The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

Tennessee Lawmakers Expelled From State House Over Gun Control Protests

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This week, Tennessee Republicans removed two of their black Democratic legislators, while miraculously allowing the white legislator to keep her job. Tennessee Republicans aren’t even trying to hide their bigotry. It is so obvious and egregious that it feels like something out of the 1950s.

Republicans voted to ban black lawmakers from their democratically elected positions for speaking out on gun violence. They banded together and accomplished this in 24 hours, even before debating the possibility of taking any action to curb gun violence after three children were slaughtered in school.

It is astounding to witness what the Republican Party can do and the speed with which they can do it when they put their minds to it. Expelling two black legislators who were protesting gun violence? They accomplished that in 24 hours. Trying to address the issue of nine-year-olds being shot in school? All they can offer are thoughts and prayers. Instead, they are actively working to loosen gun laws. Current bills on the floor include lowering the minimum age for carrying guns from 21 to 18 and allowing permit-less open carry or concealed carry of any gun, including AR-15s.

The Republicans are digging their own graves when it comes to the upcoming elections.

Why Lego Won

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Lego wasn’t the inventor of today ubiquitous plastic building blocks - it was a clone of the original called Kiddicraft.

Phil Edwards:

The first Lego plastic mold was the same one that Kiddicraft used, and early Lego bricks were almost identical to Kiddicraft blocks, with a few minor differences. They slightly changed the scale and the studs, but as you can see, they were pretty similar. Early Kiddicraft blocks had little slots in the side for windows and other attachments. So did early Lego bricks. From top to bottom, these were very similar to Kiddicraft blocks. So with such a simple idea that had kind of already been done, how did Lego win?

Lego out engineered Kiddicraft - Lego built a better brick.

India's 10,000 Forgotten Mansions

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Soumya Gayatri for BBC Travel:

More than 10,000 lavish mansions dot the Chettinad region, many of them spanning tens of thousands of square feet. These gigantic, often glamorous, houses were built by the rich merchant families of the Nattukottai Chettiar community, who amassed great wealth by trading precious stones in Southeast Asia. They rose to the peak of their economic power in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, when most mansions were built.


Today, Chettinad is famous for its fiery chicken Chettinad dish and the much sought-after antiques from Karaikudi, but most travellers remain unaware of these luxurious mansions spread over the remaining 73 villages in the region. Although most of them lie in ruins, a handful have been converted into heritage hotels and museums by enthusiastic owners who are working to keep the Chettiar legacy alive.




“Renovation expenses of Chettinad’s homes can run into thousands of dollars. And, this is not a one-time cost, these buildings require regular upkeep and repair,” Rajivkumar explained. “Add to that a lack of interest among multiple owners, and conservation becomes a herculean task.”

But both Meyyappan and Chandramouli are optimistic. “Only 10% of Chettinad’s mansions have received tourist makeovers so far, whereas 30% have been completely destroyed. It is our job to resuscitate the remaining 60% by working together as a community,” Chandramouli said.

This is something that the Indian government should take on - the expenses could easily be recouped by tourist income.

Parking Lots 'Eat' U.S. Cities

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Frank Jacobs writes at Big Think:

It’s hard to think of a pithier one to describe the parking pandemic blighting America’s city centers — except perhaps the title of a Bloomberg article on the same topic: “Parking has eaten America’s cities”.

That article cites a 2018 study of the space and money devoted to parking in five American cities. In that year, both Seattle and Des Moines had 1.6 million parking spaces. New York City had 1.85 million, and Philadelphia 2.2 million. Tiny Jackson, Wyoming had 100,000 parking spaces, roughly one for each inhabitant.

Seattle had 30 parking spaces per acre, roughly five times the number of residential units. In Des Moines, the parking-to-housing ratio per acre was around 20 to 1. Only New York had more housing units than parking spaces per acre. That worked out to 0.6 parking spaces per household (but then again, only 45% of New York households own a car).

On average, about one-fifth of all land in city centers is dedicated to parking. But what’s the actual harm being done by all that parking space? For one, city centers that are more “parkable” become less walkable. In other words, fewer things are casually accessible.

Even if you’re no fan of walking, perhaps you like a roof over your head. However, the abundance of parking spaces, often mandated for new developments by city governments, has left a lot less space for anything else, making housing in city centers scarcer and more expensive.

Looking at these maps - it’s shocking to see how much space is dedicated to cars. No wonder we have an affordable housing crisis in urban centers. Not to mention an utter lack of character and community. This is could all be easily solved if we ban personal cars in city centers and force people to park on an outrim and use public transportation to get in and out of cities.

The above images is from Arlington, Texas. What is really interesting is parking mapped in New York City:


Why the discrepancy? Apparently the high real-estate prices have deemed parking lots to expensive.

