• ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, April 13

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     US-Russia: “Candid discussions,” as the diplomats say. The rest of us say: “frosty”

    • Sec. of State Tillerson and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, hold a chilly press conference.
    • Pres. Trump shrewdly holds a press conference with NATO head at the same time

    NYT headline: U.S. Takes Sharper Tone on Russia’s Role in Syria

    President Trump and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson sought on Wednesday to isolate President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for backing the Syrian government in the wake of its lethal chemical weapons attack on civilians, and worked to build international pressure on Moscow to change course.

    In Washington, Moscow and New York, the Trump administration publicly chastised Mr. Putin but privately worked to hash out increasingly bitter differences with him. At the same time, Mr. Trump embraced NATO — a military alliance he had previously derided as obsolete — as an effective and vital force for peace and security in a region where Russia has been an aggressive actor. –New York Times

    Comment: Right now, the issue is Syria, but tomorrow it could be Ukraine or the Baltics. There is a full plate of differences and, despite Russia’s high hopes that Trump would be a friendly patsy, he has been tougher than Obama (though not necessarily tougher than Hillary would have been). As Tillerson say today, relations are at a low point, and that’s a dangerous thing when both are bristling with nuclear weapons.

     Melania Trump, defamed by British tabloid, takes them to the cleaners. The UK’s Daily Mail pays her big money and issues an apology.Here’s what a fair headline looks like: Melania Trump wins damages from Daily Mail over ‘escort’ allegation (BBC)

    Now, watch here’s the Washington Post‘s effort to deny Melania won: Melania Trump settles lawsuits with Daily Mail.

    That headline actively avoids giving readers the story, which they could have done by using the words: “Melania Trump triumphs in lawsuit with Daily Mail”

     Today in WTF: Cursing banned at Philadelphia construction site

    The site is at Temple University, where students apparently need a lot of protection. (Fox News)

    Comment: Of course, they mostly need protection getting back and forth to school in that neighborhood. But I digress. Philadelphia is actually best known as the city that actually booed Santa Claus. (True.)

     CNN doubles down on its attack angle: Trump’s people colluded with Russia.

    Today’s CNN headline: “The Russia story just keeps getting worse for President Trump” (CNN)

    Comment: I watched some of Don Lemon’s show tonight. He had on several guests, but it was a charade. 

    The network plans to continue until an airplane is lost at sea. That always struck me as odd because airports are the main venue for CNN.

     Two men from Zion, Illinois, charged with giving support to terrorist Islamic State. (Chicago Tribune)

    Comment: Odd choice for Zionists.

     Three Steps to Making Solar Power More Efficient (Edgy Labs) Two banal, one wrong.

    1. Put solar power into the grid instead of storing it
    2. Improve the cells’ efficiency
    3. Create practical infrastructure for solar

    Comment: The last two qualify as “well, d’uh.”

    And the first one seems wrong. We do want to put it into the grid, of course, but it is intermittent so we need better storage.

    What’s right about the article is that solar installation costs are falling and greater use would reduce pollution. 



  • Talking to your dog is “a sign of intelligence”

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    Prof. Nicholas Epley of the U. of Chicago says naming your boat, talking to your plants, or singing to your pet hamster is a sign of human intelligence.

    According to the Epley

    Historically, anthropomorphizing [giving human qualities to objects and animals] has been treated as a sign of childishness or stupidity, but it’s actually a natural byproduct of the tendency that makes humans uniquely smart on this planet.  . . .

    This is just the byproduct of having an active, intelligent social cognition—of having a brain that is programmed to see and perceive minds.–Nicholas Epley in Quartz

    Comment: Epley cut short the interview to text his cat.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, March 30

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     State Department official arrested; accused of economic spying for China  (Los Angeles Times)

    A longtime State Department employee [Candace Claiborne] was arrested Wednesday and charged with repeatedly lying about her contacts with Chinese businessmen who had plied her with thousands of dollars in cash and gifts to glean inside information about U.S. economic policy, U.S. officials said. . . .

    The case offers a window into Beijing’s efforts to gain an advantage in its economic jockeying with the United States, and how business owners in China often double as agents for state intelligence. –Los Angeles Times

     FBI director Comey wanted to publicly expose Russian spying before the election; Obama White House blocked him  (Newsweek)

    Comey pitched the idea of writing an op-ed about the Russian campaign during a meeting in the White House’s situation room in June or July. . . .

    [The op-ed] would have included much of the same information as the bombshell declassified intelligence report released January 6, which said Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to influence the presidential election, the source said.–Newsweek

     Federal Reserve says the US economy is finally back to normal  (CNN Money). Unemployment is officially under 5% and adding 200k jobs monthly, which the Fed considers full employment for its purposes. This data is why the Fed is gradually raising interest rates, hoping to keep the economy from overheating.

     Attorney General for Mexican state of Nayarit arrested in San Diego on drug trafficking charges  (San Diego Union-Tribune)

    Comment: You hate to see their courts and law enforcement system besmirched.

