I think the fix is in

First the Supreme Court grants our former president magical and unlimited king-like powers of immunity against any and all crimes, as long as he can say “I did it in my official capacity.”

Then a would-be assassin manages to miss a clear shot with an AR-15 from a mere 400 feet away — which is a pretty astonishing thing to do if you know anything about firearms. Which leads to a supposedly unscripted “raised fist” visual that seems custom made for mugs, t-shirts and future flags with black symbols in white circles against red backgrounds.

Now judge Cannon dismisses the documents case by pretending that she is not aware of 28 U.S. Code ยง 533, which authorized the appointment of the special counsel.

I am starting to think that the fix is in.

Two kinds of literacy

See if you can match the name in the first column with the name in the second column.

1 Austen A Asquitho
2 Boccaccio B Bogdanovich
3 Dickens C Brooks
4 Dostoevsky D Clayton
5 Fitzgerald E Corman
6 Forster F Ford
7 Hardy G Huston
8 Heller H Ivory
9 James I Jackson
10 Kafka J Lean
11 Melville K Lee
12 Pasternak L Nichols
13 Poe M Polanski
14 Steinbeck N Pasolini
15 Tolkien O Schlesinger
16 Wells P Scorsese
17 Wilde Q Welles
18 Wharton R Whale

Cousins

Cousins share a pair of grandparents. Second cousins share a pair of great-grandparents.

This leads to some interesting and non-trivial puzzles. For example, as you go up from second cousin to third cousin to fourth cousin, on the average, how many nth cousins do you have?

What kind of curve describes the rate of increase? Is there any reasonable way of figuring this out?

Research versus demo

If you spend years working in an area of research, that activity starts to become its own little world. And like any human world, that world begins to develop its own language and culture.

A problem and then arise when you try to explain your work to others. From the perspective of many listeners, you are speaking an alien language. At best they try their best to understand that language. At worst, they are resentful of how your well meaning explanation is, in a sense, making them feel illiterate.

Which is why it is important to distinguish between the research and the demo. A demo does not try to explain things fully. Rather, it tries to communicate why what you have been working on is meaningful or important to others.

One of the hardest things to do in research is to separate yourself from all of those technical details that you are so proud of, and think about what you’ve been doing might mean to others. Once you can do that, you can start to design a great demo.

All my failures

Many years ago, a Ph.D. student of mine subtitled his Doctoral dissertation “All My Failures”. Over the years I have come to understand how profoundly on target that statement was.

The nature of successful science is to embrace failure. Sure, we can celebrate the “Eureka” moment, but most of science is about doggedly trying things, and knowing that most of the things you try will fail.

Those failures are at least as important as the occasional successes. If you don’t understand the ways up the mountain that don’t lead to the top, you can’t really understand the mountain.

That student’s thesis was well written not just because he demonstrated some successful results (which he did), but because he also described the places of failure — the many experiments that did not work out. And sometimes it is in the understanding of those places that the deepest truths can be found.

Don’t Let SCOTUS OutVote Us

On Thursday July 27 our Supreme Court issued a set of rulings that severely weakened the ability of Federal agencies to protect
U.S. citizens.

On that day I thought up the slogan “Don’t Let SCOTUS OutVote Us.”

This was actually one day before another Supreme Court ruling essentially set up Donald Trump to become a dictator in January 2025. I know that sounds crazy, but if you study the January 28 decision, you will see that it is quite literally true.

That ruling will place Trump above the law and answerable to nobody for any act, no matter how venal or corrupt or harmful, as long as he can claim “I’m doing this in my official capacity as president.”

So now it is even more urgent. U.S. citizens are likely to lose fundamental rights that they have never even questioned before, as we careen toward becoming a authoritarian state. Imagine that — six people just summarily took away the rights of 300 million people.

To paraphrase Sinclair Lewis, it can happen here.