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Time:04:23 pm
Article: "The most basic version of Apple Watch will start at $349 and require pairing with a new or older iPhone."

At first glance, this looks like it should trigger some sort of antitrust claim, but what would it be? Probably not tying, since Apple doesn't have market power in the smartwatch market (not yet, anyway), and it will be impossible to show harm in the smartphone market (which is dominated by technological juggernauts engaging in similar tactics and is arguably the most competitive market worldwide). This might work better in a couple years if Apple has achieved market power and is still tying the Watch to the iPhone. But the idea that Apple could leverage its potential dominance over the tiny smartwatch market to gain an unfair advantage in the massive smartphone market just seems silly.

What about Section 2? Apple certainly doesn't have a monopoly in the smartphone market these days. But maybe you could argue that, through lock-in and the network effect, Apple has achieved a monopoly over the ecosystem of products that run iOS apps. This is a market unto itself -- many consumers who have used iPhones for a long time are really only in the market for iPhones going forward, in order to avoid losing past investments. Apple could then abuse that monopoly by pricing the Watch at below-market rates (to destroy higher-priced competitors), and recoup the loss by pricing its iPhone at above-market rates, because everyone using the Watch strictly needs an iPhone. Then, Apple can start the lock-in, ecosystem-monopoly process all over again for the smartwatch market.

The latter is probably Apple's real strategy, but I think the causal chain will be viewed by courts as too attenuated to support an antitrust claim, without some awfully clear and direct evidence (say, an e-mail from Steve Jobs to Tim Cook describing this plot). Of course, if any court buys the idea that the iOS app ecosystem is a "relevant market," Apple will soon have much bigger things to worry about than smartwatches.
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Time:01:05 pm
Earlier this week, the St. Louis police shot and killed a store robber who was subsequently assaulting a police officer. Since then, crowds of people have been rioting, throwing bricks and Molotov Cocktails at the police, and looting stores.

Under pressure from Attorney General Eric Holder, the police have stopped trying to disperse the rioters with tear gas, and have sat back and watched as the crowds looted local stores. The store owners expressed disbelief -- if the police would not protect them, who would? Was this really happening in the United States? Several store owners stood in front of their shops holding what looked to be military-style rifles. If the police would not protect them, they would have to protect themselves.

Gun control advocates have sneered that the idea of citizens protecting themselves from a large, concentrated attack using their own weaponry was obsolete in the modern era, because the police now serve that role much more effectively. And yet here we have an excellent illustration of why the government cannot now or ever be so trustworthy that individual citizens can safely give up their arms.
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Time:10:40 am
"Hate speech" is often just a euphemism for "opinions that I hate." As Justice Robert Jackson said: "[T]he very essence of constitutional freedom of press and of speech is to allow more liberty than the good citizen will take. The test of its vitality is whether we will suffer and protect much that we think false, mischievous and bad, both in taste and intent."
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Time:01:14 pm
As a recent New York Times article says, it's common wisdom now that Apple products are "meticulously planned, with . . . a gleaming veneer that masks a great deal of effort." In other words, Apple's elegant products don't just emerge wholly-formed from the lackadaisical, flighty state of mind that its products are designed to accommodate.

That's also what's so ironic about Apple products like iPads: They supposedly cater to "artistic" people, but the user interface and apps are too dumbed-down, streamlined and high-level to allow for unique artistry. You can apply "creative" prepackaged effects to photos and songs, but it's exceedingly awkward to create a work from the ground up. Oddly enough, real creativity occurs on something like the Windows Surface Pro tablets, which give the user the same messy range of capabilities as PCs, and leave it to the user to structure a beautiful order out of the chaos.

The "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" commercials from the mid-2000s are a great illustration of this. They show a laid-back Apple user chatting about all the "artistic" things he can easily do on the fly. Meanwhile, those same tasks are shown to be much more complicated and unintuitive for the nerdy PC user. But when asked which of the two characters seems more interesting, creative, unique and eccentric, virtually everyone agrees -- it's the nerdy PC user.
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Time:07:57 pm
At some point in the last five years, Google and Facebook stopped being perceived as the good guys and rising stars, and became the abusive behemoths that Microsoft and Yahoo used to be. Now, Microsoft and Yahoo get the sort of quiet respect that IBM gets for its continued decent success, which started some years after IBM's own period of dominance ended.

I predict that within five years, there will be a major antitrust or privacy lawsuit against Google and Facebook akin to the antitrust suit against Microsoft in the late 1990s, and that the next generation of technology giants will start their ascent into the public consciousness at approximately the same time.

Apple is the odd man out in this narrative, since--thanks to one man's unique genius--it has undergone a re-ascendancy that has no obvious parallels in the history of computer and software companies worldwide. It's still perceived as a benevolent innovator with a primary objective of making good products, not money--though less so than when Steve Jobs last headed the company. I predict that Apple's turn at the top will last a few years after Google's and Facebook's ends.
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Time:04:02 pm
In a Shakespeare and the Law class several years ago, my professor suggested that, reading Othello as generously as possible, its depiction of Othello is still racist. I disagree. The play leaves it very open to debate whether Othello was the product of (i) his race, or (ii) a culture with certain false preconceptions about his race. It was very Shakespearean for Shakespeare not to tell the audience the correct answer, anymore than real life can directly tell you the answer to that sort of question. Nor did my professor, or any other literary critic for that matter, submit any evidence that Shakespeare's portrayal--however unpleasant--was an inaccurate depiction of race relations in Elizabethan England or in Venice where the play took place.

If you want to criticize Shakespeare for his treatment of race in Othello, you ultimately have to make the same criticism as Samuel Johnson, who complained that Shakespeare was "too naturalistic," too realistic, and that this often came at the expense of having the proper moral message.

Specifically, Johnson criticized the fact that King Lear showed an old, powerful patriarch falling into feeble insanity, and the moral effect that would have on an audience. Nowadays, the idea that it is morally offensive to show a king falling into debilitude would seem absurd. Indeed, most moral notions about the messages that art ought to convey are eventually discarded and replaced. But the appeal of naturalism--depicting events as they truly are--is eternal.
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Time:02:29 pm
Quote from John Stuart Mill, On Liberty:

"First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.

"Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.

"Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.
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Subject:Blaming the Victim
Time:12:19 pm
Situation A: An old man walks home at night in Detroit at 12:30 a.m. because he wants to "see the stars." This is the neighborhood he grew up in, and he used to do this all the time, so, by golly, he is going to do it again. He is mugged and beaten by a group of teenagers.

Situation B: A young American woman visiting Baghdad decides to go for a walk around town. She is hot, so she strips down to her cut-off jean shorts and a sports bra. She sees various unsavory men leering at her, but proudly tosses her hair back and keeps walking. Several minutes later, she is sexually assaulted.

Situation C: On Mexico's independence day, a white student in a low-income school in Arizona wears a T-shirt with an American flag to school. A group of Latino students surround him when he is at his locker, push him around, and throw away his lunch.

Most modern-day Americans would agree that the only people here who did anything morally wrong were the attackers. Most would also agree that it was unwise for the victims to expose themselves to these dangers. The disagreements arise when we start talking about who were at "fault."

