Monday, March 27, 2017

who knows what symbols can inspire?

NEW YORK (AP) -- The globally popular statue of a young girl will keep staring down Wall Street's famed "Charging Bull" through February 2018 instead of being removed this coming Sunday, the mayor said.
She's "standing up to fear, standing up to power, being able to find in yourself the strength to do what's right," said Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio, who appeared with the "Fearless Girl" statue Monday on the lower Manhattan traffic island where the two bronze figures face each other.
When all you've got is the little stuff, the meaningless stuff, and the fluff stuff, then I guess it's the right moment to stick with the little stuff, the meaningless stuff and the fluff stuff.

Kiwis balk at the siphoning off of water

A plan to extract millions of litres of water out of a Unesco world heritage site, send it by pipe to the coast and ship it to foreign markets for bottling has ignited a campaign over water resources in New Zealand.
An export company is proposing to collect 800m litres a month of the “untapped” glacial waters of Lake Greaney and Lake Minim Mere, mountainous dams that are fed by rainfall on the Southern Alps....
Without selling what otherwise might be free-ish, the water industry has done its good deed for the millennium and produced countless more plastic bottles with which to pollute. It never has been clear to me why, if pure water is a requisite for a pure and upscale life, the public water system cannot be improved. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

earliest Australian oil paintings found?

Kangaroo pictures found at RCS may be Australia's earliest oil paintings

John Lewin canvases from about 1800 pre-date his still-life of fish hanging in Adelaide gallery

Saturday, March 25, 2017

the road to immortality ... well, sort of

Here's an article to try to get your mind around ... or into ... or something...

I can't pretend to write a synopsis.
 ‘Your animal life is over. Machine life has begun.’ The road to immortality. In California, radical scientists and billionaire backers think the technology to extend life – by uploading minds to exist separately from the body – is only a few years away

Because there was something, in the end, paradoxically and definitively human in this desire for liberation from human form.

"terrorism" in London?

Two people arrested in connection with the attack in Westminster have been released and will not face further action, leaving just one of the 11 originally detained by police in the aftermath of the incident in custody.
The Metropolitan police said on Saturday that one man, a 58-year-old arrested in Birmingham the morning after the attack, was still being held while further enquiries were being carried out....
Earlier on Saturday, officers released seven people with no further action and a 32-year-old woman who had been arrested in Manchester was placed on police bail pending further enquiries to a date later this month.
A 35-year-old man arrested in Manchester, a 21-year-old woman and a 23-year-old man arrested at the same address in Birmingham, as well as a 26-year-old woman and three men, aged 28, 27 and 26, arrested at separate addresses in Birmingham, were the others released on Saturday.
I wish my country were as forthright about who, precisely, was either freed or faced reduced charges in the wake of "terrorist" activity.

your date of death

Get the answer according to this spiffy calculator
My date is Tuesday, May 16, 2023.
My question is, now that I know it, what do I know? If I jump off a bridge in an effort to spite the prediction, will I get any satisfaction?
Does it have any links to this illustration that turned up in email today?

don't upend my expectations

 Passed along in email and with some interesting snippets:

What's killing white American males?

Friday, March 24, 2017

no best friends, if you please

Prince George is to attend a private primary school where the first rule is to “be kind” and pupils are discouraged from having best friends.
Thomas’s Battersea is a few miles from the family residence in Kensington Palace and charges parents £6,110 a term.
A message on the Kensington Palace Twitter site announced that he would join the school in September 2017.
George’s parents, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, said in a statement: “Their Royal Highnesses are delighted to have found a school where they are confident George will have a happy and successful start to his education.”
The school guide encourages its students in a number of ways, including ...
"Pupils are also discouraged from having best friends because it could leave other children feeling ostracised and hurt."

Maybe I've got this wrong, but it sounds to me as if the school aims to deconstruct what the institution of royalty has so lovingly constructed.

approaches to oil wealth

-- WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Trump administration issued a permit Friday to build the Keystone XL pipeline, reversing the Obama administration and clearing the way for the $8 billion project to finally be completed.
The decision caps a years-long fight between environmental groups and energy industry advocates over the pipeline's fate that became a proxy battle over global warming. It marks one of the biggest steps taken to date by the Trump administration to prioritize economic development over environmental concerns.

-- JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- Royal Dutch Shell's Nigeria subsidiary "fiercely opposed" environmental testing and is concealing data showing thousands of Nigerians are exposed to health hazards from a stalled cleanup of the worst oil spills in the West African nation's history, according to a German geologist contracted by the Dutch-British multinational.
An environmental study found "astonishingly high" pollution levels with soil "literally soaked with hydrocarbons," geologist Kay Holtzmann wrote in a letter to the Bodo Mediation Initiative.
The people of Bodo in the oil-producing southern Niger Delta should get urgent medical tests, Holtzmann wrote in the letter dated Jan. 26 and seen by The Associated Press.
Shell did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ives heads to Sinai

There was a nice gathering of family at a local restaurant which is not quite as good as it thinks it is ... but the company was fine -- everyone gathered for a farewell supper for Ives, who left for Worcester ten minutes ago. His battalion will fly to Texas tomorrow.

Ives and Brianna, Olivia and her husband Rich, Elizabeth and I, and Angus to round things out ... all seated and gabbing around a table ... eating and laughing and ....

Well, today, les jeux sont fait. It feels as if it ought to feel like something, but for the moment, it's just a sort of dull blank, despite the various tears shed. Ives has left home for a year and his leaving means I feel the pangs of leaving home ... of the galumphing feet I will not hear in times to come, the over-application of male perfume Ives is wont to apply after a shave ... lingering in the bathroom ... smothering... gawd!

