Weekly Roundup: The Passion Of Saint iGNUcius Edition

I was there, outside the Chinese restaurant, when Richard Stallman screamed and began to run from the raindrops.

It was early in 2001 and I was at MIT to meet and work with the nice people from Spindletop, a nascent computer hardware designer/reseller with a tiny office in the basement of a Cambridge strip-mall building, right beneath a fitness center. (Seems like a curious detail to include, doesn’t it? Will it be relevant later?) I was running a webhosting co-op at the time. The idea was that Spindletop would provide the hardware while I would provide what we now call “cloud space” for their various websites and downloads. The software that ran the computers would be Debian GNU/Linux, an operating system based on the idea of near-absolute freedom.

Dealing with GNU/Linux meant dealing with Richard Stallman, the eccentric genius who had guided the creation of pretty much everything but the Linux kernel itself. I say “eccentric”, but what I’m really saying is that Stallman is mentally ill. I don’t know the correct words to describe that illness, but it manifests itself in dozens of different ways, from extreme hydrophobia (fear of water!) to various disturbing habits of phraseology, communication, and physical behavior. Nobody who knows Stallman thinks he is sane. By the same token, nobody would doubt his intelligence. He’s the only person I have ever met in person who struck me as being measurably smarter than I am, which sounds horrifyingly egotistical but is probably more a reflection of my choice in fellow-travelers.

Stallman agreed to eat dinner with me on the condition that he be permitted to order my meal and that I eat the whole thing without complaint. I wouldn’t have dinner with a resurrected John Coltrane under those conditions but there were plenty of great jazz musicians and there is only one Richard Stallman. The meal was an utter nightmare, of course. Everything he picked had the texture, and taste, of Jell-O made from dog vomit. I told myself that if G. Gordon Liddy could burn his own finger down to the tendon that I could finish a five-course “authentic” Chinese meal. Having done so, I managed to extract some absolutely brilliant ideas from him about software design and programming principles. “Come back to my office,” he suggested, and we headed out to walk over towards the MIT Media Lab. About ninety seconds into our walk, it started to rain. Just a light sprinkling, not build-the-ark stuff. Stallman screamed like a teenage girl, pulled his dashiki (yes!) over his head, and ran in waddling fashion towards MIT.

Twenty minutes later, I arrived at the Media Lab to find him huddling on the other side of the door, shaking. “Why did you not run?” he asked, in a whining monotone. “Is it because you are heavy?” (I was 195 pounds at the time; lighter than Stallman, half a foot taller.)

“Yes,” I replied, “my weight prevents rapid locomotion.” Stallman nodded in satisfied fashion. Two hours later, in the middle of demonstrating some bizarre Bulgarian folk dance, he looked over his shoulder at me and said, “I would be happier if you were not in the office.” He did not stop dancing. I took this as my cue to leave.

I mention all of this so you know precisely the sort of person who is in the middle of being crucified for “defending Epstein’s rape island” by his institutional rivals.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: Once Bitten, Twice Shy Edition

Somehow, I knew they were going to be trouble. A college-age girl and her (sugar?) daddy, each walking some kind of pitbull-mix thing, taking up the entire width of a ten-foot-wide pedestrian bridge. I rode up behind them and rang my Spurcycle bell. The woman’s dog, a Spuds-McKenzie thing, turned and stared at me. As I rode by, it bit me on the right calf, just under the knee.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: In Which The Author Attains Obsolescence Edition

I predicted this a year and a half ago, but I thought I’d have more time before it actually came to pass. This past weekend John and I went to Louisville for a BMX national race. The boy seemed tired both days and only made one of three possible main events, so on the way home Sunday I suggested we stop at Lebanon Bike Park, which is fast becoming one of his favorite places. I didn’t realize at the time that both of us were about to become no-kidding sick the following day and that John’s listlessness had been due to the fact that he was warming up to stay home for most of the school week.

My son enjoys competition and will create it anywhere he spots an opportunity. I wasn’t surprised when he started challenging the other children at the pump track to a few races, which he won. He then started working his way through the adults present, including two college-aged men on first-rate mountain bikes. Eventually I got tired of him dunking on civilians, so to speak, and I pulled him aside.

“Alright, enough messing around with people. I hope you don’t think you can beat me like that.”

“Then you hope wrong,” he responded. I frowned and put my helmet on.

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Weekly Roundup: The Children In The Playpen Edition

There’s been a lot of buzz in the media world this week about “The Adults In The Room”, a vicious, often irrational, and tiresomely bloated attack on Deadspin.com’s new ownership and management by Deadspin’s departing editor-in-chief, Megan Greenwell. Ms. Greenwell left the company because she disagreed with the idea that Deadspin, which was originally founded as a sports website, should return to that mission. It’s worth noting that Greenwell waited until she had secured a lucrative new job before writing her farewell, and no wonder; any sane potential employer would be horrified by the idea of a trusted employee using their media platform to lash out like this on their final day.

