I am a curious generalist, a marginally and occasionally employable|enjoyable denizen of this crazy world. My occasional pontifications on this page are not ex cathedra; I have no throne, just a comfy perch looking out at the human scene. No charge for the gratuitous Latin, always glad to use that Liberal Arts degree.


You win some,
you lose some,
so don't feel so lonesome. If you lose some, it helps to be winsome. And then some.

I turned on Law and Order last night and the episode began with a guy pointing a gun at a young woman and raping her. I said to myself 'why the hell am I watching this?', turned off the tube and turned in for the night. I'm tired of all this violence on TV.

The only time I hear or read the word 'spree', it's in combination with the word 'shooting'. I'd like to see headlines like "Loving and loveable person goes on hugging spree", or "Smiling spree breaks out at suburban mall".

It often happens, and I know that most people feel the way this guy did, but I can't help posting this. I overheard someone in a neighboring cubicle recently, joking with his buddies about dodging jury duty; he's a bit of a chucklehead and pretty coarse, so this attitude was completely in character. I disagree with this pervasive attitude, though. There's a reason it's called jury 'duty', as it is something that we infrequently have to engage in so that the justice system functions. To this person I say with respect, but with conviction: I just hope for your sake that if you ever have to use the court system that there will be citizens who are more civic-minded than you, pal.

The political system is broken
Congress' approval rating is almost in SINGLE DIGITS, mainly (I think) because the people of this country know that their 'representatives' are not truly representing them any more. Because they need to raise so much money for re-election, they spend a ridiculous amount of time away from their sworn obligations, and how can this indebtedness to private groups, individuals and organizations not distort their priorities and voting patterns?

I would like to see a Venn diagram of all those who know about 'Siri' on the TomKat pop culture and tech sides.

Recruiters are a necessary part of the work ecology, and I don't envy them, but there are good ones and, well, you know where I'm going. A common practice is to use search for keyword matches on a person's online resume, or some database equivalent of it, which, for those of us like me that have a deep work history, can produce egregious mismatches that are laughable and annoying. I guess the minions who send the sloppy posts to me don't care, or are subject to systems that are too coarse grained or something, and probably don't or can't adjust the way they do things, but sometimes I just have to fire off a reply that I hope serves as a corrective, but as a minimum gives me a little satisfaction as I discharge some 'scorn energy'. For Pete's sake, people, don't just look at the search match metrics, look at my actual work history; or maybe they are such minor talents now that they don't have the background to do that extra check. I guess one way to look at this in a positive light is to think that at least I still draw interest, and fortunately, there are mostly good offers, not the stupid ones.

I supplement email with 'memail' sometimes when on a project. By that I mean that I understand that every person has their own way of interacting with team members. As a tech writer, I need to get details at times for documentation purposes, and I make it a practice to use email for requests for needed info, as email provides a reliable, backed-up (important), and high-priority communcations channel. But teams have many channels, sometimes, reflecting the preferred communication/collaboration method of the individual[istic] team member. Recognizing that a particular preferred channel such as email is sometimes behaviorally deprecated, I make it a point to also physically present myself to the techie and, personably, professionally, and proficiently, solicit and obtain the needed content.

Al Pacino is [probably not] following me on Twitter
I saw that @Alfredo_Pacino started following me today. Since anyone who gets there first can claim a name, and put up any picture for their profile, I thought I'd take a skeptical look. Here are some of the posts that supposedly issued from the mind of Al Pacino:

"I'm off to take the dinner. Take care, everyone!" (Take the dinner? That's a winner)

"The printer is still dead. I'm already getting nervous, so I think I'll just put some music instead. Ha!"

"The second part was the most tragic, and the most difficult to play, but for all of that,it is my favourite part." (British spelling)

"Never heard of him, but I've just listened a sample from his web page."

"Too pity critics were not impressed by that, but that's life, you can't satisfy everyone's tastes." (Too pity?)

OK, enough, and, 'hoo-ahh' to the real Al, whom I love.

Can you see this dilemma also?
We have been using an iron for about 15 years or so, and it finally succumbed to use; the stress point where the cord fed into the applicance caused the wiring to fray and become exposed, leading to a shocking (visually) spark recently. Wifey wanted to get it repaired, so went to a guy who quoted $15, then was quick to add 'you can get a replacement for that for $15, probably'. Voting with her bucks, she chose to have the current one repaired, rather than adding one more more item to our waste stream. For us the choice is innate now, as our concern is the reduction of waste whenever possible, but for many the choice continues to be for convenience, and that's understandable, but a larger perspective might lead one to have a different view. Think what you like, but I just wanted to put that out there.