Bonne chance! Bon courage!

a million insects ... and love

In two rooms of Charles and Lois O’Briens’ modest home in Tucson, Arizona, more than a million insects – a collection worth an estimated $10m – rest in tombs of glass and homemade shelving. They come from every continent and corner of the world, gathered over almost six decades; a bug story that began as a love story.
With guys like Donald Trump in ascendancy, it is nice to read about someone who loves what they do and are capable when doing it.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

level-headed questions

It was a matter of curiosity on the one hand, but it also cast salt into some tender and potentially-wounded place ....

Today I asked my son if he had successfully kept an appointment and filled out the last-will-and-testament paperwork that the army National Guard requires him to before he takes off tomorrow ... first for a month in Texas and later for deployment in the Sinai.  "How much did you sign up for. When I was in, it was something like $10,000." He said he had signed on for $250,000 and he had OK'd a 30-day hiatus if he were to fall into a coma and need someone (his mother) to pull the plug.

Of course, none of us is going to die, so it's all hypothetical, right?

Wrong, but let's pretend immortality is true, just as we have in youth, just as we have in church, just as we have in all the times when the alternative is just too out of reach and perhaps spooky.

Our voices are level and serious and no one is weeping just now... thank god.

Tonight, the family goes out for dinner to say farewell ....

extremist claptrap

BERLIN (AP) -- German state officials say they've banned an Islamic cultural association that ran a mosque in the central German town of Kassel due to extremist comments.
Hesse state Interior Minister Peter Beuth said Thursday that the Almadinah Islamic Culture Association was banned because the group's leading imam had, among other things, repeatedly called for the killing of infidels in his sermons.
Extremist comments....

I think I'll put the question the other way around and not ask how many religiously-affiliated organizations do encourage the killing of infidels but rather how many DON'T. Everyone wants to be the cat's whiskers and religion is no different. One of the ways of asserting ascendancy is to stick a knife in the other guy's heart or back.

So ... seriously ... what religion (and/or perhaps self-important cultural organization) is it that does not partake, implicitly or explicitly, in this sort of extremism? It may require some serious research, but I seriously doubt that anyone reading these words can credibly name such an organization.

Pure as the driven snow?

Go fuck yourself!

Better to concede the killer within and work to keep it in check.

Shy from extremist claptrap!

Trump seems to be pussy-prone, so....

Email coughed up this mildly-satisfying way of getting back at Donald Trump ... via scratching kittens. If only these imaginative but juvenile creations had some actual effect:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

American clothing label in French, maybe

It's probably apocryphal, but so many things are phony these days that I like to get my smiles from the ones that at least have a sense of humor.

Henry Ford hospital

Dr. Gerald Martin
Henry Ford hospital is one of the busiest in Michigan, and with many patients on Medicare and Medicaid it stands to be impacted greatly by an Obamacare repeal. As the debate rages, one doctor remains the calm at the center of the storm.
Where the rubber hits the medical road, it's nice to think someone actually does something while Washington bickers....

tax the robots which take jobs?

The idea of a tax on robots was raised last May in a draft report to the European parliament prepared by MEP Mady Delvaux from the committee on legal affairs. Emphasising how robots could boost inequality, the report proposed that there might be a “need to introduce corporate reporting requirements on the extent and proportion of the contribution of robotics and AI to the economic results of a company for the purpose of taxation and social security contributions”. The public reaction to Delvaux’s proposal has been overwhelmingly negative, with the notable exception of Bill Gates, who endorsed it. But we should not dismiss the idea out of hand.

small men, large dreams

Every time I think I ought to be joking, something comes along to show me it's no joke imagining all the wannabe dictators who deserve a space (perhaps Wyoming or the Gobi Desert) in which to cavort and connive and preen.

This morning, the email coughed up what in saner times might have been a chuckle, but instead does nothing so much as offer added resonance to the symphonic bullshit lapping at the shores of a quasi-peaceful lifestyle:
The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved Tuesday a controversial bill that would revise the organized crime law so authorities can crack down on individuals and organizations who conspire to engage in serious criminal activity.
The conspiracy charges apply to groups of two or more people, where at least one person procures funds, supplies or surveys a location in preparation for committing a crime. Efforts to maintain or expand organized crime groups would also be punished, while reduced penalties would be considered for those who turn themselves in before a crime is carried out.
Sometimes I think the Japanese are nothing but a national version of the U.S. Marine Corps -- all of them disproportionately little and belligerent as a means of making up for small size. This way, gents -- pick up your katanas and tickets to the Gobi Desert... no reason to subjugate those uninterested in your diminished peckers and oversized egos. But when I think of the Japanese in this bigoted way, I have to remember the country within which I am speaking ... yes, Donald Trump restores my reason.

Not even pygmies are so minimally equipped.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

it's scary, but is it true?

A few years after the millennium, the world was at its most peaceable in recorded history. Nonetheless, a 2006 Gallup poll revealed that 76% of Americans believed that the world was, in that year, more dangerous than it had been any time in the recent past. What might explain this? Some reasons lie in the psychology of threat perception.

