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?

May 152014

Network television still manages to occasionally surprise me. NBC recently announced that it picked up Constantine, a series based on the rather dark Hellblazer comic. The story focuses on John Constantine, a demon hunter and exorcist who is not a terribly happy person. Will it be any good? I’m skeptical, but at least they hired a proper British bloke to play the lead, so it should be at least more watchable than that awful Keanu Reeves movie from several years ago. Perhaps NBC can do the same thing here that they did with Hannibal: create a low-rated series that has a devoted fanbase large enough to keep it alive. Again, doubtful, but I’ll likely be watching in the fall.

The trailer doesn’t look terrible, for what it’s worth.

May 082014

Vox, Ezra Klein’s wonky news venture, always provides me with interesting lunchtime reading. For example, here’s a post highlighting a clever British ad campaign designed to help avoid awkward social interactions with people with disabilities. I can particularly identity with the kind of interaction depicted in this ad:

So remember, folks, don’t bend over when you’re speaking to me or I’ll think you’re a condescending ass.

Kudos to Vox for covering disability issues and I hope we see more posts like this in the future.

May 062014

A new government report makes it clear that climate change is significantly affecting average Americans and its effects will only grow worse if we continue to do nothing. According to the report:

Summers are longer and hotter, and extended periods of unusual heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced. Winters are generally shorter and warmer. Rain comes in heavier downpours. People are seeing changes in the length and severity of seasonal allergies, the plant varieties that thrive in their gardens, and the kinds of birds they see in any particular month in their neighborhoods.

In a more rational country, this report would prompt a coordinated national response to the very real threat that climate change poses. But as long as conservatives persist with their two-pronged strategy of denialism and fear-mongering, we can’t expect rationality at the federal level. Some states and local governments are taking concerted action to reduce carbon emissions and diversify their energy supplies, although I’m skeptical that these initiatives will have much impact on a national or global scale.

It’s difficult to resist the conclusion that humanity may already be well and truly fucked; we just need a few more decades to fully appreciate it. I hope that’s not the case. I hope that there are some really gifted engineers, scientists, and political leaders among today’s preschoolers because they will be the ones who will have to manage the brunt of the crisis.

May 022014

I’m late linking to this, but Harold Pollack has a great post in Wonkblog about how Medicaid forces poverty on people with disabilities. This is common knowledge in disability policy circles, but most people don’t grasp how difficult it can be to maintain Medicaid eligibility and have any semblance of financial independence. It’s common for people with disabilities to hide assets with a family member or keep income off the books to ensure that they don’t lose access to vital services. Those of us who buy into Medicaid are allowed a bit more leeway with our finances, but we still must be careful.

Congress really should revisit the strict Medicaid income and asset limits for people with disabilities. But as long as Medicaid is regarded as a program for only the poor, policymakers won’t be eager to change the status quo.

Apr 302014

Disney unveiled the cast for Star Wars: Episode VII yesterday, confirming rumors that many of the original stars (Mark Hamill, Carrie Fischer, Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels, and Kenny Baker) will reunite as everyone’s favorite former rebel scum. The cast also features a number of actors with lower profiles, keeping with the spirit of the first movie. Other bloggers have noted that the cast is heavily tilted towards men and it’s a fair point, although Disney has responded that at least one more female role has yet to be cast. I’m pretty sure that the Star Wars galaxy is populated with plenty of interesting women with stories to tell, no matter how far away it is.

I’m also taking bets on how long it will take the Internet to produce hybrid Star Wars-Girls slash fic featuring Adam Driver’s character in really uncomfortable sex scenes.