Friday, July 1, 2016

the pig in Bermuda shorts

I reckon everyone knows someone with a wacky bit of outlook -- you know, the fact that the universe was created in 14.72 days by a pig wearing Bermuda shorts. Such people will tell you is that all you have to do is look at the 'facts' in order to get your head screwed on straight. How could you have been so wrong??!!

It's like the old joke about Wyoming. Ask anyone if they know anyone from Wyoming and when you get the odds-on response that they do not, you can crow with certainty, "You see?! I told you Wyoming did not exist!!!"

It's no good trying to dissuade such people. It's no good being snarky about the idiocy of it all. And as long as they don't harm anyone else ... well, what the hell? Of course there is a danger that the same righteousness that can infuse the Ku Klux Klan, or the so-called Islamic State or some other morally-inclined bit of immorality can grow into a movement that has penalties for not seeing things their way.

That's why I subscribe to the pig in Bermuda shorts hypothesis. I want to keep my head.

too many jobs, too much affordable housing

A tiny New Zealand town suffering from too many jobs, too many affordable houses and not enough people to fill them has been swamped by more than 10,000 inquiries from around the world after publicising its plight.
“We’ve been getting smashed,” said Bryan Cadogan, the local mayor of Clutha, who has 5,000 unanswered messages on his phone. Thousands more messages came in via email and social media.
Cadogan added: “It has perked the spirits of the locals up hugely, we don’t know how to deal with this, we’re unprepared.”
The rural agricultural town of Kaitangata, in the South Island, has 1,000 vacant jobs, affordable housing and 800 residents keen to offer struggling families a crack at the New Zealand dream.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

where the gods convene photos

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

mildly dirty joke

Read on a Buddhist bulletin board:

A backpacker is traveling through Ireland when it starts to rain. He decides to wait out the storm in a nearby pub. The only other person at the bar is an older man staring at his drink. After a few moments of silence the man turns to the backpacker and says in a thick Irish accent:
"You see this bar? I built this bar with my own bare hands. I cut down every tree and made the lumber myself. I toiled away through the wind and cold, but do they call me McGreggor the bar builder? No."
He continued "Do you see that stone wall out there? I built that wall with my own bare hands. I found every stone and placed them just right through the rain and the mud, but do they call me McGreggor the wall builder? No."
"Do ya see that pier out there on the lake? I built that pier with my own bare hands, driving each piling deep into ground so that it would last a lifetime. Do they call me McGreggor the pier builder? No."
"But ya fuck one goat.."

"Who Got Rich Off the Student Debt Crisis"

... a very, very good piece.

At a Senate hearing in 2014, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat, quizzed the head of the Federal Student Aid office, James W. Runcie, about the government’s loan income.
Warren: “My question is … where do those profits go? Do they get refunded back to the students, who paid more than was necessary for the cost of their loans? Or are they just used to fund government generally?”
Runcie: “They are used to fund government generally. They do not come back specifically into the program.”
Warren: “We’re charging more interest than we need to run the student loan program, and there’s no mechanism to refund that money to the students. …  I don’t think the student loan program should be designed so that it’s making profits for the federal government.”

ferreting out bullshit

Interesting, if long-ish, article in The Guardian. One of the punchlines of "Why Bad Ideas Refuse to Die" is:
It is important to rethink the notion that the best ideas reliably rise to the top: that itself is a zombie idea, which helps entrench powerful interests. Yet even zombie ideas can still be useful when they motivate energetic refutations that advance public education. Yes, we may regret that people often turn to the past to renew an old theory such as flat-Earthism, which really should have stayed dead. But some conspiracies are real, and science is always engaged in trying to uncover the hidden powers behind what we see. The resurrection of zombie ideas, as well as the stubborn rejection of promising new ones, can both be important mechanisms for the advancement of human understanding.
Ferreting out bullshit is not for the lazy or the faint of heart.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

foul-mouthed witness?