And, cherry-picking some of the text of the Guardian article by the author of the book:

-- ... [Y]ou are more likely as a US citizen to drown in your bathtub (a one in 800,000 chance) than die from terrorism (a one in 3.8 million chance).
--  Toddlers, using weapons found in their own homes, have killed more Americans than terrorists in recent years.
--  [I]t is crucial to consider that the “war on terror” might have been a horrendous error. Such an argument runs like this: the attempt to impose a military solution on complicated political problems was simplified thinking with a false promise of total national safety. In turn, the militarisation of the response – as seen in the massive expansion of military deployments, arms spending, and the license to do anything in pursuit of national security – has in reality worsened the problem of armed violence in the world.
--  [C]ounter-terror policies of the 1980s and 1990s, aimed at pressuring governments to end state sponsorship of terrorist organisations, was actually working, and 9/11 was an exceptional and tragic outlier.
--  A 2011 Gallup poll found that 68%of Americans think crime is on the rise. In fact, between 1993 and 2012, the violent crime rate (homicide, robbery, rape and aggravated assault) in the United States dropped by just under 50%.
-- In 1959, US intelligence estimates suggested that the USSR would be in possession of between 1,000 and 1,500 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) compared to America’s paltry 100. In reality, by September 1961, the USSR had only four ICBMs at its disposal, “less than one half of one percent of the missiles expected by US intelligence”, as Stephen Van Evera points out. More recently, Saddam Hussein turned out not to possess weapons of mass destruction after all.
The  Guardian article is a longish one which is chock-a-block with the distinctions between perceived and actual danger -- the very stuff that might be worth consideration as President Donald Trump declares the need for a budget that will bulk up military spending and defend against a terrorism that is often manufactured at the expense of the electorate. I am sorry I haven't got the energy to be a more thorough cherry-picker, but I do think the Guardian article and perhaps the book are well worth reading. This, assuming it were ingested, is an important assessment.

evocative photos

Evocative photo array on Guardian web site today ... by Toshio Shibata:

Water flowing down a hillside in Itsuki village, Kumamoto prefecture, 2015

Monday, March 20, 2017

family and the governor

At last Saturday's National Guard farewell at UMass/Amherst gym:

L-R: Ives Fisher, Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker, Angus Fisher, Elizabeth Fisher

L-R: Richard Destefani, Olivia (Fisher) Destefani, Brianna Cooley,

Ives Fisher, Elizabeth Fisher, Angus Fisher

world view adjusted

The Gall-Peters projection [green], which shows land masses in their correct proportions by area, puts the relative sizes of Africa and North America in perspective. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo
When Boston public schools introduced a new standard map of the world this week, some young students’ felt their jaws drop. In an instant, their view of the world had changed.
The USA was small. Europe too had suddenly shrunk. Africa and South America appeared narrower but also much larger than usual. And what had happened to Alaska?
In an age of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, city authorities are confident their new map offers something closer to the geographical truth than that of traditional school maps, and hope it can serve an example to schools across the nation and even the world.

U.S. 'happiness' in decline

"We're becoming more and more mean spirited. And our government is becoming more and more corrupt. And inequality is rising," [Jeffrey] Sachs said, citing research and analysis he conducted on America's declining happiness for the report. "It's a long-term trend and conditions are getting worse."
Norway gets top billing in this year's happiness study. Denmark, previously number one, is now number two. As far as I can figure out, the conclusions are pretty much the same as they have been in the past ... community and connection are what count ... screwing the other guy doesn't pan out.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

out of thin air .... lace

The BBC photo by Alessandra Distefano does not say where or when the picture was taken, but still, the minutiae of life seem to stand tall in a world full of grand adventures held up for praise. This is lace ... a painstaking and very particular business that, perhaps, only the old and slow and wise can attempt:

Jimmy Breslin dead at 88

Columnist Jimmy Breslin, RIP
Today's reporters "are the best educated there ever was, and they go home at night and they go to the health club and have a glass of wine at home, with their wives and families. Which is the worst thing they could do all day. And as a result they're going to live long, and they're the most boring (expletive) people who've ever worked in the news business."

There is something fitting, perhaps, that his death at 88 should come a day after that of rock 'n' roll king Chuck Berry: I don't suppose either man was especially easy, but by God they put their shit on the table. 

Couple of quotes among many I like: 

-- "I ain't gonna get nowhere if I'm with everybody else," he says. "They'll drown me. I better go out on my own. If I'm all alone in a place I feel safe."

--  "Football is a game designed to keep coal miners off the streets."

Trump touts the company called the "United States"

Read more here:

Israel spurs yet another diplomatic award

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — The Palestinian president has awarded his people's highest honor to a former U.N. official who was forced to resign last week after authoring a report that accused Israel of establishing an "apartheid regime."
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa said Sunday that President Mahmoud Abbas informed Rima Khalaf by phone that she would receive the Palestine Medal of the Highest Honor in recognition of her "courage and support" for the Palestinian people.

saffron on a new silk road?

Saffron -- "the world's most valuable spice" -- has advantages as "a crop harvested in the late fall, when other crops have died off, that tolerates extreme climates and yields an average of $19 per gram." 
"UVM [University of Vermont] researchers said the yields amounted to $4.03 a square foot, compared to $3.51 a square foot for tomatoes, and $1.81 a square foot for winter leafy greens. They estimate an acre of saffron grown in high tunnelscould bring in $100,000 a season."

Saffron fields in Iran,
 which produces more 
than 80 percent of 
the 250 tons produced
 worldwide each year.
  Credit Courtesy of David Thiercelin
New York Times

Saturday, March 18, 2017

farewell speeches for son's unit

A going-away gathering (a salute?) to Ives' National Guard Unit is being held today at UMass/Amherst. The governor, some other politically-powerful person, and the unit commander are scheduled to speak. I thought I wouldn't go -- I find such things exhausting -- then changed my mind and thought I would, then re-changed it. I wish I were more courageous, but I don't want to listen to others lauding my son's departure on a mission I find confusing at best and corrupt at worst.

