A thousand and one posts

Wow, that last post was my 1,000th post here at Balloon Juice. I was not expecting that when I first got started here.

I’ve been a Balloon Juice reader and primarily a lurker since before the Cole Conversion time. Over the summer of 2013, I saw a lot of good questions about the ACA and how it would effect our community. I got in touch with a front-pager I know in real life and asked if I could write a couple of posts to answer a couple of questions. He e-mailed John and John gave me the keys to this place. I figured that I would twenty to thirty thousand words in forty or fifty posts and then I would be done.

Over the past three years, I have eight hundred or more health insurance posts with about half a million words written.

That was a slight miscalculation.

I’ve rediscovered how much I like to write about a subject that I like. Every day I get to answer a question, explore something that I heard something about but now need to explain, or advocate for a slightly better world with tweaks to the current policy universe. I’ve been able to point people in the right direction when they are getting screwed over. We’ve been able to go through complicated choice structures to get community members taken care of when they know they need to do something but do not know what they have to do.

At the same time, my education has deepened as the community here and a second community of wonks, advocates and researchers. If I need to know about anti-trust law, I have a couple of world class experts who share their time with me. If I need to know more about Medicare, I can talk to people who are on it, I can talk with CMS techno-wonks, and national level advocates. If I need to learn more accounting, there are plenty of people who will share their knowledge and expertise with me.

I never thought I would have written here for more than a couple of months. But between all of you, the community and John’s amazing ability to let things flow, I am more energized than I ever thought I would be a thousand posts ago.


The little finches below have cleverly created an apartment complex in the ruff of a palm tree located in the increasingly fashionable (i.e., Disney-fied) Ybor City section of Tampa:


I’ve been thinking about nests a lot lately because mine is about to be empty. The fledgling is flying off to college this week, leaving her father and myself without a chick to look after for the first time in nearly two decades. Damn. It’s both liberating and devastating.

The liberating part: We no longer have to set a good example / make sure no one decides to stage a bubble party in our home in our absence, so we can wander around Ybor City on a Sunday afternoon, catching a movie, drinking beer, eating pizza, watching finches and contemplating the explosion in the number of tattoo shops:

walkens welcome

We didn’t Walken to get tattoos, but we talked about it in a non-serious way, competing to come up with the tattoo idea that our daughter would find the most embarrassing. (KISS face tattoos! Kid’s baby picture reproduced on our calves!)

Also, we’re thinking about moving further out into the country now that the only resident who would be dismayed by that notion is decamping, so we looked at some potential new homes this weekend too. At one property, we saw this gigantic spider:

giant spider

I’ve included a photo of it next to a normal-sized flood light so you can contemplate the scale of the creature. There were several such specimens around the empty house; I walked around waving a stick in front of me so I wouldn’t accidentally face-plant in Shelob’s web.

Had any neighbors been around to see that (and they weren’t; the point is to have no close-by neighbors), they might have mistaken the stick-waving for some odd ritual to expel evil spirits. And from my perspective, they wouldn’t have been wrong, though the mister assures me those spiders are perfectly harmless. But I maintain that anything that can make me flee in panic into a tree hard enough to get a concussion isn’t harmless!

In the meantime, we plan to turn the kid’s old room into a nano-brewery, freeing up the current office / guest room from its shelves of carboys, bottling equipment, etc. Summer will end soon, and it will be beer brewing time again, thank FSM.

But this turn of the seasons will rob our home of its heart in many ways. The kid isn’t going far; she’ll be within half an hour of the mother ship, and even if we move, we’ll be close enough that she could conceivably live with us again and commute to school if she wanted.

But she won’t want to, at least not on any kind of long-term basis. We’ve done our jobs well enough to become obsolete. There is great pride in that, but great sorrow too.

Please feel free to discuss whatever. Open thread!

Side Note Open Thread: Roger Stone, Less Than Meets the Eye

Kudos to Media Matters for spotting this, which might’ve gotten some traction this morning if Trump hadn’t decided to start calling for his supporters to shoot people:

QUESTIONER: With regard to the October surprise, what would be your forecast on that given what Julian Assange has intimated he’s going to do?

ROGER STONE: Well, it could be any number of things. I actually have communicated with Assange. I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation but there’s no telling what the October surprise may be.

Stone was working for Richard Nixon when the original October surprise may or may not have tipped the election to the Repubs (at the cost of many innocent lives, but what does that matter to the GOP?). He’s never stopped using that particular street-cred tidbit to inflate his resume, and his fees. Anybody can say he’s “communicated” with Assange — if you include public comments about the man, half the people on this blog have ‘communicated’ with Assange — but anything beyond posting YAY JULIAN YOU GO GUY on social media implies (a) Roger Stone has access; (b) Julian Assange cares about what Roger Stone wants; (c) Julian Assange can be asked/forced/bargained into compliance with anyone’s agenda other than Julian Assange’s (if that). It’s bullshit, fed to an audience eager to pay for it.

In semi-related news, I still {heart} my senior Senator…

I’m collecting tweets about “Second Amendment solutions” for an aggregation post later tonight, incidentally. Brace yourselves…

Thanks, Everyone!


Many, many thanks to Scav, Betty, and everyone here for the good wishes on The Hunt for Vulcan making the Royal Society’s book prize finals.

I feel like I have to thank the book itself as well.  I love all my book-children equally (if not always for the same things), but HoV was definitely the kindest one I’ve ever worked on.  I’d wake up, grab my coffee, and go to my desk, and it would tell me what it wanted to be that day, so I’d write that.  Then damned if it wouldnt’ do it again the next day … and the next, until we agreed that it was done.   That’s kindness.

