What are we thankful for this year?

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

What are we thankful for this year? Let’s leave out the obvious “family and friends being healthy” (partly because it is obvious and partly because our media assures us that family and friends were mostly killed in 2020 due to a combination of Covid-19 and Donald Trump).

Here are a few from me…

  • the mostly intact general aviation infrastructure in the U.S. We may not have anywhere to go (and various governors’ travel orders may actually make it illegal or impractical to go anywhere), but very likely there will be an awesome airport near our destination with a helpful FBO
  • the Swedes, for showing the world that a society of humans can have priorities other than avoiding Covid-19 (a bit of credit in this category as well to Kristi Noem, the governor of South Dakota, who also deserves credit for telling people that politicians and bureaucrats cannot protect them from a virus)
  • service industry workers, coming into work despite coronapanic and for wages that are often about the same as collecting welfare (and always lower than collecting child support, with proper planning)
  • dogs, whose value to humanity has gone way up now that humans have given up on most purely human goals and activities

Readers: Now it is your turn! (via the comments)

Related:

  • “Is There a TERF at Your Thanksgiving Gathering?”: Toxic relatives come in many forms: the Trump supporter, the devil’s advocate, the COVID-19 denier. There’s also the TERF: the trans-exclusionary radical feminist. TERFs are transphobes who wrongly believe transgender women are not women … But the reality is that trans women are women…
  • Best Facebook sentiment: “Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends and family! Fewer people to cook for this year but no fewer to be thankful for!” (from a Swiss immigrant who now does every American thing better than most Americans)
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Meet in Bermuda or Turkmenistan?

I’m going to Bermuda January 10-13. Weather supposedly typically involves a high temp of around 70 degrees, perfect for walking around the downtown area. Who wants to join? I don’t have a schedule there, just making an exploratory foray to decide if we should organize a trip there with the kids (requires military-style planning).

The other option is a Silk Road trip organized by the MIT Alumni folks (but you don’t need an MIT connection to sign up). It is April 27-May 14, 2020. It is a soft and easy way to see five “Stan” countries that are challenging to visit independently. I think that there are still a few spots left (max group size: 21). From the web site:

Explore four different UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the fabled Uzbek oases of Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, and Turkmenistan’s Parthian Kingdom of Nisa. In Penjikent, Tajikistan, explore the ruins of the 5th century AD trade center, Shakristan. Wander through colorful bazaars and step into the past on the streets of Silk Road trade centers crowned with complex Persian architecture. Along the way, meet with local experts and artisans, attend an engaging performance of the Kyrgyz Epic of Manas, and visit a traditional Kazakh falcon farm.

Overnights:

2 nights Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
2 nights Khiva, Uzbekistan
3 nights Bukhara, Uzbekistan
3 nights Samarkand, Uzbekistan
2 nights Tashkent, Uzbekistan
2 nights Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
2 nights Almaty, Kazakhstan

I’m going solo since (a) our kids will be in school, (b) senior management will not abandon our children for that long, and (c) most of my friends are stuck working or teaching. (Our ground school class at MIT is over in January and I’m done with the data science class at Harvard Medical School by the end of March.)

One of our pilot friends spent a whole year in Turkmenistan teaching mathematics at an American high school. She loved it! During a trip to Moscow, I learned that Uzbeki food is a staple for Muscovites, in the same way that Mexican food is popular among Americans.

It is easy and inexpensive to get to these places on Turkish Airlines (even from Silicon Valley) or Emirates.

Send me a note (philg@mit.edu) if interested!

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Meet at Din Tai Fung in Seattle, 5:15 pm on Wednesday

Seattle readers: in case you’re not following the comments on a previous thread, we will meet at Din Tai Fung, 600 Pine St (Pacific Place), at the unfashionable hour of 5:15 pm (latest reservation available; alternative is to wait for an hour) on Wednesday, August 7. We all have to be there to be seated, so please show up on time!

Looking forward to discussing the big issues and the small dumplings.

(For anyone who can’t make the above, I am also happy to meet at Top Pot Doughnuts on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday mornings! Staying at the Hyatt Regency.)

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Meet in Washington, D.C.?

Dear Readers:

Because I like to do everything in the dumbest way imaginable, I will be visiting Washington, D.C. in July.

If you’d like to get together for coffee, perhaps Sunday afternoon, July 14, or Monday early(ish) morning, July 15, please email me (philg@mit.edu).

Venue will be the Conrad hotel near Chinatown.

(I would have preferred to meet at the Capital One café for Pride Month, but I fear that they may have removed their Pride decor (the issue is important enough to be focused on during June, but not for the rest of the year?):

)

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What laptop for Senior Management?

Stop the Presses! My opinion has been asked for by another household member!

It is time for a new laptop for Senior Management. She is accustomed to Microsoft Windows and a 15″ screen. She does not like or want a touchscreen. She’ll be using it at home and in conference rooms at various pharma companies.

Surveying the laptop market I’m surprised at how little improvement there has been in price or specs in the past few years. This seems like truly a stalled industry. You have to pay about $500 minimum. You get a mechanical hard drive just like the 1957 IBM RAMAC. You get 8 GB of RAM, barely enough to ran a cleanly booted Windows 10 (welcome to Swap City!). How is this different than three years ago, for example?

Given that, despite a few trips back to Dell for hardware service and software reinstallation, my last laptop (Dell XPS 13) could never be made to sleep properly, I’m thinking that Dell shouldn’t be on the list of contenders.

The LG gram series seems interesting. Costco is selling one with 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD for $1300. They promise to support it for two years and take it back within 90 days if it fails the way that the Dell did. It weighs a minimal 2.4 lbs. and reviews say that the promised battery life is real (16+ hours).

Unlike Dell (and Apple?), LG does not plunge the unlucky buyer into a world of dongles. The specs include 3 legacy USB ports, one hip new USB-C port, and a HDMI output (perfect for the executive who needs to plug into a projector and doesn’t want to have to remember a dongle). Photographers will be stuck in dongle hell, however, because there is no SD card reader (only “Micro-SD”).

The LG site claims that the device has been tested for ruggedness and is stronger than its minimal weight would suggest. The only way in which this LG differs from Senior Management’s spec is in the provision of a touch screen (but she doesn’t have to use it!). And perhaps the screen resolution could be higher? But then we would say goodbye to the long battery life?

Readers: What do you think? Is there a better idea than this LG?

Related:

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Meet in Austin, Texas this week?

Ever since being assured by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that socialism is essential for well-being, I have planned to visit Texas, where state/local government consumes only 7.6 percent of income (Tax Foundation; compare to New York at 12.7 percent), and enjoy it before the inevitable downward spiral from an undersized government.

It turns out that this is the big week for the investigation into the suffering endured by an under-served population.

I myself will be under-served at the Fairmont (no free Internet!).

Who would like to meet in Austin, perhaps coffee at the Fairmont, this week? I should be available Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings. I can also get together in the evening. Email to philg@mit.edu if interested.

Who has brilliant ideas for activities, cultural events, and sightseeing?

[Update: Wrap-up meeting on Thurday morning, 2/21, Fairmont lobby coffee bar, starting 8:30 am.]

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Was there a big sale on blackface and KKK costumes that I missed?

The Virginia governor, Ralph Northam, is in the news for a 1980s photo featuring blackface and KKK costumes.

My question today for readers: Have you ever personally attended an event in which people dressed up either in blackface or in a KKK outfit?

Personal answer: No! And I don’t think it is because I have been associating only with the most sensitive Americans.

Was there a wave of popularity for either blackface or KKK costumes at some point that I completely missed?

Related:

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