Tuesday, December 11, 2018

going home hungry

Just because they're stupid doesn't mean they're stupid.
Except when it does.
Just because they're smart doesn't mean they're smart.
Except when it does.

A strange kerfuffle in which the disenfranchised know what they want and the enfranchised know want and no one is getting enough of what s/he wants. The anointed are too stupid to look back and the unanointed are too stupid to look forward.

Each may blame the other, but it doesn't work very well.

The abyss abides and everyone is going home hungry.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

once upon a time...

"Once upon a time, a Tuesday perhaps, there was a man called Pim."

The line popped up on my radar screen this morning. What did it mean? I had no clue. Perhaps it was the beginning to some wider tale of adventure and inventiveness. Perhaps not. I didn't really see "Pim" in my mind's eye, didn't really envision or invest or wonder. He was a fiction, which was somehow more beguiling than the rattle and shimmy of a silver-ware drawer. Current events fell by the wayside as "Pim" stepped forth.

Was he tall or short, plump or slender, laughable and affable? Had he had his heart broken in other times? Had he freed a mouse from a trap? I could not really find him and yet there he was, more interesting in my head than the current events served up along the news wires.

Could he sing? And if so, did he?

With the ice-rimed roofs up and down the street, with all that the world has to offer this morning, who is this Pim who has come to visit?

Or is is just the "once upon a time" whose muffled tintinnabulation fades softly, like Pim, in my mind? I somehow know he is not a man to go naked and yet dressing him is beyond my ability. Will he scatter bread crumbs in his wake as a means of marking the way back home? He seems unconcerned.

A bit of magic, I guess. I like magic. I like being tricked and bamboozled and knowing simultaneously I am being tricked and bamboozled. It doesn't matter how many times I see it, the woman really is being sawed in half in that coffin.

Fiction or fact ... I guess I am in a fiction phase.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Trump's undocumented workers

You knew it in your bones right along: Donald Trump, president of the United States, is a liar and a conniver and a member in good standing of the petite bourgeoisie ("everything has a price") whose stature would be lessened if he were not standing on someone else's back ... but ... well ...

"The president says that in the places he owns he does not hire any undocumented workers. ...It is a lie,” said [Sandra] Diaz, [right] 46, a native of Costa Rica who worked at the club in 2010 to 2013.
Who are you going to believe? Who's the "criminal?" Who's the "servant?" Who's the scum bag?
“We need to come out and defend ourselves,” said 47-year-old [Victorina] Morales, brushing away tears. “I had enough with suffering.”

Friday, December 7, 2018

brownies in the making

Nothing struck my fancy on a run through the wires this morning -- an increasingly frequent happening -- so I made brownies instead. With chocolate morsels added and a couple of tablespoons of raw chocolate and some crumbled cashews on one corner ... I like nuts, but others do not. I suspect the cashews will not hold out against the chocolate but I wanted to try it and cashews are one of my faves.

There's corruption out there. I saw it on the wires. And George H. W. Bush was buried in Texas and China seems to be pissed at the U.S. for dropping an arrest made on Saturday on a congregation of power players Tuesday. Perhaps the Chinese can borrow some polonium from the Russians and make Donald Trump a cuppa.

The day is cold-ish, but there is sun. Some CNN talking head is said to be in line to be U.S. ambassador at the U.N.

Drip, drip, drip....

Thursday, December 6, 2018

freedom of federal employee speech

Meanwhile, tightening the political noose....
New guidance warning federal workers not to discuss Donald Trump’s potential impeachment or the so-called “resistance” movement has sparked controversy, with some ethics advocates voicing concerns over what they see as an effort to crack down on free speech and limit dissent.
A memo released by the Office of Special Counsel last week clarified what constitutes political activity at the federal workplace, stemming from Trump seeking re-election as president in 2020.
In addition to avoiding topics that might suggest views favorable or unfavorable toward Trump, the document stipulated “strong criticism or praise of a presidential administration’s policies and actions” also amount to political activity.
The move prompted immediate backlash from government watchdogs and unions, who said the interpretation of political activity is too broad and exposes more than 2 million federal employees to undue risk and could hurt their free speech rights.
 Stay tuned: I have a hunch there's more where that came from.

not exactly a man of the people

A series of grey days and chilly. George H.W. Bush, former U.S. president, is lying in state, his well-heeled memories rising up like mists across a peat bog. Dying seems to have a healing effect. The only real memory I have of him came from a cop-shop reporter pal, Don, who had a friend in the Secret Service, which guards presidents, among other chores.

