News We’re Not Reading

By now the whole “memo” thing has probably got you whipped into a froth of distrust, confusion, and, if we’re honest, exasperated apathy. That’s ok, I’m in the same boat. The partisan rhetoric around the Nunes Memo is so slanted, so furious, that it’s pretty hard to know how much of what’s being said is true, if any of it. It can be even harder to reconcile how you probably feel about the memo with how you probably feel about Ed Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, etc. while trying to maintain an iota of ideological consistency.

And heck call me a conspiracy theorist, but I can’t help but think that this melange of confusion and outrage is exactly where They want us to be: at each others’ throats for reasons we can’t quite articulate while they laugh their way to the bank to put our civil rights in a safe. It almost feels like nothing is really real anymore, and from this fish tank of absolute relativism it’s easy to forget that some things really are true.

At atmospheric pressure, freshwater will freeze at 0 degrees Celsius. An object, free falling in a vacuum, will accelerate toward the earth at a rate of 9.8 meters per second squared. The relationship between a circle’s circumference and its radius is defied by pi.

Doesn’t that feel better? Great.

But it doesn’t take away from the fact that while the media circus surrounding the current administration is like a car wreck you can’t look away from, in real life things are still happening. With all of this hubbub about memos and the stock market and Tom Brady there are some big stories that we’re not seeing enough about.

Like, Cape Town is about to run out of water. This is one of those things that’s hard to wrap our heads around. It feels a bit like a street corner doomsday proclamation that in a few weeks a city the size of Los Angeles will shut down its municipal water supply. When more than a million residents there turn the faucet, nothing will come out. This is because the city is out of water. I don’t think that I can put this in more stark, terrifying terms. So on the bright side, here’s a picture of the fountains at the Bellagio:

We’ve still got water so what’s the big deal?

In Myanmar the army is murdering and raping a Muslim minority into obsolescence. The majority Buddhist government is killing tens of thousands of people, and disguising the mass graves with fire and acid so that no memorial of the Rohingya people exists. It’s almost like a community’s religion is independent from its propensity for violence, but hey that’s crazy talk. The travel ban must stand! Keep Muslim refugees out!

And speaking of genocide, today Poland’s president said that he would sign legislation that makes it illegal to question Polish complicity in the Holocaust. Even studying the government’s role in establishing Nazi death camps may be illegal now. This is another move by a right wing, white nationalist government to whitewash and forget the atrocities of the past century.

We are confronted with real, true problems and need to get above the noise.



Strava is for Terrorists

It’s not particularly often that I agree with the White House these days, but hell – when they’re right, they’re right. In this case, they’re right about Strava.

If you ride a bike for sport, or go for runs, or identify, generally, as interested in fitness, you’ve probably heard of Strava. It’s a fitness tracking app that allows users to compare workouts with friends, and offers a variety of data visualization tools. One of those tools is a heat map, released in November, which shows areas of highest use by Strava members.

Strava heat map. Tools for terrorists.

This is not inherently nefarious. But over the weekend an Australian student noticed that the new mapping feature clearly identified what appeared to be forward operating bases of US military personnel, active security patrols in Syria, and a number of facilities that appear to be classified. I guess the Army loves Strava.

This, of course, raised the concern that the Strava dataset can be used to identify not only the location of clandestine facilities, but also to track individual service members and track their whereabouts while deployed, as well as at home, after the tour. National security experts, and the White House, agree that “it’s really clear that that heat map is a security risk,” and that the software exposes individuals to attacks.

And while it’s getting attention now as a tool for international terrorism, those of us on the trails back home know that it’s been used for domestic, trail terrorism for years.

The premise of the software is that it times your progress on a ride, or a run, or a ski, or whatever. But in doing so, it turns every ride into a race. Under the guise of “training,” or “trying to beat Stinky up Woods Gulch,” Strava appeals to our basest competitive instincts. When the clock is running, everyone else had better get out of the way. There’s a KOM on the line.

This goes well beyond a decay of basic trail etiquette. Racing means laying it on the line sometimes, which is why races tend to have closed courses. Strava racing, on the other hand, has been involved with numerous deaths as athletes pursue winning times on busy roads.

This is not to say that we should never ride fast, or take chances, or try to beat our friends. All that stuff is great. But the place for racing bikes is in a bike race. So if you need to lean back on the national security threats of Strava to get off that thing, then great, let’s do that. The rest of us will just be out for a ride.




Illegal Immigration is a Fake Thing

You have, by now, almost certainly heard that the Federal Government of the United States of America has returned to the affairs of its daily business.


You will hopefully remember that this impasse was caused by useless political gambling not with poker chips, but with CHIP – a program that provides healthcare to children. God bless this country and the elected professionals who run it. Eat your heart out, Muhammad Ali, this right here is a picture of greatness.

