For awhile I've thought the framing of the "crazy President" for nuclear use authority — e.g., in which a POTUS might get up one day and have VERY WILD ideas about nukes — was not a great one, because real mental illness doesn't suddenly appear overnight.
But I did not anticipate the current conditions of the Presidency — a POTUS who appears extremely in denial about being sick, self-discharging while on heavy drugs, essentially allowed to dictate his own care. COVID-19 does not go away in 3 days. He looks quite sick.
This is a completely bizarre situation. Short of the 25th Amendment — a huge decision under any conditions, obviously not one any of his cabinet or cronies are willing to invoke a few months from an election — it appears nobody has any control over this very sick man.
The only up-shot is that I am pretty confident that the Joint Chiefs of Staff are level-headed enough to understand that they should essentially ignore (one way or another) any orders they got from someone in such a situation, law be damned.
I still think that an honest-to-god-"crazy President" (I am not fond of the stigmatizing terminology) is probably a lot less scary than a "poorly-advised, ignorant President," because the former is so blatant and ignorable, whereas the latter is a much trickier case.
Which is just to say, I am not actually worried about bad nuke orders at the moment SO LONG as the world situation stays relatively stable for the next few weeks.

Right now the scenario that is giving me the most doom-jitters is contemplating the not-at-all-unrealistic possibility that the POTUS actually dies from this, which I fear could DRAMATICALLY increase US domestic instability in the short term.

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More from @wellerstein

23 Sep
About this time last year I was thinking very seriously about what the future of academic talks and conferences would be, if we took climate change seriously and stopped flying everywhere on jets so regularly.

Now we know! Better for the environment, for sure, but not as good.
As an aside, I would have thought, by now, that there would be a whole host of AMAZING software offerings for the "next gen" of teaching/conferencing online, given that engine of "disruption" that is Silicon Valley. But instead we just have Zoom, which is Skype for More People.
Where are the apps that will help replicate the need to have side conversations while listening with one ear to the main conversation? Where are the apps that will make us feel embodied and not just a bunch of floating heads?
Read 6 tweets
11 Sep
When I'm teaching history to undergraduates, I always point out that if you take a historical figure's birthdate, and add about 20 to that, you get the foundational years that shape their view of the world. It's a way to make the ubiquitous birthdates in historical texts useful.
For me, that gets you 2001, and I do think much of my worldview and mindset got fixed into place by 9/11. I was on another coast, don't get me wrong. But there was an experience that got seared into the minds of all Americans that day, especially younger ones.
(Before anyone wants to school me on the difference in experiences between people who were in NYC and people who were not — I know. My wife was in NYC on 9/11. But the non-NYC experience is still an experience.)
Read 8 tweets
7 Sep
Is there any software paradigm I loathe more than Apple's file versioning system? It only applies to a handful of programs that Apple itself makes, it makes an absolute mess out of saving new files, and half of the time it screws itself up and won't let me save things.
I mean, is there anything more straightforward in principle than opening up an old file, modifying it, and wanting to save it with a new file name? For someone who routinely updates old files or uses them as templates, this is just my bread and butter.
But with Keynote or the other twelve or so programs that use this model, you have to either remember to make a copy of the old file first, OR you have to do a tedious "Duplicate" action and then Revert all of the changes in the original. Is the "Save As" command such a sin?
Read 4 tweets
30 Aug
Tenure file submitted. I have a found an accurate image depicting what writing one of these things does to a person. But it does feel good to have it out the door. Fingers crossed...!
My experience is that non-academics don't really understand why the tenure thing is such a stressor. Here is how I explain it to students: After 6 years, I compile a +80 dossier of everything I've ever done, asking the university to please make it impossible for them to fire me.
Several committees and administrators look it over. They have only two options:
1. They can choose to make it (almost) impossible to fire me, giving me a job for life
2. They decide never to re-hire me again, and I have a few months to find a new job
Read 5 tweets
29 Aug
It took me a week of thinking about it but I finally solved my "using OBS with Keynote and seeing Presenter Notes" problem. For anyone who might find it useful, it's two things, one obscure, the other positively annoying:
1. In Keynote, you can make it project the presentation to a separate window. Play > Play Slideshow from Window. It won't let you do Presenter View while doing this (I mean, why make it easy?), but it'll let you use that window as your target for OBS.
2. I wrote an Applescript "Stay Open Application" that will, every second, check to see what slide Keynote is on. If it is not the slide it was last on, it grabs the presenter notes and puts them into TextEdit. The TextEdit window can then be put wherever you want to look at it.
Read 5 tweets
27 Aug
People are ragging on this poor girl, but the questions she's asking are actually GREAT. How did Pythagoras do what he did when he did? Why was algebra invented — "what did they need it for?" I cover all of this in my History of Science survey and the answers are fascinating.
For example, on the "what would you need it for": the text responsible for disseminating algebra widely ("The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing [al-jabr]," by Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī, 820) emphasizes its practicality in the very first pages:
And almost the entire thing are "word problems" or "story problems" that show how you'd use it to answer practical questions — practical for Abbasid empire, anyway!
Read 5 tweets

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