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[Comments] (2) June Film Roundup: It's been a heist-filled month, and not just because of our continuing leef-peeping drive through the Fast & Furious series. Why, just look behind you—I've stolen your priceless Blue Period Picasso! Heist-tastic!

  • Bob le Flambeur (1955): Minute by minute I didn't have the best time watching this movie, but that's mainly because of all the Hamlet cliches. AFAICT Bob le Flambeur invents both the French New Wave and the modern casino heist movie. On top of that, it's got an amazing twist ending that you'd only see in a casino heist movie with a French New Wave sensibility. I respect the movie as a whole, but no Hamlet cliches in that ending; it feels totally fresh even after 55 years of casino heist movies. Reading up on the movie afterwards, the twist has been used a couple times since, but not nearly as often as building the team, practicing on a copy of the safe, etc.

    This film has a lot of low-budget tells I recognize from MST3K movies. I'm no snob but I do not enjoy a shot of someone at a desk having a phone conversation in an apparently unfurnished room. Film pros seem to count this in Bob le Flambeur's favor for reasons that IMO boil down to "give Jean-Pierre Melville a break, filmmaking is hard." But I'm gonna double down: although Bob le Flambeur is a really good movie it would also work well on MST3K. Maybe the RiffTrax folks should branch out a bit.

  • Le Circle Rouge (1970): Melville has a much bigger budget here than for Bob le Flambeur, and he avoids the MST3K tells, but this is more on the level of popcorn noir for me. A dialogue-free jewelry store heist? We've all seen Rififi (1955), my friend. Melville claims he originally wrote this heist in 1950, which gets him my sympathies, but that and five francs will buy you a pack of Gauloises.
  • A New York Christmas Wedding (2020): After restoring the Film Roundup Screening Room to its former glory we found this on our Netflix list, probably from some late-2020 Happiest Season-inspired list of queer Christmas romance movies. It's fine as far as it goes, and gives you a view into what people who live in Manhattan secretly think of Queens. But the fantastic element, which combines religion, alternate universes, and time travel, nerd-sniped us to the point where all I can think about is simpler ways of telling the story.

    Gotta share our best riff, as an angel gives a sappy speech:

    L: What is this 'Live, Laugh, Love' crap?

    S: He read that on a Celestial Seasonings tea bag. You know, they just call it 'Seasonings'.

  • Fast and Furious (2009): The film so forgettable... I forgot about it when I originally wrote this Film Roundup! Probably not fair given that we were watching one of these very similar films every day, rather than treating the series as a reason to go to the mooovies every couple of years. But even now, having refreshed my memory after looking at the Wikipedia page, I don't really have anything to say about this movie except, this is the one with the minecart level.
  • Fast Five (2011): OK, now we're heistin'. The Rock finally shows up to play the likeable antivillain to Vin Diesel's likeable antihero. It's like a 007 movie where Blofeld is also really fun.

    The downside of the series finally moving from "we drive cars way too fast" to "we steal huge amounts of money" is the introduction of firearms and massive body counts. Sumana really dislikes this and I'm not a huge fan either. I tried to mollify her by pointing out that in the Fast & The Furious universe it seems impossible to die in a car crash, per se. Someone has to shoot you or the car has to explode afterwards. This helped a bit.

    Continuing the fine tradition of "crime pals or gay couple?", this movie hints really strongly that Leo and Santos are a couple, but the fan wiki says they're just Kashi Good Friends cereal. What is this, the 1960s?

  • Fast & Furious 6 (2013): The escalation of the stakes and the increasing brutality of the PG-13 violence finally surpass the limit of my personal suspension of disbelief. A couple movies earlier I predicted the crew would drive a car out of a cargo plane, and it happens here but not in the cool way I imagined. Sung Kang is always fun, though, and he's on the F9 poster so I assume they eventually pull a comic-book retcon on Han Lue's death. I'm super comfortable saying this because the same thing just happened in this movie.

[Comments] (2) May Film Roundup:

  • The Mitchells vs The Machines (2021): Fun family animated comedy, good gags and character comedy, not much else to say. I really enjoyed the (rot13 spoilers) Sheol nowhere.
  • The Fast and the Furious (2001): "Welcome to Race Wars; sorry about the name." This was all right, but it was basically the same as Point Break, only the stunts were less cool. Pretty sure they even reused one of the locations from Point Break. So they knew what they were doing. Vin Diesel's antihero is very likeable, really carries the film. And, I'm assuming, the whole series.
  • 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003): Okay, I guess we're doing this. This one was awful. Paul Walker's character is so boring, and this movie lacks even the excitement created by the act-two discovery that he's an undercover cop. The torture scene is the kind of thing other movies have to cut to get their PG-13. Antibonus: no Vin Diesel at all.
  • The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006): The first film in the series that I would say is "good". The cinematography is solid, the plot is all right, the race scenes are legible, and drifting is a totally different thing you can do with a car, so it's not just people driving real fast. Even the title is a reference to a classic Japanese film. Sumana's a big fan of Better Luck Tomorrow (2002) and was super excited to learn that Han Lue in this film is the same Han Lue from Better Luck Tomorrow.

    Wikipedia says "The series transitioned towards heists and spying with Fast & Furious (2009)." So I guess we've passed through the crucible and the good stuff is coming up next. I thought it would all be heists and spying, and this whole time I've been squinting at the movies and thinking "I guess ambushing and robbing a semi truck is a kind of heist..."

    According to IMDB trivia, this 2006 film takes place in 2013! That's quite a jump for something that's not mentioned in-universe, but it does give Han Lue plenty of time to transition from whatever shady stuff he was doing in Better Luck Tomorrow (I haven't seen it). Also makes it a bit more plausible that people standing on a mountain are able to wirelessly transmit streaming video to each others' flip phones... maybe through an ad hoc peer-to-peer network?

    BTW, what was the first American film to show an emoji onscreen? Good luck answering that question with our primitive search engine technology! It probably wasn't this film. IMDB keyword search shows nothing earlier than 2014, but c'mon.

April Film Roundup: '80s Month: The Revenge: The TV is still busted, but in April we triumphantly made it through the 1980s thanks to the Film Roundup Auxilliary Portable Screening Room (my laptop). Technology comes through again!

  • Thunder Force (2021): '80s Month started out in a state of interruption thanks to this Netflix original that, I assume, missed its theatrical chance thanks to the pandemic. Superhero origin stories are very 21st-century, but this is a "wacky science" story, so at least it has an '80s heart. And an '80s soundtrack.

    Everyone's game for the comedy, Jason Bateman is delightfully typecast, and there were a couple of real funny scenes, so it's far from the worst movie we saw in April. It's a huge idiot plot, though. I literally realized a huge problem while opening the fridge, and from that point on enjoyed the movie less.

  • Hanky Panky (1982): This was the worst movie we saw in April. Best thing I can say about Hanky Panky is, we see some classic slices-of-life due to Sidney Poitier's insistence on location shoots for scenes that could easily have been done on the backlot. There's a New York coffee shop called "Disco Donut"!

    'He has made a copy of an uncopyable tape.'

    Otherwise, this feels like a movie destined for heavy Comedy Central rotation in the '90s: three good slapstick gags, comedians who aren't super funny on their own and have no chemistry together, reliance on action-y set pieces, and an overall rejection of both jokes and character comedy in favor of a vague morass I call "lighthearted drama".

  • Trading Places (1983): An excellent film all around except for an ill-conceived, monumentally lowbrow section on a train; a section which can easily be cut for television because it has no effect on the otherwise superb plot. You can draw a straight line between the pre-train scene and the post-train scene, predict its existence without seeing it, and be better off.

    Apart from that, really funny overall. Nobody does "smart but not as smart as he thinks he is" like Dan Aykroyd. I also enjoyed imagining the Duke brothers as being played by Statler and Waldorf.

  • Footloose (1984): We were expecting a superficial feel-good film, especially as scenery-chewing John Lithgow was revealed as the villain, but it's actually pretty subtle. Lithgow's performance has some depth, he's by far the best actor in the film and his character garners some sympathy.

    The soundtrack for this movie is something else, I tell you. "Let's Hear It for the Boy" and "Holding Out for a Hero" were both originally released on the Footloose soundtrack.

  • The Color Purple (1985): A well-done rural drama, generally depressing but with moments of triumph at the most Speilbergian moments. Whoopi Goldberg in particular is great in this.

    I was expecting a good dose of horror in The Color Purple, but I didn't expect the most horrifying thing in the film to be the clueless comic-relief white lady. She's a tonal mismatch with the rest of the movie, and Spielberg admits he was out of his depth directing this thing, but I tell you, Sumana and I were on the edge of our seats like Miss Millie was the Jurassic Park T-Rex.

  • Ruthless People (1986): The prize of '80s Month! A tightly written, extremely fun character-driven comedy. A little convoluted but not too hard to follow. And—this one's just for Leonard—packed chock full of outrageous '80s L.A. design, with its bright-colored triangles and impractical furniture shapes.
  • Outrageous Fortune (1987): This is basically the good version of Hanky Panky. The main characters are really fun, with great dialogue, neurotic in different ways. (Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner were effectively playing gender-swapped versions of each other.) But it's got Hanky Panky's overreliance on action scenes and even the same road-trip from NYC to the Southwest (was there a tax credit?). I greatly preferred the first part of the film where the main characters were just being obnoxious to each other.
  • Coming to America (1988): A fun, wholesome romcom of the type I do not associate with Eddie Murphy's comedy style, but it works. John Amos is particularly funny as the uptight entrpreneurial dad; is it too much to hope that in the 2021 sequel he's revealed to have a Gus Fring side? Recommended.

    According to IMDB trivia, "According to John Landis, it was his idea to have Eddie Murphy wear make-up to play a Jewish man, as a sort of payback for Jewish comedians wearing blackface in the early 1900s." Yeah, the early 1900s, how time flies, it's been five whole years since John Landis directed a scene between Eddie Murphy and a corked-up Dan Aykroyd in Trading Places. I guess this was his way of apologizing, and this was far from the worst thing Landis has done while making a movie (look it up; I won't mention the name of a crime because he was acquitted, but even without the criminal aspect he was responsible for a workplace where people died).

  • Batman (1989): It had to be this to close out the decade; the film that all the boys in my grade were obsessed with for months and I never saw because who drives to Bakersfield and sees movies? Not my family, apparently.

    Hard to believe that at the time this was the "dark" version. With Nolan for comparison this is a bunch of goofy Tim Burton stuff, effectively a gritty reboot of Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. Burton doesn't spend too much time in the ball pit and the result is a fun movie overall. There are a couple characters who are superfluous to the screenplay, but judging from the voluminous IMDB trivia this thing was undergoing serious rewrites as it was being shot, so you'll get loose ends.

    Jack Nicholson's a great Joker—by far the best thing about this movie—but/and his Joker laugh is this Jack Lemmon-esque bark which distracted me with a million-dollar realization: Jack Lemmon would have been incredible as an interim Joker in the 1970s. Throw in Walter Matthau as a dad-joke Riddler and you've got good stuff, hypothetically speaking.

    I watched a bit of Cesar Romero's Joker while writing this review, and learned about a proto-Harley Quinn named Queenie. The Joker's also got a proto-Harley moll in this movie, though she's one of those superfluous characters I mentioned earlier and has little to do. It's incredible how close to the surface Harley Quinn was for so long without taking a coherent form.