"Fault" is a tricky word. The traditional understanding is that you can be at fault even if you did nothing morally wrong. If someone is "at fault," that just means we should discourage the conduct at issue. For instance, if I am holding a delicate china plate in a store, and it accidentally slips out of my hands and breaks, I'm certainly at fault. In other words, I should be discouraged from grabbing china plates without being more careful in the future. But most would agree that I did nothing morally wrong.

Similarly, the traditional view is that in Situations A to C listed above, even though the victims did nothing morally wrong, they are to some extent at fault for recklessly endangering themselves. In other words, they should be discouraged from putting themselves in such dangerous situations. This does not diminish the moral wrong or the fault of the attackers in the slightest. Fault is not some sort of pie that has to be split up when multiple people are at fault.

Nevertheless, one modern school of thought calls this "blaming the victim." For these thinkers, there is no such thing as being at fault but doing nothing morally wrong; they are one and the same. I will call these thinkers "hypermoralists." Whenever an ally of the hypermoralists does something unwise, suffers harm, and is criticized for his or her unwise decisions, the hypermoralists start making accusations of "blaming the victim." My instinctive reaction is to conclude that either (i) the hypermoralists are too wooden-minded and logically challenged to understand the difference between being "at fault" (meaning such conduct is discouraged for practical reasons) and "morally wrong" (meaning such conduct is inherently evil and deserves punishment); or (ii) they are so biased in favor of their ally and so passionately wound up that they simply don't care and won't stand for any criticism of him or her. Probably some combination of the two.

But I've thought about this more, and now have mixed feelings. One effect of the traditional view is that it ends up discouraging a lot of conduct that is not morally wrong, and is only unwise because other opportunistic people might do something morally wrong. Placing fault on people like the victims of Situations A to C encourages people to be skeptical and cautious rather than passionate and carefree. It lets the bad guys dictate how the good guys are going to live.

My chief concern is that the modern school of thought--that placing any fault on a victim for unwise behavior is "blaming the victim"--will end up fostering a citizenry who are oblivious to the dangers real life can pose and vulnerable to being taken advantage of, should they ever venture out of the pleasant nanny-state that has been created around them. Is this a situation we want to put ourselves in? Are we so confident that our happy little Western oasis will last forever, that we would teach its inhabitants to savor life wholly and utterly at all times, throwing all care and caution to the winds?

Food for thought.
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Time:07:29 pm
In the first Cold War era, the United States was a religious, socially conservative, and capitalistic nation that was known for its guileless honesty and frankness. The Soviet Union was an intensely secular, progressive, socialist nation that was known for its deceptiveness and sneakiness.

Now, at the outset of what may be another Cold War, religion has largely been eliminated from public life in the United States, either banned directly or prohibited indirectly, while the Orthodox Church has enjoyed a major resurgence in Russia. The United States now criticizes Russia for being insufficiently socially liberal with respect to gay rights, women's rights and other issues, while Russia castigates the United States for its moral depravity. The United States government has grown much larger, and socialist redistribution programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security now consume the majority of the federal budget, while Russia has recovered tremendously thanks to its investments in the oil and gas industries and its introduction of a free market system. Americans are now considered fairly cosmopolitan around the world, and the American government is now reputed for its overbearing dragnet administered by the NSA, CIA, FBI, and the Department of State, while Russian "spies" these days are limited to snogging American businessmen and hosting reality T.V. shows back in Russia. America's president has developed a reputation for double-talking duplicity ("If you like your health care plan, you can keep it") and a lack of courage to match his convictions (the "red line" in Syria, the travel ban "sanctions" on Russian officials for annexing Crimea). Meanwhile, Russia's leader is delivering patriotic, frank, thoughtful speeches to crowds of cheering people who love their leaders and largely feel their country is headed in the right direction.

At what point did America become Russia and Russia become America? Somewhere between the lazy contentedness and excess of the 1990s, the ineffectual frat-boy-esque belligerence and irresponsibility of the early 2000s, and the smooth-talking sneakiness and cowardice of the late 2000s and 2010s, we made the transition. I suspect the trend will continue, as the political and demographic composition of the United States will make it nearly impossible to reverse course, while Russia is quite homogenous and majority-oriented. But who knows, maybe all America needs to snap out of its self-indulgent, reality-denying stupor is to feel threatened again. We will see.
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Time:11:34 am
The Iraq War may have been misguided and wasteful, but it did not "bankrupt" America as some critics allege. Its total costs through the present are approximately $2 trillion as estimated by the CBO. The amount America spent on Medicare and Social Security during the Iraq War was approximately $14 trillion. If you want to know the black hole into which America is investing its money, there is your answer.
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Subject:Excerpt from a Typical Movie Night
Time:10:05 pm
A: Want to watch Dallas Buyers Club? It's a movie about cowboys.
M: It's a movie about guys with AIDs. Nice try though. How about Gravity or Fantastic Four?
A: No. You only want to watch bad movies. I want to watch Warm Bodies again.
M: I think I'm going to quote you on that. Not to mention you watched it yesterday.
A: Well that means I get to watch it free.
M: That's like saying the guy in Clockwork Orange "got to" watch his movie free dozens of times, without even having to blink or get up for days. What a lucky guy.

Somehow this ended with me giving her $5 and her watching a cheesy Johnny Depp movie.
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Time:02:26 pm
Triple Package, a recent book by Amy Chua and Jeb Rubenfeld, explains how many ethnic groups' success results from three traits in combination: a superiority complex, insecurity, and impulse control. Typically, these traits arise when immigrants born into a proud culture are forced to leave their homes and receive a cold welcome in their new country. Doubly humiliated, the immigrants instill in their children both pride in their differentness and a feeling that they must succeed materially or else be judged failures, while poverty teaches them to delay gratification long enough to do so.

This book strikes me as a dead-on description of the Lebanese side of my family, and of my own childhood experience. When I would show my dad report cards with several As and a few Bs, he would respond distantly that it was okay and I ought to work on the Bs next semester. I would ask, "Isn't this good already? Do my junior high grades matter that much?" And he would say, "Well, yes, it's good. It's just that everything always came so easily to you. With just a tiny effort, you could have all A+s. You're special, Mark, or at least I always thought so. Maybe I'm wrong, I don't know, so I'm not going to yell at you. Just spend more time on your homework next semester and study more for your tests, and we'll see." That covers the superiority complex and insecurity.

The last factor, impulse control, was less significant, but did arise a bit from a spartan upbringing: I grew up on freezer food and when I was lucky fast food (I never ate a meal costing more than $25 until college), slept in a bunk bed in an uninsulated bedroom over a garage in West Michigan, never went on an out-of-state vacation until junior year of high school (I went to Alabama, and the next vacation was to Tennessee), had an allowance of $5 per week (and lost it permanently after inadvertently running up a $180 phone bill on America Online), wore hand-me-down clothing from church sales, and received everything else from some Waltons-owned superstore or another. I also went to multiple sports practices every day, every summer because my mom "didn't have that opportunity when she was young," and I hated it because I always felt deprived of free time and freedom.

