Saturday, March 31, 2012

Last Call

April Fool's Day is the best day on the intertoobs.

Ever wanted to make your next long-distance journey seem that little bit more epic? Well now you can, thanks to a new 8-bit version of Google Maps. Similar in style to old Enix (now Square Enix) games from the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) era, this new way to view Google Maps will definitely give your next journey that sense of adventure.

The pixel style map can be accessed by visiting the regular Google Maps website: all you have to do is click the 'Quest' option, alongside the usual 'Earth' and 'Satellite' buttons. Once clicked, the map you are viewing will be transformed into 8-bit goodness.

I love this.

Chart Of The Day

The Obama administration explains what the Affordable Care Act means for women:

Do we understand now why a national health care law is necessary and why "leaving it to the states" is a bad idea?  Good then.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Via John Cole, I see the National Review's Rich Lowry is going race bating with the deaths of other young black men "liberals don't care about".

There is no comparable epidemic of half-Hispanic neighborhood-watch volunteers like George Zimmerman shooting young black men. Nor is there an epidemic of cops doing the same. Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute notes that in New York City, there were nine civilian victims of police gunfire last year, whereas there were “several hundred black homicide victims in the city, almost all shot by other blacks or Hispanics, none of them given substantial press coverage.”

An allegedly racially motivated killing, though, gins up the outrage machine in a way the routine murder of young blacks doesn’t. Cable-TV outlets get to host fiery debates. Chin-stroking commentators get to urge more “dialogue.” Black leaders get to relive the glory of a civil-rights cause that won its major victories decades ago when it took real courage to be on the front lines. And everybody gets to evade the intraracial mayhem that blights the country’s inner cities.

An injustice may well have been done in the handling of the Martin shooting, but let’s not fool ourselves. Zimmerman could be arrested, convicted, and hanged tomorrow, and it will have no effect on the lives of young black people in communities beset by social disorder. Whatever happens to Zimmerman, the drip-drip of spilled blood will continue, all but ignored except in the police blotter. In America, the lives of young black people are cheap, unless they happen to fit the right agenda.

I'll let Cole take it from here.

That’s one reason why the Trayvon Martin case is different. We know precisely who killed him, yet he walks free and clear. That is why the outrage is so loud. Trayvon Martin was killed for the crime of walking while black, the cops did nothing to investigate his death and appear to be actively impeding any investigation, they basically gave his killer a pat on the back before sending him on his way, and then they slapped a John Doe tag on his corpse and threw him into the morgue’s lost and found pile.

Yes, each and everyone of the murders that halfwit Lowry mentioned is awful. Yes, black on black crime is awful. But in each case above, the victim’s family are receiving some semblance of justice.

And that is all anyone wants for Trayvon Martin. Justice.

Lowry just can’t be that stupid.

He's not being stupid.  He's race-baiting on purpose.  He's trying to deflect the anger of Martin's killer going free by saying the rest of liberal America, particularly black America, doesn't get outraged about black teens killing other black teens, so that there's no moral high road for them to complain now.

Of course that's completely false for the reasons John Cole lists above.  When a black teenager kills someone, odds a pretty damn good he or she is going away for a very long time.  The police investigate.  The killer is arrested, tried, and if the evidence proves it, convicted.  Sometimes the evidence is less than sound and the black teenager is convicted anyway.  That happens to white killers too, I understand.  Sometimes the killer goes free in the opposite effect where a jury acquits on technical grounds or they just decide otherwise.

But the one thing that nobody is doubting here is the fact that George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin.  And as Cole says, he hasn't been arrested for that.

Hence the outrage.  Hence also why Rich Lowry is full of shit.  All the people trying to make it about Al Sharpton being involved or black/liberal/human outrage or Trayvon Martin's school suspensions or anything else is a distraction designed to excuse themselves from the very same behavior that Lowry is projecting onto everyone else.

Trayvon is dead.  His killer has not been arrested, charged, or even indicted yet, even though he has admitted to shooting him.  And yes, there's a racial component to Martin being denied justice and to the efforts to exonerate Zimmerman.  And this effort did not start until President Obama weighed in last week and carefully made the point that this was a tragedy.

What has happened since is a hate-by-proxy battle, where people are projecting their anger at President Obama onto a dead black teenager.  And there's a racial component of that as well.  Melissa Harris-Perry explains along with her panel today:

The outrage, Richie, is at guys like you doing everything you can to obfuscate, confuse, and obliterate the fact that Zimmerman killed Martin.

Period.  It's race-baiting.  That makes you an asshole.  Period.

Post Racial America My Ass

Jamelle Bouie at the American Prospect points out this poll:

You mean there's something wrong in America with being black in 2012?  More on that poll:

We don't need to have a national conversation on race, we need to have a national intervention on race.

Follow Up: Mindful Eating

A while back, I posted about mindful eating, which is just what it sounds like.  Putting everything else aside and focusing on what you are eating.  The results were interesting.

First, how do I normally eat?  Zandar has seen me in both eating modes, picking at food and going through a buffet like a wood chipper.  My eating habits vary, but one thing that remained the same is that I am always busy and eating became my time to plan the next several moves in [insert project].  Even when I sat down and didn't work (rare) I was still not mentally present for my meal.  Most of the time, I'm the worst about cramming down a sandwich while writing, and when it's gone I'm not satisfied so I reach for something unhealthy to finish the job.

