Can’t Satisfy Everyone

Some days you just can’t win. Also known as “you can’t please everybody”.

Case in point–and I’m making no assumptions here about how tuned-in you are to the current news: On April 29th, a couple of black men were hanging out near Lake Merritt in Oakland. They had a charcoal grill, but they were in an area of the park that only allowed non-charcoal grills.

This is not what most people would consider a major breach of the law.

On seeing such depraved behavior–charcoal grilling in a gas-only zone–the average person would probably shrug. At most, she’d go over to the scofflaws and say, “Hey guys, you can’t use that grill here.” If she was an optimistic sort, she might even point them to the nearest area where charcoal grills are allowed.

And at that point, the outlaw grill-meisters would either move or they wouldn’t. Either way, the supporter of the law would feel a modest glow for having done her duty.

That’s not what happened in this case.

A white woman confronted the men and called the police. She then stood nearby for two hours until the police arrived, at which point she accused the men of harassing her.

Needless to say, this didn’t go over well in Oakland. A protest was organized. Fortunately, it was not a march through the streets. Historically, those haven’t turned out well in Oakland, with vandals and looters using the marches as cover and excuse to make matters worse.

No, this protest was appropriate to the situation: a mass barbecue in the same area of the park, complete with a city permit, local corporate participation, and a voter registration drive. Thousands of people showed up, and by all reports, a good time was had by all.

Except, one presumes, the woman who originally confronted the men.

The punchline here, and the reason I say you can’t please everyone:

As it should, the SF Chronicle ran a story yesterday about the protest. Today’s paper included a letter to the editor from a reader in Palo Alto who was deeply offended by the story. She said, in part, that she “found it upsetting to read of the carnage required to make this protest.”

Yup. She’s hijacking a protest against racial injustice to protest to expound on the moral superiority of vegetarianism and promote animal rights.

With all due respect to the letter writer, this is exactly the sort of mission creep that dooms projects of any sort. Focus, solve one problem at a time, or work in parallel. Don’t undercut the work of others or insist that they work for your cause as well as their own.

Unless, of course, you’re more interested in protesting for the sake of protesting, rather than achieving a goal.

The Group W Bench

The latest twist in the publishing industry–and the latest hot topic of discussion among authors, agents, editors, and other industry types–is the morality clause. Rachel Deahl’s write-up in Publishers Weekly is a good overview.

The TL;DR is that, in reaction to the #MeToo movement and high profile cases such as Milo Yiannopoulos, publishers are demanding the ability to drop an author if he or she says or does something the publisher believes will affect their ability to sell the author’s books.

I’ve got mixed feelings about this. They range from “I don’t like it” to “I loathe it.”

I’d be less bothered–not okay with it, but less concerned–if such clauses were very narrowly drawn, citing specific causes for termination. Unfortunately, by all reports, current boilerplate contracts are very vaguely worded, giving the publisher free rein to decide what constitutes moral turpitude. As one agent notes in Ms. Deahl’s article, there’s nothing to prevent a publisher from using a morality clause to get out of a multi-book deal that isn’t earning enough.

There’s definitely an Alice’s Restaurant vibe here. Publishers want to know if we’re moral enough to “join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages” (or whatever else it was we wrote about that the publisher liked enough to offer a contract) “after bein’ a litterbug.” Except, of course, they want to make sure we don’t turn to littering after we’ve served our stint as pyromaniacs.

Full disclosure: The contract for The RagTime Traveler does not include a morality clause. I’m free to say and do what I want, hindered only by my recognition of the law, societal standards, and my ability to get a contract for the next book.

Realistically, even under the best, most author-friendly contracts, publishers have plenty of ways to free themselves from an author they’ve had second thoughts about. Ms. Deahl notes the typical clause giving the publisher the sole right to determine if the manuscript is suitable for publication. There are other such clauses, and there are semi- or non-contractural options, including failing to publicize the book or allowing it to go out of print.

But by adding a morality clause, publishers are giving themselves a Get Out of Jail Free card. It’s good to see agents objecting to morality clauses. But publishers still have the final say on whether they’ll modify or drop the clause if the writer and agent object. They already have nearly all of the power in the relationship–only a few of the highest-profile writers have the option of declining a contract over a clause the publisher refuses to drop or modify, nor is self-publishing always an option.