I've always felt these experiences left me with a (likely unhealthy) need to prove myself and a distaste for the decadent, easy life. I had also observed this in my extended family as well. But Triple Package says this tends to be true more broadly of Maronite Lebanese immigrants and their descendants, who--as the book explains--claim as their ancestors the Phoenicians who invented the alphabet and arithmetic and were roaming the world in large, merchant ships while barbarian tribes were still roaming the plains. The Maronite Lebanese also claim descent from the original Christian disciples. I find all of this very amusing, because my Lebanese grandma regularly makes these claims and I never heard them anywhere else. Of course, Triple Package devotes far more pages to discussing larger immigrant groups in America, such as the Chinese, Indians, Jews, and Iranians, all of which share some surprising similarities. Triple Package is a fascinating read, and unlike most accounts of how nurture supposedly affects success, it is pretty down-to-earth and believable.
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Subject:One way of understanding early Nietzsche versus late Nietzsche
Time:02:16 pm
Nietzsche's Experience of the world, like everyone else's, was a messy and irrational mass of memories. Early Nietzsche tried to trace the outlines of Experience and encompass as much as possible within a complex and hard-to-summarize philosophy in which multiple priorities and tendencies vied in an unpredictable way. He made a good-faith effort to fit in the whole human Experience and to deify it.

Late Nietzsche was less all-embracing and more schizophrenic. On the one hand, he chose a winner--he elevated and deified solely the will to power, the self-creative instinct, to the status of being "real," fit as much that he found desirable in life as he could under that umbrella, and fiercely rejected the rest of Experience as delusional and decadent, everything that could not be made to fit within the neat philosophical circle he had traced, even those instincts and emotions he had a tendency to admire. On the other hand, Nietzsche remained well aware of the realm "outside the circle" of real, legitimate Experience, and he referred to it as "vice" or "psychology"--a realm of impulses and desires that were totally untethered to the "real" goal of the will to power, but which mortal humans still had to deal with as best they could, whether by spurning them or embracing them. He sought to conquer this realm of "vice" or "psychology" by rationally analyzing how it could best be controlled, stimulated, enervated, or otherwise manipulated to serve the ends of the will to power.

The late Nietzsche was a halfway point between Goethean Romanticism, which deified human Experience in general, and scientific nihilism, which insists that Experience is merely the product of sensory inputs to a biological machine and empty of any value or moral content. The reason Nietzsche has always appealed to me is that these are exactly the two outlooks on life that have always vied within me, one making a God of everything and the other finding God in nothing.
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Time:04:40 pm
Northern Prospect

Far off loom the endless peaks of somber firs,
Past where the silver stippled ocean spills,
And both drift by in parallax. Sight blurs,
Beyond the clouds that hover on the hills
And cling to craggy outcrops. Here, there crumble
The remnants of enduring, Arctic winters,
Soon to return; here, where the ice floes tumble
Down mountains, leaving trails of moss and splinters.
Further, beyond the range of mast and sails,
A distant pinnacle is swathed in mists
And wears a mantle made of crystal scales;
It trails off toward the stratus, and persists
Far past the prospect of a mortal eye,
Save for fleet, icy glimmers from on high.
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Time:02:46 pm
The Republican Party essentially consists of the "plurality" and those who have successfully integrated with it, while the Democratic Party largely consist of those who feel excluded from the plurality. The Democratic Party consists of many disparate identity groups with actually quite little in common, who have banded together against the purportedly unwelcoming plurality group.

The first step to depriving the Democratic Party of its majority is to selectively figure out which Democratic groups have the least disagreeable platforms and to aggressively welcome them into the plurality, carefully maintaining a tolerant mood toward them and their behavior. The Republican Party is currently following this process with gays--a no-brainer, since they are disproportionately wealthy and many of them lean conservative in all senses except on gender issues--and with Hispanic immigrants, especially the immigrants who were never illegal or are devout Catholics and oppose Democratic abortion policies. I suspect Republicans will expand that outreach to Asian immigrants too with significant success, since Asians are disproportionately well-to-do and becoming more so and thus will profit from Republican economic policies.

In contrast, the Republican Party has no hope whatsoever for the black vote, which went about 97% Obama last election, since there is no real chance that the economic straits of black voters will improve anytime soon to the point that they would benefit from Republican policies. Republicans will never win over the former illegal immigrants either, since those who spend long periods as illegal immigrants will rarely end up integrating with the plurality in their daily lives. The "educated women" vote is a long shot, since for whatever reason women who go to good colleges (unlike men, strangely) tend to emerge with overwhelmingly liberal views across the board. But I think Republicans ought to pursue their vote by adopting policies that make it easier for professional women to maintain families--increasing child and day care tax deductions and credits, requiring long paid maternity and paternity leaves (through the spending power if necessary), eliminating any residual opposition to contraception, de-emphasizing abortion as an issue (while continuing to appoint conservative justices of course), and appointing a competent woman as a vice-presidential candidate. If Republicans won a good portion of the educated women vote, that by itself would be utterly devastating to the Democratic party and its future.
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Time:03:33 pm
Skyrim's most important insight is perhaps its juxtaposition of the Imperials (the enlightened liberals who seek to maintain a unified order among many different groups by suppressing their nativist tendencies) and the Stormcloaks (the nativists who seek to re-establish home rule by the ancestral inhabitants of the region and the noble and barbaric way of life of their ancestors, while cautiously pushing away any outsiders). The Stormcloaks worship Talos, the man-become-god who "holds the world together," while the Imperials are complicit in seeking to squelch out the worship of Talos due to the nativist impulses he fosters.

The insight here is that the nativist impulse is the force binding together each of the world's political and social groups and its collective conduct, and that the cost of eliminating that impulse (and its attendant prejudices) is to disintegrate the fabric of a society and render it vulnerable to more patriotic outside forces. But that same nativist impulse is also what prevents all the world's groups from coexisting peacefully and productively, and is responsible for almost all major conflict and bloodshed. Just as in real life, both sides persuasively portray themselves as the doers of good, and focus on the contradictions and ugliness inherent in the other side's positions.

The fact that Skyrim lets you choose sides in this political conflict and win, and establish your chosen side as the right and true one, is audacious and, really, astonishing. Most games do not let players choose sides; most that do, make clear that there is either (1) a good side and an evil side (Baldur's Gate II, thieves vs. vampires subplot) or (2) no good guys or bad guys (Guild Wars, Kurzicks vs. Luxons subplot; the only "good guys" are the Imperials), or (3) they cheat by altering the events and characters' conduct depending on which side you choose, so that whichever side you choose becomes the good guys (Guardian Heroes, sky vs. earth alliance). Skyrim is perhaps the first game I have played where you can choose either side and still feel comfortable that you have sided with the "good guys," solely on the basis of the moral reasoning and rhetorical persuasiveness of your allies. This would be impressive for any video game, but it was particularly impressive--and brave--for Skyrim to do so while tackling the conflict between nativism and multiculturalism because it is, more and more, the central issue of Western politics today.