And it was from Don -- talk about hearsay evidence -- that I heard the tale of George H.W. Bush visiting a high school classroom in Maine. Bush was a globe-trotter and a former head of the C.I.A. His silver spoon was clearly clenched between his WASP-enfranchised lips as he tried to connect with the students in Maine. "How many people here have been to Paris?" he asked the class brightly. No one responded. "Well, how many have been to (another famous city -- don't recall -- in Europe?)"

And still there was no response until one student girded his loins and said, "Hell, Mr. President, most of us have not been beyond Augusta [the capital of Maine]."

George H.W. Bush, whatever his sense of noblesse oblige, whatever his patrician decencies, whatever his willingness to serve his country, was probably the very plant life of the swamp that guys like Donald Trump claimed he would drain.

Of course, Bush had the decency to laugh at himself, a thing Donald Trump is incapable of.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

dying to say "decent"

Last week, former president George Herbert Walker Bush died at 94. And as the corpse does its obligatory rounds before interment, it is interesting how many politicians and other wannabes have hastened to use the word "decent" to describe the man. It is as if the word "decent" were some sort of pariah in the face of Donald Trump's manipulations and lies.

Dying to say "decent."

Viscerally, Trump is indecent, and any recollection that will allow the "decency" genie out of the bottle is welcome, even the throw-back WASP who actually seemed to believe that a little decency was not a dangerous thing.

It may be a fib, but it's a fib that is pleasing to the mind.

Monday, December 3, 2018

another black man shot in the back

Sometimes the drumbeat goes beyond heart-breaking ... it is a travesty, a cruelty, a stupidity ... a litany. I guess this one just tipped my inured and blasé cup:
Emantic Bradford Jr, the 21-year-old African American man who was killed by a police officer on Thanksgiving at a mall in Alabama, was shot three times from behind, according to an independent autopsy released by a civil rights attorney on Monday.
His father told the Guardian the report showed his son was murdered.
According to the report, Dr Roger A Mitchell observed gunshot wounds to the right side of Bradford Jr’s body, in his head, neck and lower back. The report states: “The cause of death is gunshot wound of the head. Manner of death is homicide.”
Twenty-fucking-one-years old! Wearing a uniform the likes of which Donald Trump and his silver-spoon ilk never will!

It's apostasy of the deepest order.

That could have been my kid if my kid were brown.

Maybe we could move several deep-South states to Israel where shooting the poorly-armed or unarmed is more usual.

how to counter artificial-intelligence assertion

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has denied claims that he had died and was replaced by a Sudanese impostor, breaking his silence on a rumour that has circulated on social media for months.
Buhari, who is running for re-election in February, spent five months in Britain last year being treated for an undisclosed illness. One theory widely aired on social media – and by some political opponents – was that he had been replaced by a lookalike from Sudan called Jubril.
No evidence has been presented, but videos making the claim have been viewed thousands of times on YouTube and Facebook.
“It’s the real me, I assure you. I will soon celebrate my 76th birthday and I will still go strong,” Buhari told Nigerians in a town hall session in Poland on Sunday.
When it comes to man-vs-machine, who are you going to believe? Does it matter? Replicants -- a la 1982's "Blade Runner" -- seem to be gaining a toe hold. And yet machines and lookalikes still retain what I consider a flaw -- they're flawless and hence boring. "Perfect" ain't never gonna cut it.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

failure and success

To fail at something you truly admire is better than to succeed at something that can only make you look good.

Is that true? I think perhaps it is.

Friday, November 30, 2018

a little telekinesis, if you please

Passed along in email:

Hawaiian Kingdom, Hawaiian state

Is Hawaii an invaded country or a state within the United States?
The claim that Hawaii is still a part of the Hawaiian Kingdom (not the US) is not new. In fact, it’s a sticky political situation that has led to court cases and provided talking points to more than one US president. But public conversations on the topic still have the air of a conspiracy theory, because the idea runs so counter to the day-to-day administrative and governmental operations in Hawaii. As such, the subject tends to be avoided by Hawaii politicians. The tropical island chain, located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 2,467 miles from the continental US, became a state in 1959. And for most people, that’s more than enough evidence that it’s part of the US.