Sins of omission are more galling than sins of commission in general and no doubt I will regret my sloth that is mixed with a simmering anger and sadness. Yes, dragging an oxygen container in my wake is one facet of wanting not to go. But I will say my farewells to my son and bear the consequences without being forced to listen to the words of others. Ives will take off on the 24th for New Jersey and then a month or so in Texas and then be shipped elsewhere before heading to South base in Sinai and temperatures that average 90+ in summer months. He will return, gods be willing, in 2018. It is 5720+ miles from Northampton Mass, USA to Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.

Orwell's elephant

"George Orwell" 1920's passport photo
"George Orwell wrote a shocking account of a colonial policeman who kills an elephant and is filled with self-loathing. But was this fiction – or a confession? An Orwell expert introduces the original story."

comme il faut ... with a twist?

Sketch of Mary Clarke Mohl's salon by Hilary Bonham Carter
I suppose it marks some aspect of my inner catacombs, but there is occasionally something rousing and peppy about the era of the salon and its often-feisty population .... men, women... snappy, witty, and threatened with opprobrium if they grew boring or too obviously manipulative. I assume they were all wealthy to one degree or another -- gatherings like salons and Gstaad do not materialize without some muted tinkling of treasure behind a politely closed door.

I guess I would be out of breath in an instant these days -- all these wits and wags and well-versed, fine-calfed wig-wearers... and yet, there is some small portion of me that likes to hear the excitements of the well-informed mind that is willing to stretch its arms and yawn ... and sing.
In much of the 19th Century, one of the most influential of the salons was held at 120 Rue du Bac in the Saint-Germain district. Here gathered writers and thinkers like Victor Hugo and Alexis de Toqueville, politicians like the Adolphe Thiers, the future president, painters like Eugene Delacroix, historians, orientalists, economists.
And presiding over them all was an Englishwoman.
Clarkey was her nickname. Madame de Mohl became her formal title. Mary Clarke was how she was born in 1793 in London.
Arrogance, whether subtle or gross, is not an attractive trait and I suppose I must be found in some measure guilty. But also I sort of wonder if the foul-but-prancing odor is reduced depending on what, precisely, anyone might be arrogant about. Patriotism, intellect, religion, history .... it's sort of exciting when placed cheek-by-jowl with big-box specials... or is it?

And French does seem to lend a shiver of disgust and/or delight.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Israel branded the report "despicable"

Rima Khalaf
A UN official has resigned after saying the UN had pressured her to withdraw a report accusing Israel of apartheid over its treatment of Palestinians.
The report was published by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), led by Under Secretary General Rima Khalaf....
Speaking in the Lebanese capital Beirut, Ms Khalaf, a Jordanian, said she had submitted her resignation to Mr Guterres after he insisted on the report's withdrawal....
The report itself said it had established on the "basis of scholarly inquiry and overwhelming evidence, that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid".
It is hard for me to read this story -- which I imagine has a hundred tendrils of lies and truth -- and not think of the American actor Denzel Washington in a movie called "Man on Fire." In it, Washington follows the trail of those who have kidnapped a little girl he has been hired to protect and comes to love. Washington is not kind as he meets up with those involved. He cuts one man's fingers off without a blink. And in the following scene below (the entire scene is not available as far as I can determine, but the clip below gives some pre-boom flavor), he corners a corrupt police official, shoves a C-4 bomb up his ass and asks what the man knows about the kidnapping. As the timer clicks down, the man finally gives up the evidence Washington wants ... at which point Washington, rather than releasing the man, simply walks away while the man explodes. How tiring the self-serving excuses of those willing to excuse themselves from the harm they are willing to visit on others ... while all the time expecting that they should be excused because of some proclaimed virtue. It is hard not to think someone might boom such wheedlers.

Despicable ... yes indeed. But it's not easy to sort out who or what is supposed to don the "despicable" label. How nice it might be if I were a nicer person. But I doubt it would do much good.

deluxe Trump sensitivity

Passed along in email ... a bit dated, but still:

NEW YORK — U.S. President-elect Donald J. Trump held a press conference this morning to announce the manufacture of Trump Condoms, his latest namesake business venture, which will feature a gold foil-wrapped contraceptive touted as having the thinnest skin ever to hit the market.
“These condoms are really something, really terrific,” the incoming 45th President told reporters. “The slightest touch, be it real or imagined, will create a sensation that goes way beyond what mainstream condom companies would call ‘appropriate,’ folks, and I mean that — big league.”

the end of the icons as we know them

Everywhere, the steady icons of the past seem to shudder on their mounts.

In Japan -- Japan, mind you -- the parliament is being urged to consider a one-time bill that would give Emperor Akihito the right to abdicate. The bill will not take up the more substantive issues that include the possibility of a female -- in Japan, mind you -- emperor. The issue takes some force from the fact that Akihito's lineage is not exactly rife with male contenders for the Chrysanthemum Throne.  A girl emperor in Japan ... even suggesting it sends cracks into the smooth, decorous and limiting structures of Japan, I imagine. But what do I know? I'm just another unfortunate, undereducated and unrefined gaijin.
PS. A Japan court has ruled that the government is to some degree liable for the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant that succumbed to a tsunami in 2011. Japan is devoted to nuclear power but not so much to its outfall ... residents forced from their homes were recently urged to return to their dwellings. C'mon home, grow another toe, catch some cancer ... see how responsible we are.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems to have struck on a solution that might suit the Japanese emperor: Erdogan, who is currently pissed at Europe has "called on Turks living in Europe to have at least five children, saying it would be the best response to Europe's "injustices."" Making a lot of babies ... that'll show 'em. Erdogan is pissed -- especially at the Netherlands -- for a series of diplomatic snubs in Europe. The emperor may be a bit long in the tooth, but still, the idea -- assisted by a bit of no-girl DNA maneuvering -- may have merit in the land of the Rising Sun.