This is the first time in a long time that I can say a video game has helped provide me with a major insight about life.
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Time:03:19 pm
Poet's Walk

Firecracker jam, spiced soppressata,
Danish pilsner, goat's milk ricotta,
And, in a spruce gazebo, us,
Reading worn tomes, gazing across
A field of pale grains down the hill—
Sweet any day, but sweeter still
After weeks of the City's smother.
Can one exist without the other?
Can heavens last without such hells?
Here, where the birds are oil pastels
And maples redden in the spring,
Soon I no longer think about such things.
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Time:02:00 pm
The media's vicious spread of misinformation and the Florida and U.S. governments' attempted railroading of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman has done more to unite Republicans and Latinos than a decade of efforts and billions of dollars previously invested in doing so. If I were running for president in 2016, I would constantly remind Latino voters exactly how a Democratic media and government prosecutors will treat a member of their community who was trying to do some good in the world, was violently attacked for it, and defended himself.
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Time:11:18 am
I am beginning to think the best strategy for conservatives is to stop wasting energy trying to convince liberals of anything, since even the smartest liberals mostly just make straw man arguments, selectively ignore unpleasant facts of life, and take offense when others point out those facts. Instead, conservatives should gather together in tightknit communities of likeminded people, pass strict local laws and enforce them, have lots of kids, send them to private schools, and then help them find jobs where they came from. This way, they will gradually outreproduce liberals, who consistently have fewer children.

Why do liberals have fewer children? I suppose they are more likely to (1) delay marriage for other pursuits, (2) view sex as a means for pleasure rather than reproduction, and (3) believe there are too many people already. I also think that, to a certain extent, certain disagreeable people who did not get along well with the opposite sex during key formative years end up being drawn toward liberalism, where they find a nonjudgmental crowd of others who are frustrated with the status quo. Finally, I think liberals are just less tolerant of unpleasant experiences, and the whole painful affair of pregnancy and eighteen stressful years raising a child--repeated multiple times--is just too much for them to bear. For them, the unpleasant life is not worth living; hence their vigorous support of abortion, contraception and euthanasia; their conviction that the goal of life is to eliminate suffering.

I have never felt this way. This perspective on life has always seemed utterly foreign to me. I was taught that what matters first is spiritual fulfilment, and second to that is being a good person, and then leading a long and healthy life. The avoidance of pain was simply not a concern, except to the limited extent that a healthy lifestyle tends to reduce long-term suffering. Rather, it was always a given that life would regularly be painful; it would fluctuate between moments of consolation and desolation. I suspect no amount of rational argument can convince liberals that this is the proper outlook on life, any more than they will convince me that life is about minimizing suffering. Therefore, conservatives, be fruitful and multiply.
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Time:05:11 pm
Olana, Home of a Romantic Artist

Touring an imitation Arab castle
Near the south Hudson Valley—to be candid,
The least Arabian region on the planet—
We saw a small bed, decked with gild and tassel,
Wood etchings, diamond blankets, tinsel lace,
And a chaste mattress, just two inches wide.
The bed, I thought, of some Victorian bride,
Spartan in morals and Baroque in taste,
That curious union. As for your thoughts, dear,
“It's like your mattress, hm? All thin and such?”
Indeed. “IKEA's deluxe frame cost too much.”
I gestured. “We can look at that next year.”
That bed, so fine and lavish, to be fair,
Was just a meager mattress in high fashion;
The “Arab castle” just a Gothic mansion
With tiles from Persia here, a stray “spire” there;
And yet, when I remember those fake towers,
The real seems less than real beside those happy hours.
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Time:01:50 am
The Art of Chopsticks

Once I argued that chopsticks lacked
Any advantage even for Eastern dinners,
Save for morsels soft and compact
Enough to grasp with two unbending fingers.

That is the point, I was advised.
If food's not soft enough to separate
With chopsticks, it should be resized.
Too light and airy? Then it needs more weight.

It's for the chef, such preparation.
Your role's to lift and taste and savor it.
If you must slice the chef's creation
Before you grasp it, something was unfit.

I give you these; they're yours to gauge.
With two fine fingers, Reader, turn the page.
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Time:01:19 pm
The Dark Meaning
Adapted from Lin-Chi

Sometimes my shout is like the fine scimitar
of the Diamond Lord. Sometimes my shout is
like the blond lion hunched and waiting.
Sometimes my shout is like the fishing rod
and lily pad. Sometimes my shout does not
even serve as a shout. Do you understand?


Followers of the Way, do not befriend
phantoms and dreams. Time is dear,
always transience draws closer!
Stone, river, flame and wind erode
your crude features, while birth
and continuity, change
and annihilation loom over
your finer parts. Do not let them
buffet you from place to place.
Even as your surroundings assume
the ten thousand forms, you will be
unchanging beneath the surface,
like the golden moon in a black lake.
Do not let others lead you off-course;
but if you would use what I give you,
then do so boldly and without doubts!
The magisters of ages lost
could beckon people out from inside.
Students of mine, you accomplish nothing
because you lack faith in yourselves!
Forever you rush at the heels of others,
following their wanton footsteps,
never approaching your own purpose.
You follow the truisms of the hour,
and never inhabit the patriarchs'
world of thought. You must abandon
this race within your mind
to join the awakened and the patriarchs.
They too are like you,
students to this discourse on Truth.
This Truth is of the mind:
it is formless, reaching everywhere
and affecting all we see.
Those who seek Truth in scribbled words
are searching for heaven on earth;
for Truth of the mind is not written,
but can flow into priest or commoner,
foul or fair—none of whom can rightly
assign any name to the others.
You must grasp and use, but never name;
this I call the Dark Meaning.

Fellow truthseekers, this threefold world
is like a smoldering tower;
you will find no refuge here.
Do not linger as the fatal devil
of transience approaches!
This threefold world will not remind you,
“I am the threefold world.”
That is your role, followers of the Way,
each of you before me
who brandishes his torch radiantly,
shedding colors on the ten thousand forms
and self-creating this world.
He calls all things by all names
in the threefold world, for he knows
every form in the phenomenal world
has no traits of its own.
All forms proceed from change,
and cease to exist when change ceases.
Why do you clutch for phantoms
and admire void-flowers?
There are none but you
who listen to this Truth,
ambling through flames unscalded,
striding across seas undrowned,
strolling alike through yawning
abyss and stone garden,
sojourning with voracious spirits
and beasts with impunity.
This threefold world proceeds
from the mind, and the ten thousand
phenomena from consciousness.
All you see are parlor tricks of a magician,
dancing lights that vanish;
he who toys with these lights
is the font of awakening.
I have witnessed this one,
who embraces and is embraced
by all things. Who is he?
Grasp this, use this, but never name it;
this I call the Dark Meaning.
There is no awakening, no life,
no past or present. What you want
you already have; there is no far away
enlightenment, no need for waiting.
Any Truth beyond this is
just phantoms and dreams.
This is all I have to tell you.
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Time:09:25 am
Console gaming circa 1990: shove in game, turn on, title screen appears, press start, start walking left/right and jumping and firing, die repeatedly, get better, eventually win

Console gaming circa 2013: insert disc, turn on, wait to load, navigate through menus, select the game, wait to load, watch long intro, navigate through long intro and customization process, go through simplistic tutorial, mash random buttons and watch character do impressive things, almost always win

Smartphone gaming circa 2013: select game, title screen appears, press button, start walking left/right and jumping and firing, almost always win

Given the state of console versus smartphone gaming, I think the lesson is clear. People want simplicity. Keep it simple.
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Time:12:02 am
Jersey Lily

You didn't need it, but because you could,
You scattered sunny wisps in dark-blond hair.
Sometimes gilding the lily can look good.

