Romney’s New Game, House Rules

Mitt Romney is not an idiot. He knows that he can’t possibly win a presidential election as an independent candidate. And that’s even assuming he could get onto the ballot in enough states in time, which he can’t, having already missed Texas’s deadline. No Republican/conservative candidacy can win without Texas.

But I still give credence to this Washington Post report about his and Bill Kristol’s recruitment efforts for an anti-Trump candidacy, and it all comes down to this single paragraph:

One related objective is to prevent both Clinton and Trump from clinching a majority in the electoral college and thus throwing the presidential election to the House of Representatives, under the provision of the 12th Amendment of the Constitution. This scenario played out in 1824, when Andrew Jackson won a plurality of electoral and popular votes but was defeated in the House by John Quincy Adams.

I don’t think this is a “related objective.” I think it’s the only objective. A presidential election decided by the House of Representatives is the only path to victory for Mitt Romney who, as I have noted, still desperately wants to be president. When he positioned himself as a fallback/draft candidate back when Trump’s victory was not yet assured, he must have known then that his chances were slim…slim but feasible.

And so it is here. It’s still pretty damned unlikely that a Romney independent candidacy could win any electoral votes, let alone enough to throw the election to the House, but it’s possible. He’d need to rack up electoral votes in states where he could plausibly squeeze out plurality wins against Trump and Clinton. The most likely places for that to happen, however, would be states that Clinton is already going to lose. So to make this plan work, Romney needs to eke out wins in a few blue states, and that’s really where this falls apart.

It’s not impossible. If we start with the 2012 race as a starting point, and, for example, give Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Michigan to independent-Romney, the election goes to the House. This assumes that Clinton doesn’t flip any ’12 red states blue in the mean time. You could also have a scenario where, say, Trump wins Iowa from the Democrats, but Romney wins Virginia. You get the idea. Not impossible, but very unlikely.

But “unlikely” could be enough as far as Romney and the anti-Trump GOP forces are concerned.

Of course, there’d be one more enormous hurdle, which is actually winning an election by the House. It’s not a majority-vote situation there. If the presidential election goes to the House of Representatives, each state’s delegation gets one vote. So the question then becomes whether Romney could convince a majority of Members within each state’s delegation to vote for him. (Oh, and the Senate would pick the vice-president. Fun, right?)

A deadlocked Electoral College vote going to the House would normally be an easy win for the GOP in a two-person race, because of the party’s vast over-representation in Congress. But two “Republicans”? I wouldn’t begin to know how to predict that. But I can say that it represents a glimmer of hope for Romney’s quixotic, last-ditch effort in his decade-long quest to become president.

It’s Just a Computer

Paul Miller uses his smartphone without the phone part, and it’s not so bad:

A smartphone doesn’t die without an LTE connection. Much to the contrary, the first thing I notice about airplane mode is my improved battery life. And then, of course, there’s Wi-Fi. I have Wi-Fi at home, I have Wi-Fi at the office, and I have Wi-Fi at my primary evening hangout spot. It’s almost like having an iPod Touch, except my iPhone is newer and better than an iPod touch … So, basically, my phone still works. … And I can call people just fine over FaceTime or Google Hangouts. I prefer it, in fact. FaceTime Audio sounds way better than a regular phone call, and both Hangouts and FaceTime can add video chat to the experience.

With the deep resentment I feel toward wireless carriers, and my own consistent lack of being rich, I’ve long desired to opt out of them altogether, and just rely on Wi-Fi.

But shit happens out in the open world. The advent of plain old dumb-phone cell phones saved my butt in innumerable situations in the aughts, situations I was painfully aware would have been disasters had they occurred just a year or so before, when I was one of those people who thought cellphones were ostentatious and unnecessary. 

And I have kids, and I need to be available, period. So there’s that.

Miller again:

I think there’s something else going on here. When your smartphone isn’t a phone anymore… it’s just a computer. And that’s kind of beautiful to me.