    Finally, from my perspective in 2021 I really loved how this movie doesn't really care about Batman's origins. It assumes you already know about Batman. After all... he's Batman. If you somehow went in to this film not knowing that Batman and Bruce Wayne were the same guy, there's no "reveal", just an inexplicable scene 3/4 of the way through where Michael Keaton's in the Batcave for some reason.

March Film Roundup: '80s Mo......nth?: The promised '80s Month came to a crashing halt almost immediately when the Film Roundup Screening Room (our television) stopped working. I guess this means the golden age of blockbusters continues!

  • Private Benjamin (1980): One of those unassuming gems that hides in cinema history waiting to pounce on people doing these constrained watching exercises. This is a series of comedy sketches that combine to form a plot that ranges far and wide, extending both before and after the boot-camp sequence we were expecting.

    I never heard of Private Benjamin before '80s Month, but it was a deserved hit and started a mini-fad. Turns out that Stripes (1981) is a Private Benjamin copycat: what if men joined the Army? Between this and Nine To Five I feel like 1980 was the high water mark of a Women's Lib trend in women-led comedies that receded until the 2010s.

  • Loophole (1981): The only big 1981 film that appealed was Time Bandits, which I couldn't find as a rental. So we rolled the dice on a British heist movie, and those usually reliable dice came up "rather" and "disappointing".

    It's always fun when a square with professional qualifications (here Martin Sheen as an architect) gets roped into a heist, but this is ultimately a feature-length dramatization of the "one chalk mark" joke. And the "loophole" isn't a loophole at all.

    Sumana zeroed in on the potential: Loophole feels like a war movie, showing the camaraderie of men from different backgrounds isolated from their families, looking out for each other and working towards a common goal. In addition, there is a very exciting climax which would be the ideal place for a double-cross or heist-within-the-heist, maybe employing (just spitballing here) an actual loophole in something. But we just cut away from the climax and the film ended after a short denouement.

    In a final indignity, the subtitles for the version we watched were generated by a neural net that had been trained on American TV news. It was not remotely up to the task and gave the impression that 1980s British criminals had words like "Obama" and "podcast" in their vocabulary.

[Comments] (1) February Film Roundup: '90s Month!: After we saw Speed in January, Sumana discovered that she really liked being able to talk to people our age about movies that the other person might have seen or heard about. We decided that over the course of February, we would watch some big films from the 1990s, one for each year of the decade. These are movies that don't often get programmed nowadays, and we chose ones I hadn't seen back when they were in theaters, since Sumana's more interested in rewatching films than I am.

Preparing for this project was a ton of fun, and we now have a pretty big list of interesting-sounding '90s films for future Roundups. In the end, "big" usually meant "big box office", but for a couple of the years we made a decision based on lasting cultural impact or cult status. I didn't want to watch a bunch of Disney animated features, folks.

  • Total Recall (1990): All-time great PKD plot gets a second half that feels like an unused arc from Babylon 5's crummy final season. I would forgive a great deal if it were possible to read the back half as an implanted memory of Verhoevanian excess, and there's even internal evidence for this, but the screenplay must have got muddled in development hell because that explanation doesn't wash. Basically, there are scenes from POVs other than Quaid's; what could that possibly mean? Who's having those experiences?
  • Point Break (1991): Over-the-top fun, from the ridiculous/beautiful action sequences to the goofy/sinister character development.
  • Sister Act (1992): Fun family comedy with a little action, in the vein of the older Disney comedies we'd rent when I was a kid. The Apple Dumpling Gang and whatnot. I loved the chase scenes through the casino, possibly because "being in a room full of people whose hobby is making bad decisions; also there's a buffet" seems impossibly far away right now.
  • Sleepless In Seattle (1993): Meg Ryan's character is a huge stalker, but when you live in a rom-com universe, stalking can be a positive-sum activity! A big feature of these universes is love at first sight, and when Annie hears Sam's voice on the radio she gets clocked by love-at-first-sight. But due to the structure of mass media, Sam doesn't know that Annie exists! The rest of the movie is basically Annie trying to close the love-at-first-sight circuit by making Sam look at her. And it almost works! But it takes a child's faith and pre-9/11 security practices to finally get them both in shot for more than a couple seconds.

    Around 2006 in the Sleepless In Seattle universe, a dating website was created that showed you hundreds of pictures a minute to trigger the love-at-first-sight reaction. Once they had identified one side of a match, it was simple to complete the pairing. This website rapidly cleared the market for romance, ensuring that everyone got their Happily Ever After.

    Anyway, Sumana and I suspect that a big part of this movie's success was the way it showed technology's ability to mediate romance over long distances. That's old news now, but at various points in Sleepless in Seattle, animation is used to dramatize the physical distance between Seattle and Baltimore in a way that really jumps out now. Why spend that money on animation, and why pick two American cities that are about as far apart as you can get, if that isn't super important to your film?

  • The Shawshank Redemption (1994): Of all the films in this list this is the one I really didn't want to watch. It seemed long and monotonous. But if "big" is going to mean anything, it has to include the single highest-rated movie on IMDB.

    Anyway, it was fine, and great fun in the final act. It's probably no surprise to anyone that Stephen King occasionally reuses plot points, but I thought I'd casually mention that the core twist of this movie has a lot in common with the twist in The Eyes of the Dragon, King's 1984 foray into high fantasy.

  • Friday (1995): This film has a lot of really funny supporting characters (our fave: Bernie Mac's pastor) but it also has two main characters who don't do much. IMO it takes the concept of "audience stand-in" too far to have your main characters sit in the driveway watching the other characters. Maybe I just don't like stoner comedies.
  • A _Twister_ doppelgangerTwister (1996): I definitely don't like disaster movies, so I didn't care for the action set pieces, except for the rescue from the wrecked house, which I'll justify by saying it's more of a suspense set piece. However, in Twister the disaster is small-scale and repeating, so it turns out to be a pretty fun story of the scientists who study the disaster.

    There's also a slobs-vs-snobs storyline which I'm pretty sure makes no difference at all to the plot. I believe every story beat would have happened exactly the same way if the "snob" scientists didn't exist. Maybe they were a late addition to the screenplay? Anyway, the real attraction here is the "slob" scientists, whose personalities and research are rendered very realistically.

    Among those slobs was a bit character who's one of the big reasons we chose this movie. Sumana saw this movie in theaters and was captivated by a character who she remembered as an Indian woman with short hair—a rare bit of '90s representation.

    We identified the doppelganger pretty quickly (see screenshot) and IMDB let us close the books on this investigation. That part is played by Wendle Josepher, who, unlike No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal, is not Indian. (Also, we'd seen her before, in a small part in Intolerable Cruelty.) Still a representational victory for women scientists with short hair. Please note the floppy hat.

  • Air Force One (1997): This is good fun, but equating the President's leadership with his ability to personally kick ass creates obvious perverse incentives, especially given how easy the latter is to fake. I don't think it's a coincidence that Donald Trump used the Air Force One soundtrack at campaign rallies. Not blaming Air Force One for this; it's just taking an attitude that already exists and using it as the premise for a diehardlike.

    Breakdown: the stuff on the plane was great, the scenes back at the White House were fun, especially the press pool. ("Madame Vice President! Is the President barefoot?" "Does he have a machine gun yet?") Everything else was pretty dull, especially the ticking time bomb with what's-his-face being released from the Shawshank Redemption prison and sloooowly walking out to the yard like the guy going up the steps in Becket (1964). Just gimme a plane and people exiting the plane in unorthodox ways. William H. Macy was a nice surprise.

    I will concede that if the American head of government was separate from the head of state, it'd make sense to have the head of state be someone who's really good at kicking ass and doing patriotic stunts.

  • Pleasantville (1998): William H. Macy is no surprise at all in this story of human beings who act like Sphex wasps, a dimension so square that a couple dorky '90s kids can casually start a revolution. This was really fun and creative. Really my only issue with Pleasantville is yet another problem that seems to have come out of multiple screenplay revisions: what's up with the Don Knotts character?

    I don't think this movie needs a framing device at all—I'd do this story entirely inside Pleasantville as a B-movie apocalypse story. But I can see how that wouldn't pass muster with '90s studio execs. So fine, framing device, Don Knotts, magic remote control, got it.

    Now the issue becomes the actions of that character. Over the course of the movie he becomes more and more angry at our real-world heroes and how they're screwing up his perfect bubble universe. In the climax of the movie, David a) permanently "ruins" Pleasantville and b) reenters the real world where Don Knotts can get to him. That was a mistake! Now he's really going to give him what for! Now he's... driving away? He doesn't even seem mad? This movie shifts a major character offstage at what should be his big scene, and we don't care because the story's over and who needs that guy. That is, to me, an indication that the character did not need to be in the film at all.

    BTW, big thumbs-up to Joan Allen, who plays an excellent space alien in this film, coming right after her role in Face/Off (1997).

  • Notting Hill (1999): In Sleepless In Seattle, the romance took place almost entirely in the woman's head. Now, here's a rom-com fantasy for the guys, in which a famous woman falls in love with a rando. A great supporting cast and fun dialogue makes the premise believablish. I was impressed by how much work they put into the films-within-the-film.
  • Mo' Better Blues (1990): After reaching 1999 near the end of the month, we started back in 1990 with the goal of focusing on smaller movies. But we only got one movie into that plan—turns out February's shorter than other months! Mo' Better Blues isn't perfect—if your film's Wikipedia page has a section called "Anti Defamation League controversy" you've got a big problem—but I liked the plot arc, a nice twist on the "tortured genius" storyline with a sweet resolution. Bleek loses the thing he loves most and is able to come to terms with it because he's got friends and family. Sort of Kieślowskian.

    I generally like it when a screenwriter/director writes a part for themselves, and I think it's great here. Spike Lee's character is constantly humiliated and beaten up, but gets one moment of awesome: a scene where he has the perfect opportunity to say "Hey, I'm walkin' here!" Truly, a New York dream.

This was a fun experience and in fact we're keeping it going: we've already deemed March to be '80s Month and watched a fun film from 1980. It does look like I've seen most of the big '80s movies that are still remembered by people my age, so this month is likely to be more of a "forgotten gem" thing. Still fun though!

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Cogito, Ergo Sumana
Sumana oscillates between focus and opportunity

: Low Availability: FYI: I have some obligations, starting this week and going through mid-September, that will take me offline a lot and otherwise occupy me; I will have low and intermittent availability. Please email if you want to reach me - https://www.harihareswara.net/ & https://changeset.nyc/#contact have my address - but I will probably be slow & terse in response.

I will probably be on social media very seldom. If you are currently waiting for me to answer you on something time-sensitive, please remind me if there is so I can try to get to it in the next week!

Also, in case you talk with me on Signal, my Signal safety number may change either in the next couple days or in late September.


: Some Novel Python Packaging/Distribution/Inspection/Installation Projects:

People who program in Python have an easier time hearing about package-related tools that have been around for a while and that are under the banner of the Python Packaging Authority, or that are commercially supported (this simplified diagram showcases a lot of them). And if you're looking for canonical guidance on what tools to use, check out packaging.python.org and tell your colleagues. A simplified diagram illustrating some of the important tools in Python packaging and how they relate to each other. On the left, end user tools (pip, conda, and pipenv) are on a computer. They draw information from cloud-based tools to the right: Warehouse (PyPI), bandersnatch, conda-forge, and Anaconda Cloud. Those in turn draw information from developer tools to the right: conda-skeleton, twine, setuptools, auditwheel, wheel, and packaging utils.