Despite publishers’ claims that morality clauses are solely for self protection and won’t be used for censorship or financial reasons, the bottom line is that the contract is the contract.

One piece of advice writers hear over and over at the beginning of their careers is “Don’t accept a publisher’s assurance that [specific term of a contract] is never enforced. Publishing is a business, and that clause is there for a reason. It will be enforced.”

As always, interesting times are ahead.


One housekeeping note: Google I/O begins on Tuesday. As usual, I’ll be writing up my thoughts on the keynote announcements. Since I can’t do that until after the keynote, Tuesday’s post will be later than usual. Don’t panic if you don’t see anything from me in the morning. I haven’t forgotten you.

Well, Scoot

For anyone who hoped the Era of Disruption was almost over, I have one piece of advice: don’t hold your breath.

We’ve made some progress, but far from backing off on the importance of disruption in defining business models, today’s corporate warriors are doubling down.

That’s right, we’ve left the first period of the era and entered the second: the Period of Meta-disruption. We’re now seeing the disruptors disrupted. Nowhere is this clearer than in San Francisco.

Uber, Lyft, and their various brethren set out to disrupt the taxi industry, and in large part they’ve succeeded, especially here in the Bay Area. But now we’re getting a wave of companies out to disrupt the ride-hailing business model.

Three companies–Bird, LimeBike, and Spin–are pushing motorized scooters as superior to ride-hailing over short distances or when traffic is congested–and when is it not?

San Francisco was late in regulating ride-hailing (just as they were late in regulating short-term rentals) and the Board of Supervisors is determined to get ahead of the curve on scooter rentals.

Frankly, they don’t have a choice.

The model all three companies are pursuing is “convenience”. They want to be sure there’s always a scooter nearby. That means depositing caches of them in high-traffic areas and encouraging users to spread them around by leaving them at the end of their rides.

Which is great for the companies, of course, but not so great for the general public who wind up dodging scooters left on the sidewalk, in bus zones, truck loading zones, doorways, and basically anywhere there’s enough room for them.

And that’s without even considering the impracticality of forcing riders to abide by state and city laws requiring helmets and forbidding riding on the sidewalk. After all, if the app won’t unlock the scooter if the customer isn’t wearing a helmet, nobody would bother with the service.

I do agree that it’s not the rental companies’ job to enforce the law, but they could certainly do a better job of reminding riders that they shouldn’t ride on the sidewalk. Give ’em a great big warning–a sticker on the footboard, or a click-through screen in the app–and let the police take it from there.

On the other hand, it shouldn’t be necessary to get law enforcement involved on the parking end. It should be technologically possible to use the phone’s camera to take a picture of the parked scooter and then use a bit of AI to determine whether it’s been left in a safe spot. If not, just keep billing the user until they move it*. At fifteen cents a minute, people will figure out fairly quickly that it behooves them to not leave the thing where someone will trip over it.

* Or until someone else rents it, of course. Double-charging would be unethical.

All that said, despite the back-and-forth in the press between City and companies, I haven’t seen anyone address the question of privacy.

By design, the apps have to track users: where did they pick up the scooter, where did they leave it, where did they go, and how long did it take? All tied solidly to an identity (or at least to a credit card).

Who gets access to that information? Do the companies sell information to advertisers? Do the apps continue to track customers between scooter rentals?

Don’t forget, these companies think the way to launch their businesses is to dump a bunch of scooters on the street and let the market sort things out. Do you really want them knowing you used your lunch hour to visit a doctor? A bar–or maybe a strip club? How about a political demonstration?

Uber has certainly been tagged for over-zealous information collection. What safeguards do LimeBike, Spin, and Bird have in place to protect your identity?

Face It

Thousands–perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands–of people are deleting their Facebook accounts in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

And that’s great. I look forward with great anticipation to the day when the exodus reaches critical mass and I can delete my own account.

Keep in mind, I created my account when I started doing the writing thing. In today’s world of publishing, the best thing you can do for yourself as an author is to promote your books. And the best–the only–way to do that is to go where the people are.

It doesn’t do much good to do promotion on MySpace, LiveJournal, or any place else your potential readers aren’t. Today, that means Facebook. Yes, Twitter to a lesser extent. Much lesser.