A prosecutor in Michigan is considering whether the squawkings of a foul-mouthed parrot may be used as evidence in a murder trial.Glenna Duram, 48, has been charged with murdering her husband, Martin, in front of the couple's pet in 2015.Relatives of the victim believe that the pet African Grey, named Bud, overheard the couple arguing and has been repeating their final words....Mrs Duram is accused of shooting her husband five times before turning the gun on herself in a failed suicide attempt.Mr Duram's ex-wife, Christina Keller, now owns Bud. She believes that he has been repeating the conversation from the night of the murder, which she says ends in the phrase "Don't shoot!", with an expletive added...
Lillian Duram, added: "That bird picks up everything and anything, and it's got the filthiest mouth around."
Mr Springstead [prosecutor]said it is unlikely the bird could be called to the stand to testify as a witness during a trial.

George Will quits GOP

In the midst of the swirling no-substance chaff infusing the U.S. presidential race, conservative Washington Post columnist George Will, said last Friday that he had disaffiliated himself from the Republican party. Will credited both Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan with helping him to make his decision.

There was a time in the past when I would read Will's columns as a means of knowing, roughtly, what the enemy was thinking. He was intelligent -- sometimes overbearingly so -- and maintained the old values of researching what he was talking about. Of late, I have found him too murky-without-purpose, but that's my problem. Will can think, which is more than can be said for a lot of Republicans who currently have a choke-hold on the country. Will seems to honestly feel the country is worth maintaining and advancing ... but a lot of caterwauling is not necessary, and second-hand opinions are not policy material or should be counted among serious thoughts.. Will is sober in ways that can give sobriety a bad name.

Will is not some air-head Republican who will roll over and spread his legs for assertions based on nothing more than a passing belief. He's a guy worth listening to, however lazy I have become about listening to him.

drifting away

I have never been beautiful enough to don and maintain the implications of the American Indian (Hopi? Navajo?) observation that "all around me is beauty." The fact that I cannot escape does not change anything.

But for all that, I have made contact with drips and drops of the inescapable. About like anyone else, I suspect -- moments so clear and clean and unencumbered that beauty -- for lack of another word -- takes on an imperative to seek and find and capture or recapture.

I have never been beautiful enough. Which is not to say I have not petitioned and pleaded ... and yet simultaneously feared: If things were profoundly OK and, more, beautiful, well ... there is a death of sorts in there somewhere and death makes me squeamish, even as it beguiles.

A slight smile, a violin note, a handshake, a painting hanging in no particular grandeur, a dog's tongue against the cheek, a farewell wave ... beautiful in the moment yet unable to make it linger and last. I have never been beautiful enough to be beautiful.

I guess what put me in mind of all this was a song that arose out of the Internet screen:

A petition. Perhaps not your petition or mine, but a petition nonetheless.

Monday, June 27, 2016

the richness is gone, the house remains

My wife is going through a bad patch at work -- feeling the pinch of yuppy-young managers who think that making employees feel fearful is the mark of leadership. The situation brings out my Islamic State desire to chop off some hands or worse....

My son is enduring a personal bad-patch upset. I can tell because his sometimes-sullen willingness to generalize about the people around him is on the back burner. His footing is not so firm. When things hurt, the bullshit of "people think" or "everyone feels" gets a new and improved perspective ... same for the young, same for the old, I think.

My own ability to meet and greet the heat of the last few days sets me back in a bad-patch arena.

As the song once observed, "my get-up-and-go has got up and went."

And so, when my stepmother let it be known on Friday that she would have liked it if I came up to a nearby hilltown community to help with the last vestiges of moving out of a house her partner owns, I just couldn't bring my sympathies to bear. The house was the scene of many family get-togethers over the years, but now it is about to be sold. Gathering there one last time would be an exercise in confused sadness: All that love and energy and effort and now, in the end, it is just a house. No, I would not go ... I was just too wrung out.

Just a house. Just a person. How does that happen? The richness dissolves, the house stands ... and ... and ... and ... do things improve or get somehow solved because there is some sad or happy recollection? I do not want to listen to heartfelt or allegedly heartfelt recollections. My own are confusing enough in that gone-baby-gone way.

"A problem shared is a problem halved." Is that so or is it just another bit of whistling past the graveyard?

The richness is gone. The house remains.

Someone will think of something wise to say. Luckily, I will not be around the hear it.