But -- since open source and open standards make things interoperable -- people also develop new tools for their specific needs in packaging, distribution, inspection, and installation, and sometimes I come across them when people announce them. I haven't tried any of these yet but here's a list of some stuff I noticed from the last few years.

Pypitoken, "A library for generating and manipulating PyPI tokens"

Thoth, "an enhanced server-side resolution offered to the Python community" (related: thoth-solver: "A tool for aggregating Python package metadata" and Dependency Monkey which "can compute all the possible combinations of packages that can occur in a resolved software stack and verify the given stack works well")

installer, "a low-level library for installing wheel distributions"

Dotlock "is a package management tool similar to pipenv, but with a different philosophy: instead of acting as a wrapper around pip, dotlock handles package resolution natively."

simpleindex provides "a lightweight PEP-503 private index/proxy" that declares routing rules to serve files from local directories. Also see pywharf.

Mach-nix "allows one to package Python projects and environments with Nix, requiring minimal knowledge of Nix.... Why would you want to use this tool? Reproducible builds with all build and run-time dependencies provided by the same package manager, regardless of whether they're Python dependencies or not."

The Python Packaging platypus mascot, a purple platypus happily springing out of a crowded cardboard box

ipwhl: a downstream repository in which "Each repo release will ensure a single version for a project for each platform, and one can use it to replace PyPI for both build and runtime dependencies for reproducibility." Per the repo for "interplanetary wheels (or floating cheeses)": "platform-unique, singly-versioned Python binary distributions backed by IPFS for security and reproducibility."

Python devirtualizer: "a preliminary implementation which manages shared packages so that only one copy of each package version is required."

pip-deepfreeze: "a small tool that aims at managing the dependencies of a Python application in a virtual environment."

And one more thing that is a PyPA project: the Python Advisory DB. After public discussion, there's a new community-owned repository of security advisories for packages published on https://pypi.org.

Filed under:


: Researching The Leadership Gap for Legacy Projects: I've given a lot of conference talks recently. As part of the PyCon US Maintainers' Summit in May, I delivered an eight-minute talk, "Researching the leadership gap for legacy projects". The video is now available, and here's the written version (I did not use slides).

Contents:

  1. Introducing the question/problem
  2. A little more about the problem I see
  3. Tooling hypothesis
  4. Corporate involvement hypothesis (hypotheses)
  5. New problems hypothesis
  6. Values and culture hypothesis
  7. How would we check?

Hi! I'm Sumana Harihareswara of Changeset Consulting and I'm not using any slides today, so you're free to take a few minutes to stretch, fold some laundry, what have you.

Introducing the question/problem

We have a pipeline for getting folks with coding skills to start or contribute to open source projects. That's great and I'm glad.

But I'm pretty sure we don't have a pipeline to recruit or grow contributors with leadership and management skills. A maintainer of a widely-used project *is* a manager, but since skilled managers are scarce in open source, we're seeing important projects stumble, or even wither, for lack of managerial work. (At least, this is what I've seen, and if you are seeing something to the contrary, I want to hear about it.) And I think this is a factor in the open source sustainability problem.

Knowing why this is happening can help us fix it. So in this talk I'll share a few hypotheses: one about the tooling we build and use, one about the effects of corporate involvement, one about changes in the problems we're trying to address, and one about values and culture. And I'll talk about how we would check whether any of these are true. I hope that considering this question will aid your efforts in focusing time and energy on things that will make a difference to project sustainability.

A little more about the problem I see

Founders start projects but are unprepared for the managerial demands of maintaining things that other people depend on. And, when legacy projects stagnate, contributors don't know how to take them over and stabilize them by solving common strategic, team, communication, workflow, and financial problems. Since they don't know how to rehab existing projects, individuals and orgs fork or start new ones, exacerbating fragmentation headaches.

So what hypotheses do we have?

Tooling hypothesis

Here's one. It used to be that, if you were going to run an open source project, you had to make the tooling platform yourself. You had to set up and administer, and maybe even build, your own bug tracker, source code repository, wiki, documentation site, and tarball release repository. Now these are hosted services -- GitHub, Read the Docs, PyPI. That means that it's easier to start a project, but that also means it's easier to start a project without learning a lot about the value and capabilities of these platforms along the way. And then project founders are less equipped to use those things well.

Corporate involvement hypothesis (hypotheses)

Here's another: it changes things when companies get more and more involved in open source, or hire people from open source. Maybe big companies hire the people who have managerial skills, and sometimes take them out of open source work entirely, and leave behind the ones who don't. Or maybe open source would be failing worse without corporate involvement, and corporate engagement is sort of subsidizing the poor management that we would otherwise see.

New problems hypothesis

Here's another: what got us here won't get us there. We're trying to address new or unsolved or undersolved problems and areas in open source -- distributed and cloud computing, getting telemetry while protecting user privacy, user experience design that can stand up to the best that industry can offer, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and so on. So, in general, open source contributors have grown a certain median level of leadership skill, but we're seeing cracks in the infrastructure because of the new loads they are trying to handle.

Values and culture hypothesis

Here's another: Let's talk about our culture and values, and how that affects contributor retention and promotion. We in open source recognize and promote people for the code they write, but we're bad at recognizing and valuing people for the managerial contributions they make -- we treat glue work https://noidea.dog/glue as invisible. So we don't attract or retain people with managerial skills or with the interest in growing in that direction.

And I'd like to thank Amye Scavarda for some thoughts about some of these hypotheses.

How would we check?

So. How would we check whether any of these are right? A few thoughts. We could talk with the scholars who were funded by the Ford and Sloan Foundation grants on critical digital infrastructure to get their thoughts. We could work with the CHAOSS people, the open source metrics working group, to construct a means to quantitatively measure maintainership actions happening within a project, and find out what other attributes it correlates with -- like whether or not those particular projects, or the domain areas they're in, were particularly influenced by companies. We could look for conversations from 15 years ago to check what our forebearers were saying, whether they thought this was likely to be a problem. We could try to offer explicit skills learning opportunities to contributors, to see whether people are interested, and whether we can find ways to retain the people who take those offers as open source maintainers.

My gut says that the source of the problem is a mix of the corporate involvement and values and culture hypotheses. So that's the basis I'm working from. I am working on a book outlining and teaching the skills open source software maintainers need, and teaching these skills to contributors who have never managed public-facing projects before. It'll be a textbook or a self-help guide for new and current maintainers of existing projects (what I call "brownfield projects", as opposed to "greenfield") and will focus on teaching specific project management skills (such as initial project audit, grantwriting, bug triage, and meeting facilitation) in the context of open source. If you go to changeset.nyc, under "resources" you'll find a free sample.

But let's talk during the Q&A session on Thursday. Which, if any, of these hypotheses ring true to you, and how could someone check whether you're right?

Thanks.


(1) : A Comedy Memory: I'm having trouble getting started on things I ought to do today, so here's a story I think I've never told here before.

In early 2011, I travelled to San Francisco for work, and one evening I went to an open-mic comedy night at BrainWash. I signed up for a slot -- maybe I got slot #4 or 5. And the first or second person to go up was just bad. He was not just misogynist or unfunny, but both -- it was as though he had forgotten that you will actually need punchlines to make people laugh and that demeaning women and fantasizing about drinking alcohol is insufficient. For instance: "I went to Wondercon and I saw a woman who said that on Saturday she dressed up as Batwoman and on Sunday she dressed up as Dark Phoenix, and I said, 'all anyone wants is [raunchy desire elided]'."

He finished his gross set and slouched out the door, and then several minutes later I went up, and said:

I'm in San Francisco because I just got a job with the nonprofit behind Wikipedia. So I've decided that this is the open mic that anyone can edit, and I'm going to edit a routine you heard earlier tonight.

And I then repeated the earlier guy's setups, but then added actual punchlines. For example, my punchline about the cosplayer was feigned shock at mixing DC and Marvel, and I turned a setup about soy milk that had ended with "you could make a White Russian out of that" into a joke about white vegans.

My audience loved it. I loved it. I told folks about it the next day and one of my colleagues said that I should just make that my M.O., going to open mics and improving upon an act that had come before. I said that I did not want to get beat up. But also I think it's a bit rare that someone else's comedic incompetence and my talent line up such that I can so immediately dunk on someone by spontaneously riffing on their work, like Mozart does to Salieri in Amadeus.

Filed under:


: Software Bill of Materials & the US Federal Government: In February, the United States's President Biden signed an executive order on the US's supply chains; he followed this up with an EO in May specifically concentrating on improving cybersecurity. To quote Tidelift's summary, "in essence, this order is a striking attempt to create a new global standard for cybersecurity that all organizations around the world will need to ensure their software supply chain meets or exceeds in the near future."

Because of the EO, the US's National Telecommunications and Information Administration requested comment "on the minimum elements for a Software Bill of Materials (SBOM), and what other factors should be considered in the request, production, distribution, and consumption of SBOMs". I heard about this thanks to Jacob Kaplan-Moss, who suggested the Python Software Foundation could share its open source perspective. So I led an effort to submit a comment on behalf of the Packaging Working Group of the PSF - thanks to Morgan Mayo (PSF Director of Resource Development) for some of the prose!

The Packaging WG comment, along with comments from 80+ other individuals and groups, are now up at the NTIA website. Check out Section II ("Background context about the Python packaging toolchain and ecosystem") for a simplified yet still confusing diagram. Section IV of our comment ("Infrastructure funding") is pretty short; for a longer treatment on a related topic, see Tidelift's comment "Software bills of materials are important—but they won't work at scale if we don't pay the maintainers".


: Monday Will Be Volunteer Responsibility Amnesty Day: Volunteer Responsibility Amnesty Day logo: a sun at a horizon A few months ago, in my talk "What Would Open Source Look Like If It Were Healthy?", I told a story of an overwhelmed open source software maintainer. Every solstice is a Responsibility Amnesty Day, and he uses one to say "Sorry, I need to stop doing this."

Sean maintains a lot of stuff, right?...So Sean has taken on more and more, and he realizes one day that he's feeling a little more burned out, feeling kind of exhausted. And a friend of his, instead of sending him some list of 10 productivity hacks, does, perhaps, a kinder thing and actually takes some time to sit down with him and do a responsibility audit. Just a big list of “what are all the open source things that you're responsible for right now.” And there's a lot on that list. And Sean realizes that this [particular project] is just not where he wants to be putting his time, he needs to concentrate on fewer things that have higher priority to him.

And so at the next solstice, he uses the open source tradition that has arisen that twice a year at the solstices, there's a Responsibility Amnesty Day, which is the day when you can just say, “hey, I can't keep doing this anymore so I'm putting it down.” And everyone understands. So he does that at the next solstice.

Several people really perked up at that idea. So now there's a website: https://www.volunteeramnestyday.net/.

my temporary logo: smiling stick figure next to a sunsetThe next solstice is Monday, June 21st, 2021. Maybe you should take a moment between now and then to list out what you're responsible for, so on Monday, you can announce that you're setting something down.


: Sidestepping the PR Bottleneck: Four Non-Dev Ways To Support Your Upstreams: Logo for Upstream: A Tidelift Expedition This is the textual version of my June 7 2021 online talk at Upstream Live: "Sidestepping the PR Bottleneck: Four Non-Dev Ways To Support Your Upstreams", 23 minutes. Video is now up.