And finally -- oh lord! -- the unkindest cut of all:
Monopoly is making changes: The boot has been booted, the wheelbarrow has been wheeled out, and the thimble got the thumbs down in the latest version of the board game.
In their place this fall will be a Tyrannosaurus rex, a penguin and a rubber ducky.
It's like tinkering with the seven wonders of the world. On the other hand, I suppose, some new and improved gadgetry is required for all those Turks running around in Europe.

evolution, I guess

Passed along in email:

Thursday, March 16, 2017

"when did you choose to be heterosexual?"

The 1901 Dorland’s Medical Dictionary defined heterosexuality as an “abnormal or perverted appetite toward the opposite sex.” More than two decades later, in 1923, Merriam Webster’s dictionary similarly defined it as “morbid sexual passion for one of the opposite sex.” It wasn’t until 1934 that heterosexuality was graced with the meaning we’re familiar with today: “manifestation of sexual passion for one of the opposite sex; normal sexuality.”
Longish but interesting challenge to a lot of smug and/or lazy credulities.

Obama, Trump focus on Muslims

In the apparently-unremitting attempt to extract an assured future from a multi-faceted past and present ....
Internal US law enforcement documents describe a highly controversial community initiative aimed at identifying potential terrorists before they “radicalize” as being intimately related to intelligence gathering.
Despite years of official denials, American Muslim civil rights groups have claimed that Barack Obama’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) initiative was a euphemistic approach that targeted Muslims for surveillance.
The FBI described the CVE program as designed to “strengthen our investigative, intelligence gathering and collaborative abilities to be proactive in countering violent extremism”....
Under Donald Trump’s administration, the Department of Homeland Security is reviewing the effort with a mind to rebrand it “Countering Radical Islam” or “Countering Violent Jihad”

I suppose that somewhere there may be a religion that has no ties whatsoever to the injunction to smite, kill and otherwise obliterate those who do not concur. Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims ... all have passages in sometimes well-secreted texts ... bomb the bastards. We are the bestest with the mostest and if you do not agree, you'd better run, 'cause you can't hide.

How much easier things might be if religion(s) were forced to admit up-front that such clauses and invocations existed within its/their ranks. Even where a religion has no obvious invocation, still, there is enough suggestive stuff so that a suggestible human being -- with all the best intentions, of course -- could go on a blood-curdling rampage.

If this were simply admitted up front, maybe we could save some money now being spent on electronic surveillance, fear-mongering and all the rest.

copy editors for slovenly news wires

Chuang granted a preliminary injunction nationwide basis. (AP)
It's just a small sentence, but it has companions across the news wires that I read each morning and did again today. News organizations seem unwilling to hire copy editors or, failing that, hire copy editors who know how to do their job and pick up the mistakes made by their news writers.

I had a couple of examples in hand, but passed them by this morning as a means of ingesting the news itself. Now, naturally, I can't re-find them. Bleah ... but I know they're out there. That seems to be the arrogance of the burly and surly news agencies that probably excuse themselves for working so hard that a couple of errors won't hurt anything. The number of errors mounts incrementally ... but mounts, leaving excuses in its wake.

Get off your ass, ASSOCIATED PRESS!
Get off your ass, BBC.
Get off your ass, everyone!
[I won't even take aim at the likes of The New York Times or the Boston Globe whose sniffy arrogance in copy and presentation I have long doubted after short experiences with each.]

If you're not going to do a good job, why bother doing it at all? I know, your old grey men want to return to the times when a 20% annual profit was par for the course. To a time when hard-hitting news was something to aspire to instead of getting along so well with the power politicians who help to fill up the increasingly vacuous 24-hour news cycle. To a time when failure was acceptable because failure is part of any successful life.


war for the asking

The soldiers were going through training at the first jungle school the Army has established in decades. The course is part of a program to train soldiers for exercises and potential combat on terrain that looks more like islands and nations in the Pacific than arid Afghanistan and the deserts of the Middle East.
Brig. Gen. Stephen Michael, deputy commander of the 25th Infantry Division, said the Army set up the school as its footprint was shrinking in Iraq and Afghanistan after more than a decade of war in those countries.
Just as U.S. health-care spending looks to be headed for a financial haircut and there is a presidential promise that military spending will rise [slicing], comes a the above-quoted indicator that the medical world will not go begging for work to do. Is there any doubt that some swampy nation or splinter group will oblige a country rich in resources and headed by a sociopath?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

pussy hacking

A Canadian sex-toy maker has been accused of tracking data on the intimate habits of thousands of its customers.
The Ottawa-based company, Standard Innovation, has agreed a collective payout up to a total of C$4m (£2.4m) for users in the US, where the lawsuit was filed....
This week, the company agreed its payout for US customers who bought the product before 26 September last year.
Under the deal, those who used the We-Connect app will be paid up to C$10,000 each.
Customers who bought the toy, but did not activate the accompanying app, will receive up to US$199 each.
As far as I can understand, women are the sole beneficiaries of this insidious plot. None of the objects depicted seem to be directed at heterosexual males, though this may just be my ignorance showing. It also makes you wonder at the male population and the accusations laid their randiness doorstep.

Of course, there was the blow-up doll fished out of the Pacific last year by tribal members who initially worshiped it, if I am not mistaken, as a godess and/or angel.
Ahhh, it's a classic fairytale. The good villagers discover a holy angel. The good villagers worship the holy angel.
The good villagers realise the holy angel is actually a life-size not-so-holy sex toy.
I don't know about other males, but I wouldn't turn away $10,000 for a slight bruise to my dwindling ego.

people get broken

People get broken. [Here, apparently, is a partial video taping of one such event.]
True, people can also lie like rugs and be self-centered, devious scum bags of the first order.
But people get broken and the ones who laid the groundwork for the breaking are too infrequently called to account.
Is it any wonder that there are conspiracy theories and wide-net rages labeled liberal bullshit and fascist and unpatriotic?

