The eclipse post

1) Wow.  Wow.  I had read that it would be emotional and mind-blowing.  It was emotional and mind-blowing.  I’m generally pretty even-keeled, but not yesterday.  I was practically a-tingle with excitement as totality approached and totality was probably the most amazing thing I have ever experienced.  Even though you know it is coming cognitively, of course, it is still totally mind-blowing to experience.  My favorite quote on experiencing totality versus advanced partial, “it’s the difference between riding an airplane and jumping out of an airplane.”  Oh, and I totally loved the partial part.  Would have been amazing just to watch and experience changes as sun went from 0% covered into the 90’s.

Naturally, I took a ton of photos, but planned on putting my camera down during totality to just experience.  But then it was so cool I had to try and take some.  I ended up taking a few that weren’t great because I hadn’t thought about the fact that my settings were way off.  In fact, almost all my totality photos were poor because my rational photographer mind was pretty much on hiatus as I experienced pretty much sheer euphoria.

2) Soooo cool to share it with all my family.  We were all just giddy and celebrated with a family group hug when it was over.

3) As you know, I was semi-obsessed and planned the hell out of this thing.  Totally paid off.  I was completely right that traffic right before would not be bad.  People arriving in South Carolina were clearly spread out all over the weekend.  I was ultimately convinced to leave Sunday night to make sure and we experienced heavy, but basically fine, traffic getting as far as the SC border (that was basically where hotels stopped having eclipse pricing).  There was one small back-up on Monday morning getting into the zone, but traffic was basically fine– just like I thought it would be.  I can confirm this as reader MDG left Cary, NC on Monday morning and had no real traffic issues.

I wanted to watch on the north side of the zone and near 95 so I could beat traffic back out and settled on Sumter, SC.  Thanks to the internet, I could learn all about their parks.  Found a great park– Palmetto Park– with a playground and sprayground which kept our kids totally entertained for the duration of the eclipse.  Not too crowded as Sumter had an actual eclipse festival in another park that seemed to suck up the crowd.  Was so glad we watched where we did.

Totality was over at 2:45 and we were leaving the park by 2:48 so we could be heading north on 95 as soon as possible.  I few small back-ups, but totally paid off.  Friends who waited longer and started from further South had far less pleasant returns.

On a related note, don’t know what was up with Google traffic yesterday (BF?)  I kept checking behind us out of curiosity and it basically showed just very small delays after the eclipse.  Yet, my friends returning from Charleston where on the road an extra 3-4 hours.

4) Really annoyed at how articles in the N&O downplayed the local impact.

“Because the sun is so bright, you really won’t see anything,” said Rachel Smith, an astronomy professor at Appalachian State University in Boone. “It won’t get very dark at all. It won’t even be perceptible.”

Wrong!!  I wasn’t in Raleigh, but I know what 93% was like in SC and it was totally perceptible.  And really, really cool.  Temperature was way more pleasant in the sun and the overall light was clearly dimmer.  And, it was awesome to look at the sun with eclipse glasses and see it 93% obscured (And, all this, of course, was confirmed by my friends who stayed in the area).  Now, if you tried looking directly at the sun without glasses, it was not perceptible at all, but there’s much more to an eclipse than that.  In fact, I looked directly at that sun at about 2 minutes before totality and with the naked eye (just for a second, mind you), the sun was still just a giant ball of fire.

5) There was so a natural economics experiment to be done with hotel pricing.  I was basically watching the zone of eclipse pricing expand every day last week on  One week before, Florence, SC (30 minutes from zone) was totally cheap; two days before it was 4-5x regular prices.

6) A couple of photos I’m pretty pleased with.  You can see my whole gallery here.

Map of the day

I loved this Washington Post graphical feature that shows how far you can get from a major city center in rush-hour compared to regular times.


Sure don’t miss the time way back when, when I had the Washington DC commute.  Pittsburgh looks pretty good.  Plenty more cities by region at the feature.

Photo of the day

I didn’t know Christian Science Monitor had a photos of the week gallery.  But now I do.  This is pretty cool:

A rare white moose is seen in Gunnarskog, Varmland, Sweden. TT News Agency/Tommy Pedersen/Reuters

All polarization all the time

From yesterday’s NYT:

It was a week of incessant tumult, when Mr. Trump tumbled into open warfare with some in his own party over his statements on the violence in Charlottesville, Va.; business executives abandoned his advisory councils; top military leaders pointedly made statements denouncing racism in a way he did not; and his embattled chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, stepped down. But around the country, Mr. Trump’s supporters — and, according to many polls, Republicans more broadly — agreed with his interpretation of a swirl of racially charged events and stood with him amid still more clatter and churn.