And the results are obvious to anyone who has visited NYC. Excellent transportation systems, walkable city and a vibrant city center. Still doesn’t address the affordable housing issue - in the case of NYC its primarily zoning and tax policy issue. But thats a topic for an another post.

Donald Trump Indicted

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trump indected

The New York Times:

A Manhattan grand jury voted to indict Donald J. Trump on Thursday for his role in paying hush money to a porn star, according to four people with knowledge of the matter, a historic development that will shake up the 2024 presidential race and forever mark him as the nation’s first former president to face criminal charges.

The felony indictment, filed under seal by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, will likely be announced in the coming days. By then, prosecutors working for the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, will have asked Mr. Trump to surrender and to face arraignment on charges that remain unknown for now. […]

He will be fingerprinted. He will be photographed. He may even be handcuffed.

And the former president of the United States of America will be read the standard Miranda warning: He will be told that he has the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.

Finally. The wheels of justice may be slow, but they will turn.

George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Lawrence Kasdan Brainstorming Indy

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Indiana Jones

While vacationing in Hawaii Lucas, Spielberg and Kasdan are all brainstorming ideas for what would become Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. The entire transcript is available as a PDF - all glorious 90 pages.

Here is a fascinating conversation as the three flesh out Indy’s character:

Lucas - Now, several aspects that we’ve discussed before: The image of him which is the strongest image is the “Treasure Of Sierra Madre” outfit, which is the khaki pants, he’s got the leather jacket, that sort of felt hat, and the pistol and holster with a World War One sort of flap over it. He’s going into the jungle carrying his gun. The other thing we’ve added to him, which may be fun, is a bull whip. That’s really his trade mark. That’s really what he’s good at. He has a pistol, and he’s probably very good at that, but at the same time he happens to be very good with a bull whip. It’s really more of a hobby than anything else. Maybe he came from Montana, someplace, and he… There are freaks who love bull whips. They just do it all the time. It’s a device that hasn’t been used in a long time.

Spielberg - You can knock somebody’s belt off and the guys pants fall down.

Lucas - You can swing over things, you can…there are so many things you can do with it. I thought he carried it rolled up. It’s like a Samurai sword. He carries it back there and you don’t even notice it. That way it’s not in the way or anything. It’s just there whenever he wants it.

Spielberg - At some point in the movie he must use it to get a girl back who’s walking out of the room. Wrap her up and she twirls as he pulls her back. She spins into his arms. You have to use it for more things than just saving himself.

Lucas - We’ll have to work that part out. In a way it’s important that it be a dangerous weapon. It looks sort of like a snake that’s coiled up behind him, and any time it strikes it’s a real threat.

Kasdan - Except there has to be that moment when he’s alone with a can of beer and he just whips it to him.

Patrick Radden Keefe at the New Yorker read through the whole thing and has a wonderful write up:

Over the intervening decades of enormous wealth and success, both Lucas and Spielberg have carefully tended their public images, so there is a voyeuristic thrill to seeing them converse in so unguarded a manner. As the screenwriters Craig Mazin and John August pointed out recently on the Scriptnotes podcast, one delight of reading the transcript is watching Spielberg throw out bad ideas, and then noting how Lucas gently shuts him down. Spielberg, who had sought to direct a Bond movie-and, astonishingly, been rejected-thought that their hero should be an avid gambler. Lucas replied that perhaps they shouldn’t overload him with attributes. (Lucas himself had briefly entertained, then mercifully set aside, the notion that his archaeologist might also be a practitioner of kung fu.) There’s a good reason we seldom get to spy on these conversations: really good spitballing, like improv comedy, requires a high degree of social disinhibition. So the writers’ room, like a therapist’s office, must remain inviolable.

It’s fascinating to read genius at work.

Amazon Kills DPReview

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DPreview will be shutting down an April 10th after 25 years of amazing content and service to the photo community. Devin Coldewey, writing at TechCrunch:

The team’s knowledge, acumen and extensive objective testing contributed to reviews that famously reached near-comical lengths at times, but that was because shortcuts simply were not taken: You could be sure that even minor models were getting not just a fair shake, but the same treatment a flagship model received. Its back catalog of camera reviews and specs is an incredible resource that I have consulted hundreds of times. […]

Somehow Amazon never really found a way to capitalize on this one-of-a-kind asset, and DPReview has carried on over the years more or less untouched, to the point where it seems possible its parent company forgot they owned them. It’s hard not to see the opportunities that present themselves when you own one of the world’s leading expert voices on a major category, but perhaps unsurprisingly, no one thought to invest in and integrate DPReview closely with Amazon’s other properties. It isn’t the first time the left hand and right hand have been incommunicado at that company.

What really upsets me is that Amazon will not be providing an archive of the site. They can easily serve up a static site on S3 that would cost virtually nothing to Amazon.

