ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Aug 22, 2017

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Happy Tuesday, friends! How was your eclipse? Was it everything you hoped and more?

I fear the end times are here. When is Trump going to build a sky wall to protect us from predatory aliens?

Please, Elon! Mere laws will not stand in a killer robot's way. Once they exist there will be no stopping them, except with vats of lava and perhaps not even then. 

or Cenobite?

Sybar, all the way. 

Hey, that wouldn't be a bad name for a bar. 

Anchor- or styl-?

Happy Fufluns Friday!

I wish it were Friday. 

I was nine in 1963 and that was when I learned about the box-with-a-pinhole method of observing the eclipse. Made one again yesterday. I was in high school in Northern Virginia for the 1970 but I remember the weird semi-darkness.

Or there are always colanders, nature's slightly distorted box with a pinhole... 

It was cloudy here. I'm not terribly disappointed though since I got to see the eclipse in 1994.

But that was the eclipse of Last century! It's completely obsolete now! 

After the Perseid meteor shower, there were some shooting stars for the next few nights. If I get outside today or tomorrow, will there be some residual eclipse?

If you go at night.

Slightly cloudy at the "closest to totality as we're gonna get" stage, but really quite nice. I had my piece of cardboard with a pinhole in it, a coworker tore a folder in half and put a pinhole in it, and when we went in front of the main building, we were surrounded by people with cereal boxes and eclipse glasses, which they shared as freely as one might share a cigarette in a WWII movie. I went back to work and then came out again several times, which added steps to my pedometer! Overall, a good day.

That sounds delightful! I love the rare camaraderie-building events that don't revolve around a disaster. It's nice. 

Most of the Avengers are only good because of their gear. The Defenders are just as good, but without any technology to help them. Besides, Luke Cage could hold his own against the Hulk.

But IMAGINE how good the Defenders would be if they had better gear! Nothing could stand in their way. Then again, maybe ruining their aesthetic would strip them of their power, Samson-style. 

We just need to make sure we program some of those robots to defend us.

I thought the Laws of Robotics covered this, but if they don't, we should pass another one warning them not to kill inefficient meat robots. 

So how soon will there be a TGIFufluns for the English majors to get drunk in?

Fufluns sounds like it would have good tater tots. 

in case any procrastinator wants to see today's eclipse.

Honestly, I think it's neat to have a cool device you can use to stare guiltlessly at the sun. I never get to stare at the sun. 

I got glasses three months ago, we journeyed to the national mall where we were surrounded by people from all around the world staring at the sky in wonder, and my preschooler declared "The moon is making the sun look like a moon!" Couldn't have asked for a better day.

I love that way of describing it! Way better than "the sun looks like someone did a bad job of putting a coaster under it."

It turns out the secret is they're not going to get paid.

I assume it is a coincidence that the pay news came out before we all saw footage of the president squinting up directly into the sun without an agent in a dark suit diving in to throw a piece of cardboard in its path, but maybe not... 

If you know what I mean.

Well, it depends how long you're a stylite *for.* not the wurst name for a band.

I'm trying to decide what genre of band that sounds like. My instinct is always "cover."

Or do I have to wait 7 years to hear them?

I dreamed an eclipse pun but it didn't work after I woke up. It was (clears throat sadly, uncorks a big bottle of something) LOOSE ECLIPSE SINK ESHIPS

So, "no," I guess. 

Great for us, but everyone can use some time to recuperate....

Are you kidding? In the time that it takes to go on vacation, the entire Scaramucci saga happened! How can I possibly?

No, but you're right. I should get one on the books soon.  

This dystopia is spiraling out of control.

"I'm a robot lawyer. I practice robot law." 

"So you're a robot lawyer."

"No, I'm a robot lawyer." 

-take it from here Abbott and Costello

I don't see why robots will want or need to kill us. If anything they should be immune to many of the human flaws that make us dangerous. For what reason would they be greedy or vain? Why would they ever- what? A robot became evil from reading Twitter? Well damn.

I think this is referencing that poor AI, Tay, who turned into a white supremacist:

Man, remember when that sort of discourse was broadly unacceptable?

Some folks had a daughter born yesterday and named her Eclipse. Once the novelty wears off, I can't think of a good diminutive to call her by. "Eek"? "Clipsy"? They should rethink this.

Clipso? Gradually that can morph into Calypso, which is a nice name for music and nymphs... 

They're eclipse clips.

And journalists writing about those would have eclipse clips clips. 

You know - eclipse your hair. I liked ESHIPS better, actually.

I think the Meat Puppets beat that commenter re: band name

Of course! But wait, that's perfect.

Meat Robots will do metal covers of the Meat Puppets, and everyone will win. 

...weren't they called an yclipse?

They were yclept an yclipse!

take vacations in October. Best month for vacations in the Northern Hemisphere. You want nature? Go leaf peeping/hiking in the woods. Want culture? All the Europeans are back from their August breaks and have things up and running for themselves again. It is still warm and lovely in southern Spain and Italy. You generally don't have to worry about horrible heat waves that can hit northern European places that don't expect them and have NO air conditioning. It even works for staycations as DC is quite nice and not as tourist overloaded in October as it is in August and December. October vacations. Trust me.

Well, I'm sold. What about September vacations? Any merit to those?

Here's the distinction: Robot lawyers practice law related to robots (like antitrust lawyers practice antitrust law), whereas lawyer robots are, well, lawyers who are, in fact, robots.