At Facebook’s current rate of decline, I should be able to delete my account around the end of 2020. And that’s the best case scenario.

I’m assuming here that Facebook’s claimed two billion users statistic is grossly inflated. I’m also assuming that there are a million account deletions a day, which is, I suspect, also grossly inflated.

‘Cause, as Arwa Mahdawi said in The Guardian, “…there is not really a good replacement for Facebook.” She quotes Safiya Noble, a professor of information studies at USC: “For many people, Facebook is an important gateway to the internet. In fact, it is the only version of the internet that some know…”

And it’s true. Remember when millions of people thought AOL was the Internet? I think they’ve all moved to Facebook.

They’re not going to delete their accounts. Neither are the millions of people who say “You don’t have anything to be concerned about from surveillance if you haven’t done anything wrong.” Ditto for the people who still don’t regret voting for Trump and the ones who say “There are so many cameras watching you all the time anyway, what difference does it make if Facebook is watching too?”

Even if there’s a lot of overlap among those groups, that’s still hundreds of millions of accounts.

(Why isn’t the paranoid fringe–the people who literally wear aluminum foil hats to keep the government from controlling their minds–up in arms about Facebook? Is it only because they’re not “the government”? Or am I just not looking for their denunciations in the right places?)

Facebook isn’t going away any time soon. Not until the “new hot” comes along. If the new hot isn’t just Facebook under another name. Don’t forget that Instagram and WhatsApp are Facebook. They’re watching you the same way the parent company is, and if one of them captures the next generation of Internet users, it’ll be “The king is dead! Hail the new king, same as the old king!”

Unfortunately, stereotypes aside, those people who are staying on Facebook do read. And that means I need to keep my account open, touting my wares in their marketplace.

I’ve seen a number of people saying “If you can’t leave Facebook, at least cut down the amount of information you give them.” Which is good advice, but really tricky to do. Even if you follow all of the instructions for telling Facebook to forget what they already know, there are other things they track. You can tell them to forget what you’ve liked, but you can’t tell them to forget how long you looked at each article. (Yes, they do track that, according to credible reports. The assumption is that their algorithms give you more posts similar to ones you’ve spent a long time on.)

And then there are those apps. Those charming, wonderful apps.

I checked my settings to see how many apps I’d allowed to access my information. There were only eight, which puts me way down at the low end of the curve. It’s down to four now, two of which are necessary to have my blog posts show up on Facebook. And when I killed off two of the four, I got popups reminding me that removing their access to Facebook does not delete any data they’ve already gathered.

Should I be concerned that I didn’t get a warning about the other two?

But let’s assume a miracle. Say, half a billion accounts get closed. The FTC fines Facebook an obscene amount of money*. What happens next?

* They almost have to. How many of those 50,000,000 accounts compromised by CA belong to government officials. Officials who are now very worried about what CA–and thus whoever they’ve shared that data with, starting with the Trump family, the Russian government, and who knows who all else–has inferred about their non-governmental activities, health, sexual orientation, and so on. If the FTC doesn’t hammer Facebook, heads will roll, no matter who has control of Congress after the November elections.

Absolutely nothing. Facebook goes on. They make a show of contrition, talk up new controls they’ve put in place to keep anything of the sort from happening again*. And they keep marketing users’ personal information to anyone who might want to advertise.

* It will. We’ve seen every form of access-control ever invented hacked. The information exists, it’s valuable, therefor someone will steal it.

That’s their whole business model. They can’t change it. The only thing that might–and I emphasize “might”–kill Facebook would be for them to say, “You know, you’re right. It’s unethical for us to make money by selling your private information. We won’t do it any more. Oh, and effective immediately, Facebook will cost you $9.99 a month.”

How Lucky!

I’m starting to think Larry Niven was right.

One of the subplots in his Known Space stories involves, in short, breeding humans to be lucky. He postulates strict birth control laws combined with a lottery to distribute one-child exceptions to the laws. After several generations, there will be people whose ancestors are all lottery babies.

Whether that constitutes luck, I’ll let you decide.

But in the context of the stories, the eventual result is a group of people who are so lucky that nothing bad can ever happen to them. Even things that seem unfortunate will ultimately prove to have been the best thing that could have happened to the person.