Sixty-seven percent of Republicans said they approved of the president’s response to the violence in Charlottesville last weekend, compared with just 10 percent of Democrats, according to a CBS News survey conducted over the past week…

It’s an indication of what now seems an almost immutable law of the Trump presidency. There are signs that Mr. Trump’s support among Republican leaders and some Republican voters is weakening. But in an increasingly tribal America, with people on the left and the right getting information from different sources and seeing the same facts in different ways, it reflects the way Mr. Trump has become in many ways both symbol and chief agitator of a divided nation.

Many sides.  Many sides.  Sure, lots of “good people” join in with Neo-Nazi marchers.  And, here’s some nice charts from a recent HuffPo poll to depress you:

Even if you want to somehow ignore Trump’s Saturday and Tuesday comments and pretend that his scripted, forced, Monday condemnation was enough, there’s just no way you can make a reasonable argument he did this at “the right time.” That is, unless you are one of the 2/3 of Republicans who think so.  Ugh.

Photo of the day

A friend posted on FB his homemade, jerry-rigged setup to take eclipse photos.  I got curious to see what I could accomplish simply by holding my eclipse glasses over the lens of my Canon SX 730.  Not bad.  Hopefully the clouds don’t get in the way too much tomorrow.

Quick hits (part II)

1) So, I still think my plan of leaving the Raleigh area at 11am on Monday to get into the zone of totality in SC by 1:30 or 2:00 would work (total eclipse about 2:45).  But enough people have told me “are you crazy?!” that I decided to book a hotel room in South Carolina.  A week ago you could still get totally cheap rooms 30 miles north of the zone.  By this weekend, they were jacked-up.  Ended up getting a room right on the NC/SC border leaving us an hour to drive that day.  My current plan is to try and watch in a public park in Sumter, SC.  That way, kids can play some and we should be able to have some shade.  Also, Sumter is supposed to get almost 2 minute of totality (as opposed to my minimalist plan of 1 minute of totality in Turbeville, SC).  Alas, I’m somewhat concerned by the 60-70% cloud cover in the forecast.

2) EJ Dionne calls out the Republicans sticking by Trump:

We are past the time when mournful comments about President Trump’s disgraceful behavior are sufficient. It is no longer defensible for his lieutenants or Republicans in Congress to tell themselves that they’re staying close to Trump to contain the damage he could cause our country.

If their actual goal was to prevent damage, they have failed. True, we have not had a nuclear war and Trump hasn’t shut down our democracy. But if this is the standard, if these are genuine fears, then Trump should have been gone long ago. A man this unstable, self-involved, uninformed, divisive and amoral — a polite word in his case — should be nowhere near the levers of power.

It should embarrass all who work in the White House (except for the genuine extremists) that after Trump’s unhinged news conference Tuesday, they were reduced to insisting, on background, that everything the president said was unplanned, off-script and shocking to them…Every new Trump outrage seems to invite bold declarations that this time will be the end of the line. If this week’s spectacle of moral obtuseness isn’t the breaking point, may God save our republic.

3) Campus sexual assault is a genuine problem.  Those accused of campus assault are too often denied basic rights of due process.  It shouldn’t be so hard to accept that both these things are true.

4) Bill Ayers‘ with the optimistic post-Charlottesville take:

Finally, this is the really key thing that these White Supremacists, neo-Nazis, and various KKK hangers-on don’t yet realize. They’ve already lost. The vast majority of American society – including whites – rejects them, rejects their ideas, and most especially rejects their murderous attachment to violence. To borrow Ronald Reagan’s memorable phrase, they are already consigned to the Ash Heap of History.

They just aren’t smart enough to know it yet.

Let us not forget that it was the forebears of these rampaging rage-monsters that slaughtered 168 Americans, including 19 preschool children, twenty-two years ago in Oklahoma City. The mix of rage, incoherent fear for their white identity, and rejection of government authority has killed before.

I hope that the death of Heather Heyer will serve the same purpose as the deaths of those many innocent victims in 1995: a wake-up call to the nation and the start of another effort to drive this kind of violent hatred back underground. Given the current occupant in the White House, I’m not holding my breath, but I hope at least that his fellow Republicans will see the Faustian bargain they have struck and repent.

