Jul 162014

After much waiting and bureaucratic hoop-jumping, I drove home in my new Honda Odyssey earlier this week. Automotive technology has advanced considerably since 1999. My Caravan’s engine always made its presence known with a steady rumble, but I can barely hear the Odyssey’s engine. Everything is very sleek and digital and unobtrusive. It’s like commuting via the starship Enterprise. Even the modifications have a futuristic feel. With a single button on the key fob, the sliding door opens and the ramp deploys. The ramp is stowed within the van’s floor, so I no longer have to listen to it rattle beside me.

I’m on vacation next week. I believe I will spend it driving around the lakes and inviting random attractive women to join me.

Pictures will be forthcoming. Of the van, not the women. Unless they’re into that sort of thing.

Jul 032014

A friend objected to my characterization of the Hobby Lobby decision as a ruling designed to placate those employers who object to the notion of sex for pleasure. He (because of course it was a “he”) maintained that the Court had preserved the rights of employers to exercise their religion as they saw fit. But other conservatives seem more than happy to confirm my assertion that they really don’t like the idea of women having sex for reasons other than procreation.

Here’s Rush Limbaugh’s thoughts on the matter:

Pregnancy is something that you have to do to cause. … Yet we treat it as a great imposition that women need to be protected from. It’s a sickness, it’s a disease, it’s whatever, and there’s gotta be a pill for it. Yet they wouldn’t have the problem if they didn’t do a certain thing. It’s that simple.

And Erick Erickson’s:

My religion trumps your “right” to employer subsidized consequence free sex.

And Sean Hannity’s:

I was in the drugstore the other day, and guess what? There’s a whole section of birth control. Go buy it! You can get a condom in a New York bar for free. As a matter of fact, you can take a handful.

Hobby Lobby is a terrible decision that legitimizes gender discrimination in the workplace out of a misplaced desire to protect every manisfestation of religious freedom, no matter the consequences. It is rooted in notions of sexuality and religiosity that will soon only exist in the exurbs and retirement homes. But until then, misogyny has a friend in the Supreme Court.

Jun 252014

This short Times documentary about a couple–both of whom have muscular dystrophy–who fell in love and married is sweet and matter-of-fact. There’s just one problem: they are living in a Connecticut acute care hospital. Does Connecticut not have the resources to enable them to live together in the community? I understand that they both use ventilators, but this is 2014: people with ventilators living at home are not a rare species anymore. Of course, I don’t know what their specific circumstances are. They may choose to live at the hospital because they feel safer or because the quality of care is high. But I imagine it’s no simple matter for them to get out to a movie or restaurant. I hope somebody has at least discussed community living with them.

Jun 192014

40 percent.

That’s how much Minnesota has reduced its uninsured population since fully implementing the Affordable Care Act back in January.

40 percent!

Of course, ACA opponents won’t be impressed with this news. They’ll continue to grumble to themselves about death panels and government takeovers. But in the land of the sane, this can’t be viewed as anything other than a huge achievement. Thousands of Minnesotans now have access to health care who otherwise would still be uninsured. Much of this reduction is due to the state’s expansion of Medicaid, a policy choice that neighboring states like Wisconsin and the Dakotas have resisted. Perhaps this news will give some elected officials second thoughts about their ongoing refusal to act in the best interests of their constituents. Minnesota shouldn’t be an island of decency in a sea of Tea Party-fueled callousness.

Jun 172014

I haven’t ridden on the new Green Line trains that run between the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul, but I hope to do so soon. While it won’t replace my regular commute, the Green Line will come in handy on days when the weather is horrible or when my van is unavailable. The Twin Cities finally seem to be taking public transit seriously and we should see further light rail expansions in the future (assuming that certain recalcitrant upper middle-class homeowners in southwest Minneapolis can be mollified).

We’re a long way from being a city where nobody needs a car, but this is a good start.

Jun 102014

Eric Cantor, the sitting Republican Majority Leader, just lost a primary election to a completely unknown political newcomer. In politics, this is a “holy crap” moment. No pollster or pundit saw this coming, which makes Cantor’s defeat so surprising. It also seems to dash any hopes for immigration reform in the next couple years; Cantor’s opponent cast him as a supporter of amnesty and that tactic seems to have paid dividends with primary voters. Considering how conservative Cantor was on a host of issues, it seems that the good people of Virginia’s 7th District will only be satisfied once every immigrant is rounded up, tarred, feathered, and shot out of a cannon into the Atlantic.

Boehner must be hitting the Dewars hard right about now.

Jun 032014

Apple is doing its best to convince me to make my next computer a Mac. The next version of OS X will closely integrate with iOS devices, allowing users to respond to phone calls and texts from their Macs (as well as initiate calls and texts). I’d love to have this capability, but I doubt Apple will make it available to Windows users.

I’ve been thinking about upgrading my PC, but perhaps I’ll wait for the next iMac refresh and see how the specs compare. I still prefer the modularity and flexibility of my Windows system, but I’m a sucker for integration and convenience.

May 282014

I’m in the final stages of purchasing a new van (a 2014 Honda Odyssey EX, if you’re curious) and I’m pretty excited about the opportunity to ride around in something that was manufactured in this century. Of course, I’d love a self-driving vehicle like the prototype Google has unveiled in the video below:

It’s a cute little thing and the clearest indication yet of what the future of transportation might look like. In another decade, I might be able to give up my van in exchange for a driverless taxi that is wheelchair accessible. Google certainly understands the powerful implications of this idea; two people with visual impairments are included in the video. Imagine how something like this could revolutionize paratransit systems that are currently understaffed and unable to operate around the clock, particularly in rural areas. For many people with disabilities, this technology could mean the difference between isolation and independence.

May 222014

I finally saw Her, the movie that traces a romantic relationship between a nebbish Joaquin Phoenix and an artificial intelligence voiced by Scarlett Johannson. The movie itself is terrific, filled with great performances and quietly beautiful moments. I was also struck by director Spike Jonze’s vision of a future Los Angeles. He shows us a dense city teeming with skyscrapers (many of which have been lifted from present-day Shanghai) where people can take the subway to the beach and hang out in rooftop parks. Everything is clean and well-lit and inviting. It’s a future where the hipsters have won. It’s one of the most optimistic visions of the future I’ve seen in a movie and it has stuck with me for the past several days. So many movies portray futures where everything is fucked and that can be entertaining, but I want to settle down in Spike Jonze’s utopian L.A.

May 202014

Given the news that Minneapolis will be hosting a Super Bowl in 2018, I’m wondering how much my place could fetch on Airbnb for that weekend. My guess: quite a bit. I’m located within walking distance of the new stadium (currently under construction) and the airport is easily accessible via light rail. My kitchen isn’t terribly well-stocked, but that’s a small price to pay for location and a decent Wi-Fi connection. This may be the ticket to funding a European trip or paying off a chunk of a car loan.

What are my readers’ experiences with leasing out your place to strangers?