Yeah, I much prefer to think of these things as computers rather than telephones. Telephones are conduits for obligations. Computers are, well, everything.

Accomplishments

The challenge today was to be alright with accomplishing nothing. Which turned into something else.

I’m parenting solo with only one of the kids, my 3-year-old daughter, as my wife and 6-year-old son are on a whirlwind trip to visit friends in far-off places. I am enjoying the chance to spend solo time with my daughter, though as my wife will attest, I already exist in a state in which I am constantly wrapped around her little finger. Nonetheless, it’s nice.

The week had been productive in a number of ways, not just from work, but in the restarting of my podcast after a brief hiatus, beginning to noodle with music once again, and most impressive to me, my having installed a dishwasher with no help, and no errors. 

But then I had my weekend with my daughter. Saturday was all about catering to her. Her brother was going on an adventure, and she was not, so this was a day to spoil her a bit, and that took the bulk of the day. Today, Sunday, was more or less a normal Sunday, with stuff to take care of around the house, and a kid to occupy (usually it’s two of them, and I have a partner in parenting). 

We played with her stuffed animals, we played doctor and patient (I needed a shot of course), and we spent a good amount of time on this beautiful, cool day at a playground. She loves the swings. She could stay on the swings all day. And of course, she must be pushed.

I could feel an anxiety rise in my chest. The work week was about to start back up. Nothing had gotten done in the house. I needed playtime to last as long as it could in order to fill time, and yet I worried over the time that was ticking away. For…what? I didn’t know.

I tried to be still. She was in a kind of state of blissful sublimity on her swing, time having even less meaning than it usually does for a 3-year-old. I wanted to join her, at least a little, in that state. It didn’t have to be bliss, but I could at least reject the concerns for Things to Be Done, for time filled purposelessly. I could, maybe, just be okay with being there, for as long as it went. 

I don’t know that I quite got there, but I got closer.

And then I thought, well, I’m not actually “doing nothing,” even though I am working toward being content with exactly that. I am doing something absolutely crucial.

I am raising my daughter.

Raising a child isn’t something that is “accomplished.” It is not a task. It is a (hopefully) lifelong series of moments, overlapping and tumbling and grinding and slipping by. It is a long line of fractions of seconds, in which I make connections of varying degrees of strength and meaning with my child. It is both glacial and ephemeral. 

It is each push on that swing. 

I didn’t accomplish much today. But I did push my little girl on her swing for as long as she wanted. I accomplished a lot today.

“Every stupid thing Samsung does makes Android better.”

Jerry Hildenbrand is the deep thinker of the Android blogosphere. While the default response to everything Samsung does with its phones is to express exasperation, Jerry has a different perspective. In his review of the Galaxy S7 Edge, he says:

I want Samsung to never stop messing around with Android and making it their own. The open source part of Android is made better by companies doing stuff to it and changing it. That’s how open source software works. I wish more of what they do was available to everyone at the code level, but the ideas and the critical changes that improve Android make their way back to Google. They then make their way to everyone. Every good thing Samsung does makes Android better. Every stupid thing Samsung does makes Android better.

I can take 20 minutes and strip away the stuff I don’t want. I can disable or uninstall some of it. I can hide most of the remainder. Buh-bye Milk Music. Adios Gear Manager. Go away forever Flipboard Briefing. You can do the same things to the stuff you don’t want.

It’s the Apple ethos to presume that there is some platonic ideal for a given product, but Google’s has always been about inviting tinkering and elaboration. Despite this admittedly overly-broad distinction, the common wisdom is that Android is best, and indeed only really acceptable, when it’s pure, stock Android straight from Google. 

But that’s Apple thinking. There’s nothing wrong with Apple thinking, it’s resulted in some of the most beautiful and popular products ever made in any category. But it’s not the idea behind the Google ethos…or at least its mythos. 

Hardware companies going all-out to make Android work as well as it can for their devices is the right idea. It happens, alas, that very often (more often than not?) they go too far, or simply do it poorly. The most acclaimed versions of Android tend to be the most untouched, like Motorola’s or Nvidia’s. LG, HTC, and especially Samsung are berated for loading Android up with gimmicks and bloatware.