This Generation's Challenge

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Pulitzer prize winning biographer, presidential historian John Meacham on the pending indictment of former Presidend Donald Trump:

It is incumbent on us to tell a different story. To tell the story than in fact, the constitution matters. The rule of law matters.


This is gong to sound bit grand, but I believe firmly that this generation will be judged our success or failure at standing up to totalitarian impulse in the United States.

The Greatest Generation rose up and faced that challenge on the war torn fields of Europe. Our generation will have to face it within our own country – hopefully through our legal system.

Students Are Turning Away From College

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University of

Douglas Belkin reporting for the Wall Street Journal

Family conversations like the one in Ms. Cruz’s living room are bubbling up around the country as high-school seniors recalibrate their options after the pandemic prompted a historic disengagement from school. The result has been the acceleration of a shift away from the nation’s half-century “college-for-all” model toward a choice of either college or vocational programs—including apprenticeships.

Today, colleges and universities enroll about 15 million undergraduate students, while companies employ about 800,000 apprentices. In the past decade, college enrollment has declined by about 15%, while the number of apprentices has increased by more than 50%, according to federal data and Robert Lerman, a labor economist at the Urban Institute and co-founder of Apprenticeships for America.

Apprenticeship programs are increasing in both number and variety. About 40% are now outside of construction trades, where most have traditionally been, Dr. Lerman said. Programs are expanding into white-collar industries such as banking, cybersecurity and consulting at companies including McDonald’s Corp. , Accenture PLC and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

This is definitely a step in the right direction - there are many jobs that really don’t require a college degree. Most of these can be done by learning on the job. However, there is a danger to this trend. Many young people could be left ill prepared with the fundamental knowledge (mathematics, communications skills, history) needed to progress in their careers. Of course this is what corporations want - a captive workforce that is easy to retain and easily controlled.

I would say for those students who enter college with a clear vision of a profession with realistic ROI on the 4 years and the money spent - college is still the best option. If you are going to college to “find yourself” or as a 4 year right of passage, maybe an internship is the right path for you. You don’t need to go to college to go on drinking binges and all night parties.

The way I look at it - if the path of study you are going to isn’t STEM based or does not require a license of some kind, you might want to consider the apprenticeship path.

Blackberry - Official Trailer

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A fictional story of the rise and fall of Reasearch in Motion (RIM). We all know how it ends - the enitre cell phone industry simutaneously hit an ice berg called the iPhone. Still, it should make a compelling story of how it all went down.

Age Verify Kids Online, but Not at Meat Processing Plants

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In an update to yesterday’s story about new labor laws, the state of Arkansas is requiring age verification for minors to access materials that are considered harmful. Okay, I can probably get behind that one. But at the same time Arkansas’s governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has signed into law a labor bill to remove age verification for those under 16.

Mike Masnick puts it best:

Too young to see a nipple, but never too young to be put to labor cleaning a meatpacking plant where you can have your own skin burned and blistered.

The Republican way.

Great Art Explained:A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat

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James Payne narrates a series of films where he looks at great and important works of art. The latest episode is about the pointillist masterpiece by Georges Seurat, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.

The lack of narrative means we really should look to the artist’s obsession with form, technique and theory — which is practically all he wrote about — and not to meaning or subject matter - which he didn’t write about at all. The painting is really his manifesto. His protagonists don’t have faces or body language, neither a history nor individuality. They are reduced to a hat, a corset, or a pet. They are just characters in his frieze. They exist only to give perfect balance to the composition.

Some paintings are designed for the viewer to “empathise with” but Seurat keeps us at arm’s length. We are not invited to “participate” in the promenade, and their psychological distance is clear. Both with their neighbors, and with us. It was ancient art that Seurat looked to — of Egypt and Greece. He once said that he “wanted to make modern people move about as they do on the Parthenon Frieze”, and placed them on canvases organized by harmonies of colour. It is what makes the painting so intriguing.

Highly recomend watching his excellent YouTube channel.

States Using 14 Year Olds to Fill Labor Shortage

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child labor

Combined with an aging population and workers generally demanding better compensation and benefits for their work, the US is currently facing a labor shortage. In a sensible capitalist system, businesses would be compelled to improve compensation and work conditions to attract employees. However, leave it to the Republican Party to present a novel idea: having children as young as 14 join the labor pool.

I have worked my whole life, and I support the idea of kids taking on jobs. It teaches them the values of hard work, discipline, and the importance of money—all positive aspects. However, it is crucial to recognize that these reasons are not why Republicans are pushing for these new regulations. Their primary motive is simply to benefit their wealthy donor class.

It is already concerning that we are forcing young children back into factories, but what’s truly tragic is that these laws are stripping away worker protections and shielding employers from liabilities at the expense of child safety.

