Larry Hosken: New

Comic Report: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist

This comic has been racking up awards lately, but it's good nevertheless. It's little autobiographic bits from a cartoonist, but it's funny nevertheless. (It's by Adrian Tomine, so you might worry it's going to be more cringe-inducing than genuine funny; but though it wavers between these, I claim it's mostly genuinely funny, especially if you can get past the poop.) As advertised, it gets into the loneliness of the awkward people. Our hero fumbles conversations; he only expresses his emotions when there's nobody around to talk back.

Just in case you weren't yet sure that Adrian Tomine is no longer just an East (SF) Bay phenom but is now a New Yorker—a caption in the comic explains that some events happen in "Albany" but doesn't clarify whether that's Albany CA or Albany NY… and it turns out to be Albany NY.

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Comic Report: The Wizerd! and the Potion of Dreams

This goofy comic takes place in a Dungeons-&-Dragons-style universe, but doesn't get too grim. E.g., the authoritarian ruler keeps all the townsfolk locked up (veering towards grim…) until they can behave (suddenly less grim). It's a fun read with fun art, just what I was in the mood for.

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Book Report: Ninth Step Station, Season 2

I read the next part of this cyberpunk buddy-cop boo serie unit of fiction. It was fun. I gave up on waiting for it to come out as an ebook. It's published as a serial; in theory, each "season" of the serial gets re-published as an ebook, but that hasn't happened lately. Maybe the person who does that is staying home to dodge the 'rona? Anyhow, I read this on a laptop. Cops investigate crimes in an occupied Tokyo; criminals are still sloppy, but it can be tough to catch them when occupiers and resisters keep messing things up.

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My family's doing Zoomsgiving this year. I just finished sitting in on our practice-run Zoom call. It went pretty well. There were a few times when we bumped into the usual video-meeting annoyances—folks talking over each other and such. But overall this visit was great. My NYC cousin was able to join in no problem; she didn't make it to all of our physical family gatherings. (The east coast, it turns out, is far away.) My Athens, GA cousin was able to join in no problem; he also can't always swing the travel for physical gatherings. A couple of my aunts still live in the Bay Area, but are in more far-flung parts. For a physical gathering, they have long drives. One is old enough such that she doesn't like to drive at night; thanks to video chat, she didn't have to drive at night. The aunt that lives up in the Santa Cruz mountains hasn't made the drive to see us lowlanders much since she had a foot injury that makes it tough to drive; she didn't have to drive. This video call was the biggest gathering we've mustered in several years.

I guess I'm saying: video chat isn't as nice as IRL meeting… but some folks were getting left out of the IRL meetings. It was good to see them again. I'm glad we're doing Zoomsgiving instead physically gathering. Safety's the main reason I'm glad, but there are other benefits.

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I figured some stuff out that I hope to remember the next time USA presidential primary season rolls around.* Leading up to the primaries, people argue about electability. Pundits use electability to hand-wave away idealists' objections to milquetoast candidates. I think there's something to the idea of electability. But it doesn't make me want to listen to pundits. It makes me want to listen to people from Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Because I'm Californian, I'm in an echo chamber with a higher-than-USA-normal number of liberals: any democratic candidate I recommend might alienate voters in redder states in this nationwide race. As the Dead Milkmen sang in "Brat in the Frat",

♫ I do not like you radical,
I hate you and your fancy school.
You're wrong about the working class.
I hope they kick your Berkeley ass! ♫

For the opposite-yet-similar reason, you wouldn't ask a Wyoming Democrat, surrounded by an echo chamber of Republicans, to pick a candidate. They might choose a candidate so anodyne that they were very electable…but there's no reward for winning 70% of the votes versus 50+ε% of the votes. And then you end up with a president unwilling to pursue useful policy.

I figure that to pick an electable-but-not-useless candidate, you should listen to states with median levels of liberal-ness—with some "weighting" to account for effects of the electoral college. (You might also consider "weighting" the states equally, not considering the electoral college—lest you choose a presidential candidate that scares voters away from your party when electing senators.)