People get broken, but the houses in Scarsdale, Conn., Howard, Md., and Fairfax Va., are well-kept by owners who seldom have "whitewall" haircuts. The lawns are well-kept and people get broken. In Belgravia -- the terrain oh-so-close to Buckingham Palace in London -- there are English accents to boot. My, how cultured ... but people get broken.
Alexander Blackman became the first member of the UK armed forces in recent history to be convicted of murder while on an overseas tour and has been serving a life sentence in a civilian prison since 2013.
Blackman, who was not at the Royal Courts of Justice to hear the decision [Wednesday], remains in prison for the moment but will be re-sentenced within the next couple of weeks and at that point could be released.
Broken. Who, in what state of mind, walks into his own house and then trashes it ... breaks everything within reach and then walks away with less than s/he came in with? Hell, even a bull in a china shop isn't that stupid.

“There is no such thing as a Rambo type, an Arnold Schwarzenegger soldier, who can face all sorts of stresses and appear to be invulnerable,” he said. “That sort of person only exists in the cinema,”  [Neil Greenberg, a psychiatrist, told the court.]
An MoD spokesperson said: “We have fully cooperated with each stage of Sgt Blackman’s case, which has now involved a criminal investigation, a court martial and the appeal process, and will continue to provide personal support to the family, as we have done since charges were first brought. We respect the court’s decision and it would be inappropriate for us to comment further on it.”
Inappropriate to comment in England.
Inappropriate for the public to view the bodies of service members arriving home in Dover, Del.,  from war zones ... it's a matter of appropriateness ... NOT. Both are instances of the political and moral fallout from commenting further, from slipping from the patriotic heights to the dubious depths of the places in which people are broken.

How could the lawns be so neat or the real estate prices so rosy if suddenly speaking of the dead and how they got that way were somehow "appropriate?"

Am I whining?

You bet your ass I am!

the karez is not the Great Wall, but ....

At its peak in 1784, the karez spanned 5,272km, with 1,237km running through the basin. The water flowed directly to the farms and vineyards, while residents drew cool, crisp drinking water from one of 172,367 wells....
Although not as widely known as the Great Wall, the karez is one of China’s most recognized ancient engineering feats. Constructed by the Uyghur people who long ago settled this remote part of northwest China, the system once carried water throughout all of what is now the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
Powered only by gravity, the irrigation method carries glacial groundwater to the Turpan Basin from the eastern base of the Tianshan Mountains. To avoid evaporation in the burning summer sun, the water streams through a maze of underground tunnels that connect more than one thousand wells across the area. Each individual tunnel stretches anywhere from three to 30km.
The Persians may have served as the engineering font for this man-made marvel, but in my mind, a marvel is a marvel, especially when it nourishes.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

automated Wall Street

Brokerage Charles Schwab Corp (SCHW.N) on Tuesday launched a service that combines its automated investment management technology with human advisors, as financial institutions race to offer digital financial advice.
The service, called Schwab Intelligent Advisory, provides clients with a financial and investment plan, unlimited access to a human advisor via phone or video conference, and an investment portfolio of exchange-traded funds managed by computer algorithms.
The service, for clients with at least $25,000 to invest, includes an online platform that keeps track of financial goals and retirement plans, the San Francisco-based company said in a statement. It will charge a 0.28 percent fee on assets, with a quarterly maximum of $900.
The service comes less than two months after Betterment LLC, one of the first and largest online wealth managers known as robo-advisers, said it would offer two similar hybrid plans, with minimum investments of $100,000 and $250,000.
"Wealth management" is one of those terms like "hand-crafted" that makes me wonder who is buying the snake oil this morning. Do the algorithms have a function that allows people to yell at them ... after which the algorithms hang their heads and take responsibility?

Monday, March 13, 2017

"ice house" gets a new meaning

Cold weather in New York state left one house completely encased in ice.
The home, on the shore of Lake Ontario, was captured by a local photographer after being battered by water whipped up from the lake by freezing winds.
The photographer said many people on social media refused to believe the images were genuine.
John Kucko said he was "amazed at how many people think I sprayed foam on the place" and posted video footage as proof.

Donald Trump Song

Another one passed along in email:

regulating male masturbation

Finally! Someone worth voting for!
HOUSTON — Texas State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, filed a bill Friday that would penalize men for "unregulated masturbatory emissions." 
The satirical House Bill 4260 would encourage men to remain "fully abstinent" and only allow the "occasional masturbatory emissions inside health care and medical facilities," which are described in the legislation as the best way to ensure men's health.
Farrar said she created the bill after feeling fed up with the various legislative bills introduced by men addressing women's healthcare.
"A lot of people find the bill funny," Farrar said in a phone interview. "What's not funny are the obstacles that Texas women face every day, that were placed there by legislatures making it very difficult for them to access healthcare."
A man would face a $100 penalty for each emission made outside of a vagina or medical facility. Such an emission would be considered "an act against an unborn child, and failing to preserve the sanctity of life," according to the legislation.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

witches et al cast spell for/on Donald Trump

Donald Trump has stirred up a wide spectrum of reaction, not least, apparently, from "witches across America and beyond who performed a collective spell to stop the 45th POTUS from doing harm."

Not everyone is on-board with the spell-casting and some ranking witches have apparently come out against amateurs indulging in matters they understand poorly.

