The Queen of Sh*#$% Robots

Simone Giertz

Simone Giertz with a few of her creations

Note: I’ve been writing Medium.com posts in the lead-up to the second-annual Brain Bar Budapest this June (did the same last year). If you’re in the neighborhood, this year’s lineup is awesome.

Comedy comes in lots of flavors — anecdotal, improvisational, insult, deadpan, sketch, satire, physical, and so on. Simone Giertz, through her own inventions, has invented another. Call it robotic comedy.

Giertz, 26, builds what she describes as “shitty robots” and has crowned herself their queen. Among the creations her 420,000 YouTube subscribers and counting have observed include a wake-up machine, a hair washing robot, a sandwich robot, a butt-wiping machine, a hair-cutting drone, and knives of doom. Vids of these and others have more than 20 million views. She co-hosts TESTED, founded by Adam Savage of MythBusters fame, with whom she created the popcorn helmet. She’s been featured on all sorts of websites as well as on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Conan. It wasn’t always this way. [more]

 

Top 10 things I’m doing during the first 100 days

first100days

10. Memorizing the lyrics to the Beatles song, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.”

9. Writing a long essay on the Hamlet-Bojack Horseman linkages.

8. Issuing executive orders around the house, principally to the dog.

7. Intentionally mismatching my daughters’ socks.

6. Attempting to make the sound of one hand clapping.

5. Teaching my Google Home device German.

4. Polishing my wife’s left and right shoes in slightly different hues to see if she’ll notice.

3. Chopping alley ice and sliding the chunks into sunny patches even though it will eventually melt on its own.

2. Muttering apocalyptically.

1. Awaiting the findings of the new administration’s vital voter-fraud investigation.

The arrogance of ignorance

It’s become accepted in many quarters to associate the wielding of facts or knowledge with arrogance. Typically the term is applied to political liberals – coastal elites, the blue-state bloviators, whatever one might call all the annoying know-it-alls who purportedly disdain the Rust Belt working-folk and get their information from sources not owned by Rupert Murdoch’s ilk.

But the politically ignorant – the sorts of people most likely to be deceived by demagogues and liars – have an arrogance of their own. Some might just dismiss it as wishful thinking: for example, the apparently widespread conviction that, say, the political system would be best off after a shakeup by an outsider – regardless of the source or dispositional/intellectual/experiential/moral/philosophical qualities of that outsider.

But it’s not just wishful thinking. It’s a blind faith in the righteousness of one’s own beliefs coupled with a total disinterest in the heft of the factual hull of those beliefs amid the high seas of reality. It’s a deep sense of the superiority of one’s own opinions, coupled with a blind dismissal of any facts that countervail those opinions. That’s much more sinister in this than mere ignorance.

In ten days, we embark into political terra incognita based not on ignorance, but on the arrogance with which it has locked arms.

Regs not the problem for oil business

oil

The incoming Trump administration and the oil and gas industry like to talk about the burdens of environmental red tape. But in Deloitte’s “reality check” of the top six issues facing the oil and gas industry in 2015, regulatory burden is absent. These are mostly big companies for whom compliance is a part of doing business and a manageable cost of operations. The entrepreneurs running wildcat operations aren’t strangers to this side of the ledger, either. And keep in mind that these companies, averaged over time (it’s a cyclical business, the world’s largest industry) make money hand over fist and can afford to do their part in minimizing the environmental impacts. For every Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL, there are hundreds of projects that go forward unhindered.

Industry-bought statements by the likes of the American Petroleum Institute in the wake of the joint U.S.-Canadian protection of thousands of square miles of seas from offshore drilling that talk about the importance of these places for energy security – they’re a joke. Arctic offshore today accounts for about 0.025 percent of U.S. crude production. The Gulf of Mexico offshore produces 23 percent of all U.S. crude and basically all of the offshore production.

We won’t need it long-term, either. Electrification of the vehicle fleet will drive down domestic demand, meaning less oil will satisfy it over time, obviating the need to drill sensitive areas that threaten tourism and the environment (not even getting into global warming here).

Shell abandoned its drilling plans in the Arctic, where an oil spill would be catastrophic: imaging trying to clean up after a Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, but in 40 mph winds at minus-20, with no local fishing fleets or anyone else to help out (caribou being notoriously lazy). The industry would have to self-fund the entire cleanup infrastructure, even if they found a bonanza of oil, which Shell at least didn’t.