Many people have been quoting MLK’s “arc of history” line. In this case, he is absolutely correct. The men (and yes, they are mostly men) who have bought into this violent insanity have been brought out into the light. But they have already lost. The nation unites in horror against their dystopian rage. They cannot win, not even a little bit, anything that they hope to achieve. They can’t even keep the statues they are so keen to protect standing in the public square. All they can do is shriek helplessly as the arc of history leaves them behind.

5) Charles Blow on how the modern GOP has exploited racism:

The Republican Party wanted the racists. It was strategy, the “Southern Strategy,” and it too has proved wildly successful. From there this cancer took hold.

The party itself has dispensed with public confessions of this inclination — at least until Trump — but the white supremacy still survives and even thrives in policy. The stated goals of the Republican Party are not completely dissimilar from many of the white nationalist positions.

If you advance policies like a return to more aggressive drug policies and voter suppression — things that you know without question will have a disproportionate and negative impact on people of color, what does that say about you?

It says that you want the policies without the poison, but they can’t be made separate: The policies are the poison.

6) McSweeney’s on statue removal.  Good stuff:

Thank you very much for coming in today to discuss the tumor currently growing inside your body. Luckily, we caught this fairly early on, so we have a few treatment options available to us. As you can see on this X-ray, the tumor is currently about the size of a baseball in an all-white baseball league. I could surgically remove it as soon as tomorrow afternoon. However, I will not be doing that.

I understand why you’d want to remove the tumor. By removing it, we would stop the cancer from spreading to other parts of your body and you’d be on your way to recovery. Don’t you think, though, that your body’s fight against cancer should be commemorated in some way? What better way than by leaving the tumor completely intact? Medical Justice Warriors all want to dismantle the very fabric of everyone’s medical history and remove important memorials such as tumors, goiters, and gallstones. I want to celebrate that history and leave a monument to those awful memories inside your body forever.

7) Love this– “Why Are Police Officers More Dangerous Than Airplanes?”

This investigative method is standard in aviation. When a plane crashes, experts pick through the wreckage to determine the cause and make recommendations to prevent the next accident. The process is so effective that for the last several years, the death rate from crashes of American commercial planes has been zero. But no comparable system exists in policing — and that may help explain why you are far more likely to die at the hands of a cop than to perish in an plane crash. Police officers in the United States now kill about 1,000 people and wound more than 50,000every year…

Police violence is tangled up with racism and systemic injustice. We desperately need to do more to address that, foremost by shoring up the criminal-justice system so that it holds police officers accountable when they kill. But it’s also true that deadly mistakes are going to happen when police officers engage in millions of potentially dangerous procedures a year. What aviation teaches us is that it should be possible to “accident proof” police work, if only we are willing to admit when mistakes are made.

8) Lee Drutman on how “Republican leaders continue to let Trump turn the GOP into the white supremacist party.”

9) As much as I would love to believe I can eat walnuts to suppress my appetite, it is nuts for the NY Times to publish a study based solely on 9 individuals and funded by the walnut industry (I’m far more concerned by the former).  Seriously?!  I love how NYT readers call them out on such matter in the comments.

10) When was America great?  When you were between 10 and 30.

11) I recently ended up explaining Sigmund Freud to my son David due to Freud’s role in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” (watched Bogus Journey yesterday– good stuff, but not as good), thus enjoyed reading this review of a new Freud biography as I really don’t know that much about Freud.

12) Really don’t think it will change much of anything that Trump fired Bannon (damn is loyalty a one-way street for Trump).  Trump remains white-supremacist-in-chief.  Jordan Weissman with a nice piece on how there are plenty of other people left at the White House– including Trump– to carry out Bannon’s ideas.  And Peter Beinart:

It would be nice to believe that Steve Bannon’s departure from the White House will end, or least diminish, Donald Trump’s flirtations with bigotry. Alas, that’s almost certainly not the case.