Intro

Hi, I’m Sumana Harihareswara. I founded Changeset Consulting, which provides targeted, short-term project management services to open source projects and the organizations that depend on them.

Just so you know, I won’t be sharing any slides today, so feel free to look away from the screen. Do some situps, look out the window, fold some laundry, or something. And: If you prefer to read rather than listen, the written version of this is now up on my blog.

If you want open source projects you depend on to succeed/thrive, then you want to support them.

This is both philosophical (you want to be a good open source citizen) and pragmatic (and ensure the health of projects you depend on).

It’s useful and important to do that through patches. One of the first times I spoke at an open source conference was at Open Source Bridge 2010: “The Second Step: HOWTO encourage open source work at for-profits”. I spoke on freeing up people in a company to contribute changes back and gave steps to widen your internal bottlenecks.

But now, even if your developers have time to polish up changes and submit them upstream, when you submit a patch, the bottleneck is on the maintainer’s side, because they don’t have a lot of time to do code review. You’ve contributed pull requests but they’re languishing. If a project is stuck, the gift you have given them isn’t helping – it’s like you’ve given them a gift card to a store that’s really hard to get to, so you’re not really helping them substantively.

Lack of time to do code review is common, so it’s likely your PRs aren’t helping as much as you’d thought!

And that’s if your developers even have time to make and polish PRs; maybe your developer resources are slammed, but you have other folks on your staff whose time is more flexible.

So let’s go into how you can develop a deeper toolbox, and how you can help projects you depend on, including expanding their code review bottleneck. Which benefits you and them.

So today I’ll share case studies and discuss 4 ways to help:

  • testing infrastructure – one of the most valuable ways you can sponsor an open source project is through your ops department.
  • money – whether you go with Tidelift or another sponsorship option, direct donation can move the needle.
  • secondary mentorship – you can help new contributors get situated and stay unblocked.
  • coaching and cheerleading – I’ll talk about a time when being an encouraging sidekick made a huge difference.

Testing infrastructure

First off, let’s talk about how your operations department can help developer throughput for a project you depend on – by providing access to infrastructure for use in testing.

As an open source project matures, it comes to a crossroads where maintainers have to ask: what platfoms are we going to support, and how robust will our support be? And their access to testing infrastructure, especially for continuous integration, becomes a key turning point that determines how robust it will be.

Let’s say they want to support the three basic OSes: Windows, Mac, and Linux. But wait, which VERSIONS of those platforms will we support, and which Linux distributions? So now we already have probably at least six or seven things to test.

But what else are we going to support? AMD and Intel chips? People who do and don’t have a particular soft dependency installed? People who run Python 3.5, 3.6, and 3.7?

You can see how these options multiply out, until the project has a test/support matrix with 56 environments.

And, often, projects are limited enough that they can’t rigorously and consistently test their whole matrix – a lot of open source projects can’t afford paid continuous integration services, and they don’t have enough virtual or physical computers to test all the environments they want to support. So maybe 56 environments is too much to handle, and the project ends up with two tiers of support – rigorously tested environments, reflecting the developers’ personal machines, and then everything else. If none of the developers use Windows then Windows is in that “might work” category.

Or the CI services they use limit how many simultaneous jobs they can run, and that slows down the revision and review cycle. Instead of taking 30 seconds or a minute to run CI it might take 10 minutes, or even an hour during peak contribution times like hackathons. This also creates pressure to reduce the number of tests that run on every patch, which means that maintainers have to take more time to review every patch before merging it.

But you can help with this. As a company, you can help your upstream open source projects by providing infrastructure. Give them access so they can use your testing setup for their continuous integration. This is especially useful if your cloud includes the ability to spin up proprietary OSes.

Broader and faster CI helps developer throughput and, in particular, helps the code review cycle go faster.

Money

Next: money.

You’re here at Upstream, so you know that subscribing to a project via Tidelift gives you better assurances of a project’s security, reliability & legal compliance.

But you might be saying: Sumana, how does money specifically help widen the code review bottleneck?

So let’s talk from the point of view of maintainers & what they can do, using lifter income.

First off, with enough income, if a maintainer is spending their time at a job working on something else, sometimes they can quit, and spend time on their open source project.

I’m gonna take a moment now to talk about why that is SOMETIMES. And it has to do with health care and health insurance.

But that’s SOMETIMES. People in a lot of countries, when they quit a job, or go to part-time, they don’t have to worry about how that’ll affect their health insurance. Or, if you’re a tech worker in the US who doesn’t depend on your employer for health insurance, then you have some flexibility, and the more lifter money you get, the more time you can spend on open source. Like if you’re a student getting health insurance through your school, or it’s coming through your spouse or your parents, or you’re a veteran or a senior citizen and you get health insurance through the government.

A lot of tech workers in the US, though, would need to make A LOT of money from lifter income to quit their jobs, buy health insurance on the open market, AND be confident that they could continue to afford that even if the prices go up. So they have less flexibility, and money might not translate so directly into more hours of work.

OK, so, back from that sidebar.

But even so, even if someone can’t quit their day job, so the maintainer still has the same number of hours to spend on their open source project, money can still translate into BETTER work.

A huge example of this is EQUIPMENT. A lot of people volunteering in open source have old or inadequate computers at home, or they don’t have a proper desk, chair, secondary monitor, and stuff like that. A more efficient home office setup – or even JUST a second monitor – can help the quality and speed of someone’s work. Some one-off donations can pay for that, and then over time, a steady lifter income (of a few hundred bucks a month) can help someone move to a bigger place, pay more in rent or mortgage, so they can have a proper home office, with a door that closes, and faster Internet.

Another example is EDUCATION. A lot of open source developers, when they want to learn a new skill, default to looking for what they can read for free online. But someone who’s getting some steady lifter income can pay for books or one-off tutorials to level up, or subscribe to a paid content platform. Like, O’Reilly’s learning platform is $50/month.

And part of how we educate ourselves and each other is with conferences. But most conferences cost money to attend. Sometimes prices for conferences assume all the attendees have their registration costs covered by an employer or a university, and registration costs hundreds of dollars, even over a thousand dollars. Not to mention, if it’s an in-person conference, travel and lodging costs. Lifter income can make the difference, and make going to a conference affordable.

And another example is PAYING INTERNS and FREELANCERS. For example, a maintainer can save up lifting income to pay a freelance writer or designer to improve their website or their documentation, which will save them user support time. Or, for example, a large one-time donation can help break a review and release bottleneck. Last year, donations made it possible for my company to hire a GNU Autoconf expert to get a release out the door, 8 years after the last release. Zack Weinberg took more than six months to review and merge 157 patches, most of which were bugfixes, and make several beta releases, and finally release Autoconf 2.70.

Or a maintainer can save up income to pay an intern, and to teach them to become a co-maintainer. For example, the Outreachy internship program costs a mentoring organization $6500 per intern.

And speaking of interns:

Secondary mentorship

Let’s talk about interns and secondary mentorship. Here’s another way a company can help- you can help a project develop new contributors, and help them get further along the road to becoming co-maintainers.

Think about the engagement funnel for an open source project that wants more contributors and more co-maintainers. An individual contributor starts off not knowing project exists, then becomes interested, and starts contributing. Then, if the project can retain and grow them, they may grow skilled and trustworthy enough to be promoted to become co-maintainer of the project. And the more maintainers you have, the more time is available to do code review.

You can help with a few parts of that funnel. For one thing, if the project isn’t getting new people at the start of the funnel, your marketing department could help with that, with attracting new contributors in the first place. But a lot of the projects you’re working with are actually bottlenecked further along than that – maintainers don’t have enough time to mentor the contributors they have, and grow them to the level where they can promote them.

So I recommend that you help provide SECONDARY mentorship.

When an opensource project is trying to grow new contributors, they often work with internship programs, such as Google Summer of Code or Outreachy. Someone from the project mentors an intern, who’s often new to open source, for three months. But that mentor is usually doing this on top of their other responsibilities. And they’re often pretty new to management, and they’re almost always managing remotely (which is harder than in-person when you’re training someone new), AND sometimes that intern has never had a professional job before and has to learn basic professional skills along the way.

So, that mentor, one of the project maintainers, has a lot of domain knowledge about the project’s codebase, but could probably use an extra pair of hands. This is where you can come in. You can be a secondary mentor.

A secondary mentor does not need to be an expert in or even a contributor to the project codebase. Here’s an example: when I was working on MediaWiki a few years ago, I worked with an Outreachy intern named Frances Hocutt – this was his first programming job, as he was switching careers out of chemistry. Frances’s project was to evaluate and improve the web API client libraries for MediaWiki, in Java, Perl, Python, and Ruby.

One of his mentors was me, but I gathered a co-mentor and two technical advisors: engineers who have different strengths, live in different time zones, and who all promised to respond to questions within two business days. Frances was reading and writing code in four different languages, and was able to get guidance in all of them. The other guys had very different perspectives. Tollef has worked in several open source contexts but had never worked on MediaWiki, so he could approach MediaWiki’s API with learner’s mind and help Frances by modeling how he reasoned about it. Brad had hacked on the API itself and maintained a popular Wikipedia bot that uses it. And Merlijn is a maintainer of an existing client library that lots of Wikimedians use. I brought deep knowledge of our technical community, our social norms, and project management. And I was in charge of the daily “are you blocked?” communication so we could avoid deadlocks.

This worked really well. It made it possible for people to take vacations without Frances getting stuck, and to have more guidance available – from day to day, to help him stay unblocked and always have a next action he could take, but also on bigger topics, like about programming careers and engineering standards, how to judge whether his work was good enough. And after his internship, Frances actually got hired by the Wikimedia Foundation.

Outreachy now highly recommends that every intern has at least two mentors -- and in fact, when I run these mentorship programs, I often MANDATE that every intern has 2 mentors.

See if you can complement a primary mentor by being in a different time zone, and bringing different SKILLS – like project management, technical communication, or testing. You do not have to be a developer to do this. As long as you are reasonably literate in open source process in general, and you actually like helping people learn, you can really improve the odds that an intern will succeed at their internship, want to stick around, and get closer to becoming a project co-maintainer.

Coaching and cheerleading

Finally, let’s talk about coaching and cheerleading – I’ll talk about a time when being an encouraging sidekick made a huge difference.

I did some volunteer work last year, helping rejuvenate pipenv (a command-line tool that some people use to help handle Python packages they make and use).

Pipenv’s maintainers had not released a new version since November 2018, and users were concerned (in many cases switching to competitors). In early March 2020, someone suggested that perhaps the official Python Packaging User Guide should stop recommending it. I saw that suggestion and went into the relevant Internet Relay Chat channel to nudge one of pipenv’s maintainers and to ask: what do you need? What’s blocking you?

Dan knew what was blocking him. He said: “if you’re purely evaluating ‘how do we release the code’, yeah I might just be the main roadblock?” and said he needed “someone to yell at me to stop doing things that are not related to the goal?”

I said: “if you JUST want someone to yell at you to stop doing those unrelated things …. would you actually listen to that person?”

he said: “historically speaking, I’d insist I was doing something important briefly but probably reassess, I do know what needs to happen”

So, over the next three months, I donated about 15 hours of my time. Given my current hourly rates, this constitutes a donation worth a few thousand dollars, which is infinitesimal compared to the value unlocked by expediting a pipenv release. And with those 15 hours of work, I enabled Dan to do fix bugs, do code review, merging several pull requests in, and to make the release – releases mean your patches get not only reviewed but also released so you don’t have to maintain a fork! All in all, with my help, Dan released two betas, then a stable version in May.

