a doctor in Haskell County, Kansas reported unusual flu activity to the U.S. Public Health Service. By March, that had spread to nearby Fort Riley. On the morning of March 11, an Army private reported symptoms of fever, sore throat, and headache. By lunch that day, more than 100 soldiers on the base had fallen sick.

“At the time, very little was known about viruses and their transmission. In fact, the very first virus – Tobacco mosaic virus – had only been discovered 26 years earlier in 1892.”

Interesting that the recommendations against contracting the flu were slightly different from a century later. “Wash inside nose with soap and water each night and morning; force yourself to sneeze night and morning, then breathe deeply; do not wear a muffler; take sharp walks regularly and walk home from work; eat plenty of porridge.”

Kessler notes: “Diet and exercise are, of course, essential components of our health, but a brisk walk isn’t going to do much when it comes to preventing a virus from hijacking a host’s cells and replicating itself. From Fort Riley, soldiers carried the disease to other American military bases and, eventually, the battlefront in Europe.”

That first wave wasn’t particularly virulent. But, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control: “In September 1918, the second wave of pandemic flu emerged at Camp Devens, a U.S. Army training camp just outside of Boston, and at a naval facility in Boston. This wave was brutal and peaked in the U.S. from September through November. More than 100,000 Americans died during October alone.”

Stanford University notes the awful effects of the flu epidemic worldwide: “It spread following the path of its human carriers, along trade routes and shipping lines. Outbreaks swept through North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Brazil and the South Pacific In India the mortality rate was extremely high at around 50 deaths from influenza per 1,000 people. The Great War, with its mass movements of men in armies and aboard ships, probably aided in its rapid diffusion and attack.”

As the CDC notes, “Scientists now know this pandemic was caused by an H1N1 virus, which continued to circulate as a seasonal virus worldwide for the next 38 years.”

For ABC Wednesday

Movie review: Ralph Breaks the Internet

Shank (Gal Gadot) is from the online auto-racing game called Slaughter Race

Ralph Breaks the InternetThe first movie I went to see after the Academy Award nominations were announced was Ralph Breaks the Internet, a possible pick for Best Animated Feature. It is the sequel to Wreck-It Ralph, which I saw with a room full of kids, which definitely helped define the experience.

Whereas my daughter and I saw RBTI at the Regal Theater in Colonie Center on a Thursday afternoon, and there was no one else there. A couple people slipped in late to make out in the back and left well before it was over.

Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) and Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) have a nice, predictable existence: work by day in their respective games at the arcade, and hang out as best friends after hours.

But an incident puts Vanellope’s race car game, Sugar Rush, in peril. The friends enter the word of the Internet, which is as overwhelming as really it sometimes is. With some help of KnowItAll (Alan Tudyk) they navigate a dizzying array of options to find what they need on eBay. But how to pay for it?

Yesss (Taraji P. Henson) is the head algorithm of the trend-making site “BuzzzTube” and her segments speak to the cultural phenomena that pop up nearly daily, as well as some of the downsides.

Is Ralph Breaks the Internet an advertisement of the fact that Disney owns everything? The princesses, most or all voiced by the original performers, I liked a lot. The movie has fun with their various personas. 3CPO (Anthony Daniels), is on only briefly. And speaking of brief, you see the late Stan Lee for about two seconds.

Shank (Gal Gadot) is from the online auto-racing game called Slaughter Race, a far cry from Sugar Rush. She has a cadre of assistants, but she’s the great character on her own. 

There’s one scene that was pure King Kong. Ultimately, the movie was about how friendships evolve. Part of me that thought the movie was overstuffed with in-jokes and another that says that’s fine because one can catch more of them on repeated viewing.

If you get to the VERY end, you’ll see the previews from FROZEN 2; hey, I laughed.

Bottom line is that my daughter, who doesn’t always convey her feelings at the cinema, told my wife (not me) that she really liked the film. I thought it was good, not great, though I know I would have enjoyed it more if I could have gauged audience reaction.

Who Pays: Analysis of Tax Systems in All 50 States

The vast majority of state tax systems are regressive, meaning lower-income people are taxed at higher rates than top-earning taxpayers.

Who-PaysI’ve been perusing Who Pays: A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States because that’s what I do. It is “the only distributional analysis of tax systems in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This comprehensive report assesses tax fairness by measuring effective state and local tax rates paid by all income groups.”

If you’re NOT from the United States, you may nevertheless find it interesting. “No two state tax systems are the same; this report provides detailed analyses of the features of every state tax code. It includes state-by-state profiles that provide baseline data to help lawmakers and the public understand how current tax policies affect taxpayers at all income levels.”

The conclusions are not surprising. “THE VAST MAJORITY OF STATE AND LOCAL TAX SYSTEMS ARE INEQUITABLE AND UPSIDE-DOWN, taking a much greater share of income from low- and middle-income families than from wealthy families.”

The “terrible ten” of states with the most regressive tax policies contain some of the states I frankly expected, but it had some revelations. “Washington State is the most regressive, followed by Texas, Florida, South Dakota, Nevada, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.”

That said, “Those in the highest-income quintile pay a smaller share of all state and local taxes than their share of all income while the bottom 80 percent pays more.”

In other words: “Forty-five states have regressive tax systems that exacerbate income inequality. When tax systems rely on the lowest-income earners to pay the greatest proportion of their income in state and local taxes, gaps between the most affluent and the rest of us continue to grow.”

The report, the sixth edition, was put out by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. “The report was originally released in 1996 and has since been updated in 2003, 2009, 2013, 2015 and 2018. The 2018 report includes tax changes enacted through September 10, 2018.”