Taking the voting numbers (so far (Alaska's still only 52% done counting votes, apparently)) from the recent presidential election, we find the median-liberal states. Here I've marked the electoral-college median, Pennsylvania, with an E and the senate median, Georgia, with an S, listing them along with other states nearby in the list sorted by liberal-ness:

   # State                libness  EC votes Biden%  Trump%
  24 North Carolina       -0.0132  15       48.7000 50.0000
S 25 Georgia              +0.0020  16       49.5000 49.3000
  26 Arizona              +0.0051  11       49.5000 49.0000
  27 Wisconsin            +0.0061  10       49.4000 48.8000
E 28 Pennsylvania         +0.0071  20       49.7000 49.0000
  29 Michigan             +0.0264  16       50.5000 47.9000
  30 Nevada               +0.0276   6       50.2000 47.5000

What do you know—it's those battleground states that have been in the news so much lately.

Because the USA is a two-party country and because we're looking for the median, note that the Republicans also want to listen to these states in particular to choose electable candidates. I wish the states would re-schedule their primary elections based on this list—both Democrats and Republicans would benefit by front-loading the high-information median-state elections early in the year. But of course the state folks who decide these things don't like it when you point out that some other state's opinion might be more important… Anyhow.

Anyhow, the next time a pundit brings up "electabiliy" at the start of an interview on the political views of a hog farm owner from Idaho, I'll know better than to keep reading.

*I dunno how serious the next Democrat party primaries will be. At one point, it sounded like Biden was only aiming for one term. That might make sense; he's pretty old. On the other hand, a lot of times when I hear news about some politician saying "I'll retire after this term," that rarely turns out to be true when the next election comes along.

Yes, the official lyrics are "kick your Harvard ass." But when the Dead Milkmen sang that song in Berkeley, California, they sang "Berkeley".

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My mail now shows up regularly again, but my missing mail seems to be gone forever. My mail-in ballot never reached me, so it's a good thing I voted in person.

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Book Report: The Dark Net

[Content warning: oh gee whiz, the book has just about all of them.]

This book is a survey of sketchy places on the internet… and it gets pretty darned sketchy.

Some of it is mostly harmless. The author orders drugs from a market of pseudonymous folks, exploring how to track reputation in an illegal market. He hangs out behind the scenes at a camgirl show.

And there's the potentially-helpful / but still sketchy areas. He talks to folks at online support groups for people with eating disorders, suicidal people, other folks doing self-harm. The good news is that these people can find and help each other. The bad news is that some of this help is anti-helpful: people with eating disorders reinforcing each others' problems. The worse news is that a few mean people want to prey on the vulnerable people; and thanks to these support groups, the mean people can also find and "help" them.

And there's the worst of the worst. There are child pornographers out there; the book discusses their tactics.

I read this book because it was recommended for me by The Storygraph. It's well-written and parts of it are relevant to my interests. On the other hand, the parts that weren't relevant to my interests were not fun. This book gets dark! I should be more skeptical of these automated book recommendations; this book kinda intense for something I just stumbled into while following a generic recommendation.

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You might remember back in 2018, I volunteered at a polling place in a house's garage up in the hills. I'm remembering it because in today's news, Lisa Gautier and her excellent garage polling place are written up in an article about San Francisco house garage polling places. The article mentions Gautier's snacks, which were indeed much appreciated. Also pictured in the article: the fancy little free library where I bring my old comics, which is out in front of another garage-polling-place. (The library looks like a phone booth, for those of you old enough to remember phone booths.)

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#IVoted in person today. This might surprise my fellow Californians—California's dodging the pandemic by voting by mail this month. I was sent a mail-in ballot to fill in and return. But this month, the postal service has been pretty unreliable getting stuff to me. Maybe that ballot will eventually show up in my mailbox, but I got tired of waiting. So I walked down to the park across the street from San Francisco's city hall and voted. Voting took place in well-ventilated tents and everyone was wearing masks so I wasn't super-worried about inhaling pandemic thingies. The excellent Civic Center blog let me know what I was in for.

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The postal service hasn't been delivering my mail. (Some of y'all with amazing memories might think, "This has happened to Larry before." Yep, it's happening again.)

If you sent me a birthday card/note and I haven't thanked you, be aware: that's because I didn't receive the card/note. Don't hold your breath waiting for a reply.

(Yes, I reported the issue to USPS. A nice USPS worker talked to some other USPS worker and then marked the issue "resolved" some days back. No mail has arrived since then. I guess I'll re-report the issue.)

For the conspiracy theorists among you: This has happened to me before; specifically, this has happened to me before Louis DeJoy started monkeying with the USPS. Maybe this is his fault, but there's also some reason to guess that it's not his fault.

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