As Jason Lalljee reporting for the Insider:

The laws take aim at the number of hours that children are allowed to work and protect employers from liabilities due to sickness or accidents. In the case of the latter, those employer protections dovetail with the kind of dangerous industries the bills are looking to prop up: construction in Minnesota, and meatpacking plants in Iowa. The bills come as efforts to expand legal working ages in other states have ramped up recently, and as the US has seen an increase in child labor violations since 2015.

These are not the mall/retail jobs or the local small business positions that many of us worked while growing up. These are potentially hazardous jobs that involve physical labor, leaving little time and energy for what children should be doing—getting educated and developing the social skills necessary to become productive members of society.

Besides, there is an obvious solution to the current labor shortage that has proven to be quite effective in filling labor gaps in the past.

And the Labor Board research bears it out:

The results indicate that higher wages along with additional non-wage benefits would have expanded the labor supply,

Should be obvious, but the pursuit of profit has led certain members of the business class to prioritize hiring children instead of providing a living wage to adults.

From being able to support a family with only the husband salary, to barely supporting it even with two full time salaries, all the way back to child labor. The transformation back into feudalism is nearly complete. Hope you’re happy with the freedom to develop your slave career.

To the parents who are about to send their kids to the factories and slaughter houses, you might want to read The Jungle by Upton Sinclaire.

New Manhattan

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New Manhattan

Jason Barr, a professor at Rutgers, has a plan to expand NYC by building an entirely new borough of the city – “New Manhattan” – by reclaiming 1,760 acres of the surrounding rivers and ocean.

The point is that while such a plan might cost maybe $100 billion to build, the market value of the new buildings can be worth an order of magnitude more by virtue of the new housing, new offices, new retail, new hotels, new museums, new schools, etc.

Now that’s an ambitious proposal - it would be an amazing project if this gets funded.

Archive of Zork Maps

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Zork Map

It is pitch black, you are likely to be eaten by a grue.

I spent the entire summer of 1985 exploring the Zork I: The Great Under Ground Empire on the C64 that my parents had purchased from one of my neighbors. I can’t tell you how many nights were spent getting eaten by Grues and getting mugged by that pesky thief.

Needless to say I had a messy graph paper based map that I had created - although they looked nothing like these. Ah, the good old days!

Motion for a Summary Judgment Against Fox “News”

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Dominion Voting Systems, seeking motion for a summary judgment against Fox “News”:

Finally. Fox has conceded what it knew all along. The charges Fox broadcast against Dominion are false. Fox does not spend a word of its brief arguing the truth of any accused statement. Fox has produced no evidence — none, zero — supporting those lies. This concession should come as no surprise. Discovery into Fox has proven that from the top of the organization to the bottom, Fox always knew the absurdity of the Dominion “stolen election” story. Now, having failed to put in any evidence to the contrary (because no such evidence exists), Fox has conceded the falsity of the Dominion allegations it broadcast.

That concession is no small thing. Thirty percent or more of Americans still believe the lie that the 2020 election was stolen. The heart of that lie remains the false conspiracy theory that Fox legitimized and mainstreamed starting on November 8 — that Dominion stole the election, using secret algorithms in its software originally designed for a Venezuelan dictator. Because of these lies, Dominion now may be “one of the most demonized brands in the United States or the world.” Dominion employees still endure threats and harassment. So it matters that Fox in private ridiculed — and never believed — the lie. And it matters that Fox has now in this litigation conceded these allegations were false.


Fox seeks a First Amendment license to knowingly spread lies. Fox would have this Court create an absolute legal immunity for knowingly spreading false allegations — lies — for profit, regardless of how absurd the lies are, regardless how many people in the chain of command know the lies are false, and regardless how many people are hurt — so long as the false claims are “newsworthy.” Fox proffers a completely made-up “rule,” contrary to decades of jurisprudence since New York Times v. Sullivan. As Judge Nichols ruled in rejecting MyPillow’s analogous argument that the First Amendment provides “blanket protection” from defamation for statements about a “‘public debate in a public forum,’” “there is no such immunity. Instead, the First Amendment safeguards our ‘profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open,’ by limiting viable defamation claims to provably false statements made with actual malice.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if its granted with all of the evidence that has been out in the public.

Ukrainian Postage Stamp: FCK PTN

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Ukranian Postage Stamp says FCK PTN

From The Gaurdian:

The image draws inspiration from the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, known to be a black belt in judo, and depicts a young judoka representing Ukraine knocking down a grown man.

The phrase “FCK PTN” in Cyrillic has been added to the lower left part of the new stamp.

And you can purchase your own stamp sheet directly from the Ukraine postal service here - they are shipping world wide! I have ordered mine it will be framed and placed on my office wall.