Your third mint julep? Five o' clock? You would.
Just another Sunday walking on air,
Not since you needed it, but since you could.

Black blouse, pink vest, or cute thing with a hood:
The bathroom mirror won't tell you what to wear,
But yes, gilding the lily can look good.

Sick day, the second Monday straight. You should
"Be better by tomorrow." They won't care.
It's not quite that you needed it; you could.

Bags in your eyes, last skirt left. Knock on wood.
Nothing your blush and corset can't repair.
You have to gild some lilies to look good.

Sakè and tapas, stumbling home. You stood
There, one sleeve down, paused, with a playful glare,
Not since you needed to, but since you could.
Gilding this moment's lily will be good.
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Time:01:57 pm
Based on one-on-one conversations, I've found the average New Yorker is much less liberal than voting trends here suggest. Most New Yorkers are liberal on two-out-of-three issues or so, with reasonably conservative views otherwise. The problem is that when you get a group of New Yorkers together, people only end up expressing liberal sentiments, since peer pressure keeps people from expressing unpopular views and disagreeing with popular views. Few people will risk their social standing to convey their true political views.

This is why it is so important that citizens be allowed to hold referenda and initiatives on key social issues, and that voting be anonymous. Otherwise, social pressures will prevent people from exercising their democratic rights in favor of what they truly want.
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Time:02:42 pm
One of the most important things being a lawyer has taught me is that the justifications people offer are different from their motivations. For instance, if you are caught speeding at 70 on the highway, your justification in court might be, "There was no Speed Limit sign between my entrance ramp and where I was pulled over," even if you had no intention of obeying the speed limit regardless. Or if you decline on a prom invitation, your justification might be, "I accepted another invite this morning. So sorry!" which is completely true, but in fact your motivation was, "I find you rather dull and made sure to avoid you until I got the other invite."

The key issue here is that there are usually socially acceptable reasons for doing anything; it's just that those often aren't the reasons we chose to act that way.*

This is true of politics too. Sometime in law school, I realized that the superficially drab conflict of justifications for various socio-economic policies was really an invisible battle between motivations for achieving outcomes that favored different groups, usually in a self-interested way. For instance, one professor of mine was a strong proponent of "political process theory," the notion that if a group is underrepresented in the political process, courts weighing the propriety of political actions affecting that group should put a thumb on the scale in favor of that group to make sure their interests are adequately represented. This is an effective method for ensuring that Democratic populations (which tend to consist of many independent minority groups) receive better court treatment than Republican populations (which tend to consist of a single reasonably similar majority group).

Another example I frequently encounter is a justification for limiting meat-eating--that it is supposedly environmentally unsustainable. The motivation of most key advocates for this position is that they believe eating animals is cruel and wrong, but most people disagree with that, so they need to find another justification. Certainly, these advocates genuinely welcome any benefits to the environment from vegetarianism; but if it were proven that meat-eating posed no environmental threat, they would just find another justification for opposing it.

Once I realized that most political arguments were just post hac justifications for seeking self-interested results, I became much less concerned about disagreeing with majority opinion--which is just an aggregation of socially acceptable veils over consensus selfishness for the last several decades

*Note: Neuroscientists have also found that humans almost always reason out why they acted only after acting.
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Time:08:01 pm
City Garden

Moss covers dirt with rich, baroque designs—
A humble pile of interwoven vines
That shows the airy physics of minutiae.
And writhing through the verdance, laced with fuchsia,

There grows a fragrant mess of fledgling thyme,
Full of flavor, cultured by creeping time.
It needs no care, but if this pleasant space
Is breached by others, thyme will cede its place,

And buried, wilt to something bent and dire—
A half-aborted reach toward something higher
That lost the refuge where it clung to earth,
Deprived of life by gross, aggressive birth.
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Time:11:04 pm
One despicable fact about humans is that they are deathly afraid to express beliefs that others strongly disagree with. As a result, there is always a "consensus" view that takes the most tepid, milquetoast position possible on every issue to avoid giving offense; and where avoiding offense is impossible, the "reasonable" view is the one that is somewhere in the middle. Any idea that falls far outside the average is ridiculed.

The absurdity of this approach is that at other places in the world and other times in history, the views of different groups have been so vastly different from the "consensus" view or "reasonable" view of 21st century America, that any minimally thoughtful person should realize our modern views are neither especially reasonable nor inevitable; they are just the rough average of what 300 million Americans happen to believe right now.

It amazes me to listen to moral commentators go to great lengths to justify some extremely specific policy decision, such as whether a health care mandate is morally desirable, when we don't even have (and can never have) definitive answers to whether we are morally obligated to (1) help anyone, (2) treat all humans the same or, conversely, (3) care more for those near to us--let alone (4) whether it is morally proper for any entity to take possessions from one person and give them to another, (5) whether our system of property has any moral basis or legitimacy to begin with, or (6) whether we are morally obligated to comply with laws we disagree with. In the end, these discussions of morality boil down to rhetoric aimed at flattering people's views, appealing to their sense of normalcy (based on what they've experienced over their handful of decades), and inflaming people's passions (based on their long-developed prejudices).

So when I listen to people talking about banning this or that because it is "wrong" and getting extremely heated when others don't feel quite so passionately, or about how some prohibitive law is "discriminatory" against some group that is "obviously" worthy of moral recognition and protection (unlike a billion other arbitrarily defined groups that "obviously" are not), I find it infinitely frustrating and don't even know where to start.
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Time:08:01 pm
The Maples Will Grow

The maples will grow, but first, as ice melts,
Bark that is barely clinging slacks its grasp
And tumbles downward, click, clack, crunch, and pelts
Old piles of threadbare leaves and rotting grass.
Syrup will flow, in time, sweet, tan and liquid;
Even now, thick, brown sap creeps from the roots,
Spreading warmth, though the night is long and frigid,
Through veins grown sensitive from months' disuse.
One is tempted to think these twigs are reeling,
Sensing a vernal surge through every splinter,
Just as they almost had forgot the feeling
After a wintry fall and slumbering winter,
And—just like you and me—can hardly bear it
Holding such life, so they are keen to share it.
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Time:02:16 pm
It seems to me that America is controlled by charismatic verbal thinkers, who can spin an appealing and superficially coherent narrative out of familiar sound-bites. Their feckless reasoning tends to justify behavior that is ultimately unsustainable. This makes America a land that is conducive to brief and pleasurable excess, and the types of personalities that thrive in such an environment. And America's government and legal structure goes out of its way to be forgiving toward these excessive personalities, with an abundance of safety nets, bail-outs, a forgiving bankruptcy structure, and criminal laws that punish premeditated behavior much more severely.