"insufferable credulity"

Since retiring in 2009, I have found myself sorting through the past and quietly trying to figure out how to leave less mess when I die. I don't worry too much about furniture and the like -- let push come to shove and most of it can be burnt. I can't do much about the sorrows others might feel, though if I could, I would. And then there are the thought processes I would like to dust off and align somehow and chief among those of late....

When I first took an interest in spiritual life, I was peeing in my pants to be included in the spiritual-life realm -- to be a 'real' Hindu or Buddhist or whoever-all-else who had bona fides. I wanted to join. I wanted to be counted-among ... and I had no clue how to do it. If I made donations, maybe? If I went to centers, maybe? If I read a lot of books, maybe?  If I hung out with those who seemed to be anointed already, maybe? Oh, I felt like an orphan in a world where everyone else had a family.

How the hell did anyone sign on?

Well, signing on worked itself out.

But what does anyone do when it comes time to sign off? Seriously, isn't there an unwritten quid pro quo in spiritual (or any other) life: If you can sign on, you have to know how to sign off ... because if you don't know how to sign off, you have never adequately signed on.

But that doesn't mean the uncoupling (so to speak) is smooth or simple. Looking back -- now and again, I busted my chops. Now and again I wept. Now and again the skies parted ... only to close again. Now and again I simply could not think of anything more relevant or important .... spiritual wisdom or ignorance or attachment or revulsion or whatever it was stuck all over me for 40 or 50 years. But what payback, what scent, what height and weight will be relinquished in death? Continuing to bask and hold on to spiritual interests is antithetical to spiritual interests, to the extent they are taken seriously. So... what then....? What divestiture awaits or insists? How do you get out of what must be gotten out of with the same insistence that once was applied to getting in?

And yesterday, what occurred to me as the universal solvent came visiting:


Every human being deserves and is compelled to drown in some insufferable credulity. 
Insufferable credulity is what makes individuals interesting in both positive and negative senses. Humanist, creationist, intellectual, dumbkopf, carpenter, writer, millennial, octogenarian, well read, Bible thumper, musician, horndog, policy wonk, miser, Ted talker, self-immolator, stamp collector ...

Just big and juicy and up to the armpits. Secret or open. It's all the same ... the importance of insufferable credulity...the stuff that makes stuff interesting ... and horrific.

That the individual will grow into
And grow out of
For the benefit of self
And the benefit of others.
It's the ketchup on an otherwise dumb-ass hamburger.

Interested in spiritual life ... insufferable credulity.
Weaned from spiritual life ... insufferable credulity.

So that eventually being insufferable -- being interesting -- requires too much energy. It is acceptable not to be credulous and thereby -- hallelujah! -- not to be insufferable.

alone with everyone else

"The Scottish Bothy Bible"

Bothies - remote shelters in the wilderness where walkers can spend the night free of charge - have long been one of Scotland's best-kept secrets. A new book has revealed the location of 80 of the mountain huts.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

family photo

 A family snap taken a couple of weeks ago at Ives' birthday party: L-R: Ives, Elizabeth, Angus, Richard DeStefani (olivia's husband), Olivia, and Adam

teaching moments?

A school in the US state of New Jersey is under fire for an assignment that asked children aged 10-11 to create posters depicting slave auctions.
Some parents reacted angrily when they attended the school and saw the posters hanging in a hallway.
The principal apologised for any pain or offence caused.
District officials said children needed to learn about the "uglier parts of our past", but accepted the posters should not have been hung without context.
The assignment had been set by the South Mountain Elementary School in South Orange, near Newark.
 And then:
Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray met senior White House aides without the State Department's knowledge, according to an official.
State Department acting spokesman Mark Toner said he was "unaware" the foreign minister was in Washington.
The secretary of state typically receives foreign diplomats during visits to the nation's capital.
The disconnect comes amid reports that the State Department has been sidelined in matters of foreign policy.
"We'll take that and get back to you. I was unaware that he was - the foreign minister was in town," Mr Toner said at a news conference on Thursday.

parking in China

hunger and starvation

The world is facing its largest humanitarian crisis since 1945, the United Nations says, issuing a plea for help to avoid "a catastrophe".
UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien said that more than 20 million people faced the threat of starvation and famine in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria.
Unicef has already warned 1.4m children could starve to death this year.
Mr O'Brien said $4.4bn (£3.6bn) was needed by July to avert disaster.

Donald Trump is president of the United States.

and perhaps as a PS....
In the lobby of the James R Browning courthouse in San Francisco, there was a digital sign listing that day’s cases. At 9.30am on Monday 12 December last year, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit would hear.....and at 11.30 they would hear Sundus Saleh v George Bush et al, the only case yet filed in the US that questions the legality of the war in Iraq....
The accused (from left): Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, George W Bush and Dick Cheney. Photographs: AP, Getty, Reuters
“They have the power to look at international law and recognise aggression as a jus cogens norm.” In other words, the Ninth Circuit could have recognised illegal war-making as the “supreme” crime, as the judges had at Nuremberg, subject to a different level of scrutiny. “But they didn’t. They said, ‘We could do that, but we’re not going to today.’ According to this ruling, the White House and Congress can commit genocide in the name of national security, and be protected.”
With the case at an end, Comar plans to catch up on sleep and work...."We need to have a conversation about why we’re always at war. And why we’re always doing it unilaterally.”

Friday, March 10, 2017

remembering letters

Written in a handwriting I somehow feel I should remember but don't came a card with an anonymous birthday note yesterday.
The picture was a reproduction/print of a Swedish breakfast gathering under a birch. The card was signed "ever an admirer," which, if true, made me nervous, and, if false, made me wonder at the thoughtfulness of the card. The handwriting was quite small and meticulously neat. Contained inside the card was a Peanuts cartoon referring to snailmail letters. The cartoon strip was spliced into a truncated envelope bearing the question, "remember letters?"