I’d be remiss in my authorly duty if I didn’t also note that it’s just out in paperback in the US and will be so next week in the UK. (You can always get the hardcover, the e-book, or the audiobook if you’d like — at all the usual suspects. (see below).

ETA, per commenter Mike J.:  here’s the Amazon link for the hardcover, the paperback, the kindle edition, and the audiobook.  As Mike J. notes, buying via the affiliate link helps the site.  I’d only add that communities and all those books that don’t get the Oprah/Fresh Air/zeitgeist boost utterly depend on the support of independent bookstores — and the relatively few remaining Barnes and Nobles and the like too.  So if you’ve got a brick-and-mortar store near you, and you can stand the higher price you’ll pay compared to Amazon, I’d urge you to help them out, and me (and any other writer you like), by telling the actual humans there that they might like to talk the book up.

OK — back to your regularly scheduled programming:

To answer a couple of questions from Betty’s thread:

Alas, no owls.  I found out a few days ago from my UK publisher, Head of Zeus (no, really).  The Royal Society lets the various publishers know under embargo to help with the promotion of the prize and the short listed books.

What am I going to do with the money? A) never price the unborn calf. B) most of the shortlist winnings are already allocated to Q3 estimated taxes ;-( (and whew for the windfall). C)  I might splurge on a new and faster bicycle. (Noting, as ever that the bike may change but, alas, the rider does not.)

Who did I tell first? My wife and son, obviously. My agent and editor over here.  And one more member of my household.  He was strangely unmoved by the news:

Tikka-you talking to me?

Questioned more closely, he restated his position:

Tikka hot c:u

Again:  my thanks to everyone, and especially to those who have or will read about the planet that was and wasn’t there.

Image: Jacques-Émile Blanche, The Readers, 1890.



Seriously: Mr. Khizr Khan Has Very Long Fingers

Thanks to several commentors for the link.

I’d post this during the daytime when more people would see it, but if it makes you sob as much as I am, better to be in private.

ETA: For those whose browers won’t show the embed, watch here: MSNBC.

Via Gawker:

My conscience compels me under these very difficult circumstances—very raw emotions—I am a very composed person. I don’t become that emotional in public discourse. But there is so much at stake. And I appeal to both of these leaders [Mitch McConnell & Paul Ryan]: This is the time. There comes a time in the history of a nation where an ethical, a moral stand has to be taken regardless of the political cost. The only reason they’re not repudiating his behavior, his threat to our democracy, our decency, our foundation, is just because of political consequences.

Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Ieshia Evans

baton rouge ieshia evans jonathan bachman reuters

(Jonathan Bachman/Reuters)


Michael E. Miller, in the Washington Post: “‘Graceful in the lion’s den’: Photo of young woman’s arrest in Baton Rouge becomes powerful symbol”

Jonathan Bachman was snapping pictures of protesters yelling at the officers when he turned and saw her.

The woman in the summer dress didn’t seem to look at the two officers as they ran toward her. Instead, she seemed to look beyond them — even as they arrested her.

“She just stood there and made her stand,” the Reuters photographer told BuzzFeed. “I was just happy to be able to capture something like that.”…

The young woman’s stoic pose drew comparisons to Rosa Parks’s refusing to give up a seat on a segregated bus or “tank man” facing down war machines in Tiananmen Square. Some likened her to a modern-day Statue of Liberty, guiding a bitterly divided country back toward the proper path…

Within hours of the photo’s publication, news outlets, activists and the Internet itself were working overtime to figure out who she was. The Atlantic and the BBC both asked readers for help.

After activist and New York Daily News writer Shaun King posted the photo to Facebook, several self-identified friends and family members identified her as Ieshia Evans.

“To see all of the comments under this post shows me that my cousin did not make a mistake by going out there and standing up for her rights and what she believes in,” wrote Nikka Thomas. “I’m proud to call you my family Ieshia.”…

Messages posted to [Evans’ Facebook] account Sunday evening also appeared to confirm Evans is the woman in the iconic photo.

“I just need you people to know. I appreciate the well wishes and love, but this is the work of God. I am a vessel! Glory to the most high! I’m glad I’m alive and safe. And that there were no casualties that I have witnessed first hand,” read a message posted at 11:53 p.m. Eastern time Sunday…

“To all of my friends and acquaintances please don’t do any interviews about me,” said a post two hours later. “If they want my story, I am here. I would like the opportunity to represent myself! Thank you. Peace, love, blk power! ‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬.”

President Obama is scheduled to speak at the Dallas memorial service, starting at about 12:30pm CDT. I assume that the service will be livestreamed, and that another frontpager will be awake to share it here.

In other political news, Senator Sanders will appear with Hillary Clinton in Portsmouth, NH this morning. He’s expected to endorse her, per CNN:

Tuesday’s endorsement will help Clinton “enormously,” said former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, a Clinton supporter who co-chairs the party’s Rules Committee.

“I’m assuming that he is not just going to say ‘I endorse her,’ but explain to many of those that voted for him why given the values that he’s stood for, voting for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump is obviously the thing to do,” Frank said…

This is not necessarily sitting well with some of the Senator’s most fervent supporters…

Beyond Endurance

Valued commenter Raven shared news tonight that compounds sorrow with sorrow.

I looked in on my sleeping son before writing this.  I hate a world in which there is so much beyond my power to keep  him safe.

To hear this news on this day is almost too much.

Here’s a piece of music that — for me — comes as close as humanly possible in giving voice to such misery.

To Raven and all those touched by this tragedy, condolences.

To all facing loss on this wretched day:  in the language of my tradition, may you be comforted with the mourners of Jerusalem and Zion.