It seems as though our peculiar brand of greatness (you cannot take a dog into a restaurant because someone might get sick [or something?], but for $500 you can buy a military-designed rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition with essentially zero government oversight) is at the center of our national conversation.

The balance of freedom and security ring out in contradictory value systems from coast to coast, and the underpinnings of every mainstream conversation are founded in the concept of American Greatness. American Exceptionalism. Best Goddamn Country On Earth, I tell you what.

This premise is no more clear than in our discussion of human migration. In our discussions of migration policy and so-called “illegal immigration,” we seem to be unable to frame the issue in a realistic way. We implant our world view into the ghastly specters of murdering banditos who creep through our minds to rape our children and steal our pensions.

Super, super dangerous.

For us as Americans, expatriation is a conscious decision, one that we might make after weighing the benefits of living abroad against leaving behind everything we love. We are incapable of seeing it in any other light, and it is a fundamentally distorted worldview.

Illegal immigration is not a means for the lazy or the unworthy to circumvent legal means of coming to the US. “Illegal immigration” is a thing we invented to disguise the fact that we are confronted by a large scale refugee crisis of our own design.

Consider that the overwhelming majority of these refugees come from Latin America, specifically Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. This is not necessarily a surprise, given the geographic proximity to The Land of the Free. But the reality is that these same countries have suffered for decades at the hands of our military intervention and clandestine colonialism. These are nations which have been systematically and deliberately destabilized by US interests, with effects that continue today.

During 12 years of Salvadorian civil war in the 80s and 90s, more than 75,000 civilians were killed. The overwhelming majority of these people (85%) died at the hands of by an oppressive military government (and their death squads, child soldiers, etc.) that enjoyed the support of both Carter and Reagan administrations. El Salvador at the time was a largely agrarian economy (enjoy that cup of coffee!) where 77% of the agricultural land was owned by 0.1% of the population. The war displaced more than a million people.

In the 1950s, the CIA cut its teeth in Guatemala (the Agency’s first action was to overthrow a democratically elected government at the behest of United Fruit Company – you know it today as Chiquita) and has more or less been a consistent presence there ever since. We financed genocide. We assassinated politicians. We bombed Guatemala City. You know, for bananas.

In the 1980s and 90s the CIA worked closely with Honduran intelligence officers to kidnap, torture, and assassinate opposition voices in support of the government there. Ooh and in 1954 we bombed Honduras and blamed it on Guatemala. So there’s that.

The refugee fallout from counter-democracy operations across Central and South America are direct responsibilities of the US Government and the American People it represents. Our shared responsibility for the Mexican refugee crisis is more direct.

I bet you’ve heard of the drug war in Mexico. It’s why you’ll definitely get killed if you go there, remember? The State Department said so? Since 2006 hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions have been displaced. This is, of course, a complicated problem and there are numerous contributing factors, not the least of which are domestic Mexican policies as well as external forces (like the CIA).

But at the heart of the Mexican drug war is the fact that Americans fucking love drugs. If we are not going to take meaningful steps to actually address drug use in America and the illegal drug trade it supports, then we need to take ownership of the refugee crisis that it manufactured.

This is to say nothing of the climate refugees who will increasingly be forced from ancestral homes by drought and flooding as we continue to resist action on human caused climate change. Bear in mind that this will occur within the US as well – perhaps the biggest argument for immediate action on climate change is that pretty soon all those weirdos in Florida are going to have to go someplace else.

There is a tendency in our minds to sequester humanity from the animal kingdom. We take for granted that geese and caribou will migrate in search of their basic needs, but somehow expect humankind to remain in unlivable conditions because of artificial borders imposed European colonizers. Escape from hunger, from drought, and from the only natural disaster unique to our species, war, is not only an obvious reaction to the phenomena but a fundamental human right.

The so-called “illegal immigration” problem is the predictable response to the activities of our government and our communities, whether that is the deliberate destabilization of a country’s elected government, our collective unwillingness to stop sniffing cocaine, or our demonstrated indifference to a warming climate. Welcoming and accommodating these refugees is not simply the right thing to do. It is our responsibility as the architects of their misery.




Notes From the Trip (so far)

Dollar for dollar, new wiper blades are the best investment you can make in having a better day. If poutine is on the menu, get the poutine. At least one, you know, for the table. Numbers bigger than about 10,000 are all pretty much the same.

It is possible to stop biting your finger nails by simply deciding to do so. Your flight attendant is more annoyed than you are. Maplewood smoked bacon is delicious, and maple syrup on bacon is underrated . Maple flavored bacon should be against the law. Fish don’t make great pets. You will not be remembered, eventually.

Someone needs to be in jail for this.

Fear of not having done something is not a great reason to do that thing, although it is a powerful one. There is no traditional gift-giving occasion for which bottle rockets are an inappropriate present. All pants should have a little spandex. And while we’re talking about pants you should just buy used clothes and have them tailored. If you don’t outlive at least a few dogs, you’re not doing so hot yourself.