With me so far? Okay, now consider this quote from “Flatlander,” one of Mr. Niven’s stories set before the rise of the lucky. The protagonist is watching a group of hobbyists who restore and drive old internal combustion engine cars on a stretch of freeway (which they also have to restore and maintain).

They were off. I was still wondering what kick they got driving an obsolete machine on flat concrete when they could be up here with us. They were off, weaving slightly, weaving more than slightly, foolishly moving at different speeds, coming perilously close to each other before sheering off — and I began to realize things.

Those automobiles had no radar.

They were being steered with a cabin wheel geared directly to four ground wheels. A mistake in steering and they’d crash into each other or into the concrete curbs. They were steered and stopped by muscle power, but whether they could turn or stop depended on how hard four rubber balloons could grip smooth concrete. If the tires loosed their grip, Newton’s First Law would take over; the fragile metal mass would continue moving in a straight line until stopped by a concrete curb or another groundcar.

“A man could get killed in one of those.”

“Not to worry,” said Elephant. “Nobody does, usually.”

“Usually?”

You know where I’m going with this, don’t you?

We don’t need no steenkin’ breeders’ lottery to breed ourselves for luck. We’re already doing it. Every time you get into a car, you’re taking your life in your hands.

The Interstate Highway System has encouraged drivers to drive faster and faster, generating impatience with anyone who doesn’t get with the program. Merriam-Webster claims the first known use of the word “gridlock” was in 1980. Certainly the phenomenon, along with “road rage” (1988), has been around longer than that.

But even if we go with 1980, that means roughly 130,000,000 Americans have been born only because their parents were lucky enough to survive on the roads long enough to breed. By now, we’re into at least the third generation.

And it shows. People keep finding new ways to ramp up the danger level.

Drivers are no longer content to honk if the car in front of them doesn’t move fast enough when the light changes. Now they honk and pull around the laggard, using the shoulder, adjoining lanes, and even the oncoming traffic lanes. In the rain, regardless of the presence of pedestrians, and despite the drivers in the adjoining lanes doing exactly the same thing.

Somehow, most of them survive. How lucky!

The next couple of decades are going to be interesting, but at this rate, by the time the kids born in 2050 are old enough to drive, they’ll be too lucky to ever have an accident. Think of all the money they’ll save on insurance, vehicle maintenance, and transit infrastructure!

Too Many Choices

It’s that time of year again.

You know, the one where all the major sports are going at once. Baseball is in Spring Training, hockey and basketball are into the second halves of their respective seasons with the playoffs approaching, and football is all about trades and cutting ties with players who’ve been arrested.

On top of that, the ever-popular Oscar season is over and college basketball’s March Madness is just ahead.

And, just to make it a perfect sweep, Daylight Savings Time kicks in this weekend, leaving us to sleepy to figure out what time the games we wanted to watch are on. I stand by last year’s observation that there is literally nothing President Trump could do that would raise his approval rating more than to do away with DST. Okay, yes, resigning would be a more popular move, but it wouldn’t raise his presidential approval score. Somebody tell him how many jobs it would create, reprogramming all the computers and IoT devices not to make the change. Feel free to exaggerate by a few orders of magnitude; he’ll never know the difference.

But I digress.

Of course, this year we’ve also got the popular game of guessing which member of Congress will be next to resign and which member of the administration will be next to be indicted, subpoenaed, and/or censured. I jest, naturally. As long as they remain part of the administration, they’re in a consequence-free zone. Just ask Kellyanne Conway, who’s been found to have committed multiple ethics violations again, but will undoubtedly not be disciplined this time either.

But I digress again. Sorry, I’m a bit grumpy today. I take some consolation in knowing Democrats are misbehaving too. The resignation of the mayor of Nashville, TN is currently the top trending story on Google–stepping down is a condition of her guilty plea to charges of embezzling city money to finance an affair.

Ms. Conway’s latest peccadilloes scored two ranks lower than Ms. Barry. She’d probably have done better with a new act. Unless you’re the Rolling Stones, you can’t get away with doing the same show over and over again, after all.

Number Two, by the way, is searches for tornado warnings after Illinois residents were incorrectly informed a tornado was imminent. Not as attention-grabbing as nuclear missiles, perhaps, but enough to beat out illegal acts by White House employees. No word yet regarding whether this error was also a result of poor computer interface design, or whether the person responsible will cooperate with the investigation.

