I would love to know how this beautiful Schwinn Super Le Tour made it from Minnesota in the 1970s to Noe Valley in the 2020s.

— October 17, 2020

Days before the lockdown, we visited the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden and I shot with my film camera for the first time in over a decade.

— September 27, 2020

Your Phone Wasn’t Built for the Apocalypse

It looked like Mars, or the Southern Californian wasteland in Blade Runner 2049, or the deserts of Dune. Almost 100 wildfires have ravaged the western United States in the past month, scattering particles of ash and smoke into the air and forcing 500,000 people to evacuate their homes in Oregon alone. On Wednesday, residents across the West, already suffering from a pandemic, economic collapse, wildfires, and dangerously bad air quality, woke up to a dark, bronzed sky that nearly shut out all daylight. As the day wore on, the smoke thickened and receded, making the city seem red at some hours, amber at others. Masks to ward off the coronavirus now served double duty.

But as people tried to capture the scene, and the confusion and horror that accompanied it, many noticed a strange phenomenon: Certain photographs and videos of the surreal, orange sky seemed to wash it out, as if to erase the danger….

Under the blood-red San Francisco sky, white balance doesn’t have a reference against which to calibrate accurately. Because everything was tinted red, the software assumed that the entire scene was generally neutral. People felt confused or even betrayed when their phone cameras transformed the tiger sky into images that washed out the orange, or in some cases made it look mostly gray, like an overcast day.

It’s hard to describe how distrurbing this was to experience. I also struggled to capture it, but failed.

Giraffes at the San Francisco zoo under a red sky my phone couldn't capture

I wish I could say this will be a wake up call to get serious about climate change, reducing the wildland-urban interface, and forest management. But I’m not sure it will be.

— September 13, 2020

I’m breaking up with sourdough bread baking

Every word of this is true.

Sourdough, I’m breaking up with you.

It’s not you, it’s me. Actually, who am I kidding? It’s you. You’re the worst. At this point, sourdough, you have left me crying alone in my kitchen one too many late nights, my sweatpants caked in flour, and I can’t justify putting myself through the agony any longer….

Look, I wasn’t perfect. I didn’t want you to find out this way, but I have to come clean: I baked bread with yeast back in May. Only once, I swear. OK, a couple of times. And you know what, sourdough? It was great. That yeasted bread respected my time. It was so easy to get along with. The conversation just flowed. And I went to sleep that night without feeling consumed by guilt and failure.

— August 1, 2020

When Is a Nazi Salute Not a Nazi Salute?

America First rally, New York, 1941

Are Senator Wheeler, Charles Lindbergh, and Kathleen Norris giving the Nazi salute or a more begein flag salute at this 1941 America First rally, as some of their modern-day apologists argue?

This is an interesting deep dive into a contested Getty photo caption. The caption turns out to be wrong in more than one day, and Matt Seaton digs deep into the archives to piece together what is most likely true.

— August 1, 2020

Declaration of Independence edits

I have been listening to the Revolutions podcast back catalog, and finished the American Revolution just in time for the Fourth of July. One of the things I learned which I didn’t know much about was the editing process of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress. Thomas Jefferson’s first draft went a little overboard in a few places, including asserting the King had foisted slavery on the colonists. Jefferson owned many slaves and one of them, Robert Hemmings was with him in Philadelphia when he drafted the Declaration.

I thought it would be fun to make a git repository of the changes made by the editors, but fortunately Karl Becker already did it, including a comment from @big-ben-franklin striking the line about slavery.

— July 6, 2020

I Wanted to Know What White Men Thought About Their Privilege. So I Asked.

Claudia Rankine teaches Constructions of Whiteness at Yale. She writes about trying to talk to white men about privilege while traveling first class.

This scene, my god:

I was waiting in another line for access to another plane in another city as another group of white men approached. When they realized they would have to get behind a dozen or so people already in line, they simply formed their own line next to us. I said to the white man standing in front of me, “Now, that is the height of white male privilege.” He laughed and remained smiling all the way to his seat. He wished me a good flight. We had shared something. I don’t know if it was the same thing for each of us — the same recognition of racialized privilege — but I could live with that polite form of unintelligibility.

I found the suited men who refused to fall in line exhilarating and amusing (as well as obnoxious). Watching them was like watching a spontaneous play about white male privilege in one act. I appreciated the drama. One or two of them chuckled at their own audacity. The gate agent did an interesting sort of check-in by merging the newly formed line with the actual line. The people in my line, almost all white and male themselves, were in turn quizzical and accepting.

Finally, she does challenge a seatmate on something he says. Unlike so many, he doesn’t get defensive but accepts the feedback and they have a good conversation. I hope I would do the same.

Eventually, he told me he had been working on diversity inside his company. “We still have a long way to go,” he said. Then he repeated himself — “We still have a long way to go” — adding, “I don’t see color.” This is a statement for well-meaning white people whose privilege and blind desire catapult them into a time when little black children and little white children are judged not “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” The phrase “I don’t see color” pulled an emergency brake in my brain. Would you be bringing up diversity if you didn’t see color? I wondered. Will you tell your wife you had a nice talk with a woman or a black woman? Help.

All I could think to say was, “Ain’t I a black woman?” I asked the question slowly, as if testing the air quality. Did he get the riff on Sojourner Truth? Or did he think the ungrammatical construction was a sign of blackness? Or did he think I was mocking white people’s understanding of black intelligence? “Aren’t you a white man?” I then asked. “Can’t you see that? Because if you can’t see race, you can’t see racism.” I repeated that sentence, which I read not long before in Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility.”

“I get it,” he said. His tone was solemn. “What other inane things have I said?”

“Only that,” I responded.

I had refused to let the reality he was insisting on be my reality. And I was pleased that I hadn’t lubricated the moment, pleased I could say no to the silencing mechanisms of manners, pleased he didn’t need to open up a vein of complaint. I was pleased he was not passively bullying. I was pleased he could carry the disturbance of my reality. And just like that, we broke open our conversation — random, ordinary, exhausting and full of a shared longing to exist in less segregated spaces.

— July 5, 2020

General CQ Brown, Jr: What I'm Thinking About

— June 6, 2020

Campaign Zero

Samuel Sinyangwe has a useful Twitter thread of police reform policies that have been passed around the US.

He is one of the leaders of Campaign Zero which aims to eliminate police violence in America. Police violence is a huge problem, as the Washington Post Fatal Force project documents. It disproportionately affects African Americans and Hispanics, but police violence kills many white people, too. It is a wide-spread problem which must be fixed.

— May 31, 2020

My fellow brothers and sisters in blue, what the hell are you doing?

Florida congresswoman and former Orlando Chief of Police Val Demings on the urgent need for police reform:

My heart goes out to the families of those who have lost loved ones. But we must also offer justice through full and swift accountability — not just for their loved one, but for the future.

In Minnesota, we have no choice but to hold the officers accountable through the criminal-justice system. But we cannot only be reactive. We must be proactive. We must work with law enforcement agencies to identify problems before they happen.

As a nation, we must conduct a serious review of hiring standards and practices, diversity, training, use-of-force policies, pay and benefits (remember, you get what you pay for), early warning programs, and recruit training programs. Remember, officers who train police recruits are setting the standard for what is acceptable and unacceptable on the street.

— May 31, 2020