For the last four weeks exactly, I have done something new.  Now, I didn't go so far as to meditate on every bite, but I stopped what I was doing and paid attention to the taste, texture, and difference in each bite.  I chewed carefully and didn't let myself rush, I set 30 minutes aside to eat and I could not do anything if I finished early, so there was no temptation.  Because I'm not the type to meditate, I instead thought about myself in general.  How did I feel today?  How did I sleep? Was my blood sugar spike related to stress?  Instead of putting off problems, I would solve them instead.

A month later I've lost eleven pounds, and I feel great.  I sleep better, and through no awesomeness on my own, I am now inclined to eat better foods.  I look forward to my daily meals as a much-needed break.  My blood sugar is much more stable and I have noticed the two o'clock slumps pass me by more often than not.  My blood pressure is textbook perfect (it wasn't bad but about 15 points higher than the doctor liked).  Though I work 60 minutes less per day, I accomplish more than ever.

Some of this is surely eating better.  I have always had a temperamental digestive system, so simply eating better food had an effect.  I also attribute a lot of it to the mindful aspect.  When most people hear the phrase "thinking about myself" there is an instant repulsion.  It's selfish and vain to sit and think about yourself, right?  No.  First, I didn't think about things I wanted, necessarily.  I took that time to communicate with my body, and it told me a lot.  By listening, I feel better than I have in years.

If anyone else gives it a try, please let me know how (or if) it worked for you.  I think the lack of interruption and reboot helped as much as the food, but your ideas are welcome.  It took two weeks or so before I felt a real change, but once I started to feel better it came by leaps and bounds.  I hope it works for those who give it a try!

Well We're Moving On Up

Just a programming note, as Angry Black Lady announced Friday, ABLC is moving to become part of Raw Story over this weekend. Both Bon and I will still be contributing over there and hopefully that means we'll be getting some more exposure for ZVTS.  Long time readers will note I tend to pull at least one of my StupidiNews stories every day from Raw Story and post stories from there on a fairly regular basis, and that will continue too.  It's an excellent news site and both Bon and I are really glad to be joining ABL over there.  In effect, nothing's going to really change, other than we'll get more folks at ABLC and hopefully we can pick up some new readers for here from Raw Story readers.

You can still find me at Balloon Juice and Bon at Dead Shuffle too.

And as always, we continue to thank you, the readers.

Soft Power Is Coming

While you (like me) are eagerly awaiting the season two premiere of Game of Thrones on HBO Sunday night, ThinkProgress writer Alyssa Rosenberg wrote a deliciously clever piece in Foreign Policy last July detailing the modern foreign policy lessons of the kingdom of Westeros and the application of diplomacy, war, and soft power.  It's definitely worth a re-read for fans of the books and the show.

When George R.R. Martin began his epic fantasy saga, A Song of Ice and Fire, back in 1996, he started with a domestic story about a king who was struggling to manage the country he'd seized in rebellion and the man he chose to help him rule. Fifteen years after the publication of the first book in that series, A Game of Thrones, Martin's series is an Emmy-nominated HBO show of the same name, the fifth New York Times-bestselling book has just been released (A Dance With Dragons, out last week), and the story has evolved from a dark domestic fairy tale of wicked queens and kings to a sweeping geopolitical mega-saga with complex and shifting rules of engagement -- and a surprisingly large number of lessons for the foreign-policy-inclined reader.

It turns out that, apart from the dragons and giant magical wolves, the Westeros of Martin's novels is a familiar place: The challenges of international relations are pretty much the same whether you're an American president or a feudal king; whether your national debt is due to the Chinese government or to a mystically powerful foreign bank that employs professional assassins; whether your unsavory trading partners are oil cartels or slavers; and whether your enemies are motivated by a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam or by a priestess who sees the future in sacrificial fires. 

It goes from there (and yes, there are spoilers, you have been warned) but for fans of the books like myself, it's very interesting to see the similarities.  Adam Serwer at MoJo writes a more detailed piece focusing on season two (and its corresponding book, A Clash Of Kings) and how Tyrion Lannister is far better equipped as a leader than Ned Stark or Robert Baratheon, for that matter.

That we have shifted from identifying with the patriarch of the Stark family to the black sheep of their sworn enemies, the Lannisters, is more than in keeping with Martin's themes of moral ambiguity and conflicting motivations. It's one of several areas in the series where the shift from the written word to the small screen actually improves on the original story. It helps that Tyrion is no less devoted to his family than Stark—it simply happens that his family is full of moral monsters. Sean Bean's Ned Stark was the archetypical fantasy protagonist: Strong, loyal to a fault, capable in combat. Tyrion, a dwarf, requires the constant protection of his sarcastic and capable sellsword Bronn and has only a utilitarian commitment to social mores. Yet it becomes immediately apparent that he is more suited to running a kingdom than Ned Stark could ever have hoped to be.

Finally, there's an excellent NY Times piece on Emmy-award winning actor Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister in the series.

Enjoy.  Winter is coming.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

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