Anyway, I’m glad we’ve got such a variety of entertainment choices these days. Enjoy your sport-of-choice!

It’s (Not) Raining Again

I hate to come off as a whiner. And I know it’s unreasonable for me to be unhappy with the weather we’re getting. In the face of snow in Rome, sub-zero temperatures across most of the US, and torrential rains in the Northwest, it seems petty to complain about what my local microclimate is experiencing.

Overnight lows in the thirties and daytime highs in the sixties probably sounds heavenly to a large part of the world’s population right now.

Typing with cold, stiff fingers sucks, and I feel guilty cranking the heat up, but truthfully, the temperatures aren’t what I feel compelled to complain about.

No, it’s the precipitation. Or rather, the lack of it.

All the signs say we’re heading for another drought summer. And then we get teases like this week. We were supposed to get rain. Maybe not enough to restock the reservoirs and fill out the snowpack, but at least a gesture in the direction of liquidity.

Sunday night’s forecast called for rain all week. Scattered showers, mostly, but every day. So what happened?

Yesterday we had clear skies most of the day. Around 4:30 it clouded up and we got maybe ten minutes of not-very-hard rain. And now the forecast is for sun today and clouds-but-no-significant-rain the rest of the week.

Not only is this no way to run a railroad, it’s no way to run any other business. If I could figure out who’s in charge, I’d call and file a complaint. Or, since this isn’t the first time, perhaps I should explore legal options. There are, after all, laws against this sort of bait and switch operation.

Seriously, though, this sort of brief, rainy interlude is cause for concern. We’re going to have a dry summer, not just this year, but most years going forward. The State Water Resources Control Board is considering permanent bans on watering median strips, doing any watering within forty-eight hours of a rainfall, and washing cars without a shut-off spigot on the hose.

Those are small measures, but they promote a “save water” attitude. Multiple short rains, such as we seem to be getting now, have an opposite effect. The little voice in the back of your head saying, “We’ve had so many rainy days, how can we be short on water?” doesn’t encourage conservation.

So, whoever’s running the rain spigots, quit playing games. Either give us all the rain we need, or don’t give us any.

Super?

Yes, I watched the Super Bowl. Sorry, Jackie.

I could try to spin it, I suppose. An ecumenical gesture toward those who follow the Faith of the Oblong Ball, perhaps. But the truth is simpler and arguably less worthy. I wanted to see the Patriots lose.

Sure, I had some secondary motivations: wanting to see the commercials and the half-time show in context–important for proper snarkage–foremost. But the bottom line is that the Patriots exemplify all that’s wrong with sports teams setting themselves up as “America’s Team”. Like the Dallas Cowboys, LA Lakers, and Atlanta Braves* of yore, and the Yankees of, well, any day, they exhibit an arrogance and an attitude of entitlement that cries out for humbling.

* Ted Turner has much to answer for.

So it’s easy to root against the Patriots. It was harder to root for the Eagles, since–as Maggie reminded me–they’re the ones who brought Michael Vick back into football. But since they were the only team who had a chance to beat the Patriots on Sunday, we used the proverbial long spoon.

And I took notes, because that’s what writers do. Herewith, my thoughts on Super Bowl LII.

MassMutual served notice even before the kickoff that this was not last year’s television spectacle of Fox-sponsored odes to Amurrica. Can’t argue with the moral of the ad–don’t count on the government to help you through a disaster–but it would have been a stronger message if they’d mentioned Puerto Rico.

As expected, the camera angles during “The Star-Spangled Banner” made it impossible to tell whether anyone was kneeling or sitting. NBC’s not going to risk those glorious advertising dollars over three minutes of air time.

Apparently Sprint is fully prepared for the imminent robot rebellion, and is ready to placate our new robotic overlords from Day One.

Seriously, Turkish Air? If they think Dr. Oz is qualified to talk about the wonders of the human body, I’d hate to learn what they think qualifies someone to fly an airplane. Gonna put them on my “never patronize this company” list.

Bud Light’s sales were down 5.7% this past year. If their ads are any indication, those idiotic “Dilly Dilly” spots are the only thing keeping them in business. Hooray for living down to your smallest potential.