As Trump himself likes to note, Bannon joined his campaign late, in August 2016. By that time, Trump had already called Mexican immigrants “rapists,” falsely accused American Muslims in New Jersey of celebrating the 9/11 attacks, said “Islam hates us,” and declaredthat Judge Gonzalo Curiel could not fairly judge the case against Trump University because was Mexican American. Bannon’s hiring was not a cause of the Trump campaign’s dalliance with Islamophobia, nativism, and white nationalism. It was a result. [emphasis mine]

In fact, Trump has been exploiting bigotry since before he hired Bannon, before he ran for President, before he even entered public life. In 1973, at the age of 27, Donald Trump—then President of Trump Management—was sued along with his father for discrimination against African Americans by the Justice Department. In 1989, when four African American and one Hispanic teenagers (the “Central Park Five”) were arrested for rape, Trump took out newspaper ads declaring that the accused should be executed and “forced to suffer.” When DNA evidence exonerated the young men in 2012, Trump denounced New York City’s decision to compensate them, saying “I think people are tired of politically correct.” As late as 2013, he still tweeted, “Tell me, what were they doing in the Park, playing checkers?” …

Perhaps, on issues on which Trump has no strong beliefs, Bannon’s departure could make a difference. But Steve Bannon did not teach Trump what to think about Muslims, blacks, women, and Jews. When it comes to religion, gender, and race, Trump developed his views long ago. The only way he might change them would be if he grew convinced that they are hurting him politically. And probably not even then.

13) Tom Wheeler’s take on the statues is really, really good:

The statues at the center of today’s debate were erected not to celebrate the loss, but to perpetuate the myth of the so-called Lost Cause. A few decades after the end of the war, as incremental progress towards racial equality was being eked out, some Southerners sought to recast the war of secession as not about slavery, but about protecting a way of life. The fact that life revolved around slavery was conveniently obfuscated, but well understood. Statues to the leaders of the rebellion became a means of keeping its emotions alive…

Six hundred thousand lives later, the war ended. But it did not end the emotion around the war’s root issue. The Lost Cause crusade—including its statue-building efforts—kept that emotion alive, but cloaked it in the garb of historical reverence. There was a simple message to General Lee from a member of Union general Grant’s staff (and a Native American) at the Appomattox surrender: “We are all Americans.” That message, however, was superseded by an organized effort to keep alive in bronze and marble that which had divided the nation.

You’re changing history,” Donald Trump said. No sir, no one is changing history. The South lost; oppression was repudiated. The nation as a whole has tried to move on. The Lost Cause is a myth.

“You’re changing culture,” Mr. Trump went on to say. No again. The culture that motivated the war may continue in the hearts of a few who converged at Charlottesville, but collectively, our nation is better than that. Our culture is one of opposing hate and oppression and our leaders speaking out forcefully against such darkness.

Quick hits (part I)

1) I was fascinated by this story about Trader Joe’s products.  Basically, they get national manufacturers to make a Trader Joe’s version to sell for cheaper and keep it entirely secret.

2) Nice 538 piece on the rise of white identity politics.  Pretty sure I’ve posted a version of this chart before, but it’s worth it again.  As long as Republicans manage to convince themselves that white people (and Christians!  My God, the level of delusion!) face more discrimination than Black people, we have a serious, serious problem in this country.

3) Seems like a good time to mention that Republican state legislatures across the country– including here in NC– would like to make it legal to run over protesters.  Seriously!

4) My solar eclipse glasses were refunded by Amazon out of “an abundance of caution.”  That said, based on this Today story, I’m using them anyway (rather than ordering more at what has quickly become astronomical prices):

One sure tip that the glasses are safe for use according to Pfriem is if they have “ISO 12312-2 standard” labeled on them.

Another tip: You shouldn’t be able to see your hand in front of your face while wearing the glasses. That would mean too much light is getting through the filter.

“So a third thing you could look for is when the product is actually in your hand,” Pfriem said. “Look at the film itself and make sure that there’s no pocking, bubbling or creasing. What those deformities sometimes serve to do is amplify the sun’s light coming through the filter.”

The ones I bought are literally like wearing a blindfold except when looking at the sun.  If blocking out that much visible light I’m going to assume they are blocking out the UV as well.

5) How the alt-right’s rebranding has failed.

6) You should take a look at the really disturbing Vice documentary of Charlottesville.

7) I had no idea about “crown shyness” in trees.  Very cool.

8) Enough with the constant password changing and the insistence on special characters.  What you need is a long password.

9) We really don’t have a very good sense of just how bad being “overweight” is for your health.

Most researchers agree that it’s unhealthy for the average person to be, say, 300 pounds. They don’t really know why being very overweight is bad for you, but the thinking is that all those fat cells disrupt how the body produces and uses insulin, leading to elevated glucose in the blood and, eventually, diabetes. Extra weight also increases blood pressure, which can ultimately damage the heart.