Yes I do and I woke up this morning tantalized by the card that lacked a person. I didn't mind that it lacked a person ... person-dom is fun, but not exactly necessary. The card felt warm in my mind ... something placed on the parallel-lines-meet-in-infinity tracks. If it was a mystery, that was fine. If it wasn't a mystery, that was fine. Do the lines meet? Fine. Do the lines never meet? Fine. Everything felt toasty as I lay warm in bed in the pre-dawn hours basking in thoughts that allowed me to remain ensconced in sheet and blankets.

Letters -- the snailmail kind -- were lovely. They presumed without demurrer that between sending and receiving, little or nothing had changed. They allowed for raucous opinion or gnashing sorrow. How in love or hate anyone might be! How decorous or indecorous! How I would hang on their words after opening one from someone I hoped to hear from. There was no internet. No rush ... or, even if there was a rush, the rush was deflated by life's stately paces. Letters assumed both parties credited letters as concrete purveyors of the God's honest truth ... after three or four or five days traveling.

"I love you...."

The diaphanous words hung on diaphanous threads in a diaphanous mind ... and for whatever brief moment, it spelled out a cuddling "yes."

skimming the tops of the news waves

Stuff that fires my boilers this morning:
-- Fukushima disaster evacuees told to return to abandoned homes
People who fled after March 2011 nuclear meltdown face losing housing subsidies if they do not go back, despite radiation fears
I smell a financial rodent: If there is a lot of money to be made with nuclear power, let's just declare the bomb zone "safe" and prove it by forcing those who once lived safely to return to a place the government cannot yet make safe. A couple of steps further and this might be called murder with a pay day.

-- Harking back to the apposite nature of the Japanese saying, "Don't fix the blame; fix the problem," it occurred to me that this is Donald Trump's central issue. He likes to fix the blame but is incapable of fixing the problem .... so he affixes more headline-grabbing blame.
--  Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, has dismissed a basic scientific understanding of climate change by denying that carbon dioxide emissions are a primary cause of global warming....
This stance puts Pruitt at odds with his own agency, which states on its website that carbon dioxide is the “primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change”. This finding is backed by Nasa, which calls CO2 “the most important long-lived ‘fsorcing’ of climate change”.
-- The Pentagon is sending about 400 Marines to Syria to help local fighters wrest control of Raqqa, which ISIS considers its capital.
The Pentagon says the new troops will fire artillery rounds at ISIS fighters in support of the local forces, as well as provide security for the Marine artillerymen, as NPR's Phil Ewing reports.
These 400 troops will bring the number of U.S. forces on the ground in Syria to about 900, Phil says.
Wasn't it 15 minutes ago that excoriating Syria for its dictatorship and its gas attacks on civilians was par for the talking-head pundits? Wasn't blowing Syria back into the Stone Age a U.S. position? I guess a build-up for a Middle East war is to be expected. The poverty of imagination and effort is ... historically logical, I guess. But sad ... oh so fucking sad.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

bird flu ... no joke

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The detection of a highly pathogenic strain of bird flu at a Tennessee chicken farm has poultry farmers stepping up security in an attempt to prevent an outbreak like the one in 2015 that required the destruction of millions of chickens and turkeys in the Midwest. The appearance of milder forms of bird flu at a Wisconsin turkey farm and another Tennessee chicken farm has heightened concern.

"don't fix the blame; fix the problem"

1. Another birthday, this one celebrated by going to the Division of Motor Vehicles to have my driver's license renewed. I was edgy going in (my eyesight is not the 20/20 it once was and I hate going to see yet another damned doctor) but everything was smooth once the money changed hands (funny how that frequently seems to be the case). My son and I will go out to dinner, I think ... so I won't have to cook or wash dishes.

2. Useful saying: "Don't (af)fix the blame; fix the problem."

attacking the chickens

Chickens of Valley Street in more salubrious times.
Yesterday, in untimely warmth, both the people and the gossip came outdoors for a little airing. Mike was there as was Claudia and I joined the fray.

Mike said to Claudia he had seen some of the earlier-that-morning kerfful in which some dogs without leashes walked through the neighborhood, spotted Claudia's 'free-range' chickens and promptly attacked. Claudia went ape-shit -- as did Mike from a distance and I listening from a third-hand vantage point. The dog got the white chicken in its mouth ... Claudia grabbed a broom and the owers apparently told her to go fuck herself. I never did find out how the white chicken fared. Claudia called the cops and the animal control officer. I asked if she got into trouble because her chickens, which wander about with the straight-spined arrogance of a marquis, were not exactly under control either. Never did get an answer, but I still stand with the chickens: How many chickens do you know who would attack either people or other animals. Geese, sure ... but chickens? They're 'chicken,' right? This (chickens, rancor, warm weather) all could be grounds for a sissy version of the Hatfield and the McCoys, save the fact that people around here use the descriptive "hand-crafted" as if it were something serious in the world.

Doreen, Mike's wife and a good spirit in the neighborhood, has finished on bout of radiation/chemotherapy and it worked, as best I understood it, but now there is some lung cancer that cannot be operated on because of its integration with veins, arteries and other delicacies on the lung. It's being zapped in what everyone hopes is the last bout of trips to the hospital. I miss Doreen's laugh, which, from a  porch diagonally across the street, can be heard without straining. She's tired, but recuperating well, says Mike.

Today's was just a little 10-minute convocation on the street, but very pleasant as another day (tomorrow) of snow and the rest of winter cuts off a quick retreat into spring .... although my wife says there are flowers doing their best on the backyard lawns.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017