On the brighter side, NBC’s frequent promos for the Winter Olympics were considerably less annoying than Fox’s similar binge on behalf of the Daytona 500. Maybe because the Olympics aren’t a sport that glorifies unsafe driving and promotes climate change?

I’ll admit to enjoying the dual and dueling Doritos/Mountain Dew ad combination. I don’t like Mountain Dew, but the commercial didn’t drive me to forswear Doritos.

On the other hand, Diet Coke’s promotion of the desirability of uncontrollable, unstoppable dancing left me cold. Can I really be the only person in the world who still remembers Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Red Shoes“? Is a swig of mango-flavored Diet Coke worth pedal amputation and eternal damnation?

NBC hurried to assure everyone that no game action or commercials were lost to that eighteen second blackout. But they’ve been disturbingly silent on whether any jobs were lost.

I won’t bother with my screed about Dodge using MLK’s words to sell Ram trucks. Plenty of others have said more than enough. I’ll just put them on my list, right after Turkish Air.

Regrettably, Janet Jackson did not parachute into the stadium and rip Justin Timberlake’s pants off mid-song. But even in her absence, you have to know that NBC and the NFL paid close attention to the choreography of JT’s show. So now we know that both institutions believe it’s perfectly fine to hump a dancer’s leg on international television, as long as her breasts are covered.

And maybe it was just an effect of the television broadcast, but the much ballyhooed and equally derided “holographic performance” by Prince came off as a bare half-step up from projecting a movie on a bed sheet. And really, JT, choosing “I Would Die 4 U” was a damn tacky move.

Of course the blatant attempt to promote “Super Bowl Selfies” as a hashtag was mildly nauseating, if completely predictable.

All in all, I score it the most soporific halftime show since at least 2000, when we had Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, and Toni Braxton lulling us to sleep.

I got a chuckle out of the self-referential commercial for The Voice. But then, I’m an easy mark for self-deprecating, self-referential jokes.

Budweiser partially redeemed themselves for the stupid “Dilly Dilly” nonsense with their “Water” commercial, which did mention Puerto Rico.

My two favorite commercials of the day ran in succession. My Number One was the Jack In the Box / Martha Stewart spot. Juvenile throughout, but with a nice twist on the old “Got Your Nose” bit. And then, Number Two, the payoff to the sequence of apparently pointless Peyton Manning spots, recreating Dirty Dancing as a touchdown celebration. Stupid and pointless–perfect for the message that the NFL isn’t going away.

We’re putting Tide on the list, too. Not that their ads were bad. The concept was mildly amusing the first time. But by the end of the game, they’d completely run it into the ground and arrived at “thoroughly annoying”.

Unrelated to the actual game or the commercials: We discovered that Dish doesn’t think anyone has a four hour attention span. With about ten minutes left in the game, right on the four hour mark from when I turned on the TV, they popped up a message box that said (I’m paraphrasing here, because I didn’t get a picture) “It looks like nobody’s watching TV right now. If you don’t click ‘Continue’ within 20 seconds, we’ll shut the receiver off.” Uh, guys, you’re going to be sending the satellite signal whether the receiver is on or off, so why do you care if I’m watching? If I want to waste electricity by leaving the TV on all day, let me!

And, finally, my prize for “Worst Commercial of Super Bowl LII”.

No, it’s not Tide, Bud Light, or even Turkish Air.

Not only did this company completely ignore the well-documented complaints about their business model, but they’re actually promoting class violence. Congratulation, Groupon, come up and claim your trophy.

Or am I the only one who heard the message “He didn’t use Groupon, so we sent a couple of thugs to kick his rich, white ass”?

Seriously, there’s a right way to do things, and in this case, TV commercials aren’t it. If we’re going to have a revolution of the proletariat and forcibly redistribute the wealth, can we please do it as a spontaneous popular uprising, rather than because a coupon service wants to improve their bottom line?

Signs of Progress

Multiple sources are reporting that the Cleveland Indians are parting ways with Chief Wahoo. Well, mostly. Effective with the 2019 season, the logo–which USA Today describes rather redundantly as “racist and offensive*”–will be removed from the teams’ uniforms and from all their online sales venues.

* Do you suppose Bob Nightengale, the article’s author, can name anything racist that isn’t offensive?

Some team merchandise featuring Chief Wahoo will still be available at the park and nearby, a move described as necessary to prevent third-parties from taking over the trademark and image and marketing it more widely.