But whether just a few extra pounds raise the risk of death is a surprisingly controversial and polarizing issue. Usually, nutrition scientists tell journalists hedgy things like, “this is just what my study shows,” followed by the dreaded disclaimer: “Further research is needed.” But on this question, the researchers involved are entrenched, having reached opposite conclusions and not budging an inch. Like many internecine wars, the dispute mostly comes down to one small thing: how you define the “overweight” population in the study.

10) What Sinclair Broadcasting is doing is very bad and very scary and very under-the-radar.  Not good.

11) The open carry laws in Virginia sure don’t help the situation.

12) NC Governor Roy Cooper makes the strong case for removing the confederate monuments in NC.  Not while the Republicans run the legislature, but he’s right.

13) It is just so obvious that kids need to move to keep their brains working best (heck, adults, too) and just keeping that at their desks all day with minimal breaks is counter-productive.  And, not just obvious, plenty of studies backing them up.  At least some schools are catching on.  Alas, depressing that some educators still can’t get past this mindset:

But not all districts are embracing the trend of movement breaks.

“The bottom line is that with only six and a half hours during the day, our priority is academics,” said Tom Hernandez, the director of community relations for the Plainfield School District in Illinois, about 40 miles southwest of Chicago. He said that under state law, the schools provide daily physical education classes and that teachers in the district find ways to give students time during the day to refresh and recharge.

I think I’m going to send the article to my kids’ elementary principal next week.  I’ll be curious as to her response.

14) Jonathan Bernstein on how a classic of political science (I read it in grad school) very much explains Trump’s weakness as a president:

What Neustadt taught was that the constitutional office of President of the United States is an inherently weak one, but that skilled presidents can nevertheless become enormously influential. The flip side of this, however, is that an amateurish president can barely even exercise the constitutional and statutory authority of the office…

Without a more direct way to control the government, Neustadt argues that presidents must depend on what he calls “persuasion” — better referred to as the skilled use of leverage and bargaining power. Not just with Congress, or within the executive branch, but across the board. This “persuasion” doesn’t necessarily mean changing anyone’s mind. It may just mean convincing someone in a position of power to do nothing rather than something.

Resignations from the president’s American Manufacturing Council are a classic case of failed persuasion. The businesspeople who quit — at least six since the president’s poorly reviewed comments on Charlottesville — were private citizens, not government officials. And all Trump wanted from them, to put it plainly, was for them to do nothing while lending their credibility to his agenda. That’s not necessarily a huge ask in the current situation, which didn’t directly put the interests of Merck or Under Armour at risk. Yet persuading them to stay put was something apparently beyond the very limited abilities of the president at this point. It didn’t help, of course, that Trump reinforced his reputation as a paper tiger by attacking Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier only to have Merck’s share prices spike. As my View colleague Joe Nocera pointed out, “there’s nothing to be scared of” from Trump’s tweets. Skilled presidents, however, rely on more than just threats. They work hard to build strong relationships, and know when to dangle carrots to loosely affiliated supporters, too.

Or perhaps an even better illustration of how weak Trump has become is that he’s even lost, in at least one case, the ability to supply the words coming out of the presidential mouth. Trump resisted the statement originally drafted for him about Charlottesville on Saturday, adding squish words about “many sides” to a statement that would have condemned neo-Nazis. But that didn’t stand; by Monday, over his own personal objections, Trump wound up giving the statement he was supposed to have given in the first place. And after kicking up a firestorm in an ugly appearance on Tuesday in which he went back to blaming both sides, it wouldn’t be surprising if he winds up backing down again — or suffering a real price for saying what he wanted to say.

So Trump is, and will remain for the foreseeable future, a historically weak president. His professional reputation is in tatters, he’s unusually unpopular, and he doesn’t appear to come close to having the skills to do anything about it. Exactly the conditions under which Neustadt predicted presidents would lose influence. [emphasis mine]

15) Been hearing a lot about Antifa lately.  Nice take on it from Peter Beinart.

16) TV is getting more confusing and it’s only going to get worse.

17) Do not use hair conditioner in the case of a nuclear explosion near by.

18) Watched Bill and Ted’s (on Amazon prime this month) with the boys this week.  Holds up in my book.  David loved it just as much as I did at his age.

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