Mar 2024 Media Diet


The Status Civilization Robert Sheckley is a weird old SF writer that I very much love. I didn’t love this one.

Continuing to read The Power Broker, but now in conversation with my dad, which is pretty awesome.




An adult animation about two sad sacks who form a detective agency. Loved it. John Hodgman (known for being a PC) has somehow made a career out being boring. Here he is a private detective who peaked in high school, assisted by David Rees, who used to be his bully. David Rees is so fascinating. I first found him through his web comics about fighting and filing and war. I didn’t follow him as he did deep dives of the mundane, like starting an artisanal pencil sharpening service – but it’s great to see this exploration of maturity and growth in such a silly format.

Closing a Glassdoor

Listen, I understand that people believe I exist in an endless state of incandescent rage, but they are going to have to invent new words for how angry I am about Glassdoor adding real names without users’ consent.

Eva halperin, EFF Director of Cybersecurity –

Eva is writing about an Ars Technica story about Glassdoor adding identity info about users without their consent.

I support salary transparency and forums for publishing information good or bad about workplaces, but these places need strong guarantees of privacy. Consent is critical.

I went to delete my account, but was surprised to see a full page pop-up about some new feature called a Community. I couldn’t click anywhere to close my account without completing the process to onboard to a new feature!

If you’re tying to do the same, just know that is the page you go to directly that allows you to delete your account.

The absolute helplessness of Tier 1 support

I just got a new phone. I held off as long as possible because it just seemed wasteful when the old phone worked fine. It seems like the network support for sub-5G phones is decreasing though – and that impacts my experience.

My old phone was old enough that it didn’t support eSIM, which I discovered was a problem when I was in London buying a short term plan.

So when I got an error while trying to activate newPhone, I had an inkling this was probably the issue.

I opened a support chat with this info “I have oldPhone, which doesn’t support eSIM, and I suspect that’s preventing activation of newPhone” – but with more details.

Friends, it took 40 minutes of troubleshooting to come to a conclusion, and yes, that was it.

I was frustrated. My experience has been that trying to steer just slows down the process through the support tree. And so it feels helpless. I can’t get them to do the thing faster and so I have to sit.

I am empathetic though – following the support tree is required for the job, and they won’t get fired for following it. I sense that they, too, feel helpless- they cannot take a short cut.

Of course this lends itself to being a position that is automated away, since there is little benefit to having a human typing the words they don’t come up with.

And at the end of the, of course, they tried to sell me insurance.

The Power Broker Read-along 2

Continuing to read The Power Broker, but since I talked with my Dad about it, he started reading along as well. It’s been fascinating because of the parallels and because he is a challenging commentary on the text from a contemporary. We’ve been emailing and calling about the book and it’s been a ton of fun.

Things I’ve noticed – our modern discussions of privilege throw a different light on Robert Moses. To me, his family’s wealth is a glaring light on every paragraph I read. The man is brilliant, sure. But he also has the ability to just work on whatever he wants. He doesn’t have to take a job for the cash. He can work for causes that don’t pay because he has no pressure to do otherwise. He can become the best bill drafter in Albany for Governor Al Smith because he has no pressure to feed his family. He can jaunt off to grab a boat and explore the coastline because what… is he going to get fired? He’s an unpaid advisor.

Also – the description of the families trying to make it out of New York City and out to the countryside is the absolute nightmare of any father. This part of the book is gold.

My dad got very interested in some controversies and really got me thinking. My dad is 86, the age of Robert Moses when The Power Broker was published. He has the perspective of someone who was able to enjoy the work of Moses before the book, to see it through the eyes of someone who directly benefited from the beaches and parks that were built. First, he challenged the story of the racist parkway bridges. We went back and forth investigating it a bit. Caro quotes from a direct source interview, but its from someone who died before the book was published. His source says that Moses told him to lower the height of the bridges. And the bridges do seem lower than the previous bridge heights – but there were planned bus routes to Jones beach! You can see the bus schedules!

My dad also bristled at Caro’s description of Franklin Roosevelt as a “featherduster” and someone who went back on his word. Franklin Roosevelt is a hero of my father’s and he has treasured letters from Eleanor Roosevelt in his collections. I think it’s possible that a younger Franklin may have had to play some hard politics to get where he wanted to be. It’s also possible that a younger FDR may have been immature and the older FDR was tempered by the challenges he faced.

Another great contribution from dad was the response by Robert Moses to The Power Broker’s publication, along with Robert Caro’s reply. It seems to me like such a lot of wind to blow so few leaves, but maybe that is my modern sensibilities clashing with someone educated at the turn of the century.

For the podcast, Jamelle Bouie didn’t bring as much to the table as I had hoped, partially since he hadn’t read The Power Broker. Much of the episode was taken up with recounting what we had read. Please! I read it! I want you to give me more insights! There was a great insight from Jamelle about how the “professionalization” of government had removed some incentives to treat people well, to trade favors, to get small things done for actual people. There was corruption, to be sure, but there was also someone to talk to if you needed to get a change done. That papers over a lot of misery and blood I think, but it was more human than a bureaucracy.