Dan needed someone to help him with prioritization, release management, and communications. So I:

  • rewrote the release checklist and kept it updated
  • updated GitHub issues and tweeted to keep users apprised, and to ask them for help testing the beta releases (including suggestions of specific cases to test, and requests for specific expertise when Dan ran into nasty continuous integration bugs)
  • created draft outlines for him to fill in so he could write a status update and the beta release announcement for mailing lists/forums
  • closed duplicate "is pipenv dead?" issues and updated a longer-term issue about maintainer needs, roadmap, etc.
  • made a few documentation pull requests: helped move Pipenv docs from a nonfunctioning domain to a better one, fixed a bunch of obsolete links, and edited Dan's "how to release" docs, and made a pull request to move them into the repo and out of an ephemeral hackpad
  • every few days, checked in with Dan via IRC or email (we also had a few videocalls) to help him stay on task

That was 15 hours in total.

Those 15 hours of coaching and communication and cheerleading enabled Dan to review pull requests, fix bugs, and get that release out. And since then pipenv has made releases on a pretty steady clip.

So: An external perspective can help a lot. You can be that person. Whether you call yourself a sidekick, a project manager, a cheerleader, a coach, or something else, you can be a supportive accountability partner who helps with the bits that maintainers are not great at, or don’t have time for. And you don’t have to know the project codebase to do this, or be a feature-level developer - the only pipenv code I touched was the docs.

If you/your company depends on an open source project and you’re getting annoyed or worried because the release cadence has slowed to a standstill, there’s a strong chance you can turn that around. If someone on your team can spend a few hours complementing the existing maintainers and helping unblock them, that could save you a bundle compared to forking or switching dependencies. Try talking with the maintainers about what they need. And I do mean talking, as in, synchronous conversation via voice or chat, so you can build some trust and get the kind of conversation I had with Dan.

Conclusion

So: testing infrastructure, money, secondary mentorship, and coaching and cheerleading can all move the needle, to increase the health of projects you care about – and decrease the code review backlog so your patches get into the mainline.

I’m Sumana Harihareswara, and I can help you make this happen through my consultancy, Changeset Consulting. And let’s talk more in the chat after this talk – I’d love to hear your stories about what works.


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20 Minute Croissant Dough | Edd Kimber | The Boy Who Bakes: Genious?

http://www.geoguessr.com?v=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%3D: Champions!

http://www.geoguessr.com?v=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: If it's in Botswana, we're gonna find it.

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[Comments] (1) Being an example of the believers (Timothy): I taught SS Lesson 41 the other week, which covers a lot of stuff (they all do), but I chose to focus on what it means to be a believer. Literally every time I sat down to prepare for this lesson, I ended up on a Mormon blog to re-hash recent events. It became a real distraction. I finally began to discipline and focus myself about two days before it was time to give my lesson. I was literally a wreck; I had no direction for this discussion.

Then I had an idea. On the chalkboard that Sunday, I wrote four names on the board: Nephi, Laman, Moses, and Emma Smith. The names of four believers, two brothers from the Book of Mormon, the Old Testament prophet responsible for re-establishing Judaism and Israel after the Egyptian captivity, and the wife of the first modern day prophet of the LDS church.

Under each name we listed their attributes. Then we had to collectively agree on one word that best fit each person: Nephi was recognized for his valiance; Laman for his worldliness; Moses as a lawgiver; Emma for her longsuffering. We then discussed that under the umbrella of attributes assigned to the term "believer" is the individual brands that follow. So the question becomes, what will be our individual brand as a believer? Will it be attributable to the Word of Wisdom, will we choose to be known for keeping a set of laws, or will it be for our zeal, or love, our compassion, etc? None of these is right or wrong per se, though there may be an individual answer that is better for us. The takeaway: play to your strength as a believer, and use your brand to make the world a better place.

This exercise literally lasted the entire length of the class, about 30 minutes (we were cut short due to the overrun of the Primary Program that day). I walked away feeling much better about life, and am particularly looking forward to my lesson next Sunday on the Epistle of Peter. Should it be successful, perhaps I will post more.

The manual, I might add, contained none of this, which is what I love. The prophet sets the curriculum, but I get to wrestle with the Spirit on the who, what why, and how (when and where are also outside my jurisdiction). It's been a great blessing in my life to study the material and try and direct the material in a direction that can be beneficial to many, including myself. I'm grateful for this calling.

[Comments] (4) Why I stay: It's probably safe to assume no one reads this blog anymore, because I don't post very often. I normally find Instagram to be my safe place, because who doesn't love pictures of food, cats, cool scenery, and the like, without the vagueness, fighting, and incorrect doctrine that is Facebook?

But today something happened, and I feel like talking about it. Perhaps this is the perfect outlet; I get to say it, and no one will read it, and thus no one gets offended (again, a huge perk of not being on Facebook).

My Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has added to its handbook a new category of apostasy: same sex marriage. Now children living in SSM families cannot be baptized until they are 18, and until they disavow the sins of their parents. While the former makes me wonder, and the latter makes me curious (the who, what, when, where, why and how of the disavowal intrigues me), on the whole I've added one more reason to my list of why the Church just plain no longer works for me.

That being said, I stay. Don't get me wrong. I've often thought about leaving, if for no other reason than to make a point. The point being: you are wrong, and I therefore shun you. But really, that's a silly way to make a point. The Church continues without me, and I lose a part of me in the process.

So I stay. I stay because, despite this policy (the same policy exists for children from polygamous families by the way), despite the PR embarrassment we call Prop 8, despite the fact that we oust those that question things, despite the fact that Republicans=Mormonism, despite the fact that no one can give a good answer for why women cannot hold the Priesthood, despite the fact that I never knew until July that Joseph Smith married a 14 year old girl and translated the book of Mormon with a brown stone inside a hat, despite the lame attempts to explain the Priesthood ban as anything other than the flaws of good men, this is my home.

I currently have the calling of Gospel Doctrine teacher. Which means, during the 180 minute church block, I am effectively in charge for 40 minutes of that time, roughly 25%. I have spent the last year, during our study of the New Testament, to use this time to achieve the following: (1) Focus more on Christ and less on silly things that often takes up valuable church space, including missionary guilt, defending the family (whatever that means; no one wants to abolish families), and pornography for the 5,000th time; (2) Challenge the class to read the scriptures with fresh eyes, to see things they never saw before, even though they've read the stories since they were children; (3) Contribute to a class environment where their voice can be heard (ie, I'm a facilitator, not a lecturer); (4) Help us feel the Holy Ghost in class, and follow its promptings to be better people the next six days.

I personally believe I fail at this more than I succeed. But the fact is, I currently have the opportunity/responsibility to be the change I want to see in the church. And that is way more powerful than walking away and being forgotten within a week.

I also stay because I don't have all the answers. So while I currently am at odds on probably 20 or so doctrinal and/or procedural aspects of the church, I recognize that I could be wrong. And until I receive my own personal revelation on these matters (something I'm working on, but for personal reasons seems to take time for me), I just can't write it off. The truth is, despite these obstacles, the church has been good to me. I've learned inside this church the joy of giving, the humility of receiving, to wonder and awe at the notion of sin, forgiveness, and the atonement, and to find purpose in mortality. And while I know I could have learned these elsewhere, I learned them here.

So I'm sticking with my Church. Because I believe I have a part to play. I can show people by the way I live my life that the Church tent is big enough for all, that the Church is not threatened when people bring their questions or their baggage along for the ride, and that the Church can still be a safe place where compassion is the rule and not the exception. So I stay.

test: test

the 'Go-to': Everyone has a go-to phrase, something they say when they don't know what to say. For Mary Poppins, it was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, for example.

For Dalton, it's 'you're funny!'

He seriously says it to adults when they say something to him and he's not quite sure how to respond. It normally gets a laugh in response, so perhaps HE is the funny one....

[Comments] (2) a funny thing happened on the way to the playground: Kids these days:

Maggie: I got invited to Ronan's birthday! Susie/John: Who's Ronan? Maggie: A boy from school. Susie/John: Are you friends with Ronan? Maggie: No, but he invited me, I think, because I'm a good example at school and he wants to say thank you. (Editor's note: Doubtful this is true, but glad my daughter has a pure heart).

John: I'm going for a walk. Maggie, want to ride your scooter? Maggie: No, I'll just walk with you dad. John: But it's going to be a long walk. Are you sure? Maggie: Yes. If I ride my scooter, I can't talk to you about things.

Dalton: Dad, I'm tired of being the cutest. I do NOT want to be the cutest anymore. (Editor's Note: Sienna is now the cutest and Dalton is the happiest).

Legoland is a pain because Sienna can't go on anything. Unlike Disneyland, the king of all amusement parks. The kids fight in line about who gets to take their turn with me. I may not have been cool at school, but I'm officially the favorite dad in this house!

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I really need to check my job at the door: ...of the bookstore. The other day in Foyles I had to physically restrain myself from re-organizing some Beast Quests that were in the wrong order. Tonight in Waterstones I found myself recommending The Sky is Everywhere to someone looking for a gift for a 15 year old. What can I say? 3 years in a bookstore and old habits die hard.

Overheard in Stoke Newington:
1:"The only good thing about David Cameron"
2&3 in unison: "There's nothing good about David Cameron."
1"...is his taste in music."

Whigs and Tories: I went to a "mustache and wig" party as a Lib Dem supporter, but no one got it.

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Backward Thinking: When planning a Redbox return, I felt a fleeting anxiety that I had not hit "rewind" on my movie. That was a strange throw-back.

[Comments] (3) On that note. . .: I'm back to the blog and intend to update more steadily than in the last five years. Among other reasons, I stopped blogging because I was overwhelmed by how popular blogging had suddenly become. Does anyone else get overwhelmed by the thought of an internet audience beyond a handful of family members and close friends? I like to be a bit more off the radar, I guess. But I'm back.

Dear Mr. Fellowes:: Is this Masterpiece Theatre or soap opera disguised in period dress? Downton Abbey, how you frustrate me!

First Sweat of Spring: I did some impromptu weeding of the garden today. Actually, first I locked myself out of the house and then dug around in the dirt while I waited for the locksmith to arrive.

[Comments] (1) Ratings: "Do I make the best guacamole in the world, Mom?" Atticus asks.

"You definitely make fabulous guacamole." I assure.

"Well. . . I am for sure in the top three."

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Obituary: Here is the link to Mom's obituary, printed in the Bakersfield Californian on Tuesday. The death date is wrong, it was actually May 5, 2006

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Jill Whitney's weblog

Funny things: I heard today...

"There are nice ones and naughty ones like 'Hey lets make Icecream sundaes tonight' is nice, while 'Hey babe, I'll bring the nuts and chocolate syrup if you bring the cherry' is naughty."

"Can you believe I'm seventy and still wearing a g-string?"

"I'm going to choke on my ice!" "Don't worry, it should melt before you expire."

[Comments] (2) Museum of Ancient Life: Yesterday we went to the Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving point. I don't care what your philosophy is on how or when or why dinosaurs etc, existed they are still cool to learn about. I hadn't been to the museum in years but it still was fascinating to walk around. Of course my favorite was t-Rex and the giant shark. I still remember years ago when all of my cousins were in town and we pretended to throw Lorna in the shark's mouth, I ducked from the caveman skeleton that was throwing a rock, and Frances posed with the archeologists because we were sure to be related!