Needless to say, the agreement is widely hated. A substantial segment of Cleveland’s fanbase is up in arms over the loss of their treasured tradition, while opponents of the logo are upset that the ban is neither immediate nor total.

To both groups, I say, “Tough. Live with it.”

There’s nothing stopping pro-logo fans from making asses of themselves by continuing to show up in red face paint and historically-inaccurate headdresses. (Though, come to think of it, I’d love to see how the team would handle a complaint under Progressive Field’s code of conduct, which bans “inappropriate dress” and states that “Inappropriate or offensive images or words must be covered or removed from the ballpark”.)

On the other side, well, we live in an imperfect world. And, while it often seems as if it’s becoming less perfect all the time, this is a step in the right direction. I’d like to see the changes happen faster, but I’m happy to see them happen at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if the logos start disappearing from the uniforms this year. If a couple of pitchers requested it as part of their choice of uniforms, management might decide to cash in on the public relations benefits of eliminating it earlier.

Until racism is completely eliminated, the logo won’t be going away. Look how well we’ve done at eliminating swastikas in the last sixty years.

There’s also the question of the team name. I could be wrong, but I don’t see a name change coming any time soon. If nothing else, the cost would be immense, and I suspect it would take a massive boycott of the ballpark, the TV and radio broadcasts, and anyone who advertises with the team to encourage ownership to make that huge investment.

So this is a baby step. But baby steps are still steps. Let’s celebrate the fact that the baby is walking, rather than than stressing because the baby isn’t going to be skiing in next month’s Olympics.

Latest Trends

Note: this post was written Monday evening. It’s likely that some of the data will have changed by the time you read it.

I see Google is reporting a lot of interest in the forthcoming Hall & Oates tour. I mention this not because I’m particularly interested in the duo–I’m not, beyond taking the opportunity to point out their take on “Family Man” falls into the category of cover versions that have become definitive, despite being far less interesting than Mike Oldfield’s original.

But this is the first time I’ve dug into the details on Google’s latest version of their “Trends” page.

The “Interest over time” chart is fun–though a longer baseline would be nice–but the chart I found most intriguing is “Interest by subregion”. In this case, you can read “subregion” as being equivalent to “state”; I presume this is done to make the chart more flexible for use in other countries.

It’s not particularly surprising that most of the interest in Hall and Oates is in Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas. They’ve always been big in the middle of the country. I was surprised to see Louisiana coming in at Number Four. Maybe some influence floating down the Mississippi River?

But the fun part was looking at the states with no apparent interest in them at all: aside from Alaska, which often goes its own way, we’ve got Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming: a tight cluster of states immediately to the north of the center of Hall and Oates’ support. What’s happening there?

I’d say something about not giving the obvious answer (“Nothing”), but that might actually be the correct answer. Consider the interest from another item on Google’s list.

Searches for “Asteroid, Earth” are hot, probably because right-wing news sites are spreading FUD about the government shutdown putting Earth at risk for an asteroid strike.

Leaving aside the stupidity of the claim*, I found the geographical breakdown of interest fascinating. The most interest is in Alaska–remember what I said about them doing their own thing? But the next most interest is in North Dakota. At the other end of the spectrum, we’ve got Hawaii (which is justifiably more concerned about missiles than asteroids right now), Montana, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

* First, the risk of an asteroid hitting Earth is no higher whether we’re watching or not. Second, it’s not entirely clear to me whether the shutdown has any significant effect on the Asteroid Watch program–it’s a distributed program with participation by astronomers, both professional and amateur, from around the world. And third, even if we know an asteroid is coming, there’s very little we can do about it at this point. The technology to intercept and redirect or destroy an asteroid isn’t there yet.

Yeah, three of the four central states that have no interest in Hall and Oates are also the only central states that have no interest in their chances of being wiped off the map by an asteroid. (Insert your own joke about being wiped off the map by Hall and Oates here.)

I can only come up with two possible interpretations: either the inhabitants of those states aren’t interested in anything or they’ve already been wiped out by zombies.

Note that those states show no interest in Netflix or the Supreme Court. But Montana and North Dakota are right near the top of the list when it comes to the Megyn Kelly/Jane Fonda contretemps.

I rest my case–and suggest you update your zombie vaccinations before you visit Montana.