     Dead: The misanthrope who wrote “The Anarchist Cookbook” in the late 1960s. It featured recipes for bombs, gun silencers, and all sorts of weapons. It sold over 2 million copies and 

    is believed to have been used as a source in heinous acts of violence since its publication in 1971, most notably the killings of 12 students and one teacher in 1999 at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. –New York Times

    Comment: Oddly, given his contributions to this world, he died of natural causes.  I have deliberately omitted his name.

     Headline: “This Chicago man saved $1 million by the time he was 30. Here’s how he did it.” (Chicago Tribune)

    Let me explain how he did it:

    1. He made pretty good money, though not fantastic amounts
    2. He didn’t spend very much.

    Honestly, that’s what the article says. And, frankly, it is good advice if you want to accumulate resources and can restrain your consumption.

    Try to make good money and don’t splurge. If your investments get good returns, that helps, too.

    Comment: Works every time.

    But I would add: as you accumulate, give some to worthy charities. Others less fortunate need your help.



  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, February 24

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     Last year, Trump skipped the premier conservative event, CPAC

    The year before, he was boo’d

    Now, he is the hero and will be become the first President to address it in his inaugural year

      Richard Spencer, a founder of the alt-right movement, expelled from CPAC after conference organizer denounces “fascist group” (Washington Post)

      Vice President Pence to CPAC: “We’re in the Promise-Keeping Business” (NPR) Steve Bannon said exactly the same thing.

     Everybody who assassinated their brother, please raise your hand 

      Malaysian police find nerve agent on Kim Jong-Un’s dead half-brother. (USA Today)

    Comment: To undertake such a risky act is a sign of the regime’s paranoia and internal instability. 

     SEVEN people killed yesterday in Chicago. SEVEN (Chicago Tribune)

    Here’s My Comment

     “Thank you, Jack”  Tribute to a Marine who “served his country quietly, died for it violently (at Iowa Jima), and had a small part in the storied history of the United States Marine Corps.” Bob Beattie, writing eloquently about the Uncle Jack he never knew (Medium.com)

    Comment: What a touching story. My friend, Jim Vincent, was named for an uncle he never knew, another soldier who died fighting in World War II. Jim’s uncle died in the long battle for Monte Cassino in Italy. Jim’s daughter, Ruth, researched that battle and found some of her great uncle’s buddies, who were alongside him when he fell.

     University of Michigan Students Demand “Black-Only’ Space”  (Pajamas Media)

    Comment: I am perfectly fine with African-American students forming their own clubs and societies and including (or excluding) whomever they wish.

    That is what a robust civil society should permit. But it is wrong to ask the state of Michigan to do it officially and to pay for it.

    It is also perfectly appropriate for anyone who doesn’t like a private club’s rules to protest them. Lots of all-male clubs were changed that way. Their corporate members resigned when the memberships became controversial and the clubs either changed or didn’t, as they chose.

    Yes, we can have all these “private” arrangements regulated by laws and statutes, but, in doing so, the arrangements cease to be private, cease to be voluntary associations. That is a huge loss, even if the goals of the laws and statutes are admirable.

     “ABC 7 suspends [sports anchor] Mark Giangreco for ‘lunatic’ Trump tweet” (RobertFeder.com)

    Comment: So, after sending this tweet, who exactly is the simpleton?


    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Ed Vidal
     for the University of Michigan story
    ◆ Robert Feder, outstanding reporter on Chicago media, for the Mark Giangreco tweet


  • So, his girlfriend sends him an apology for cheating and breaking up the relationship

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    Student grades ex-girlfriend’s four-page apology letter (KFOR)

    She accepted the blame, but he took out a red pen and graded it.

    Nick Lutz tweeted photos of the letter with the caption,”When your ex writes you an apology letter so you grade it to send it back.”

    Lutz called out her “useless fillers” as well as her “lackadaisical” handwriting.

    He then summarized his findings at the end, giving her a D Minus grade. –KFOR and Tribune wire services


  • A high-school basketball coach who has made his players better people . . . for over four decades

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    Gene Pingatore–“Ping” to generations of players–has coached some greats, such as Isaiah Thomas.

    Working for decades at St. Joseph High School in suburban Chicago, he has won two state championships and is now approaching his 1000th win. Only 14 high school coaches have ever done that.

    But what makes his story so compelling is his lasting impact on the young men in his program.

    He thinks of himself, rightly, as a teacher.

    David Haugh tells the story beautifully in the Chicago Tribune. Here’s a sample:

    [Pingatore] always will cherish the experience of one team manager, in particular, 1986 graduate Ravi Rao. With uncommon confidence, Rao charged into practice one day and delivered Pingatore advice about a drill.

    “I said, ‘Would you like to be a manager?'” Pingatore recalled. “He said, ‘Yes,’ so I said, ‘Great, now get out of my gym and come back tomorrow.'”

    Over the next three years, Rao developed habits under Pingatore he believes helped him on the way to becoming a pediatric neurosurgeon after obtaining advanced degrees from Johns Hopkins and Virginia. Rao wrote Pingatore a note that maintains a special place in his heart.