[Comments] (14) Precepting: Newsflash... I get to precept this semester in the ER at Ogden Regional Hospital. I am so excited!!!

[Comments] (1) lazy: I have nothing much to report except that I am LAZY. I have always known this, but I realize that I really just pretty much do nothing most of the time. I guess it's becaus I have to be so efficent at work and school, that I can't do it at home. oh well.

Current Projects: -catching up on my scrapbook. Doing ok except I haven't started BB season and I just printed 200 new pics. Yes seriously at least 200. I have an addiction. -Finishing my recipe book. I am frusterated because I can't find my 34th ward RS cookbook and it has recipes I need. Otherwise it is looking awesome. -Cleaning my room. Not doing so well, let's be honest. -Laundry. Hate it, need to desperatly do it. and for the love it's FREE finally, why don't I just do it already!?! -petting the dogs and watching TV....very good at this.

Random thought: I went to the movies (finally saw Indiana Jones) and there was a poster that disturbed me... "No children under 6 allowed in rated-R movies after 6 p.m. Keep your child safe." ummm last time I checked children under 6 shouldn't go to rated-R movies period. Not to mention before 6 anyway...

New favorite quote: "All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another." -Anatole France

[Comments] (1) My new job: I love my new job a lot. It is a lot of fun actually. I am working as a nurse at the new Intermountain Medical (aka the Death Star or Mother ship), on the 12th floor. This building is SO tall, and the view is spectacular. I can't wait until I am a registered nurse and get to play with the IV's here, but I can do everything else as an LPN. Yay for the real world...it rocks!!

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Michelle Walch's weblog

[Comments] (3) School: So I am currently attending UVSC. I have had an ok experience and am ready to move on. Next semester I will be attending Blinn at Bryan, TX. I am very excited because I will be 2 hours away from my house instead of 22 hours!!! I am going to get a degree in early childhood education and am very pleased with my degree. I am currently reading a book that is called A Man's Search for Meaning written by Viktor E. Frankl. If you haven’t read this book, i suggest that you do! It has changed my way of looking at things. Take care Shell

[Comments] (1) School: So I am currently attending UVSC. I have had an ok experience and am ready to move on. Next semester I will be attending Blinn at Bryan, TX. I am very excited because I will be 2 hours away from my house instead of 22 hours!!! I am going to get a degree in early childhood education and am very pleased with my degree. I am currently ready a book that is called A Man's Search for Meaning written by Viktor E. Frankl. If you haven’t read this book, i suggest that you do! It has changed my way of looking at things. Take care Shell

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Our Family Recipes
New experiments and old favorites

() Cookie Cookie Cookie!: I was going to go to the library after Maggie's nap, but she didn't take a nap, and also it is snowing and really blowy. So, instead I made Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies. Cookies! If you have been blessed with one of mom's family recipe boxes, this is in there.

1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 cup quick cooking oatmeal
2 T unsweetened cocoa
3/4 t. baking soda
3/4 cup butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
16-ounce package chocolate chips
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped
Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl. Beat together sugars and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture until well-blended. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees. Let stand on sheets 3 minutes. Remove cookies to racks to cool.

Susie the Chef says: 16 ounces of chocolate chips is a ridiculous waste of money and chocolate chips. I put 1/4-1/3 that much. I also didn't put nuts. Even though the batter was pretty dry, I felt like the cookies had a lot of butter in them so I might use a few tablespoons less next time. Next time: yes, they were very yummy!

() Yummy in my Tummy: I've been trying out a lot of new crockpot recipes in an attempt to make feeding my family easier, faster, and yummier. Yesterday I put two chicken breasts and half a jar of spaghetti sauce (Ragu was only $1 at Smith's and I had a coupon - I haven't bought spaghetti sauce in years!) and let it cook on both settings for who-knows-how-long. I served it with whole wheat pasta and parmesan cheese and it was yummy. Probably the easiest meal I've ever made!

I also made an eclair cake at John's request. I made chocolate sauce from scratch because I only use it for eclair cake and I am out of money in my grocery budget this month. It was easy and super yummy. I couldn't find mom's recipe, so I 1/3-ed one I found online:

1/3 c. cocoa
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. sugar
Boil for 2-5 minutes.

PS: I uploaded some cute pictures of the bug to our picture blog - click on "Pictures" to the right. And read all my latest articles while you're at it!

() Taco Stack: I was a good wife and made dinner tonight. This isn't the recipe I kept the page for, but it was yummy!

1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 package taco seasoning
12 corn tortillas
shredded cheese

Brown ground beef with onion in skillet; drain fat. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and taco seasoning. Place 1/4 c. meat in bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Place two tortillas side by side on meat mixture. Top each tortilla with some meat mixture and shredded cheese. Repeat until each stack contains 6 tortillas layered with meat and cheese. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Cut each stack into quarters. I served it with sour cream and green onions.

Also, Tasha inspired me to make babyfood so I bought a butternut squash, baked it, and pureed it in the blender with a bit of water. It is delicious! Maggie liked it too. I'm not sure it was any cheaper though. I will have to try some other recipes.

() Apple-Cheddar Soup: I made this earlier today and it is so yummy. I think I put too many potatoes, because it was kind of chunky.

1/2 c. finely chopped onion
1 T. butter
2 med. potatoes, diced
2 c. apple cider
1 t. fresh thyme
1/2 t. salt
dash cayenne pepper
1 med apple, peeled, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. milk
2 T. flour
4 oz (1 cup) shredded cheese
fresh apple slices

Cook onion in butter. Stir in potatoes, cider and seasonings. Boil. Simmer covered 15 minutes. Add apple. Simmer 5 minutes until potatoes are tender. combine milk and flour - stir into soup. Cook and stir until bubbly. Whisk in cheese until melted. Top serving dishes with apple slices and fresh ground pepper.

() Fondue for Two: Last night John and I celebrated our anniversary at The Melting Pot. Maggie got babysat by a couple in the ward with two little boys and had the best time.

We enjoyed our yummy fondue meal, but it was very expensive and now that we've done it I don't think we'll go back. We especially enjoyed the dessert fondue. The waiter told us how to make the cookie and/or graham cracker crumb covered marshmallows (just dip the marshmallows in water), so now we can just do that at home. We were thinking what a fun FHE activity that would be to do with young kids.

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[No comments] Adult: We went to Mesquite on our honeymoon. Today, on the day our marriage turns 18, we drove straight on through, because $27 hotel rooms are no longer our priority.

Dessert Fridge: The other day, Arthur opened the freezer and said “let’s see what’s in the dessert fridge” and now Dessert Fridge is a thing. Yes, I buy a lot of popsicles.

Swimmers: So proud of the kids at their swim meet today. The meet was very early - we left the house at 6:45 - but they had great attitudes. They all obviously put in a big effort for each of their races. Each of them got at least one Heat Winner. (Arthur’s was for the relay in which theirs was the only team competing, but still). Our kids rock at Heat 2. And now I am looking at their times, and it looks like every single race was a time improvement. Pretty awesome kids!

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Guests take over Crummy while Leonard is away

[Comments] (1) () The Eagle Has Landed: We made it. I'm writing this now via some neighbor's wireless.

[Comments] (13) () The Right To Bear Fardels: During a recent summit The Poor Man made some nonsensical remark denying that there's any humor in C.S. Lewis or Shakespeare. One of those half-drunk "contrarian = sophisticated" bits of bollocks.

In refutation, I've found my favorite (so far) joke in the Bard: Act III, Scene 2 of Hamlet, the bit about Guildenstern, Hamlet, and the pipe. Gertrude has sent Tweedlecrantz and Guildendee to check on why Hamlet Jr. is acting so crazay. Our goth protagonist asks Guildenstern to try playing a recorder.

GUILDENSTERN
I know no touch of it, my lord.

HAMLET
It is as easy as lying. Govern these ventages with your fingers and thumbs, give it breath with your mouth, and it will discourse most eloquent music. Look you, these are the stops.

GUILDENSTERN
But these cannot I command to any utt'rance of harmony. I have not the skill.

HAMLET
Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me! You would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass; and there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it speak. 'Sblood, do you think I am easier to be play'd upon than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me.

In the four-hour Kenneth Branagh version this little rant is especially breathtaking.

() Geeks, Fire, and Dangerous Things: Seth and I were at Defcon in Las Vegas this weekend. Seth got our friend Praveen to bring Seth's giant Fresnel lens to the con when Praveen drove out on Saturday. The Fresnel lens is roughly 1 meter in diameter. On Sunday afternoon, as the con was winding down, we took the lens (wrapped in a black sheet for safety) out to a quiet back lot behind the convention hotel and, though the sky was overcast with a thin cloud layer so that we could not focus direct sunlight through the lens, we set some stuff on fire. Seth brought four pairs of welding goggles and two pairs of sunglasses for the group, plus safety gloves for whoever held the lens. It was about 102 degrees out, scorching hot even with the clouds, but before the heat drove me back indoors, I watched Seth and David Weekly burn a brown spot into the side of an aluminum can; turn a piece of wood to charcoal; set aflame and burn through a handful of dry grass; and light an onlooker's cigarette (placed on the ground, not in his mouth!). They also tried unsuccessfully to melt a penny and a quarter. I guess it's not as easy as I thought to burn through your money in Las Vegas.

[Comments] (1) () She's an ENIAC: From phone conversations today I gather that Leonard and Frances are visiting the American Computer Museum. In contrast, I'll be enjoying Will Franken's comedy shows tonight, whose most computer-related joke is probably his absurdist "voice command for file cabinet" bit. You can get a hint of that style in his "Show!" clip.

Note to local comics I saw in the back room of a pizza place last night: it is possible to do good spam and Match.com jokes. Please try harder.

() Mr. Joad's Wild Ride: Today Annalisa and I start our drive out west. On our first trip out, we lost a mirror in the middle of Nebraska at 80 mph, ran over a tumbleweed in Colorado, got our truck towed in LA because it was in 7th Heaven's shot, and almost rented Charles Manson's quaint Topanga getaway... here's hoping for a less exciting trip. Here's also hoping that I will be able to post while I'm on the road. California, here we come!

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The Weblog of Joe and Louise Walch

Gregg Easterbrook: The Man Who Defused the ‘Population Bomb’ - WSJ.com:

Gregg Easterbrook: The Man Who Defused the ‘Population Bomb’ - WSJ.com

Amazing story. I read about this back at BYU and still am amazed at this man's life and life's work. He wrote some interesting articles debunking neo-Malthusian histeria back in the 1970s and 80s. He's a real hero and an example of human selflessness that is rarely replicated. May he rest in peace.

Interesting quote:

Borlaug told me a decade ago that most Western environmentalists "have never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for 50 years, they'd be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists in wealthy nations were trying to deny them these things."

Epicurean Delights sans the Jail-time:

We tell our kids to "Just Say No" and yet we allow them to dump cup-fulls of this addictive white powder on their Cheerios.

Favorite quote:

Though difficult to estimate, sweet sensations evoked by sugar-sweetened foods and drinks are probably one of the most precocious, frequent and intense sensory pleasures of modern humans.

Have I been missing something?!?