Mathematical thinkers are more responsible, because they are stricter in their logical reasoning. They recognize that when an expression has numerous indeterminate variables, it is extraordinarily difficult (and sometimes nonsensical) to figure out which changing variable caused a change in the output. They recognize that it is impossible to give to one without taking from another, and that virtually all of politics is a zero-sum game. America's legal structure discriminates against mathematical thinkers by engaging in an increasingly direct democracy (which caters to punchy verbal sound-bites for the least-common-denominator listener), rather than representative democracy (which allows lengthy weighing of costs and benefits by educated representatives); by severely limiting the freedom to enter binding contracts (e.g., regulations on insurance contracts); and by redistributing money from careful savers to irresponsible spendthrifts.

America needs more mathematical thinkers. It seems to me that the people I have always found distasteful are those who do not reason in the strict, mathematical way, but instead fall prey to flights of fancy, focusing exclusively on short-term prospective benefits while oblivious to the detrimental consequences. Above all, America needs thinkers who will remain logical even when logic points in a direction that suggests hard decisions have to be made, to prevent long-term dwindling to a more degraded state.
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Time:06:36 pm
April 14, 2012

After we met, life was a golden haze,
Strolling with you, smoothing your wispy hair.
The fey wood where she left me, this dim maze
Became a realm of dreams for us to share,
A grove of memories that we would view,
And soon—so soon—I wanted only you.

Then you dashed onward, leaving me enthralled
By a yellow glimmer racing west at night,
And did not answer when, far off, I called.
I chased you through the thorns by fleeting light,
Caught your soft hand, and when you saw me, hollow
Cheeked, torn and weak, you paused and let me follow.

Leading this topsy-turvy life, a slave
To changes hid too deep for me to see,
I know and am aware of nothing, save
That I am falling toward you. Believe in me,
Soft amaryllis, don't ask me what is real.
Only believe—we will make ourselves real.
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Subject:I want an anthology of good poetry I *haven't* read
Time:10:53 pm
Idea: Poetry anthology titled "100 Poems That Are Not Treasured, Beloved or Favorites"
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Time:11:16 pm
What Was Really Meant

The jury leans and squints, sometimes to see
Blurry photos, sometimes this suited crook,
With chin clean-shaven, hair trimmed recently,
And—peeking through—the sullen, droopy look
Of the lost student in the back, resigned
Long ago to his lack of understanding;
Who first felt fear, then learned to hide behind
Numb disdain for what others were demanding.
“He failed to do his duties, failed his peers,
Failed to report it, and what's worse, he meant to . . . ”
But he was never meant to waste five years,
Running that site; he'd never be content to
Dole out orders to worn-out union haulers,
Eating soot, tossing back scotch and Advil,
Firing slackers, and watching old blue collars
Stain brown with sweat. No, he was meant to travel,
Like his father's father, who led his band
Of ragtag boys to war, then found a wife,
And spent the next half-century tilling land,
Making life to replace that stolen life;
Meant for something far from that dingy site,
Where hunching laborers trudged in barren trenches;
Far from this grey courtroom, where colored light
Filters through stained-glass windows onto benches,
Staining things gold, harkening back to days
When man did justice under Heaven's gaze.
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Time:09:20 pm
Consolation for Modern Life
Vision and Revision

Visions of Lancelot, with flashing sword,
Noble accent, wild hair, and dazzling power
Inspired me at age seven. Soon they morphed
To thoughts of cunning Merlin, whose dark glower,
Ancient knowledge, strange words to change the ways
Of the world and men, by inward hearkenings,
Awed a young mind grown dull to iron's blaze,
And base reliance on material things.

It turned out magic was a thing of dreams;
But there were words of power, to recompose
Not what is, but what might be and what seems,
For better or for benefit—for those
Who see from all views, who can briefly sight
The thing itself, through piercing indecision.
Reality is a gem, and few cast light
On just the facets flattering a vision.

True, this is still not charging toward the fray
On angry steed, dispersing foes in strife,
Sweeping a claymore; nor does one hold sway
Over the breath of Heaven, and give life
To powers that never lived and never will;
But valiant strife and victory remain.
Loss brings not early death, but more time still
For battle, lessons learned, and fleeting pain,

And—for we lucky ones, born real, born later—
A bitter resolution to be greater.
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Time:11:30 pm
Wild Rummy

You've clipped your hair back; still there is a trace
Of brownish gold loosely framing your face,
Touching your Southern dress. Your lips are pursed
As, lazily, we tilt back too-sweet cocktails
And toss out sets and runs when idle talk fails,
Going through the motions of Rummy. At first,
We count on lucky wilds, but soon replace them
With cards that fit precisely where we lay them,
So we can save the wilds for when they matter.
Just so, in seasons past, we filled the gaps
In running weeks with late-night highballs, cabs,
Deep-fried calamari and playful chatter,
Filling the missing segments of our lives
With two wild nights a week in Noho dives.
In time, sakè and port have come to partner
With gin and tonics, and for fried squid bites,
We've substituted dim sum, chai and rice.
The thrill and urge remain, but finer, sharper;
We're still a set; and each of us now saves
Wild spirit for journeys South, riding the waves,
The fine arts, long hikes, staring into space,
—Indeed, Wild Rummy, as the warm lights flare
And zephyrs brush aside your burnished hair,
Clipped back but hanging loosely by your face.




Wild Rummy

You've clipped your hair; still there's a trace
Of brownish gold framing your face,
Touching your dress. Your lips are pursed
As, lazily, we tilt back cocktails
And toss out sets and runs when talk fails,
Passing time with Rummy. At first,
We count on wilds, but soon replace them
With cards that fit just where we lay them,
Saving the wilds for when they matter.
Thus, in times past, we filled the gaps
In running weeks with highballs, cabs,
Calamari and playful chatter,
Filling missing parts of our lives
With late, wild nights in Noho dives.
Sakè and port have come to partner
With vodka, and for fried squid bites,
We've swapped in dim sum, chai and rice.
The thrill remains, but finer, sharper;
We're still a set. And more, this saves
Wild life for trips South, riding waves,
The fine arts, staring into space,
—Indeed, Wild Rummy, as lights flare
And zephyrs brush your burnished hair,
Clipped back but hanging by your face.
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Time:11:05 pm
Steve Jobs

He was a shaggy teen,
Thoughtful, who knew the allure
Of anything clever and pure,
Yet rarely found time to clean,
Study or make a new friend,
Save a few who were at ease
With a moody and hard to please
Dreamer. From start to end,
He had no time for politeness,
Save when he wanted cash
Or love—he preferred hash,
LSD and brutal forthrightness.

He studied fonts (just because),
Circuitry (he was no expert),
And Zen (till he could never
Be happy with earthly flaws);
He chased fleeting aspirations,
And briefly, none was so fervent,
So keen and fast a student;
But soon, sought new inspirations,
Gurus, techniques and tips.

Next came the Mac and iPod,
And all that made him an icon;
But what he recalls? The trips
On LSD and to the East,
And a wispy girl from a dream,
Who stayed within the dream.
This hard-nosed man, High Priest
Of a worldly for-profit cult,
Never returned; but the thought
Of her, what she stood for, brought
To tears a distinguished adult
Too busy for friends or charity.

He aged, pushed products worldwide
A bit toward perfection, and died;
For what? A plastic square that he
Would have replaced next year,
With “one more thing”? To reprise
Some adolescent memories
Of a dreamy, would-be engineer,
And shake up the status quo?