U.S. life expectancy dips

It's not just the Indian or Pakistani farmer any more: It now appears that suicide is gaining a foothold among those once well-heeled.
The suicide death rate last year was the highest it’s been in at least 50 years, according to U.S. government records. There were more than 47,000 suicides, up from a little under 45,000 the year before....
CDC officials did not speculate about what’s behind declining life expectancy, but Dr. William Dietz, a disease prevention expert at George Washington University, sees a sense of hopelessness.
Financial struggles, a widening income gap and divisive politics are all casting a pall over many Americans, he suggested. “I really do believe that people are increasingly hopeless, and that that leads to drug use, it leads potentially to suicide,” he said.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

is youth or stupidity an excuse?

I once went to dokusan (a private interview) with Joshu Sasaki Roshi, a man who was arguably the top gun in the world of Zen Buddhism at the time (1970's). I was scared. I had never met the man. He was the size of a peanut and had the mass of a mountain in my mind.

We sat facing each other during that long-ago sesshin (Zen retreat). He took his fan and tapped it three times on the floor next to him. "What is this?" he asked. I gave a book-smart shout. He looked at me for a moment and then said, mildly, "You know, you don't have to be crazy in order to do this practice."

"You don't have to be crazy" and yet so much of spiritual adventure did seem a bit crazy ... might as well get with the program. I heard Sasaki's words as a rebuke: Zen practice referred to something plain and simple. Nothing phony about it. Nothing concocted or false. But I had chosen the ornaments of the exercise. Short and sweet, "Cut the crap!"

You don't have to be crazy.....

And likewise, you don't have to be stupid. And it is here that I admit to bias: Anyone involved in spiritual practice is tasked with exercising both attention and responsibility. They had to think things through ... much as, from my vantage point , John Allen Chau, 26-27, had not when he set out for North Sentinel Island -- a place that required permission to visit for fear of infecting the local population with non-native diseases -- in hopes of introducing the locals to Jesus.

Chau was on a mission from his Christian persuasion (convert the heathen stuff) and never seemed to think that his presence, while it might introduce a Christian faith, could spell death to the tribe on North Sentinel. Chau was willing to sacrifice his life. But he seemed unmerciful enough to be willing to sacrifice the lives of others.

And this is where my bias kicks in. If you're going to sacrifice along the spiritual way, don't run around sacrificing others. Burn your own temples and texts as you like, but do not presume you have some right to burn the temples and texts of others. Demolish Jesus and Christianity first ... and only then set about God's work.

It is unkind of me to assume that those along a spiritual byway will be somehow less stupid, thoughtful or circumspect. But, full-frontal-nudity, I guess I have to own up to it. The arrogance of Christians in 19th century India is truly astounding to anyone willing to read the works.

What a well-intentioned clusterfuck among these spiritual children.

tombstone wannabe

It's not true, but I still am attracted to the tombstone I really don't want: The word "wanker" is just too delicious somehow. Maybe I could bequeath it to some more deserving person. Still:
"Wanker" has a frisk and frolic to it. It tastes like good chocolate in my mind. However derisive and self/masturbating-serving, still, perhaps being remembered as a "wanker" is too good to pass up.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Grizzly said to have killed mom, daughter

A young mother and her 10-month-old daughter have been killed by a grizzly bear metres from their cabin in Canada’s Yukon territory.
Valérie Théorêt, 37, and her daughter Adele Roesholt, were killed on Monday near Einarson Lake, a remote area 400km from the territory’s capital of Whitehorse.

Norwegian keeps his chess crown

For 20 days the world’s two best grandmasters sat in a soundproof studio in central London, with only a chessboard, their thoughts, and each other for company. But finally, after 15 games, 773 moves and 51 hours of simmering tension, the Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen held his nerve, and his crown, with an emphatic rapid-play victory over the US challenger Fabiano Caruana.

Burma-Shave moment

Every blessing
Brings its curse:
It's hard to know
Which one is worse.

