Photos of kitties out of their freaking minds on catnip

I stepped outside to take this photo of the catnip plants I'm growing. We have three cats and I enjoy giving them a few fresh leaves and watching their stoned antics.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the wonderful Kinokuniya Los Angeles bookstore in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, and came across a photography book called Cats on Catnip by Andrew Marttila. You can see some of the photos from the book on his Instagram account:

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Judge who sentenced rapist Brock Turner to only 6 months now a high school coach for girls

Judge Aaron Persky, who sentenced Stanford rapist Brock Turner to a mere six months in jail (for which he served only three), is now coaching a girls tennis team at Lynbrook High School in San Jose, California.

This is the same man who said that Turner, who raped an unconscious young woman with a foreign object and left her undressed behind a dumpster, "will not be a danger to others.”

Of course, the residents of Santa Clara County, who had the judge recalled last year, are not happy.

According to HuffPost:

A petition to remove Persky from his coaching position at Lynbrook has already been created.

“We as a community should be so disappointed in my alma maters the decision to hire recalled Judge Aaron Persky as their new Tennis Coach for the girls’ JV team,” the petition reads. “Survivors deserve better. Our community deserves better. We can, should, and ought to do better. Fire Persky from Lynbrook High, now.”

Image: YouTube/CBS

Jack in the Box employee fired for mocking deaf customer

ReVae Arnaud-Jensen is deaf. She went to the drive through at a California Jack in the Box to order food, but when she got to the window to order (she reads lips), the employee screamed at her and mocked her.

From WTAP:

Arnaud-Jensen says she spoke to the store manager and was told the employee was fired. Even so, she intends to stand her ground and pursue legal action.

"Things done to us, not OK. I will stand and fight for that, for everyone in the community. It’s for you guys, the community, not me but for them, so there will be no more suffering for the deaf community,” she said.

Arnaud-Jensen says she is demanding, at the very least, that Jack in the Box train its employees, including the CEO, to understand deaf culture. She hopes what happened to her never happens again.

The EU's top trustbuster gets a surprise re-appointment

Margrethe Vestager (previously) is the EU competition commissioner who handed out a bouquet of multibillion-dollar fines to US-based Big Tech companies; she had resigned herself to being ousted after her previous term but in a last-minute surprise she has been granted another turn in office, with a new mandate to create a "Europe fit for the digital age." Vestager's heart is definitely in the right place, even if she has effectively taken forced breakups off the table, judging that the ensuing legal wrangle will do more harm than good, even if it might put Big Tech's execs on notice that bad behaviour has real consequences.

The Devil wears Etsy

Natalie Beach recounts her time as the friend, then gofer, then ghostwriter for Caroline Calloway, an Instagram influencer who (for reasons that eventually become clear) is famous only in retrospect. It's a startling and engaging tale, driven by Beach's recollections of envy toward a person she thought she loved, who did not love her back.

One night, I went to sleep on my air mattress while Caroline stayed at her desk buying homegoods, and when I woke up the next morning, she was still hunched over eBay in her fur coat, having purchased $6,000 worth of furniture. I went to the communal bathroom and sat on the stone floor with my knees to my chest. I told myself that everyone needed furniture, and it wasn’t my problem. But Caroline’s problems weren’t just my problems; they were my whole world, and so while I was a supporting character in the book, I cast myself as the hero in her life. I reached out to Cambridge about therapy, spoke with her mom about her prescription-pill use. When she wore the same lace gown for two and a half days, even sleeping in it, I forced her into the shower. When she arranged a loose pile of sleeping pills on her nightstand before bed, I swept them into my palm when she wasn’t looking. I pulled open her desk drawer to find a pen, and empty Adderall capsules skittered around like cockroaches exposed to light. The manuscript was due in six months, and my notes were just lists of funny British foods (Scotch eggs, juicy bits). I began to worry.

It ends, of course, with Beach being conclusively hurt by the relationship, a blow falling in slow-motion from the day they met.

If it was just money and fame she was after, all she had to do was be quiet and let me do the work. She could have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, gone on the tour she always wanted, and recorded the audiobook in that beguiling voice of hers. But she had to be the one to tell her own life story, even if she couldn’t. Caroline was caught between who she was and who she believed herself to be, which in the end may have been the most relatable thing about her.

It's The Devil Wears Prada for the Instagram age.

What should become of the MIT Media Lab?

The MIT Media Lab is in crisis after the extent of child-abusing billionaire Jeffrey Epstein's donations became clear. Its director resigned in disgrace after an article at The New Yorker exposed the extent of those ties and apparent efforts to cover them up. Alumni participated in a public support campaign that came to exemplify the geek social fallacies. The lab is long-accused of being more a corporate advocacy playground than an incubator of research and the arts.

Destroy it, writes Noah Kulwin:

What, then, is the point of something like the MIT Media Lab? What is the justification for its continued existence? After all, elite academia is rotted through with corporate sponsorship these days, particularly from Silicon Valley; a 2017 Wall Street Journal report revealed that Google had funded “hundreds” of research papers written by professors from Harvard, UC Berkeley, the University of Illinois and elsewhere, which reached conclusions favorable to the company’s anti-regulation position. As the critic Evgeny Morozov notes in The Guardian, the purpose of the MIT Media Lab is something a little more grand, a little less visibly craven: to create a “third culture” of the elite, replacing “technophobic literary intellectuals with those coming from the world of science and technology.”