    “It said, ‘I am successful because I was part of your program,'” Pingatore said. “Teachers get that all the time. Don’t forget I’m a teacher. I’m a high school coach, but this is my classroom. … This whole thing here is more than just basketball. That’s what I want to call my book: ‘More than Basketball.'” –David Haugh, writing about Coach Gene Pingatore at St. Joseph High School

  • Great review and human-interest story on an unexpected restaurant in Oxford, Mississippi

    The exterior hints at nothing special–a mall storefront in the college town of Oxford, Mississippi.

    The name, Snackbar, hints at nothing special, either.

    But waiting inside the front door, reviewers say, is a very fine restaurant, specializing in Southern and French cooking, prepared with an unusual twist.

    The twist come from its chef, Vishwesh Bhatt, who grew up 9,000 miles away in Gujarat, India. He’s a 2016 nominee for the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef: South.”

    Maria Godoy’s report for NPR tells how Vish, as he is know, came to America, settled in Mississippi, and learned to prepare his signature dishes.

    He uses traditional Southern ingredients, like catfish, grits or mac and cheese — but he prepares them using flavors and techniques of his native India. Think garam masala home fries, daal hush puppies and his signature dish: okra chaat. –Maria Godoy for NPR

  • Feel-Good News Story: A moving company that helps victims of domestic abuse

    ◆ When victims of domestic abuse want to escape, they need all kinds of help and support.

    That often includes support moving to a new home. The moving expenses may be beyond their means.

    ◆ A company in San Luis Obispo, California, with the improbable name of “MeatHead Movers” has stepped in and provided its services for free to hundreds of victims.

    Here’s a brief video report of the story. Bravo to MeatHead Movers.


    ♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Joe Franklin
     for this story
    ◆ Crime Watch Daily for the video

  • When Prime Minister Churchill invited the wrong man to lunch

    The most celebrated conversationalist of mid-20th century Britain was the Oxford don, Isaiah Berlin. But he was unknown during World War II, when he was a lowly analyst, posted to Britain’s Washington embassy. His dispatches were so brilliant, so insightful that they often reached the desk of Prime Minister Churchill. So, it’s not surprising that, when Churchill learned that Mr. Berlin was in London, he invited him over for lunch to discuss the war effort. What happened next was a comedy of errors, recounted by the man who did receive the invitation, songwriter Irving Berlin, who was touring London with a play to raise money for the troops.

    For prominent Americans wartime London was remarkable for the easy access they enjoyed to the highest echelons of British society. Berlin received an invitation to have lunch with Winston Churchill at 10 Downing Street. Throughout the course of the war, Churchill had been entertained by dispatches written by the celebrated Oxford don Isaiah Berlin, who was assigned to the British Embassy in Washington. On hearing that the writer he so admired was visiting London, Churchill hastened to invite Isaiah Berlin to lunch. Through a bureaucratic mixup, however, the invitation went out to the songwriter rather than the political commentator.

    On the appointed day, Irving Berlin presented himself at the prime minister’s residence, where he was escorted to a comfortable room and given a cigar and a glass of brandy. In time, Churchill appeared, still under the impression that his guest was Isaiah Berlin. The prime minister wasted little time on pleasantries. “How is war production in the United States?” he demanded.

    Berlin was taken aback by the question. He was a composer and performer, not a war correspondent. “Oh, we’re doing fine,” he hesitantly answered.

    “What do you think Roosevelt’s chances of reelection are?”

    Uncomfortable at being called on to play political pundit, he gave the obvious answer. “I think he’ll win again.”

    “Good,” Churchill replied. “Good.”

    “But if he won’t run again,” Irving offered, “I don’t think I’ll vote at all.”

    For the first time, he had Churchill’s interest, not that he welcomed it. “You mean you think you’ll have a vote?” Churchill asked, a note of wonder–or was it British irony?–creeping into his voice.

    “I sincerely hope so,” Irving said.

    “That would be wonderful,” Churchill replied, appearing to sum up. “If only Anglo-American cooperation reached such a point that we could vote in each other’s elections. Professor, you have my admiration. You must stay for lunch.”

    Throughout lunch at 10 Downing Street, Irving was haunted by the feeling that he was well out of his depth. Why had Churchill addressed him as “professor”? He stopped trying to reply to Churchill’s probing questions and fell silent. Eventually Churchill turned his back on his taciturn guest. The awkward lunch finally came to a conclusion, and as Churchill left the room, he whispered loudly to an aide, “Berlin’s just like most bureaucrats. Wonderful on paper but disappointing when you meet them face to face.”

    Irving Berlin
    This is the Army

    berlin-irving-isaiah-and-city-labeledI am indebted to Bookworm Room blog for the quote and to my friend Prof. Jerry Cohen at UC Santa Barbara and, before that, at Tufts and Princeton, who shared stories about being mixed up with other professors named Jerry Cohen at every stop on his route. Btw, neither of the Jerry Cohens at Yale (below) are my friend. They are simply living off the goodwill of his name.