Ideologyweek: News as Only We Wont to See.:

The mocking introduction “Let's try” of Newsweek’s “Our Mutual Joy” foreshadowed all one needed to know about the incredibly condescending treatment of religion by another ‘general interest’ magazine going through its death throes. In an attempt to shame (the true meaning of which, like ‘tolerance’ and ‘love’ has become unfashionably anachronistic) the vast majority of Americans who are Christian, The “living” Bible is deconstructed and vivisected to reveal the Christian’s folly. The article author asserts her moral authority in calling on Christians to strive toward ‘more just’ ideals over the ‘unserious’ drive towards “chaos, depravity, [and] indifference.”

Newsweek would have us believe that the homosexual activity practiced in days of yore condemned by Paul were nothing like the civilized and enlightened homosexual practices of today, and then insinuates that David and Jonathan were gay lovers. Perhaps things have changed; not the enlightenment of gay sex, but the corruption of true brotherly love that Paul commends to his followers.

The article then goes on to explain that the overarching theme of the Bible is acceptance, citing Jesus reaching out to the woman at the well. Nary a word about Jesus’s constant injunction to sin no more, or the real theme of the Bible which is to totally deny oneself in discipleship; not indulge in ‘needy’ relationships. The doctrine of the Bible is that because of the fall everybody has a predisposition to act contrary to our true nature of Justice and Holiness, but that we are to refuse such impulses; not embrace them.

Newsweek argues:

So the frustrating, semantic question remains: should gay people be married in the same, sacramental sense that straight people are? I would argue that they should. If we are all God's children, made in his likeness and image, then to deny access to any sacrament based on sexuality is exactly the same thing as denying it based on skin color—and no serious (or even semiserious) person would argue that.

Perhaps this last bit is what I find to be the most egregious error and beneath contempt. It blasphemously insinuates that God Himself just might be a homosexual and then equats the sexual impulse to skin color or gender. It is similar to the slave-trader’s assertion (to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson) that there are those who are born with saddles on their backs and others born with boots and spurs; except in this case, those born saddled are humanity and the booted master is the animal impulse. It totally rejects humanity’s agency and responsibility, and is totally antithetical to the Bible’s core message. A person who is born black cannot change that fact. A person who is born female or male will always have that identity etched on every cell of the person’s body regardless of the number of surgeries or hormone therapy. Sexuality, on the other hand, is a learned behavior which every civil society in history has regulated and restricted, and to ignore that basic fact of biology and history is not merely unserious, but dangerously stupid.

This shockingly arrogant treatment of the Bible by an author who probably has about as much knowledge of the Bible as an 18th century grammar student (or less) wends its way through blissfully ignorant aphorisms like:

Jesus does not want people to be lonely and sad,

and then quotes such luminaries like “Miss Manners” and “My friend the priest James Martin.” Of course, if one only wants to obstinately promote one’s own viewpoint, then there’s no need to include people who may not be one’s friends or even have the same opinions as oneself. This is evident in the article which never includes any divergent opinion or even the treats the reasoning behind Christian (or classical pagan for that matter) opposition to homosexual marriage as anything but a silly straw-man.

What is the true reason that the majority of people in over three dozen states have voted in free and fair elections to affirm marriage between a man and a woman? It’s not hatred of Gays, OR EVEN HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH GAYS. It is the fact (one that is lost on the post-modern left) that there are essential differences between men and women. Those differences are profound and reach the whole dynamic range of the human experience. Those differences are etched on every cell in the bodies of Men and Women. To paraphrase Sartre, there is no escape from gender differences between men and women. Men and women are intrinsically, essentially, and absolutely different. Society has an interest in guarding the procreation and sustainability of itself. In so doing, society has every right to ensure that the healthy and diverse influences of both male and female are included in the raising of children. Both genders play essential and important roles in the flourishing and procreation of humanity.

When looked at from this light, homosexual marriage advocates are actually arguing not for inclusion, but for exclusion since it is they who would gloss over the important gender differences that are essential for the raising of properly socialized human beings. Homosexual men simply cannot parent with ‘maternal flair’ no matter how hard they try or how many flower arrangement classes they attend. Furthermore, the homosexual relationship is, by definition, barren. It is wholly impossible for a new human being to be created except from genetic material from one man and one woman. It should be in society’s interest, if society is to persist, to ensure that there is pairing of the right kinds of people (male and female are the only possible option) sustain civilization.

This is why I found Newsweek’s chief editor, John Meacham’s comment so utterly oblivious to reality:

“Religious conservatives will say that the liberal media are once again seeking to impose their “agenda” on a God-fearing nation. Let the letters and e-mails come. History and demographics are on the side of those who favor inclusion over exclusion.”

Excuse me? History and demographics are on the side of those who favor inclusion over exclusion? Has the cavalier John Meacham (of whom I expect better as a historian) seen the fertility rates of San Francisco? Does he know anything about the demographics of the barren Blue Northeast vs. the Red Bible belt south? Quite the contrary to John Meacham’s facile dismissal of the (procreating) majority of Americans, it isn’t gay families who will see the explosion of influence and power in the world. He should look at the statistics: the most common name of babies born in Brussels: Mohammad, Toronto: Mohammad, Amsterdam: Mohammad, Paris: Mohammad, Sweden: Mohammad. What would America look like if it were Muslims instead of the dreaded Catholics controlling the Supreme Court? Does John Meacham really think that the world is demographically moving towards total acceptance of Gay Marriage? Perhaps he should check his statistics and hope it’s the Bible-thumpers or Mormons (who are the only ones approaching Muslims in fertility rates) whom demographics will favor.

And perhaps John Meacham should check on the demographics of Newsweek, which is nose-diving into oblivion.

“Sources say that the magazine is considering slashing up to 1.6 million copies from Newsweek’s current rate base of 2.6 million, which would put the magazine’s rate base at 1 million. Newsweek declined to comment.”

Resources: Natural Law and Homosexual Marriage

A Biblical Understanding of Marriage

National Review: Newsweek Comes out of the Closet

"That Wasn't Quite the Change We Envisioned":

Certainly Obama's recent appointments to his cabinet have been reassuring as I've outlined in my previous post, but some in the Left seem to be getting a little anxious. This story from Politico sheds some light on this subject.

Salient Quote, National Security:

Now Obama’s says that on his first day in office he will begin to “design a plan for a responsible drawdown,” as he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. Obama has also filled his national security positions with supporters of the Iraq war: Sen. Hillary Clinton, who voted to authorize force in Iraq, as his secretary of state; and President George W. Bush’s defense secretary, Robert Gates, continuing in the same role

Salient Quote, Economic Policy:

It’s that liberal Democrats say they’re hard-pressed to find one of their own on Obama’s team so far – particularly on the economic side, where people like Tim Geithner and Lawrence Summers are hardly viewed as pro-labor.

Good, Labor bosses have driven many of American Manufacturing jobs into the ground and resulted in poorer quality products.

I'll continue to look skepticaly at Obama, but for a Democrat who ran as Obama did during the campaign; so far so good.

Links
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Send mail to Louise
Joe and Louise's Picture Blog
Joseph D Walch's Facebook profileLouise Nicholson Walch's Facebook profile
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Spam As Folk Art
Weird and funny subject lines from spam we've received

2020

() Sentenced: The subject line on this one was ordinary - "Get the Most Out of the WiFi You Pay For" - but the content, aside from the spam links, was a genuinely engaging sequence of sentences:
She wondered what his eyes were saying beneath his mirrored sunglasses. They say that dogs are man's best friend, but this cat was setting out to sabotage that theory. Im working on a sweet potato farm. Grape jelly was leaking out the hole in the roof. The blinking lights of the antenna tower came into focus just as I heard a loud snap. It took him a while to realize that everything he decided not to change, he was actually choosing. Twin 4-month-olds slept in the shade of the palm tree while the mother tanned in the sun. She could hear him in the shower singing with a joy she hoped he'd retain after she delivered the news. Dan took the deep dive down the rabbit hole. She lived on Monkey Jungle Road and that seemed to explain all of her strangeness. Greetings from the real universe. They throw cabbage that turns your brain into emotional baggage. The fish dreamed of escaping the fishbowl and into the toilet where he saw his friend go. The best key lime pie is still up for

debate. Random words in front of other random words create a random sentence. It was a really good Monday for being a Saturday. The paintbrush was angry at the color the artist chose to use. In hopes of finding out the truth, he entered the one-room library. I caught my squirrel rustling through my gym bag. Carol drank the blood as if she were a vampire. He is no James Bond; his name is Roger Moore. The tattered work gloves speak of the many hours of hard labor he endured throughout his life. The beauty of the sunset was obscured by the industrial cranes. He wore the surgical mask in public not to keep from catching a virus, but to keep people away from him. The thick foliage and intertwined vines made the hike nearly impossible. Having no hair made him look even hairier. I am counting my calories, yet I really want dessert. It's much more difficult to play tennis with a bowling ball than it is to bowl with a tennis ball. He decided water-skiing on a frozen lake wasnt a goo

d idea. Shakespeare was a famous 17th-century diesel mechanic. As he looked out the window, he saw a clown walk by. He was sitting in a trash can with high street class. It's not possible to convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising it infinite bananas when they die. If you like tuna and tomato sauce- try combining the two. Its really not as bad as it sounds. It took him a month to finish the meal. Mary plays the piano. He would only survive if he kept the fire going and he could hear thunder in the distance. Today is the day I'll finally know what brick tastes like. If any cop asks you where you were, just say you were visiting Kansas. Weather is not trivial - it's especially important when you're standing in it.

Leonard suspects this is generated by GPT-3.

2016

() Yes: A spam today began:
yes, this is fudong machinery manufacture co., ltd a a professional and experienced supplier
I enjoy the prefix "yes," here. It reminds me of product placement in old-time radio ads, or of the way Stephen Colbert introduced the terrifying drugs from Prescott Pharmaceuticals in "Cheating Death with Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A."

2014

() Spamusement's Ten-Year Anniversary: Ten years ago today, Steven Frank posted the first Spamusement comic, illustrating real subject lines from spam emails with "poorly drawn cartoons". Leonard and I loved it, and to celebrate, here are a few of my favorites. (Spamusement had an unfortunate strain of sitcom-level sexism and fatphobia but there were plenty of strips free from such annoyances.)

I want to especially mention She cant possibly be enjoying this! which Leonard and I treasure to this day every time we ask for a to-go box for leftovers, and this assortment that I suspect of being a "Cow Tools" homage.

Anyway, Steven Frank, thanks for a fun strip.

() They don't make nonsense like they used to: A single morsel of old-school link-free "what are they even trying to do here" spam slipped through my filter last week, like a Queneau assembly of our glory days here at SAFA. Enjoy, and reflect, for do we not, each of us, parallel existing roads?

From: Mars failing before completing their missions, with some failing before they even began. <brendan@orcon.net.nz>
Subject: Madagascar and take on fresh provisions before proceeding onward toward their targets further north.

David Smith, an analyst at research firm Gartner.
Many steps parallel existing roads, but others exist on their own and are classified as city streets.
Hudswell Clarke saddle tank Tubby at Blunsdon. He died in Monrovia in 1935.

() Male Gaze: Ashley Madison spam keeps telling me I am guaranteed to sleep with a married woman. I am a married woman. I sleep with myself every night, and as such, Ms. Madison has nothing to offer me -- or, conversely, perhaps I have been using the site all along unwittingly!

I find that the Ashley Madison spam specifically bothers me, not just because it implies that I am thought of as a promise-breaker, but because it implies a new vice that I'm not used to seeing in my spam. I'm used to spam insinuating that I am greedy, obese, and libidinous, but not specifically adulterous. And the heteronormative and aimed-at-men "sleep with a married woman" spam actually bothers me less than the more equal-opportunity subject lines that aim to include me. The former I can laugh off as male gaze; the latter thinks I am nudgable.

