The Tragic Irony of the Trump Campaign

In class earlier this week I read to my Italian students that famous line from our nation’s founding document: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. I asked them very plainly if they could identify the two grand hypocrisies inherent in these famous words. The answers did not take very long at all: in these lofty, oft-repeated lines there is no mention of women, the human beings whose bodies actually perform the work of creating new human beings. And the wombless men who signed this piece of paper owned slaves.

It is not possible to understand our nation’s history or present without first reconciling oneself to the grand hypocrisies with which it was founded. It is not possible to understand America without first …more

Update: I voted in the NY Presidential Primary!

You can find the recap of my registration fiasco here.

On Tuesday I went in to the county BOE to present my case to a judge, who (much to my surprise) quickly ruled in my favor and signed a court order permitting me to vote in Tuesday’s primary.

Now, my situation was somewhat unique, but there were at least 4 other people waiting to see the judge alongside me, and each of them came out of the judge’s office smiling. I spoke to them a little bit while they waited – some had just barely missed the deadline to change addresses, etc. etc. Seemed like mostly clerical stuff, but the judge was very sympathetic and said she wanted to make sure as many people voted as was legally possible.

I did have one last hiccup at my polling place – the poll workers had never seen a court order like mine before …more

why I won’t vote in the NY primary election

If I’m lucky and things go as I think they should, I may still vote on April 19th. But I’ve become increasingly convinced that I will not be allowed to. I’m writing this to provide a full record of why not.

Let’s start from the beginning. I first registered to vote in NY at my high school, during my senior year. The town clerk actually stopped by our classroom and walked us through the paperwork. It was 2007, not even a presidential election year – she just decided to have us all registered for the sake of prudence. [1]

That day, while I was still 17 years old, I decided not to register with any political party. [2] I didn’t see the point. I didn’t believe in a two-party political system and didn’t want to participate in one. I didn’t yet understand that my participation was not voluntary, that I …more

Fictions of Survivability vs. Simulations of Catastrophe in US Nuclear Policy

In November of 1975, H.C. Dudley, a professor of radiation physics at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago, published an article in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists titled ‘The Ultimate Catastrophe.’ [1] Dudley, though perhaps on the wrong side of governmental secrecy regarding nuclear weapons thought, was challenging core assumptions that pervaded decades of simulation, modelling, and war gaming of nuclear conflict.

From a weapons standpoint, the US military initially saw Fat Man and Little Boy as big bombs—the biggest ever, a way to fit one thousand planes worth of boom into a single B-29. Officials were at first reluctant to admit to lethal contingencies. In a letter to General Groves dated August 25, 1945, one US Lt. Col said of reports that people were “doomed to die of radioactivity burns”: “I think it’s good propaganda. The thing is these people got good and burned—good thermal burns.”[2-a] The discovery of radioactive tuna sourced from Japan in 1954 was hidden from Japanese diplomats. [2-b] Simulated damage in early explosion scenarios were sometimes limited to blast effects, ignoring the possibility of fallout, firestorms, etc. These refusals of admission culminated in the design of war plans that some thinkers would go on to call ‘overkill.’ [2-d] Continue reading

youtube poetry

I was fiddling around on my YouTube account today when I noticed that you can now see a navigable transcript of whatever video you happen to be watching. In other words, you can click on a given line in the transcript and skip ahead to that moment in the video.

Their transcription code needs a little work though; here’s YouTube’s take on a poem I recently performed at the Austin Poetry Slam. It’s got a real ring to it. I might even opt to perform this version the next time I get on stage.

this poem is called reduce reuse recycle

the weddings as i a grandmother underbelly behind k so never recommend
something up for those of us forty hot
but seriously injured
where did they considered
i never asked

they didn’t mind that when when twenty two-year-old didn’t read it
political one
but this is able to …more

what i did last year

I packed up my car, I call him Harvey the Honda, and headed to Austin after graduation.

On the outer banks of North Carolina I learned that wild horses weren’t just song lyrics. In New Orleans the crickets played jazz; my bread pudding was as pleasant as today’s sunshine when yesterday was cloudy and cold. The bats came out to welcome me in Austin but the grass, which waved to me along my entire journey, was still and said, please, I’m so thirsty.

The sky is bigger in Texas, too big and that’s why it hadn’t rained. You need to squeeze the clouds tighter to get the juice out of them.

With a few hundred dollars to spare, I flew to Montana for three days to see what it looked like. I camped at a lake beneath snowcapped mountains and read by the full moon’s light.

My dog died that weekend. I knew he …more

how much energy is in a cow?

I’m so hungry I could eat a whole cow.

I think the expression typically cites a horse, but I don’t know anyone who actually eats horsemeat, so this version seems a little more reasonable.

Have you ever heard that expression and wondered, jeez, how many calories would that be? I have, and I’ll take it a step further, what could you do with all that energy?

You’ve probably heard the number 2000 kcal floated around as the minimum daily amount of energy a person needs to function properly. In reality, that number depends on a number of factors, and the average requirement for a full-grown adult is probably closer to 2500 kcal. The typical American consumes over 3700 (this “consumption” figure also includes food waste), and you can find the full breakdown of calorie consumption per capita by country here.

But what does that number mean? What do our bodies do with …more

need blind admission is a fairy tale

From the Harvard admission website:

Admission to Harvard is need-blind, by which we mean that financial need is not an impediment to admission…

Financial aid at Harvard is entirely need–based and we are committed to meeting the demonstrated need of all students.

Other top US universities offer similar guarantees to prospective applicants. The full list can be viewed here.

On paper it’s a noble philosophy, a refreshing piece of evidence that success can be had without buying it. Looking down the road, policies like these at the gateways of our top universities shine light on the path toward class mobility and the un-disenfranchisement of our nation’s minority groups.

Sadly, according to the numbers it’s just false.

To show this, we first need to consider what makes a strong candidate for admission to a school like Harvard. If you ask anyone with professional experience in the college admission industry, you’ll likely hear him or …more

are books better for you than video games?

The story is a familiar one. An aspiring writer loved to read as a child. The book store was her candy shop. She forwent television for the sake of devouring the classics, and she now has pristine prose to show for it.

My story is not quite that one, but is equally familiar. When I was a child, I loved video games. I loved them ever since my father introduced me to my first one: Super Mario World.

Yes, I loved books too. But you would not find the ‘classics’ in my second grade personal library. In their stead you found Michael Crichton, Anne McCaffrey and Terry Goodkind. While I remember their work very fondly, I do not place it on the same shelf as Mark Twain.

Like most parents would, my parents encouraged my reading habit and discouraged my (sometimes excessive) video game habit. You’re going to melt your brain, they said!

The …more