But just as Jerry says, some of those gimmicks aren’t just gimmicks, but valuable new features. And sometimes gimmicks evolve into valuable features. And sometimes, a variation on Android suits the device in question so well, it’s a revelation. Many will point to Motorola’s ambient display, which was quickly adopted by many other manufacturers. But my favorite is Samsung’s S Pen for the Note series. The precision and usefulness of the stylus is unmatched by almost any accessory I’ve used for any phone.

And that’s because of Samsung’s software, that’s “TouchWiz.” 

So yeah, keep at it, Samsung, and all you other guys. I mean, try to keep it sane. You know, have some mercy. But keep at it.

The Mystery of the Too-Perfect Screen Protector! (Or, Paul is Stupid)

I am either very stupid, or something strange is going on. I’m leaning heavily toward the former, but, nonetheless, mark me.

I have never liked screen protectors on phones. It used to be that they clouded the display and reduced the sensitivity of the touch sensors. Plus, they were and are extremely difficult to apply without misaligning them, getting air bubbles that won’t push out, or dust trapped underneath that can never be unseen. Eventually, too, they would fray or peel. In other words, a total shitshow.

But clearly they have vastly improved since the time I avoided them, circa 2011. Now there are brands that are robust, invisible, and have no effect on touch sensitivity, and they come in both a kind that is sort of plasticky film as well as hard tempered glass. I once bought a used tablet with the screen protector already applied, and it convinced me that these things were now up to snuff.

Nonetheless, I could never get one on myself to my satisfaction. With each attempt to install one on my phone, with either the film or glass kinds, I would screw it up to the point that the protector became unusable. Usually, even when all other things had been done right, there would still be some dust or crap I’d discover, taunting me from beneath the transparency. Away would go to the protector.

But then a few days ago, I took one last shot with a Spigen Crystal screen protector, of the plasticky film variety, which came in a pack of three. I made sure I did everything very carefully, but not so intensely carefully that I’d make a mistake by overthinking. And after I pulled the front cover off the the screen protector, I was amazed: Perfectly straight, no bubbles, no dust. I smiled from ear to ear. And it looked and performed perfectly.

After a few days, though, I thought that maybe it was too perfect. I found that I couldn’t even tell it was there. Not as in “oh, you’ll just forget it’s there,” but as in, “wait a minute, where are the cutouts around the speaker and the home button?”

I stared and rubbed and scraped and could not for the life of me find the borders of the protector. Was I going mad? I took out the unused protectors from the package to compare, and seeing their cutouts I was convinced.

There was no screen protector on my phone.

What on Earth was going on? I had done this phenomenal job of perfectly applying a screen protector for the first time in my life, and now it’s just gone?? How could that be?? I retraced my use of the phone as best I could until I remembered back to the installation itself – that perfect installation. Was is too perfect?

It dawned on me. Perhaps, oh god perhaps, when I peeled off the protective front layer of the screen protector, I had also unwittingly peeled off the protector itself, and simply never noticed. Could I be that stupid? Could I really make myself believe that I had done a perfect job of installing a screen protector when in fact there was none there at all? And there I had been, using my phone with less concern about scratches on the screen, thinking there was a layer of defense that was all in my head. I am fortunate I didn’t perpetrate any horrors upon its glass.

I am capable of some epic idiocy, but this seemed too much even for me.

And yet, I am forced to conclude that it is the most likely explanation. The only alternatives I can think of would be that someone intentionally peeled it off (and who would that be? My kids? I never leave this phone where they could get to it), or it came off by itself, perhaps in a pocket. But how shoddy could this product be that this would happen a mere day or so after installation? Neither of those explanations seem plausible.

So in all likeliness, I am just extremely stupid. Perhaps you knew this already.