Just this: He sought for something.
He lived feelingly, found something.
Rest in peace, Steve Jobs, CEO.
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Subject:On the Second Coming and Global Warming
Time:11:16 am
Any time there is mass hysteria about how the world will go to hell unless we change our ways, due to some extraordinarily complex, hidden process that can only be comprehended by a select group of appointed experts, whose employment depends upon society's belief in this grave danger, I cannot help but be a little skeptical.
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Subject:On a Musical Piece by Iamus
Time:06:44 am
For a beautiful few hundred years, music was composed both to please the ordinary person and to reflect the intellectual and spiritual currents of the time. This was due first to the Church and then to a cultured aristocracy.

Sometime around 1940, these two purposes of music were divorced, leaving us popular music (which was unsophisticated) and academic music (which was out of touch with humans).

If anyone reunites the two, I doubt it will be a computer. It certainly hasn't yet.
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Time:07:36 pm
Melting Ice Queen

Fair hair, your sweeping and audacious robe,
Your love of chill winds, smiles that quickly fade,
Charming questions that innocently probe,
And your assumption you will be obeyed
Recall that icy monarch. But your tresses
Are dirty blond on pink robes, which appear
To light up as the hoarfrost coalesces,
And you command with artless charm, not fear.
It is that time of year when fronds of red
And withered grass, just last month burnished lime,
Remind us of our old lives, come and fled
Like the brief romance of a summer's time;
But here, my love, here, where the frore seas gleam,
We bundle close and sink toward winter's dream.
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Time:07:51 pm
Sandy

It is midnight at eight p.m., and streets
Are bare and silent, but for sirens' wails
And creeping taxi cabs with empty seats.
Water rides down the road on whirling gales
And launches off of hidden bumps of air
In mad dispersions. In the stormy distance,
A red-green streetlight wobbles here and there;
A brick tower promptly bursts into existence,
And orange light radiates from its forty floors.
Drowning out all is wind, relentless wind,
Not blustery gusts but unabating roars
That thicken to familiar words. And pinned
Against a wall, two huddled forms, who hurry
For dear life, hear them clearly: FURY! FURY!
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Time:10:10 pm
Northern Beauty

In a crisp, sere forest, light shows in tatters
On myrtle foliage. Grey wolves mutely watch.
White moss resembles icy window patterns
And crunches underfoot, and lichens splotch
Among the windswept stones and stinging nettles.
On a felled log, a curling mushroom blooms
Like a flower, with ragged, off-white petals,
A brown-gold core and faintly honeyed fumes—
A radiant offspring not of life, but death,
Whose days are measured by decaying mass.
Here, where the dry chill chokes a blossom's breath,
Nestled in craggy trees along the pass,
This lovely denizen of darkness thrives,
Rooted in others' broken, withered lives.
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Time:10:55 pm
What do sports games and political conventions have in common? Noisy audiences who cheer for their chosen side (based on personal connections), love to hate the other side (never mind its merits), argue about their odds of winning (with no reliable evidence), and take to the internet for days afterward to vent about it.
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Time:03:54 pm
Drifting Near and Far

The tower grows taller daily. Now it shines,
Catching the sunlight from the broken dawn
And throwing it due east in strange designs.
Who makes it happen? Is it just the brawn
Of honest laborers, who lay their bricks
And cement, and sweat? The clever bureaucrats,
Who sketch vague plans and seek mistakes to fix?
This bedroom-window revery distracts
Me from your clutching hands and wrinkling brows,
Holding back till I feel your sharp nails, shoving
Into my back, as warm bliss ebbs and flows,
Planning, panting, laboring, building, loving—
No, I doubt we will ever fill this gap in
Understanding. And yet we make this happen.
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Time:10:58 pm
2012-08-08 Conversation with Anna

A: We should stay at my house this weekend. I need to do my laundry.
M: I need to wash my sheets. As you know.
A: Yeah. I wish I could teleport.
M: That was one of my favorite Facebook groups, "GOD I wish I could teleport."
A: It'd be so useful! We could teleport back and forth between our houses.
M: If I could teleport, I would so not live in Manhattan. I'd buy a big house in Utah or something and teleport to work each day.
A: Yeah true.
M: What would happen if you teleported on top of something?
A: I don't know, something bad?
M: Probably like nuclear explosion, only a lot worse.
A: Well my teleporting won't let that happen. That'd be my superpower.
M: Yeah I guess that solves the problem.
A: Yep. It'd be great.
M: True, I would teleport into palaces in Iran and steal all their gold to buy my big house in Utah.
A: Hahaha.
M: I would teleport to Russia, grab Vladimir Putin and teleport him back here, and tell Russia to give me $1 trillion or I'll teleport him a thousand feet above the Kremlin.
A: Haha. What's wrong with Putin? Does Russia even have that much money? And would they even care?
M: Then I'll teleport to North Korea and grab Kim Jong Un. And they'll offer me all the money they have. $1 million.
A: Haha. So you'd be a thief?
M: Fine, I'll teleport to North Korea's nuke self-destruct button and say, "I'll push this button unless you give me $1 million." And then I'll do it anyway.
A: Hahaha.
M: What would you do?
A: I don't know. I'd teleport into a big box store and get a new TV.
M: Wow. Wow. I haven't heard anything that uninspiring since Aladdin's three wishes.
A: Hahaha.
M: Here I am, robbing the riches of Eastern monarchs and disarming North Korea. Saving the world and making myself a billionaire. And what do you do? Teleport into a big box store.
A: Hahaha. You can quote me on that.
M: Maybe you could teleport into a movie theater without paying for tickets. Or teleport into someone's house and steal their silverware. Or maybe you could ring somebody's doorbell, then teleport away.
A: Hahahaha. Shut up.
M: This power actually doesn't sound that bad.
A: Yeah, I want to be in a group of superheroes, and teleporting would be my power.
M: Right, but that would be your only power. You'd be the one that teleported everyone into combat, then vanished instantly.
A: What? Haha. No, I'd fight.
M: Your superhero friends would be killing hundreds, thousands of villains. And you'd be standing there watching, and you'd see the one random bad guy sneaking up to stab your friends. So you'd hit him in the head with a frying pan. It wouldn't really hurt him, but you'd distract him for a second and it'd make a loud noise, then your friends would kill him and everyone would act super grateful to you.
A: Hahahaha, no, I'd learn to fight.
M: It's true. You would train your whole life to fight, learn martial arts and everything, learn to punch. But it would still be a normal, mortal human punch. The "150-pound punch."
A: Hahaha, what?
M: Your friends would respect you for working so hard, as they demolished hordes of enemies, while you did your 150-pound punch.
A: Hahaha. Fine, if you could have any superpower, what would it be?
M: I would have Silver Surfer power. It lets you surf around outer space at light speed and throw explosive silver.
A: That's more than one power.
M: No, it's Silver Surfer power, not powers.
A: That's two powers in one.
M: Well so is teleporting. It's the power to disappear and reappear.
A: No that's just one power.
M: Nope. You could have the power to disappear yourself, but that'd be kind of useless. But you could reappear copies of yourself and that might be cool.
A: I just want to teleport.
M: I mean, you could reappear a million copies of yourself to crush your enemies.
A: Hahaha. I'd be like Agent Smith.
M: Well, kind of. But he had hundreds of clones elegantly fighting for him. You'd just crush your enemies beneath the sheer weight of a million copies of yourself. You'd suffocate them beneath piles of you.
A: Hahaha, no, they'd fight too!
M: True, you could create a whole army, so many they'd win even though they're just doing the 150-pound punch.
A: HAHAHAHAHA. But I don't want a million copies of myself!
M: Well to destroy them, you'd just reappear two copies of yourself on top of each other. Then there'd be a huge explosion that destroyed all of them.
A: HAHA . . . this is the nerdiest conversation ever.
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Subject:revision
Time:12:30 am
Fall Saturday

