Earlier this evening, Kieran Healy linked to this tweet from 60 Minutes:

What Pence thinks of Trump campaign’s tone:

60 Minutes (@60Minutes) Jul 16 2016 5:05 PM

If you look at the responses to the photo, you’ll see that most people have, quite rightly, made fun of the gilded chairs and the overall faux-Versailles look to the room. But what caught my eye was the painting in the background just to the right of Trump’s head. CBS generously uploaded a fairly high-resolution image to Twitter, so let’s zoom in.

Trump, Pence, and Stahl detail

You recognize that painting, don’t you, even if you don’t know its name? It’s Renoir’s Two Sisters (On the Terrace), a beautiful painting, one that’s often shown as an example of both Renoir’s work and of Impressionism in general.

And when I say “painting,” I’m referring to the actual work of art on display at the Art Institute in Chicago, which has owned it since the 1930s. What’s behind Trump’s head is either a $100 print or an oil reproduction in a gaudy frame. Either way, it’s a cheap thing dressed up to look expensive to people who don’t know any better, i.e., Donald Trump in a nutshell.

I wonder if he also got the mug and the coasters.

Evan Bayh

I’ve been skeptical about the possibility of the Democratic Party taking over the Senate this year, mainly because throughout my adult life I’ve seen Democrats overperform in pre-election polls and underperform at the ballot box. But the recent entrance of Evan Bayh into the Senate race in Indiana is giving me hope.

Not that I like Bayh. He’s the kind of Liebermannish Democrat who spent his last years in the Senate watering down progressive legislation. But I recognize that the only kind of Democrat who can win in Indiana is one who acts like a Republican on some issues. Better a moderately conservative Democrat than a Tea Party Republican.

It is, in fact, Bayh’s opportunistic assholishness that’s making me slightly optimistic. He’s a shrewd guy and wouldn’t be muscling his way into the race if he didn’t think there was a decent chance that

  1. He will win.
  2. The Democrats will take the Senate with a slim majority.

It’s the second item that’s key. If the Democrats remain in the minority, Bayh will have no power. But if they eke out a majority, the caucus will need every single vote on every bill, and as one of its most conservative members, he’ll have outsized influence. The leadership will have to consult with him to make sure he’s on board as bills get drafted. The Sunday shows will have him on to discuss his deeply held beliefs and the agonizing decisions he has to make as the Last Great Moderate. It’ll be disgusting.

But not as disgusting as Mitch McConnell as majority leader.

Customer service and email attachments

I’ve been trying to cancel my mom’s satellite TV service. She’s had some health problems recently and has moved out of her house. The satellite TV isn’t particularly high on my list of things to worry about, but there’s no point in continuing a service she won’t be using. So last week I called to cancel.

After negotiating the voice recognition phone tree (which was like talking to Siri while driving on a highway with the windows rolled down), I learned I couldn’t cancel the service because my name isn’t on the account.1 I could have given every bit of authenticating information they have on her, including the number and expiration date of the credit card she was using to autopay her bill, but they weren’t having it. There must be an epidemic of middle-aged men calling in to fraudulently cancel service just to torture their poor old mothers.

I explained that Mom wasn’t able to call for herself, which led to the agent going off for several minutes to talk to her supervisor.

“Unfortunately, sir, there’s nothing we can do without a power of attorney.”

“I have power of attorney.”

“So I’m very sorry. I’d like to help you with this, but we can’t—”

Hello? I have power of attorney. I can’t prove it to you over the phone, but I have a signed and notarized power of attorney document.”

Maybe she wasn’t listening because she thought anyone with power of attorney would have said so right away. But I didn’t mention it earlier because I think of a POA as something needed for banking, house sales, and other major transactions. Not canceling a goddamned TV service.

Anyway, it took her another very long time to get me the email address to send a scan of the POA to, but once I had it, I figured I was pretty much done. I had made a scan of the POA right after we executed it so it was ready to go. I only had to scan her most recent bill—to authenticate the account, she said—and send them both off. That was Friday afternoon.

This morning, I saw that an email had arrived from the TV provider2 in the middle of the night. Pretty clearly from an offshore service center, but that’s fine with me. Seemed like a quick response. Except:

We have received your request but it does not include the Power of Attorney paperwork. It appears that the attachment was discarded because it has exceeded the maximum attachment size. The maximum attachment size is 3mb. Please resend the POA paperwork in parts to…

The customer service lady hadn’t told me about a file size limitation; I had to learn that from “Jody,” the author of the email. Because you’re all intelligent people, I won’t bother pointing out to you that an email account set up specifically to receive scanned legal documents, which are often lengthy, should have a more generous limit on attachments. But I did point it out to Jody.

I’d originally scanned the POA at 300 dpi grayscale because I wanted to have a decent copy that clearly showed the raised stamp of the notary public. I used PDFpen Pro to downsample it to 200 dpi. That brought the file size down to 2.5 MB, and I resent it.

Jody replied this evening:

We are still unable to open or locate the POA document. It still shows that the attachment was larger than the mailbox’s maximum message size.

WTF? I can see the downsampled attachment in the Finder, and it says 2.5 MB. There’s no way—oh… wait a minute.

Looking through my Sent folder, I pull up the email from this morning and scroll down to look at the attachment size: 3.2 MiB.3 Shit. Because I haven’t had to deal with attachment size limits in ages (GMail’s, for example, is 25 MB; FastMail’s is 70 MB), I’d forgotten that the Base64 encoding used to transmit binary files increases their size by a third.

Another PDFpen Pro downsample, to 150 dpi and 1.4 MB in the Finder, and the document was ready to go. This time, Jody reported back quickly that the POA had arrived. Success!

Does this mean my mom’s account is closed? Oh, no.

While we are unable to disconnect accounts via email, we’ve set up a special phone line with a Personal ID Number (PIN) that you can use to reach one of our account specialists directly to address any concerns or questions you may have regarding your account and to also process the cancellation of your account if we can’t provide you with a different resolution.

Right. Special phone line. Account specialist. Fun.

  1. Yes, I should’ve had my wife call and say she was my mom. Actually, since my mom has an unusual first name, I could have said I was her. I wasn’t thinking. ↩︎

  2. I should probably just be direct about the company name. ↩︎

  3. Not a typo. MailMate reports attachments in base-2 (1 MiB = 1,048,576 bytes). The Finder reports file sizes in base-10 (1 MB = 1,000,000 bytes). ↩︎

The devices who cried wolf

My stuff keeps lying to me.

My keyboard, trackpad, and mouse always tell me their batteries are nearly out of power weeks before they’re actually dead. All of the printers I connect to at work and at home, tell me their ink is getting low but continue to print just fine for at least another month.

I can appreciate the value in a well-timed warning—it gives me a chance to buy new supplies before the current set runs out—but when the warnings are consistently premature, they don’t have the desired effect. “Yeah, right,” I think when I see the ⚠︎ next to a printer’s name. “Do I look like I was born yesterday?”

The printer manufacturers at least have avarice as an excuse. They make their money on the ink cartridges they try to con you into buying before the old ones are spent. But I don’t understand the motive behind Apple’s premature ejaculations in Notifications. It’s not like my peripherals require Apple batteries.

Mouse batteries

Most people who are concerned about the coming Internet of Things Age decry the loss of privacy as their refrigerators spill the details on how much milk they buy. I’m more worried about my printer tracking me down over the internet to send me an urgent warning that its paper tray is only half full.