But if you sit down
By the brook,
You'll get the answer
You forsook.


big steer reigns

Passed along in email, some good, or anyway good-ish, news:

The world’s expectations for a hero have perhaps never been lower.
Which brings us to the steer. It’s like a normal steer, but bigger.
It’s a very big steer.
The very big steer is, according to the nearly unanimous acclaim on social media, a hero. At 6 feet 4 inches tall and more than 1.4 tons (2,800 pounds), it is roughly the height of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson but weighs about 11 times more.

Donald's got your back...not

It's all whimsy, of course.

First and foremost, I have never been in combat, so what could I actually know? And yet I imagine and wonder how it is that combat veterans might line up in support of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Combat is no joke, I imagine. Every combatant relies on comrades to back him or her up.

And the idea that Donald Trump might be a reliable back-up -- someone into whose hands I might place my fate and faith -- strikes me as ludicrous. Trusting that Donald Trump "has got your back" ... gawd! Would this man defend your life with his own? Would he step up and step in and work like hell to preserve your life?

Having Donald Trump as a reliable back-up ... does that compute where the bullets fly?

Imaginatively, I think I would prefer to be backed up by an honorable enemy: At least an enemy has a directed purpose. Being shot in the back by a Whiffle ball ally is the last thing any combatant needs.

Imagine Donald Trump backing you up on the combat line.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

kissing a woman's hand

As a child, there was music in the house. Ours and many other record players by that time were electrified, though I wouldn't be surprised if someone told me there were wind-up players in some houses. Strauss waltzes wafted about from the 78 rpm records. 33 1/3 and 45's had not yet been invented. My mother read me Roald Dahl stories and unexpurgated Grimms fairy tales and all of "Frankenstein" ... and I wept for the monster who was the creation of the real monster.

Kissing a woman's hand was something to see in "The Three Musketeers," a movie starring Gene Kelly, who to this day I think of as the top gun screen dancer of the time (1940's). What grace he brought to the art. Far more compelling than Fred Astaire in my young eyes. Moved like the wind... a tea ceremony of dance.

It wasn't until years later (1962) that I received any actual instruction on how to kiss a woman's hand in the upper reaches of German society. We were given instructions in language school in the army. And it was no simple matter.

First of all, if I recall correctly, you never actually kissed the hand. The man bent over as if in hand-holding obeisance. But at the last nanosecond he pulled away or risked getting hit by the woman whose hand he was 'kissing.' She, for her part of the choreography, would pull her hand away and if the man didn't get out of the way, he risked a bloody nose.

In an era of cell phones and declining civility, such memories seem bizarre and antiquated and a bit fun.

Jesus threatens protected tribe

Indian authorities have been urged to abandon their efforts to recover the body of an American man killed while trying to preach Christianity to the isolated residents of a remote island.
Police in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an Indian territory in the Bay of Bengal, have made two boat trips to the area near North Sentinel Island since the missionary John Allen Chau was killed 11 days ago....
Police say they are consulting experts to decide whether it is feasible to retrieve Chau’s body, and will not provoke a confrontation with the Sentinelese, whose island is off limits to visitors without permission.
"Without permission" is apparently what Chau had in hand when he landed, no matter how benevolent his intentions. So, as a result of wishing to spread a word of mercy, he decided to endanger a people with his western benevolence and potential diseases.

I'm sorry, but I see no reason to forgive arrogance, even when it is cloaked in imagined virtue.

Here is a Guardian backgrounder.

shootout in chess world

The world championship battle between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana will be decided in a quickfire tie-breaker after Monday’s Game 12 ended in a 31-move draw. The result shocked onlookers in light of the champion’s advantages in position and time, and left the best-of-12-games match in a historic 6-6 deadlock.
Given all of the draws to date, there is a template for the ultimate shootout:
The 27-year-old champion from Norway, making his third defence of the title he captured from Viswanathan Anand in 2013, will play as white in Wednesday’s first tiebreak stage after a drawing of lots following Monday’s game. The tiebreak will consist of a best-of-four rapid match with 25 minutes for each player with an increment of 10 seconds after each move. If that is not enough to break the deadlock, they will play up to five mini-matches of two blitz games (five minutes for each player with a three-second increment). If all five mini-matches are drawn, it will come down to one sudden-death ‘Armageddon’ match in which white receives five minutes, black receives four minutes and both will receive a three-second increment after the 60th move. If that game is drawn, black will be declared the winner.
And you thought your life was intricate.