I leave my phone because you rarely call,
Most weekends. This is autumn's first cold day.
Lounging outdoors with old friends, I will try,
Again, to make fond memories from a fall
Apart. Your cider mill feels far away,
A place too pure and sweet for life. I sigh,

And listen to the northern breezes sigh,
As leaves turn red. This, city dwellers call,
With a half-sighing smile, getting away.
Sharing worn stories on a Saturday,
As New York briskly welcomes early fall,
I too am getting away. Here I try

To find my stray life in a tall glass, try,
Though tired, to pair a smile with every sigh.
Can I find permanence as gold leaves fall,
Away from you and waiting for your call?
I muse, as each day turns to yesterday
Too soon, whether there is another way,

Another a life to lead, some wilder way,
Free from alarms and fences. Should I try
To drag pale dreams into the sunny day,
Hunt for brief raptures, face deaths with a sigh,
Rashly pursue each siren's wayward call,
And relish weird sensations as I fall

From grace? Should I let unseen burdens fall,
Accuse my faith of falsehood, drift away
From dead illusions, heed the hot blood's call,
And, in the dusk of instinct, just once, try
To search out loves that make me feebly sigh,
Breathing in faint life from the fading day?

I chase vague forms, since nothing seen by day
Takes the fey shape I yearn for—that I fall
For—save for you. And you are gone. I sigh,
And let warm music melt my thoughts away.
This too shall pass. Tilting my glass, I try
To wash down bleary hopes that you will call,

As light winds sigh, and remnants of the day
Remind why someone named this season fall,
And thoughts give way to one phrase: I will try.
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Time:11:50 am
The Wastes

Born to the yawning wastes, I roam
In itchy turban under molten skies.
Through a coarse, ragged slit, I comb
The seas of white for life, baring my eyes

To search a black and red horizon,
Rippling like fire, for lewd outgrowths of cactus.
Its thorny patience feeds my clan;
Taking in moderation is our practice.

Some lop off cactus heads, and hew
My crop to shreds, making waste in the wastes;
I wield my scimitar and do
What is needed, making waste in the wastes.

So I survive; such my world's range.
This life will pass, but life will never change.
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Time:11:09 pm
Success

Janice made partner by age thirty-three,
Being tough enough to banter with the men,
Smart enough for a clerkship in D.C.,
And hot—even the juniors glanced again.
Heading a Vault Top Fifty profit center,
It was a wonder she still chased her passion,
Helping a growing eco-friendly venture
To save the Earth in its high-grossing fashion.
She was so crunched, in fact, with depositions,
Conference calls, drafting motions, filing pleadings,
Chatting with witnesses, seeking admissions,
Meeting clients, handling qui tam proceedings,
And all those grave affairs to which she tended,
She had no time for love. Her bloodline ended.
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Time:11:52 am
Quantum mechanics is centered on the idea that particles at a small enough level behave randomly, and the best we can do to understand them is to lay out the probabilities that they will behave in certain ways.

This always struck me as a cop out. Just because something appears random doesn't mean it's actually random; it may just be that there's a complex system underlying its behavior that doesn't lend itself to a simple rule.

For example, someone a million miles away might try to determine why I--an insignificant speck on his telescope--move to and from the same location five days a week on most weeks, but sometimes more and occasionally less. Under the logic of quantum mechanics, he could determine there was a high probability I would make that trip on any given Monday through Friday, with a few random deviations.

But obviously, from our more intimate perspective, we know the deviations are not random--just very complex. There are holidays, sick days, weekends where I have to catch up with work, off-site days, and endless other possibilities.

I suspect that quarks and leptons are much the same. Their behavior seems random to us--for practical purposes--because the real mechanics beneath it is extraordinarily complex and out of our sight.
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Time:02:41 am
Tess

Backward girl, you have euthanized stray cats,
Fearing they might starve, sick, on city streets;
You lobbied for a ban on owning pets,
Last year—you called it “racial slavery.”
For you, each poor beast is a suffering child,
A furry ball of bones and blood and meat—
Mind you, though, unlike creatures in the wild,
“Humans know better” than to dine on meat.
Yes, Tess, this dog-eat-dog world makes you queasy,
And beastly, lewd men, chasing gold and oil,
Sicken you most. They make your life feel sleazy:
Their dirty jokes, their joyful, selfish toil,
And hardly a care for any abstract duty;
You claim to love life, but you love life's beauty.
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Subject:Excerpt from Roberts' Health Care Opinion
Time:02:10 pm
People, for reasons of their own, often fail to do things that would be good for them or good for society. Those failures—joined with the similar failures of others—can readily have a substantial effect on interstate commerce. Under the Government’s logic, that authorizes Congress to use its commerce power to compel citizens to act as the Government would have them act.

That is not the country the Framers of our Constitution envisioned. James Madison explained that the Commerce Clause was “an addition which few oppose and from which no apprehensions are entertained.” The Federalist No. 45, at 293. While Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause has of course expanded with the growth of the national economy, our cases have “always recognized that the power to regulate commerce, though broad indeed, has limits.” Maryland v. Wirtz, 392 U. S. 183, 196 (1968). The Government’s theory would erode those limits, permitting Congress to reach beyond the natural extent of its authority, “everywhere extending the sphere of its activity and drawing all power into its impetuous vortex.” The Federalist No. 48, at 309 (J. Madison). Congress already enjoys vast power to regulate much of what we do. Accepting the Government’s theory would give Congress the same license to regulate what we do not do, fundamentally changing the relation between the citizen and the Federal Government.

To an economist, perhaps, there is no difference between activity and inactivity; both have measurable economic effects on commerce. But the distinction between doing something and doing nothing would not have been lost on the Framers, who were “practical statesmen,” not metaphysical philosophers. Industrial Union Dept., AFL–CIO v. American Petroleum Institute, 448 U. S. 607, 673 (1980) (Rehnquist, J., concurring in judgment). As we have explained, “the framers of the Constitution were not mere visionaries, toying with speculations or theories, but practical men, dealing with the facts of political life as they understood them, putting into form the government they were creating, and prescribing in language clear and intelligible the powers that government was to take.” South Carolina v. United States, 199 U. S. 437, 449 (1905). The Framers gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, not to compel it, and for over 200 years both our decisions and Congress’s actions have reflected this understanding. There is no reason to depart from that understanding now.
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