UPDATE: We were able to get it fixed; small victories should also be recorded.

Kurt Vonnegut was a WWII prisoner of war
He was imprisoned in an underground slaughterhouse known by German soldiers as Schlachthof Fnf (Slaughterhouse Five), the name being immortalized in his eponymous 1969 novel. This is a letter he wrote to his family.

Poem
During our walk,
I ascertained that, indeed, you did still like me
Then we nestled,
and cuddled,
and coddled
and I had your way with you.

Piano
The name of the popular instrument derives from an earlier instrument, the loud/soft or 'fortepiano' One definition says, in part, that the label is a form of notation used to "designate a section of music in which the music should be played loudly (forte), then immediately softly (piano)."

It's interesting to me that the 'soft' portion of the original name is retained only for the modern instrument, since, with 'grand' pianos and virtuosi, many of us have come to find the piano to be loud and powerful in so many works of music.
Speaking of Liszt (yes I know, a reach):

A List
"Don't taze me, bro"
"Don't touch my junk"
Imma let you finish, but want to suggest my addition to this list:
"Don't offshore my job for marginal benefit to the bottom line"

Beckoned into my mindspace (in temporal order):
Thomas Becket
Jeff Beck
Kate Beckinsale
Beck
Glenn Beck
(Yes, I actually spent precious moments of my life putting the list together)

Why do you think there's an Innocence Project?
I just heard about the disorder called Prosopagnosia, or 'face blindness'. From the Wikipedia article cited, it is a malady that as much as 3% of the population has, where "the ability to recognize faces is impaired, while the ability to recognize other objects may be relatively intact." About 2.5% of the population may have it congenitally, with a small incidence caused by brain injury (hence my 3% guess). Consider how this may impact 'eyewitness' testimony in court, and, consider how a screening of such crucial contributors to the legal system might be a good idea.

I know this is posted elsewhere, and terms of engagement for CDEIS.COM deprecate poaching, but this quote from a gifted and troubled American just tickles me in a couple of places:

   "Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it."
         Mark Twain


Question about LOA and a Twitter exchange
Original post:
I saw another discussion of the Law of Attraction just now, on a website I respect, and have read about this world view in several places over the years. I posed this question recently on that website; still awaiting moderation, so I don't know whether that question will see the light of internet day. Here it is:

I think this is all very lovely. What I don?t understand is how this comports with cases of mass scale calamity, as we see all too often in this world. According to [my understanding of] these precepts, were the people in those devastated locales ?just asking for it? with negativity? Please help me understand.

Subsequent exchange:
The other day when I gained a Twitter follower who is pretty much all LOA, all of the time, with affirmations and what some might considering a mild form of preaching, which any true believer is understandably prone to, if they think they can help others. Here is the initially uncomfortable exchange, and the resulting better understanding; I sincerely try to be both frank and capable of learning, as I hope can be seen here:

Me:You must be joking: "If you (sic) choosing to be financially poor, you are rejecting the financial abundance from God"
Me:
Guess you didn't count on "attracting" this critique; you followed me; I check out new followers.
He: I know everyone will not agree with the tweets I write, and that's ok.
Me: How does your #LOA account for the multiple millions of kids annually brutalized, made into slaves? "Asking for it"? Wow.
He: If my tweets offend you, you can choose to unfollow me. If you are offended, you should ask "WHY AM I SO OFFENDED?"
Me:
I am not following you, sir. And why I'm so offended is obvious, but maybe not to one with your worldview; whatever.
He:
They are providing the world an opportunity to help. What are you doing to help them?
Me:Read my posts, and learn, bro.
Me: Wait a minute; the millions of kids brutalized annually provide an 'opportunity' to us? I just read that post of yours. Wow.
He:I believe that every soul chooses to come to Earth for a purpose. Some choose to come to teach compassion and love to others.
Me:I still want to know how one 'chooses' one's circumstances if they are not already several levels up in Maslow's hierarchy
Me:How does a victimized kid 'choose' what happens to them? Some karmic assignment?
He: Christ was high on Maslow's hierarchy; yet he came to Earth to teach the world love, acceptance, and helping one another.
Me:I guess part of my Earthly assignment was to help you spread your message. I'll move on to next task; take care.
He: Peace and blessing to you.
Me:
Same to you.