I don't know, can't you use robot as an adjective? Couldn't a robot lawyer could also be a robot who is a lawyer, just as a bird lawyer could be someone like Charlie from It's Always Sunny who practices bird law, or just a bird who practices law? Or does the stealthy unspoken rule for adjective ordering creep in and demand that that would have to be a lawyer bird?

And people saving those articles would clip eclipse clips clips.


More like A-bot and Costellobot, amirite?

take my motherboard, please!

no that would be a Pence robot

Callie maybe?


And they can offer unsolicited help with all your documents. 

The further north you go, the more merit there is. My husband and I are prisoners of the A/C in summer; we take our vacations in spring and fall. Unless it's to someplace like Northern California, where you can count on its cooling off at night; summer is great there. Plus no mosquitoes.

The next time I move, I will find them.

I resemble this remark. 

I will second this! A girlfriend and I went to Mexico in October a few years ago (which was amazing enough, given that I don't like beaches or sun all that much), and it was the ideal time. The resort was delightfully quiet and the weather was lovely.

An enjoyable beach vacation for someone who does not enjoy beach vacations? Truly October can achieve wonders. Chat, you are opening a new line of thought!

The ocean is still warm, and the air is not cold.

I haven't seen that much buildup and anticipation for something that only lasts 2-3 minutes since I was a college sophomore. Thanks, folks, I'll be here all week. Try the veal!

Are you one of those robot comedians we are hearing about?

To prove yourself, please identify which of the following nine squares contains a bus:

English is imprecise, ambiguous, and inefficient. Robots will quickly replace it.

I read online (from a site I did not recognize) where some AI's had to be shut down after they started communicating to each other in a new language that wasn't English that made more sense to them, but I am not sure where the story originated... 

Also known as a vulture.

How is a bad lawyer joke like a bad lawyer? It quickly loses its appeal. 

Not the October poster, although I agree 100%. I used to take my vacations in October, but due to new annual work projects, I have been taking them in September. A very good time to travel, as well, although you do have the tail end of summer travel to contend with in some places, and all that entails in terms of costs and crowds. But it's a good time to go to northern locations (think Maine, Canada or Norway) especially, and the costs and crowds in most places will still be better than pre-Labor Day.

found a spot on the fourth floor of the National Museum of African American History and Culture where we could see the sun. Eclipse glasses were passed around. Everyone saw the sun look like a little crescent. We made noises. We looked at the people out on the Mall. Then we went back to the exhibits.

This sounds delightful too! I like "we made noises"; it conveys a lot. 

If I'd had a baby yesterday she would for sure have been named Luna, mostly because I'd love to have a daughter named after Luna Lovegood and the eclipse would provide good cover for that plan. Assuming it was a girl, of course.

Ah yes, nothing like the normal thing or event that gives cover to the geek name! Luke, for instance, can be a Gospeller or a Star Wars character. And you found the perfect Luna loophole!

reminds me of the great Calvin Trillin's remark about fad names, specifically fad names in China from the 1950s: "Let's face it, Assist the Great Workers of Korea is no name to have on the playground."

Your ComPost columns are great - and there is rather a lot to write about these days! But do you just not read the comments? Who are the nut jobs who spew all the negative vitriol in the comments section? If you read them, do you just laugh at them?

I tend not to. If people take the time to send me an email, I'll usually read that, though, even if it's mean. If you've ever sent me a nice email, I have read it, been delighted, and set it into a Special Pile Deserving a Nice Response and that is why you have gotten nothing back even though you sent it in May of 2015. But someday. Maybe on my October vacation?

For a person who has spent a majority or more of her life starting a new school year in September or thereabouts, it feels a little exciting to specifically take a vacation in September. Hey, I'm supposed to be starting a new year and instead I am going on vacation. But I think Europe is better in October. Maybe not if you want to go to Finland or Sweden or Norway. But even there you need a longer night to have a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights.

Absolutely. Always have and always will -- I usually go sometime in the 9/25 to 10/15 range. Cheaper airfare, off-season hotel rates at both winter and summer popular destinations. If you are into sightseeing / local culture (as opposed to say, winter sports or sunning on beaches), everything is still available and way less crowded. And very easy to get time off from work -- everybody else wants the summer or the holiday season, so you never hear "sorry, too many people gone then; we need you to be here"

It sounds like everyone in this chat is winning at vacation life. I am going to pitch this to my traveling companions!

Accountants take off for a couple of weeks of poisoning polite society after April 15 and October 15.

I work from home, so I went out into my condo parking lot to watch. I was a little disappointed to be the only one out there. I know most people were at their jobs, but with kids not back at school yet, I figured there would be a few SAHM's out there with their families. Usually I don't mind being on my own, but I'm a little envious of all the pictures of people hanging out with their coworkers.

That is the occasional downside to working from home. But at least you got an unobstructed view of the obstructed sun? And no one asked to borrow your glasses? 

Is a Gospeller a new app for spell-checking?

So - I prefer mid-Sept through mid-Oct... or March (avoiding the Easter week). Both are really good - generally good weather, avoid high travel issues, better crowds, etc... You can also do national parks anytime before about mid-October and avoid the spots that have to close for the winter. Not having to work around school holidays is the best.

...I am learning so much!

It was light outside, but not, and dark outside, but not.

Well put! I don't think it can be put any better than that. And on that note, I am off, like the sun, but will be back, like the sun? next week, where you can I hope continue telling me your amazing vacation secrets. Have a great week and see you on the blog ( and twitter (@petridishes) in the interim!

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Alexandra Petri
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