Santa and Donald

In a time when Santa used to give out toys to all the good children and a lump of coal to the bad ones, it is consoling to think that Donald Trump's Christmas haul will be replete.

But wait! How can this man who refuses to get his hands dirty actually receive his gift.

It's a paradox.

gene-modified babies

To say China, among others, went ape-shit about Monday's claims may be too strong ... or perhaps too weak.
BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese officials and scientists denounced on Tuesday the claims of a geneticist who said he had created the first gene-edited babies, and a hospital linked to his research suggested its ethical approval had been forged.

Monday, November 26, 2018

140+ whales stranded/dead

More than 140 pilot whales have died on a remote New Zealand beach, the latest in a recent string of whale strandings and deaths in the country.
On Saturday night the Department of Conservation [DoC] was informed of a mass whale stranding in Mason Bay on Stewart Island.

advancing robotics, retreating (wo)man

“When a robot kills a human, who takes the blame?”
In his new documentary, The Truth About Killer Robots, [Maxim] Pozdorovkin traces all manner of dangers – economic, psychological, moral and, yes, mortal – posed to our species by automation and robotics. “This idea of a single, malevolent AI being that can harm us, the Terminator trope … I think it’s created a tremendous blind spot,” he said to the Guardian....
“[It gets us] thinking about something that we’re heading towards in the future, something that will one day hurt us. If you look at the effects of automation broadly, globally, right now, it’s much more pervasive. The things happening – de-skilling, the loss of human dignity associated with traditional labor – they will have a devastating effect much sooner than that long-distance threat of unchecked AI.”....
The movie is said to be on HBO tonight.

cellular and linguistic basics

News that turned my lights on this morning:
1. A scientist in China claims to have created the world’s first genetically edited babies, in a potentially ground-breaking and controversial medical first.
If true, it would be a profound leap of science and ethics. This kind of gene editing is banned in most countries as the technology is still experimental and DNA changes can pass to future generations, potentially with unforeseen side-effects.
You knew someone would do it, that it was bound to happen ... so ... it is beyond man's capacity NOT to wonder what will happen if you stick a knife in a light socket. Not good, necessarily, nor bad, necessarily ... it's just part of the human package.

2. “Misinformation”, as opposed to disinformation, is Dictionary.com’s word of the year. It followed “toxic”, picked for the same honor by Oxford Dictionaries, and “single-use”, picked by Collins. [Strangely, there is no mention of Merriam Webster, one of, if not the only, dictionary to do (or anyway used to) its own research ... comment added]

Jane Solomon, a linguist-in-residence at Dictionary.com, said the choice of “mis” over “dis” was deliberate, intended to serve as a “call to action” to be vigilant in the battle against fake news, flat earthers and anti-vaxxers, among other conduits.
Just about the time anyone nails linguistic Jell-O to the wall, it starts dripping.

Cellular and linguistic basics ... I guess ... sort of.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

hats off to the Associated Press et al

Jim Taft
Thumbs-up to the Associated Press and its group effort to call out spinal devices alleged to alleviate sometimes debilitating pain.
For years, medical device companies and doctors have touted spinal-cord stimulators as a panacea for millions of patients suffering from a wide range of pain disorders, making them one of the fastest-growing products in the $400 billion medical device industry. Companies and doctors aggressively push them as a safe antidote to the deadly opioid crisis in the U.S. and as a treatment for an aging population in need of chronic pain relief.
But the stimulators — devices that use electrical currents to block pain signals before they reach the brain — are more dangerous than many patients know, an Associated Press investigation found. They account for the third-highest number of medical device injury reports to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with more than 80,000 incidents flagged since 2008.
The story -- yes, it requires reading -- is a good example of what good reporting once was.

Here's the Guardian's take.
Patients around the world are suffering pain and many have died as a result of faulty medical devices that have been allowed on to the market by a system dogged by poor regulation, lax rules on testing and a lack of transparency, an investigation has found.
Pacemakers, artificial hips, contraceptives and breast implants are among the devices that have caused injuries and resulted in patients having to undergo follow-up operations or in some cases losing their lives.
In some cases, the implants had not been tested in patients before being allowed on to the market.

caution! genius at work

If someone were a genius and there were no one else around to confirm it, what would s/he be?