2013

() Monster Breakout Day:
  • Hey alabaastley, 80% OFF. encountered Neologisms
    I really prefer mangled portmanteaus.
  • Be ready in the morning for my new Gold pick!
    I wish you wouldn't stay up all night playing Minecraft.
  • Augmentin is your canon aimed at any infection.
    No, sir!
  • Scare people with your tool today
    Join your village's angry mob.
  • Mr. kevandd, get super prices. death
    Those prices had better be pretty damn super.
  • Monster Breakout day starting off with Monster News.
    It was just a regular day in Monster Town.
  • Do not underestimate the value of free pills
    I'm going to guess... "zero".
  • This Company keeps climbing! You may want to read this!
    "Employee Guidelines for Parachute Allocation."
  • Feel like you're under a pile of bricks? We carry Xanax and Valium
    Also bricks.
  • This May Never Happen Again!
    Oh, I think it will.

2012

() Mockworthy Recruiting Spam: I feel the urge to complain about a particular kind of spam yet feel a little uncouth doing so on my main blog. So then I remembered: Spam As Folk Art! Hi, three people who still follow this feed.

If you were a tech recruiter seeking a project manager or community wrangler, I could see how I would pop up on your radar. I'm not interested -- I'm happy at the Wikimedia Foundation -- but at least I would understand.

But recruiters who think that I must be an engineer, because I've worked on GNOME and I have a GitHub account, make me laugh.

Case 1:

Subject: Hello from redacted name of big tech company!
From: redacted name native to South Asia
Hi Sumanah,

I hope you're well. I came across your profile in Gnome Outreach program.

I hope you're well. My name is redacted and I am a recruiter here at redacted.

I am writing to introduce myself and was wondering if you would be open to confidentially exploring engineering or management opportunities with redacted.

In the event that you're happily employed, but know of any engineers of your quality who may be on the market, please don't hesitate to pass along my contact information....

First: I will notice if you misspell my name. (And you have nearly no excuse, person with name native to the exact same part of India as mine!) Second: I can think of approximately 500 engineers of my "quality" who are on the job market, because I am not an engineer. Within GNOME I worked on marketing, GNOME Journal, documentation, bug triage, and project management.

Case 2:

Subject: Web Application Engineer
From: redacted name of recruiting firm
<p>Hi Sumana,</p>

<p>Are you interested in a new job opportunity? We checked out some of your git repos and we found a job opportunity that fits your skills. Twitter in San Francisco is hiring web application engineers.</p> ....

Yes, the <p> and </p> tags were in the original. Someone wasn't counting on people who read email in plain text. And my GitHub repo has exactly one item of interest (my update to someone's README file), and within Wikimedia's git repositories I've tested the system by adding some comments to an example extension. If that means that a web application engineer role at Twitter "fits my skills" then I am a tuna fish sandwich.

Bonus case:

Speaking of "wait, plaintext?":

Well hello there, and welcome to the latest Ticket Alternative newsletter!

You've opted to receive the text version which is really boring. You can't see any of the pretty pictures we've added or be wowed by the colorful design.

So, click the link at the top of this email to view the online version and we promise to make you smile....

Thanks for reminding me to unsubscribe from the "newsletter" for a service I only signed up for to buy one measly theater or concert ticket, Ticket Alternative! (Oh, and of course, there was no link to the online newsletter in the plaintext email.)
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Sumana Harihareswara's "MC Masala" newspaper columns, reposted
Drinking Problem: We always confused Plaza Lounge and Park Kafe. At least, Leonard did. Then again, he's the one who mixed up the J, K, and M streetcar lines in San Francisco when getting directions. Yes, they share the same terminal stops, but so do we, and that's no excuse for confusing me with Anderson Cooper. We all end in the ocean; we all start in the stream; we're all carried along by [email]@crummy.com. Whoops -- this is the start of the column, not the end. [More]
Filed under: ,
Vitamin Talisman: "Let me tell you about raisins," the professor said, prompting chuckles and heckling in anticipation of a good line. [More]
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[Comments] (5) On death and dying: Nothing prepared me for the day one of my kids asked me why do people die?, so naturally when Lily asked me that question I was dumbstruck. We decided to buy the new Pixar movie Up. It came highly recommended by many people including Louise, who is a very tough critic. She rarely thinks anything is "really good" so I thought it really must be good.

Aaron popped it in for the kids. I was puttering around, getting things done, and still haven't seen it. It wasn't until the next day while Gunnar was napping, and Lily was watching it as I was doing the dishes. When all the sudden I heard this sad little voice and teary eyed girl peeking over the arm of the sofa almost begging me mommy, I don't want you to die. Why did Ellie have to die? When will she be back? I want Ellie to come back. I don't want you to leave. Why do people have to die? Where do people go when they die? I felt ill prepared to answer all these abstract questions in a way a 5 yr old would understand. All I could do was hug her and cry on each other's shoulder. I know it was wrong, but I promised her I wouldn't die, at least anytime soon. She was so sad and I wanted to reassure her and make her feel better.

Death is such a difficult topic and I think it is every child's worst nightmare. We talked about heaven and the resurrection and eternal families and I think we both felt better. It made me remember life is short and fragile and as a result I have not yelled at my kids as much this past week. I used to ask my mom what would you do if I died? And she would always say I would spank your little bottom. Death is something I struggle with and definitely don't want a lesson on it anytime soon. So the moral of the story is if you watch Up with your kids you might have to explain the mysteries of the universe with your kids.

[Comments] (5) for your eyes only: So last week, I tried to write a health care post about my health care of all things. A couple hours after I had posted it, my brain reflected on it and I just about died inside to think I just shared with the world my IUD problems. I quickly got to a computer and deleted it and spent the rest of the night feeling sheepish and wondering if anyone had already read my open book life.

Today, I will give it a go again, yet this time about Gunnar and with much less TMI. Gunnar's health care. My poor little baby Gunnar. I adore this little boy. I could eat him for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and still snack on him throughout the day. Gunnar is and will always be my baby. This little guy went in for his "6 month" ophthalmologist appt. He was actually a few months overdue for a proper one since the past two were right before the move and right after the move and weren't proper appointments at all. We finally got the full blown appt out of the way and have been given two official diagnoses. First, our suspicions are correct. Gunnar has intermittent exotropia. Basically, one eye wanders when he is tired or not on his A game or zoned out. He can have surgery to correct it, but it really isn't too bad yet and the Dr and I both agreed that it is something to look into when he is older like 6 or 7 when "kids start making fun of his eyes in school" as the Dr put it, since his condition is very mild right now. Kids are so mean! And they probably will make fun of him, so when he is older and if it gets worse we will look into that, but for now he is ok. Just ignore his wandering eyes if you speak with him face to face and he zones out.

Secondly, his nearsightedness is now a raging -6.50 in both eyes. A whole 1.25 higher than last dilation. He's legally blind, but with his glasses he has near perfect vision, and it is very correctable with surgery if he chooses to get lasik when he is older. All in all, it is nothing serious. He is a happy, healthy boy. Sometimes, as his mother, I wished my body had been able to make his body more perfect, but there my vanity goes thinking I am responsible for creating my beautiful children. They are Heavenly Father's children and he is just letting me borrow them to discover tremendous happiness, and just a touch of torture.

But, there it is. Gunnar's health update. He is turning 3 in exactly 2 weeks so I better get onto making his well baby check up. Then we shall see how much this boy has g r o w n!

[Comments] (2) Burr, it's cold in here: This is all quite new to me, the wearing jackets in Oct and not really letting up. In TX the year Gunnar was born, I was so excited to not have to be my largest in the summer. It may have well been summer because as I recall, it did not get cool until the day I left the hospital with him. Geez, thanks!

Oh sure you might need a zip up in the morning, but by 2:00 you were sweating. I literally NEVER EVER wore jeans from the months of May-Oct. For 6 months I wore shorts every day. Even in April and Nov, the jeans were worn intermittently. But for those 6 months I didn't even look at jeans.

Yesterday, to make more room in my closet, and because I have a large Rubbermaid labeled jeans and sweaters that needed to be unpacked (and still one in the garage), I gathered all my shorts that I haven't worn a single time in a month, and all Aaron's shorts and exchanged places in the Rubbermaid with the jeans and sweaters.

It's not that it has been too bad here, gorgeous weather actually, but if I am not dressed properly my toes and hands will be frozen by 4:00 on. In SA I remember wearing flip flops year round. If it was too cold to wear them, that's ok because I knew by the afternoon I would be fine. It goes like this in the winter-mornings and evenings it is cool. Midday is warm. For a week or two we could have a cold front and then it is chilly, but then it goes away and for 3 weeks you are left with "perfect winter weather" picnic weather if you will. And the cycle continues.

Now maybe I am a tad cold because we haven't turned our heater on past 66 degrees. Perhaps. We are trying to save money, electricity is a lot more here, and all I have to do to get comfortable again is vacuum. (Why does that job make you sweat even in the winter? You are just pushing the thing around.) OR my new favorite thing is what Aaron calls my Back To The Future vest. It is AWE--wait for it--SOME. I have it in a couple colors, and it's perfect. It keeps you cozy at the same time freeing your arms to do household chores without feeling constricted like sweat shirts or jackets do. Plus, Old Navy is having 50% off all their outerwear. (Ok, online they are not quite 50%, they are more like 30% off and they have half the color selection so go to the actual store.) Go and get you one, and if you have an Old Navy card like me, you can get it for another 30% off that making it only $14. It's that awesome.

Now I am looking for some rain boots, because every week it rains cold rain here ALL DAY LONG from anywhere between a day to 5 days straight. My feetsies get cold walking around with wet socks and tennis shoes. So if anyone one knows of awesome rain boots for cheap (you know me, it's gotta be a good deal) please let me know.

[Comments] (1) Brisk: During my early morning run today, the sweat from my hands came out on top of my gloves and then turned frosty. I could tell because I was wearing black gloves and it looked like they had been flocked a little bit. Pretty weird--I've never had this happen before. Yeah, it was cold!

There were four in the bed and the little one said: I love lazy Saturday mornings. I awoke to Gunnar's noise and decided I wasn't ready to get up for the day and that I wanted to see if Gunnar was old enough to snuggle in the morning. Lily is at the age where she will lay down for a couple minutes but I didn't know if Gunnar "got it" yet. I went and got him and brought him in the bed. He knows what snuggling is because at night he always asks for me to snuggle just a minute so when I told him that he went for it.

It's seriously one of my favorite things to do is on a Saturday morning when no one has to be anywhere, just to lay in bed and snuggle and play and laugh with the kid(s). Gunnar is the most affectionate little guy. He leaned over to Aaron sleeping and kissed his cheek and said "I love you daddy". He then snuggled into me and said "I love you mommy, you're my big boy". He calls me that because I go between saying "You're my baby" or more lately "You're my big boy" so now he calls me his big boy too. He knows the difference between boys and girls which makes it that much funnier to hear him say it.

Gunnar leaned over and was pointing to my eyes and said "eww, what's that brown stuff?" I had a little smudged eye liner on from the night before that didn't wash off and he goes "that's disgusting." lol little noodge. Lily woke up finally and came in. Then I got to really snuggle-this girl knows how to spoon. It was the complete family, all four of us in the bed spending time together. It was a great way to start off the day.

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