A case study in empathy

I came out of the local grocery co-op this morning, bag full of organic produce. I walked to my car, the one with the “No One Trumps the Constitution” ACLU bumper sticker. I have one of those remote key fobs that I don’t even have to pull out to unlock the car, I just open the door. The keys are in my pocket. For some unknown reason, in between the time that my car recognized my key fob to allow me to unlock the car and the time I put my grocery bag in, buckled up, and pushed the button to start the car, the car no longer recognized my key fob.

That sets off the alarm. I grabbed my key fob and started pushing buttons. No luck. I got out of the car and pushed buttons. No joy. I’m scrambling through the owner’s manual trying to find the solution while my horn blares and my lights flash.

An Asian woman approaches the car parked next to mine. “What happened?” she asked. I shrugged, showed her my key, and told her. “Oops,” she replied, and left. 

Horn is still sounding. A pickup truck stops behind me. Two young men are in the cab. “Hey, your horn is going off!” the driver shouts. I turn and look. “I know,” I answer. “Go Trump!” he yells and laughs as he drives off. Clearly he saw my bumper sticker.

Later, in the manual, I find out that the alarm will sound for two minutes before silencing if it is not deactivated. I have failed in any attempt to deactivate it. I’m trying to decide if it will shut down on its own or if I’m going to have to resort to more drastic measures, like maybe disconnecting the battery, which I really don’t want to do and I don’t know will work. I wouldn’t design a security system that could be bypassed that easily.

While I’m still leafing through the manual looking for answers, an African American gentleman  comes over and asks if I need some help. I explain the situation, he takes my fob and tries, but about that time, the two minutes are up. We have a nice discussion, I thank him, and I try again. Fortunately, everything works this time, and I drive home.

For future reference, in the Acura owner’s manual, information about the car alarm system is found in the index under “security”, not “alarm”. It’s hard to think of all the alternatives when the system is going off in a very public place, very loudly.

There but for grace

I listen to Republicans attempt to justify their destruction of the ACA, talking about good people not having to pay for others, and other such nonsense, and I wonder what they really think in their starved little brains. Do they think they’ve succeeded because they’ve been good? That they’ve been healthy because they’re better than other people? 

I look at my relative comfort, and think, wow, am I lucky. I’m lucky that, through no choice of my own, I like math. I enjoyed math, I did it for fun, I took all the math classes I could, and that led me to a field where my skills were handsomely compensated. There are plenty of people who are as smart and as hard-working as I am, but they didn’t enjoy doing something that just happened to really take off at the right time. 

So, even though I have multiple pre-existing conditions, even if I can’t get health insurance, I can afford medical care, simply because I liked math. What a crazy way to decide who deserves health care.

Tractor Hacking

I haven’t seen much discussion of this issue outside of the intellectual property community, though no doubt it’s being discussed among tractor owners. John Deere has effectively locked down its tractors, making it difficult for farmers to repair or modify the tractors they have purchased on their own. Fortunately, there’s a carveout in the onerous DMCA that keeps jailbreaking the tractors from being criminal, but the farmers are still potentially liable in a civil suit, and as in any situation with running unauthorized firmware, are in a constant arms race with the manufacturer to keep up with the latest releases, not to mention vulnerable to security issues.

John Deere today, GM tomorrow? Not impossible to imagine. As automobiles get more and more sophisticated and software controlled, car manufacturers will want to limit what customers can do to the software, for good reasons: safety and security can be compromised with changes that don’t go well. However, the temptation will also be there to protect that investment and recoup the cost by forcing customers to stay within their infrastructure for add-on parts and repairs. Tires that have to be licensed by GM to be recognized by the vehicle, for example, or the car won’t operate. Oil changes that can only be performed at GM-certified garages. When the ability of the engine to start and run is controlled by software, almost anything is possible. We’re already seeing used car dealers adding after-market devices that disable vehicles if too many payments are missed. What if car companies decide to stop supporting cars that are more than 10 years old?

Regulation is going to be way behind reality here.

Shadow Government

Remember that everything the trumpers complain about is projection? “Obama has a shadow government?” There is a shadow government, but it isn’t Obama’s.


-Ivanka now has a West Wing office and a security clearance and will have access to “some” classified documents, though she won’t be an employee. She will “voluntarily” follow WH ethics rules. She regularly sits in on meetings with foreign leaders. (Imagine if this were Chelsea Clinton…)

-trump has commissars in place at departments to keep an eye on things and make sure everyone stays loyal. You think Scott Pruitt is bad at EPA? His commissar is Don Benton, a former state senator from Washington who is dumber than a box of rocks. The spokesman commissar at EPA, who is responsible for the gag rules that have gone in place, so Doug Erickson, a current state senator from Washington. (The Washington legelislature is currently in session, but Erickson won’t resign as senator because that would lose the Republicans their senate majority and education might get funded without gutting other parts of the budget.)

-there are over 500 jobs in the administration that require Senate confirmation. We can argue over whether that number is too big, but trump hasn’t nominated anyone for even 10% of those jobs. Most cabinet secretaries don’t have nominees for deputies, but they do have commissars.

-cabinet secretaries seem cut out of the loop regularly. They aren’t consulted on key decisions, they don’t meet with foreign leaders, they find out what’s going on second hand. Tillerson isn’t the real Secretary of State, Kushner is. 

-and, of course, there’s Shadow President Bannon.