My takeaway: a belief in reincarnation and choice of one's earthy mission covers the incredibly uneven distribution of sadness, happiness and prosperity we see on this planet. At least there's more consistency to it than I originally understood.

Canada Jokes
I've been to Canada many times over several decades; I know a lot of Canadians. Canada is a vibrant cosmopolitan society with tons of rural charm, a close ally, and a good neighbor.

Here's my take on a lot of the jokes Americans make about Canada: They're as clever and representative as the personally destructive brain-dead humor of high school jocks who end up going nowhere in their lives. Many of them use extreme examples of personality types, or local yokel flavor that could just as well be found closer to home, perhaps within one's very own domicile. They are often not funny, either.

I know people like to laugh, indeed, need to laugh, so whatever floats yer boat, but I also wanted to say this.

Flash Mob of Common Sense Quashes Quran Burning
Yep, quite a mouthful, that one, and what a story. It seems that some group was going to burn a Quran in Amarillo and had assembled around a barbecue grill. The Quran was drenched, and awaiting the match. Reports of this event had circulated (of course) and a counter demonstration of several dozen was there, generated by social media activity. One guy who since has gained his fifteen minutes of fame grabbed the book and presented it to a local Muslim leader, depriving the group of its moment. It's fascinating to me that the very publicity this fringe group sought was their undoing. As someone has said, sunlight is the best disinfectant, and exposure on the global fora of our modern age seems to serve a similar function, at least often enough to offer us examples that make us smile.

Phone Bank/Boiler Room people, here's how it goes
You call me, I pick up, say 'Hello'. If nothing within two seconds, I hang up.

Internet Archive pursues an important mission
Founded in 1996, the Internet Archive is trying to save our civilization. As its home page states: "without cultural artifacts, civilization has no memory and no mechanism to learn from its successes and failures". Despite the massive volume of data being added to websites globally, a considerable amount of that data 'ages out' due to business rules or perceived topicality; as websites disappear for various reasons, their stores of images, opinion, reportage and the like also disappear with them in most cases. This paradoxical situation means that a form of '401 amnesia' characterizes our current era, and this foundation is trying to stop the information hemorrhage that is causing that amnesia.

Stewart Brand, a gifted communicator and thought leader, puts it very well:

The Internet Archive is a service so essential that its founding is bound to be looked back on with the fondness and respect that people now have for the public libraries seeded by Andrew Carnegie a century ago.... Digitized information, especially on the Internet, has such rapid turnover these days that total loss is the norm. Civilization is developing severe amnesia as a result; indeed it may have become too amnesiac already to notice the problem properly. The Internet Archive is the beginning of a cure - the beginning of complete, detailed, accessible, searchable memory for society, and not just scholars this time, but everyone."

Sinead O'Connor's repurposing of a Marley Classic
Her appearance and ripping up of the Pope's photo caused waves of condemnation. However, there was a decisive dimension to this very focused act of protest by a devout Catholic. Her account of the times and the topic recast her action in a completely different light. I thought this NPR interview was fascinating for a couple of reasons. Hear why the Irish were way ahead of the US on the child abuse scandals that came to dominate the US Cathlic scene, and why she thinks the recognition and engagement of the US will be possibly decisive in cleaning out the Church. Very moving testimony at times, and very persuasive. Link points to Holy Kaw! site, incidentally, whose staff provides a fire hose of content on Twitter.

I say it with no compunction: "no compulsion"
Let people make up their own minds, and live with their decisions, as they work out their tour of duty on this planet.

Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan
The violence and hatred there are directly attributable to Stalin's decision to draw artificial boundaries in that area and to create Soviet Republics that could not easily be self-sufficient. This caused large pockets of Uzbeks to be located within Kyrgyzstan. Similar artificial boundaries were the norm all across Africa when the Europeans carved up that continent. The mismatch of boundary to ethnicity was so great, and the potential for massive revision of boundaries so likely following independence that the OAU (now called the African Union) decided as a fiat to just live with the national borders. This did not prevent a lot of ensuing problems, of course.

Oxytocin, Moms and Soldiers
In one of those occasional happenings that make one wonder about how the world works, I encountered two separate and rather compelling references to the hormone Oxytocin the other day; one was in the news, the other one was in a three-year old magazine article. These were the first times I'd ever heard of the stuff.