If there is a silver lining, it is that I made a second attempt with another one of the protectors, and I did it pretty much perfectly, again for the first time. There’s a little bit of a “halo” around the very edges where the phone’s glass curves a smidge, but it doesn’t bother me. Otherwise, nicely straight, no bubbles, and no dust. And, again, it performs just fine.

And I have learned something, something about the depths to which we can fool ourselves, and believe things that are not so, despite was is literally right in front of us, in our hands, and under our fingertips.

Ye Who Are Unworthy of PEZ

Image by Deborah Austin [CC BY 2.0]

I don’t care you if you blaspheme. You can take whatever lord’s name in vain that you please. You can desecrate any holy book that tickles your fancy. Heck, you can even bad-mouth Star Trek. Whatever. But, in the name of all that is good, how dare these people sully the pure, incorruptible symbol of novel delight in pleasant moderation that is PEZ?

Via Lindsey Bever at the Washington Post:

An Easter egg hunt in Connecticut turned dark over the weekend after organizers said adult attendees “rushed the field and took everything,” behaving “kind of like locusts.”

PEZ general manager Shawn Peterson told CBS affiliate WFSB that the candy company hid more than 9,000 eggs Saturday on three separate fields at the PEZ visitor’s center in Orange, not far from New Haven. Staggered start times were planned for different age groups.

But some parents ignored the rules, and the event took an ugly turn.

Nicole Welch told WFSB that those parents “bum-rushed” the area, leaving her 4-year-old son “traumatized” and “hysterically crying.”

“Somebody pushed me over and take my eggs,” 4-year-old Vincent Welch told NBC Connecticut after the event, “and it’s very rude of them and they broke my bucket.”

PEZ said that based on participation in the free event the past two years, organizers prepared for a large crowd; but “the number of families that came out to participate far exceeded anything we could have possibly planned for.”

PEZ is not only about candy and characters (and marketing), but it’s also about keeping things under control. You pop the dispenser’s head, and you get one little candy brick at a time. It’s a way to say, “I’m going to have a treat, but I’m not going to overdo it.”

But these people. These beasts. They don’t deserve PEZ.

Laudably, the PEZ company is giving free candy to the people who played by the rules and got screwed over:

PEZ said staff members tried to locate participants who were cheated and give them candy.

“We sincerely tried our best to create a fun, free activity for everyone to enjoy,” the company said in a statement to WFSB-TV. “We made efforts to get everyone something before they left and passed out tons of candy and coupons and the front entry and tried to make the best of an unfortunate situation.”

I’m going to buy some PEZ today. But what can be done to punish those who behaved so abhorrently? If only there were a PEZ dispenser . . . of justice.

RT This Post for Dopamine Squirts

This piece by Darya Rose is about indulging in things that are bad for you, but that you think are making you happy, like alcohol and junk food. But it speaks to me in terms of what I have come to need from my creative pursuits: attention.

Dopamine fools your brain into mistaking reward for real pleasure. In the heat of the moment you believe that following your dopamine urges will guide you to certain happiness, but more often than not it leads you into temptations you later regret. [ . . . ]

Serotonin, GABA and oxytocin are chemicals in your brain that are actually associated with feeling good. They boost your mood, help you relax and cause you to feel close and connected to people and things you love.

Activities that promote the release of these brain chemicals include exercise, music, meditation, prayer, creativity, learning and socializing.

You know this intuitively when you are cool, calm and collected. When everything is fine the rational part of your brain can clearly articulate that these wholesome activities lead to real fulfillment, and that following your urges and cravings usually leaves you feeling worse (with a dose of shame thrown in for good measure).

I think a big part of my problem is that I have allowed myself to believe that the pings of the connected digital world are the signals of something truly fulfilling as opposed to being mental junkfood. But if I really want to heal my brain with the aforementioned cocktail of true-happiness chemicals, I need to find things to do that aren’t associated with feedback, pageviews, shares, likes, favs, retweets. Less reliance on dopamine squirts, more serotonin brewing.

Less blogging? More blogging?

Maybe it’s time for those grown-ups’ coloring books.