Kelsey Plum

My husband and I watched Kelsey Plum score 57 points yesterday in Washington’s win over Utah to set the all-time career scoring record for women’s NCAA D1 basketball. Women’s basketball has come far enough that this was actually the lead story on Sportscenter last night, and probably the only reason the game wasn’t sold out was no one really expected Plum to set the record yesterday. She was 53 points short of tying the record, which seemed too high a barrier for one game. We went because we thought there was a chance, because Plum is a magical player.

Many of the stories about Plum have mentioned that only one player has scored more points than she has, Pete Maravich of LSU. It is true that Pistol Pete is the only other NCAA player who has outscored Plum, but it overlooks an important piece of history and yes, until politics. You see, until several years after the federal government instituted Title IX, requiring that men’s and women’s sports be treated the same, the NCAA did not administer women’s sports, so the history of NCAA women’s basketball only goes  back to 1982.

Women did play intercollegiate basketball before then. Some of the giants of the coaching world, like Pat Summitt and Tara VanDerveer, got their start in their era. The US sent a women’s basketball team to the 1976 Olympics, and would have sent another to the 1980 Olympics if not for the boycott. And there were stars, like Anne Myers of UCLA and Lynette Woodard of Kansas.

Woodard played at the tail end of the AIAW days, and she was a more prolific scorer than Jackie Stiles. She scored 3649 points, just 18 shy of Maravich’s 3667, and still 252 more than Plum. It’s not impossible for Plum to catch either Woodard or Maravich, but she wools need to maintain or exceed her scoring average of 30 points per game and have UW play close to the max number of games in the PAC-12 and NCAA tournaments. If UW were to make it to the finals of both tournaments, Plum would play an additional 9 games, which would give her a decent shot at 270 points. Any fewer games, and she has to score more points per game. Neither is impossible, though neither is likely. But records are broken because the unlikely happens, so I’ll be at the PAC-12 tournament enjoying Plum’s artistry and hoping for a long tournament run for her to extend her college career as long as possible.

Thank you, Ms. Plum. It’s been a pleasure watching you work.

Flip a seat!

Actually, two-one locally, one in Congress.

Tom Price, the HHS Secretary, was formerly the Representative from GA-06. There’s a special election underway to fill his seat. trump only won this district by +1, even though Price won reelection easily. The special election is a top two primary, so the two two vote getters in the April primary will move on. There are a bunch of Republicans, and Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is explicityly running against Trump. I’ve donated to his campaign, and encourage you to the same.

Locally, there’s a special election to fill the senate seat for the 45th district. It’s currently held by Republican Dino Rossi, who was appointed when Andy Hill died in office. Democrat Manka Dhingra, a highly qualified Redmond resident who works in the King County Prosecuter’s office. This seat could tip the balance of the state senate, so it will be an expensive race. You can donate to her campaign here.


The news gets crazier every day, but even if trump disappeared in a puff of smoke tomorrow, we’d still have lots of work to do. So, how do you know what to do?

First stop is the Indivisible Guide. Written by former Hill staffers, the guide tells you how to take action effectively. One thing you’ll learn from the guide is that calling your members of Congress is effective, so I suggest putting their numbers into your phone to make calling easy. I use the numbers for the local offices, rather than the D.C. office, and if one local office is busy, try another one. Calls are easy to make; you don’t really need a script, just tell them your name and where you live, and what you want your member to do. Or you can call to thank them for something they’ve done; positive strokes are good too. 

Should you call if your represented by a Democrat? Absolutely. Democrats need some spine-stiffening, and it will only come from us. They need to know that if they take a bolder approach, their voters want it. If you’re represented by a  Republican, call away. Yes, you might live in a safely red district, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t enough people like you to make him reconsider whether he really wants to defund Planned Parenthood. If you’re going to be complaining about something on social media or bitching about it to your friends, make the call first.

Hard to keep with everything, isn’t it? There are a number of email lists you can sign up for that will send you daily or weekly ideas for actions to take, with options for different time commitments. My Civic Workout, Do A Thing, and Wall of Us are three that I’m subscribed to. There are numerous Facebook groups that I can’t point you to because I have an aversion to Facebook, but they’re out there, and several of these sites will help you find them. Another big list of resources is here, highlighted by the Town Hall Project, which tracks Congressional town halls and other availabilities. 

And give! Time or money. The ACLU got the biggest chunk of my money soon after the election, because we had already been regular donors there, but we gave a much bigger chunk. Decide what aspect of all the terrible things happening is the most important to you, and focus there.

Now, let’s talk local. trump and the R’s won not because we were mean to conservatives or because we live in a bubble, trump and the R’s won because we got complacent. We didn’t pay enough attention to legislatures and downballot. Our values matter even more at the neighborhood level than at the state level. Lots of city council seats and school board seats will be up for election this year. Is your council or board implementing your values? Does the composition of the board or council resemble the city or district they represent? If not, what are you going to do about it? Run? Identify an ally and her run? Either way, time to get to work.

I just got my first invite for a kickoff fundraiser for my congressmember’s re-election campaign in 2018, so the battle to take the House is underway. Consider donating to a campaign, even if you don’t have a lot to donate. Attend an event, get a chance to meet your representative and ask a question. 

Volunteer for a campaign. Go to your local Democratic organization meeting, and connect with like-minded souls. You’ll never be an apathetic voter again; your ballot will be turned in first thing. Next thing you know, you’ll be sitting through city council meetings,

Any other ideas people have, share them in comments.