But you still miss them.

The Coriolis effect gets more credit than it deserves. Prince > Michael (RIP). Flint, Michigan still does not have a municipal water supply. Laziness and anxiety are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and actually if we’re honest they probably almost always go hand in hand. Pig is the second best kind of fat. If it’s on the internet, and it’s free, you are not the customer. It’s ok to knock some things before you try them.

Most people are not good or bad or righteous or evil as much as they are really just incredibly bored, and the truest show of patriotism is to go abroad and be kind. Not making a decision is a decision. Happiness and contentment are easily conflated. It’s not really all that hard to build something valuable, but it’s wildly difficult to build something that remains valuable without your daily, fingers-to-the-bone, compulsive commitment to improving that valuable thing. Some people will not, cannot, tolerate even five minutes of silence.

The kids will be fine. Probably.

A handwritten letter means more today than it ever has. You could do worse; you can do better.




Bikini Bod Diet

Today is January 9th, so by now you have almost certainly abandoned your New Year’s Resolution. That’s fine. Those things are useless anyway. Besides, worrying about a New Year’s Resolution at this point is, like, worrying about the past, and stuff, which is pretty much antithetical to the whole point of the New Year’s Resolution concept. Right now? It’s beach body season, and I’ve got three great diets to get you trim and fit for that Speedo in the drawer.

You should know that these are cutting edge fueling techniques, and not to be approached by the faint of heart. These are not silly guidelines like the Whole 30, or the Ketogenic diet, or a cayenne and lemon juice cleanse. Those are for the diet dilettantes and philistines; my three step super diet plan is for hardcore fitness evangelists.

If you think you have what it takes to bring your future to the max, read on. For you, right now, this deal is completely free, and we only ask that you subscribe to email notifications on this blog. In the future, access to this hardcore-extreme-super-diet information will cost as much as $49 a day, so be sure to subscribe now for the best deal. Are you ready to blast cellulose and make Channing Tatum look like a softbody? Me to. Let’s do it.

1. I Don’t Know Maybe Try To Eat Better

By now you’ve probably had at least a couple dozen trips around the sun, and learned a few things along the way. Here’s the thing – you know what healthy food is. You know, fruits and vegetables, stuff like that. Maybe some salmon. You probably don’t need to count calories, or worry about carbs v. fat, to know that that the salad is better for you than the fries. Of course the fries are more delicious (they’re fried), but we’re on beach body detail right now. So just get the stupid salad. I guess that’s pretty much it.

And actually for the record this isn’t some raw diet either. You want to cook your zucchini in a little butter? Fine, great. Most of those other fancy diets can really be distilled to “you should probably eat more vegetables” anyway. What this diet lacks in dogma, it makes up for in quality of life.

2. I Guess Try Not To Eat So Much

The beauty of eating delicious food is that with every bite of that delicious food we forget, if only for a brief moment, all those feelings of sadness and shame and inadequacy that occupy our internal dialogues pretty much every waking second of every single day, and so when the first bite is gone we take another bite and it prolongs the numbness for another few seconds and is a pretty high functioning coping mechanism (if I do say so myself) up to the instant that we become full and the pendulum swings. Subsequent bites of delicious food leave us slightly more self-conscious, more shameful and inadequate (of course we continue to eat because it is more about the ritual of eating than the deliciousness of the food, and not all that different from smokers who claim the most difficult part of quitting is not knowing what to do with their hands), and fifteen minutes or so after we stop eating because we are impossibly full and the real sensation of fullness takes hold we are washed over by a newer, heavier feeling of shame and we lie on our backs and press against our belts and do not feel worthwhile, and the beauty of that once delicious food is lost and replaced by a kind of anger at ourselves, sure, but also at the food itself, which, when we’re honest, doesn’t make any fucking sense at all, but still, here we are.

He’s doing the diet wrong. The tigers are a nice touch though.

And so I get that “maybe don’t eat so much” is not necessarily helpful advice. But then maybe it is, and a small gesture of mindfulness at the inception of the meal is simply enough to simply eat less. Of course it could also add another layer of anxiety and self-doubt to the positive feedback relationship of shame and chewing and so in truth I don’t really know at all but hell maybe it’s worth a shot.

3. Just, Like, Don’t Drink So Much

I understand that your identity is pretty firmly wrapped up with being a beer aficionado, and after you watched Mad Men you picked up a healthy handle-a-week rye habit. That’s great. Booze is a helluva tool for getting through terrible wedding speeches or uncomfortable alone time with yourself. But maybe just tap the brakes for a minute and see what it’s like. And if you really need a breather from This, Here, Right Now, then just remember that MDMA has fewer calories, and less sugar and fat than that barrel aged imperial stout!

With these helpful dieting tips you can avoid the pitfalls of draconian fad diets and be well on your way to the bikini bod you know you deserve!