Exxon Mobil had a “rough” year in 2016, its net incoming falling by about half – still, it made $16 billion on $260 billion in sales. God knows what their regulatory costs were, showing up in various accounting buckets all over the world. But this company’s – and most oil companies’ – profits hinge not on the relatively minor costs of doing their part in keeping the planet more livable, but on the whims of global oil production and demand.

For open primaries (and maybe avoiding the next Trump)

About those last two 'NO's...

About those last two ‘NO’s…

My wife and I got a letter from a woman named Laura Chauncey Mullins the other day, from 574 S. Broadway Blvd. in Denver. The addresses, both the return and ours, had been mail-merged onto standard Avery stickers. Knowing enough about Broadway to sense that this was a business address, I was on the cusp of a no-open recycle when I noted the standard USA FOREVER stamp, which gave me pause.

I opened it to find a glossy trifold from the Democratic Party of Denver. Below some contact information, in red and blue lettering, were the words, “VOTE DEMOCRAT, THE WHOLE BALLOT, NOTHING LESS.” A quick google search found Laura Chauncey Mullins to be on the HD6 Leadership Team, and 574 S. Broadway to be the strip-mall home of the Democratic Party of Denver, nestled up next to an acupuncture studio.

My initial reaction was to push back. I’m a registered Dem, sure. But this trifold was telling me how to think, and I at least try to delude myself into thinking I think for myself.

Still, I was curious as to how well our views aligned. I found that they did so more or less perfectly, and that I could well vote Democrat, the whole ballot, nothing less, if not for disagreeing on two propositions. They have to do with a) primaries and b) open primaries.

The first, Proposition 107, is a statewide measure to switch over from a caucus to a primary. The second, Proposition 108, allows unaffiliated voters to participate in Colorado primary elections, should 107 pass.

Proposition 107 is easy. Caucuses are may work for rural towns or places where people don’t bother to vote. But they’ve become a disaster in places like Denver, where people lined up for hours at the local elementary school. Folks bailed, understandably. Switching back to a primary system (the state did them three times until 2000) will cost about $5 million once every four years, according to the Legislative Council of the Colorado General Assembly’s beeft blue book. We have a state GDP of $295 billion and growing; we can afford to invest a sliver of it into the democratic process so we can all just mail it in. So yes on 107, I say, even if the trifold disagrees.

Proposition 108 isn’t a whole lot harder. Thirty-five percent of Colorado voters are unaffiliated. They have no say in the selection of general-election candidates. The major parties don’t like the idea of just anybody walking in and voting on candidates they’ve nurtured: if you want to vote in our primary, register with us. The system could be gamed, maybe, too. Look at Rush Limbaugh, who urged his followers to apply their lunatic-right open-primary votes to a person whom, according to Limbaugh’s fine-tuned political radar, he viewed as the far weaker candidate: Barack Obama.

So yeah.

The Denver Dems’ trifold gives a big, red ‘NO’ to 108, too. I understand: it stomps on what they view as their turf. Prop 108 gives convenient voice to independents who otherwise would have to change their party affiliation before a primary, then, I suppose to maintain appearances, change it back to “independent” afterward – which nobody, statistically speaking, does.

I think Prop 108 is a big deal, as it should be for anybody observing Donald Trump’s electoral meltdown. The key is the second “argument for” in the blue book: “Allowing unaffiliated voters to participate in primary elections may result in candidates who better represent all Coloradans. In a closed primary, voter participation is typically low and the candidates selected often appeal to a small number of a party’s more active members.” Unspoken here is that people are independent because they enjoy being told how to vote roughly as much I do, and, odds are, because policies of the far-left and the far-right make them uneasy. So by and large, they’re going to vote more practically — otherwise known as centrist — than your standard primary die-hard.

Now, in the 2016 primaries, Trump carried many of the 21 states that already have some sort of open primary, so it’s doubtful that open primaries did much to help avoid what is becoming a GOP catastrophe. But think ahead to 2020: wouldn’t it be nice to have some centrist influence of the early in the process? Rather than watch the same thing happen again? Because guess what: if the GOP keeps plopping fringe-right manipulative nutbucket dissimulators at the top of the ticket, over time the quality of the Democratic candidates can slide – qualitatively or philosophically – without worrying too much about losing the general. And that’s bad for everybody.

It works both ways, too. Bernie Sanders won the Colorado caucus. He won 22 states, quite a few of them with open primaries. But this is a candidate whose policies (free college, universal health care) are often more aspirational than practical in 2016. He might have had a shot against a candidate as flawed as Trump, but a centrist Republican would have demolished him.

So, to Laura Chauncey Mullins and my generally like-minded friends at the Democratic Party of Denver: yes, I agree – except when I don’t.