Put into action, the “third culture” is a safe haven for breathless bullshit, a place where the ultra-rich might fantasize about, say, administering a eugenics scheme in New Mexico with the semen of a convicted serial sexual predator. Whether or not “third culture” progenitors like the Media Lab actually go forward with such an insane idea is beside the point, as they’re just happy to help cash a check

In looking for a counterpoint, someone outlining how the lab might be saved, I came up blank today, but for an old tweet. Good advice here from some bloke on the internet:

Trump and the tiresome Alabama hurricane issue

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Triple-lensed new iPhone "triggering trypophobia"

Announced yesterday, the new iPhones' most interesting feature is its triple-lensed imaging system, making the tiny gadget comparable to much more expensive cameras. But the holes are making people shudder and shiver, the sensation named trypophobia in the annals of internet lore, if not medical science.

Jennings Brown:

Those three black circles. What monsters thought this was okay? I get that Apple wanted three lenses, but placed so close together they create a deeply unsettling image of trypophobic terror.

Man attacks the Wall Street bull with a banjo, leaving big gashes

Photo of the "Charging Bull" statue in NYC

A random dude did about $15,000 worth of damage to the famous bronze "Charging Bull" sculpture, by attacking it with a banjo. He managed to cut a deep gash in the thick bronze.

As Artnet reports:

Onlookers watched with cell phones aloft as the man repeatedly bashed the sculpture. They were unsure whether the act was a work of performance art or simply violent vandalism. In the end, the bull was left with a six-inch gash and several scratches, according to reports.

Shortly after the incident, authorities arrested Tevon Varlack, a 42-year-old truck driver from Dallas, charging him with criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, and criminal possession of a weapon (which, it seems, is the banjo, which was metal and had sharp edges). After spending the night in jail, Varlack appeared for arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court on Sunday.

Varlack, wearing a white t-shirt with the words “Let Us Not Forget The Ten Commandments,” gave no motive for his actions. (The shirt may be a reference to Moses’s anger at the Israelites for worshipping a golden calf.) Varlack was released without bail and is due back in court on October 16. Judge Althea Drysdale ordered him to stay away from city landmarks in the meantime and warned him, “Do not go back and visit the bull.”

Wait a minute, you might ask: One can actually cut into thick bronze by hitting it with a banjo?

By all means. I've got a Goodtime banjo with a resonator back, and man those things are a) heavy as an anvil and b) possessed of a thick metal rim. Swung Pete-Townsend-style, it'd pack one heck of a punch.

(CC-2.0-licensed photo of the bull courtesy Ernie McClelland's Flickr stream)

Things that people who bought Edward Snowden's "Permanent Record" also bought on Amazon

I'm looking forward to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's memoirs, Permanent Record, (previously) and just pre-ordered a copy on Amazon. Given the title, I thought it might be interesting to share what Amazon represented as "Frequently bought together" with it and put in its "Customers who viewed this item also viewed" carousel.

Under "Frequently bought together" are Randall Munroe's How To, a collection of "absurd scientific advice" offered by the cartoonist's famous stick-figure characters, and Talking To Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell's ill-received latest.

In the "Customers who viewed this item also viewed" carousel are books from Glenn Greenwald, Philip Mudd and Snowden himself, all on similar topics. Books dominate the section, in fact, and Amazon reports that viewers of Permanent Record only checked out three things that were not to be read: Sarotti Scho Ka Kola, described as a "famous German chocolate", 20 orange snappy handles, which go on thin metal bucket handles to make them easier to carry, and the Old Smokey Jumbo Grill, pictured above.

If you click the links in this post, our permanent records will be forever entwined in Amazon's database, and I'll get my cut.

Why semicolons are lovely and colons less so

Photo of "Semicolon art" by Mauricio Balvanera

I love semicolons. I probably use too many of them, because of how incredibly flexible they are; how they loosely tie together loosely related ideas; how you can use them for lists. I often use them this way in my journalism, only to have the copy-editors rip out every usage, and instead put in periods. Barbarians.

I was pleased, then, to run across Lewis Thomas' paean to the semicolon, in this excellent blog post by Maria Popova quoting from Thomas' essay "Notes on Punctuation". As Thomas writes:

I have grown fond of semicolons in recent years. The semicolon tells you that there is still some question about the preceding full sentence; something needs to be added; it reminds you sometimes of the Greek usage. It is almost always a greater pleasure to come across a semicolon than a period. The period tells you that that is that; if you didn’t get all the meaning you wanted or expected, anyway you got all the writer intended to parcel out and now you have to move along. But with a semicolon there you get a pleasant little feeling of expectancy; there is more to come; read on; it will get clearer.

Nailed it. I use too many colons, too, though I actually agree with Thomas when he argues that they're kind of ... preachy:

Colons are a lot less attractive, for several reasons: firstly, they give you the feeling of being rather ordered around, or at least having your nose pointed in a direction you might not be inclined to take if left to yourself, and, secondly, you suspect you’re in for one of those sentences that will be labeling the points to be made: firstly, secondly and so forth, with the implication that you haven’t sense enough to keep track of a sequence of notions without having them numbered. Also, many writers use this system loosely and incompletely, starting out with number one and number two as though counting off on their fingers but then going on and on without the succession of labels you’ve been led to expect, leaving you floundering about searching for the ninethly or seventeenthly that ought to be there but isn’t.

Sadly, we've lost a lot of great punctuation over the years. Back in 1996, Nicholson Baker -- in his book The Size of Thoughts -- wrote about the many forms of punctuation favored by Victorian writers in England that nobody uses any more, including the colash (which looked like this :—) and the semi-colash (which looked like this ;—).

I love the idea of including these even-yet-more-complex pauses in the thoughtstream of writing, though wow:—I can't imagine how my copyeditors would react if I busted one of those out.

(CC-2.0-licensed image of "semicolon art" courtesy the Flickr feed of Mauricio Balvanera)

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