I’d like to take a minute to consider some of the high (or low) points in Greenwell’s article. Not because I agree or disagree with Deadspin’s new mission — I’ve never read Deadspin and never will, insofar as I have an equal and considerable lack of interest in both left-wing propaganda and sportsball minutiae — but rather because I’m fascinated by the way in which Greenwell rewrites history to suit her (their? I’m not sure on Greenwell’s pronoun of choice) emotions at this particular moment. The piece has a strong whiff of 1984 to it, which concerns me because Greenwell has had, and will continue to have, a position of considerable privilege and power. So let’s start by looking at what she has to say and asking ourselves: Is any of it true?

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: The Flattest Humans Edition

Are you a Twitter user? Well, that’s a shame. It can be hard to let that bad habit go; I have had trouble walking away myself, even though I should delete the app and never look back. Someone recently described the general tone, and effect, of Twitter as “a hangover without the party that comes first.” It’s a nonstop avalanche of political rage, bad opinions, and unnecessary combativeness. It’s now commonly understood that the net effect of most social media is depressive, but Twitter is the worst of a bad bunch.

With that said, if you’re still on the Twitter train, stop what you’re doing and follow Humans Of Flat immediately. It’s not just another smart-guy-dumps-on-bad-design account. It’s bigger than that.

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(Double) Weekly Roundup: Where I Belong Edition

It’s the most expensive city in the world, and it can feel a little straitlaced to an American, but if I had the means to live anywhere Singapore would be at, or near, the top of my list. Danger Girl and I spent the last two weeks in Asia taking part in the EVO Enduro from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Phuket Island, Thailand and we took a couple of decompression days at the Marina Bay Sands to wind the whole thing up. It wasn’t super-cheap, and we didn’t have any friendly automakers to foot the bill for it, but I have no regrets.

Singapore is squeaky-clean and completely safe. It’s one of the least corrupt countries in the world, which feels like a breath of fresh air after watching Jeffrey Epstein “commit suicide” in a closely-observed prison cell. Incidentally, the Epstein murder is probably an all-time low point in the history of American governance, regardless of whether you think he was killed by Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, or Ehud Barak. It is also a damning indictment of the media which tells us that everything is a “conspiracy theory”. This guy had a private pedophile island and somehow he was able to get Bill Clinton to dismiss his Secret Service protection so the two of them could… play Magic:The Gathering? How far-fetched does “PizzaGate” seem right now? What about the Vince Foster and Seth Rich stuff? Is there any “conspiracy theory” out there that is more outrageous than what actually happened in and around Epstein’s circle of friends?

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: Chrome Camry Edition

Let’s all laugh at the Chrome Camry, this jumped-up Kentucky prole-mobile with toothy delusions of grandeur. Let’s all take a moment to chuckle at the idea that this could be an upscale car in other markets. The idea that one would pay extra to ride in it, as was probably the case with this particular Camry spotted by me on the way back from yet another McDonald’s lunch in yet another foreign country. Isn’t that hilarious?

It’s definitely hilarious, as long as you don’t think too much or too hard.

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Weekly Roundup: You Get The Minimum for the MAX Edition

The Boeing 737 MAX 10 costs $134,900,000 — that’s about half of the price tag for an F-22 Raptor, but it’s five times as much as you’d pay for an Embraer 175 super-sized regional jet. Given that American Airlines was paying $48.4 million each for 737-800 jets a decade ago, you’d expect that the MAX 10 offers a lot of additional utility and capacity to go along with that significantly increased price. What you would not expect: that much of the software responsible for keeping the big little Boeing in the air was developed in Chennai, India at a cost of $9/hour.

But it was.

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Weekly Roundup: I Used To Do A Little But The Little Didn’t Do It Edition

This is CNN’s front page as of 9PM EST, 14 July 2019. I brought it up because I was curious to see what they are saying about Willen Van Spronsen, the fellow who brought a rifle to a privately-run immigration detention facility, started throwing Molotov cocktails at a propane tank, and died after being shot by police. His actions were no doubt at least partially influenced by media coverage of “concentration camps” and various calls to violent action from progressive media sources.

Think of him as Tim McVeigh, only far less effective, I guess. It has long been an article of faith among America’s left wing that McVeigh was stirred to action by a rising chorus of antigovernment voices such as Rush Limbaugh and G. Gordon Liddy. If you buy that argument, then it almost certainly applies to Van Spronsen as well, with the added unpleasantness of the voices in this case being so-called papers of record in the United States.

In any event, if you get your news from CNN you’ll learn a lot this evening. A YouTube star died. “Duchess Meghan Meets Queen Bey”. Serena Williams “drops the mic” on a reporter’s question. But you won’t see anything about Von Spronsen. He’s been memory-holed. Was it ever going to be any other way? So let’s focus instead on CNN’s headlines for the night. As you can see, particularly if you aren’t red/green colorblind, there’s a common theme.

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