Here's the breakdown:
The hormone promotes social comfort; it helps bond couples after sex, or friends who share their feelings. It seems that Oxytocin reduces activity in the amygdala, a portion of the brain whose function it is to produce a sense of alarm, tied to the 'fight or flight' reflex. Of course, sometimes that reflex is justified, but as one might expect, sometimes it is inappropriate, so the hormone helps tamp down that unreasoning reaction. When researchers at the University of Zurich gave nasal spray doses to people suffering from extreme social phobia, the subjects became far more trusting and successful in social engagements. A University of Iowa neurologist has voiced concern that political campaigns might spray oxytocin at rallies for their candidates.

The recent article here covers how researchers have found that soldiers under the stress of combat (and apparently according to the article, oxytocin is released then also) "have the same chemicals running through their bloodstreams as protective mothers". This promotes in-group solidarity, but also, and here's the troubling part, "became much more hostile to outsiders". Maybe this helped make My Lai more likely to happen, as an aside, acknowledging the multiplicity of factors that have been suspected to have been at play.

Wondering if oxytocin has already been deployed at rallies to build group solidarity and unthinking allegiance. I wonder if its influence, whether generated naturally or applied by operatives, has played even a minor role in the vitriolic partisanship that seizes this and other countries from time to time.

Issue Forth(coming)
When I was a kid, we called them 'problems'.  Are we too squeamish to use that word now? Instead we (well, not I) use the term 'issue'.

Shark Fin Soup is based on Barbaric Practice
"Shark finning" ably describes the practice of catching a grown shark, cutting off its dorsal fin, then throwing it back into the ocean thrashing and fatally disabled, to die a slow death. This supposed delicacy has been a treat on Asian menus for centuries, but tradition to me does not excuse the practice. How is this much better than the bad old days in the American West, where Europeans would go out on the plains and kill buffalos just to take their tongue?

Wax Eloquent
It seems that 95% of East Asians have a type of ear wax that is gray and flaky, essentially dry; Europeans and Africans, to a larger extent, have the other kind, where the ear wax is well, waxy, and wetter. This is why cotton swabs are used in most parts of the globe to groom, whereas ear picks, thin sticks of aluminum, plastic or bamboo are predominant in Asian households and why barbers in Asia will offer ear cleaning. Southern and Central Asian populations are about 50-50. No further stats were found. (Utne Reader, March-April '07, referring to since-removed Hyphen magazine online article)

One Possible Future Form for Abortion Clinics?
A lot of areas in the US are hostile to the very notion of abortion of any kind, as we have seen. This hostility extends of course to the actual physical locations where the procedure is done. Harrassment and the possibility of death or injury are the daily lot of many staff and doctors, a reality I won't detail, as I don't think I have to. Currently, advances in technology have made it possible for doctors to remotely conduct procedures through powerful real-time video and instrument devices. I can see how this approach will prove compelling.

Study of ants and neurons
"suggest there are general principles of organization for building groups far smarter than the smartest individuals in them" this article from Seed Magazine fascinatingly asserts.

DADT
I know the transition will be wrenching for some, perhaps many, but many Europeans, the Australians, and the Israelis have openly gay troops. Just sayin'

What would we do without the Baldwins?
We are probably all familiar with Alec, but you know there are several Baldwin brothers who have been active in film and TV. Stephen, reality TV actor most notably/recently, is an avowed Born again Christian, and this site wants fellow Christians to help 'restore' him through donations; no joke. Fittingly, in the pictures of him on the home page, he is seen sporting a 'soul patch' chin adornment.

Sample Posts from the BP Parody Twitter Account:



"Why don't you get angry?"
Sometimes folks ask me why, given what I know of the world, I don't get exasperated or angry with what I see. Well, #1, there are so many so angry already, and they're doing a damn fine job already. #2 I understand how fallible we are as a species, so I've learned to forgive. #3 I think we all have different roles to play here on Earth, and I think some of us are here to provide cautionary tales and lessons.

Units of Measurement
What IS it with the use of the 'length of a football field' as a common shorthand way of expressing length? Is this done to entice cheerleaders into a better understanding of our world? What about Canadian readers, whose football fields are a different length? What about countries who love futbol? I arise every morning in hopeful anticipation of hearing someone finally say something like "[something] is "3/7 of a football field wide", or ".001 football fields in size".

Shooting from the Hip on Waste
I think it's helpful to note that the 'throw-away culture' and related perverse notions such as 'planned obsolescense' are relatively new (and originally localized) phenomena, not endemic to human nature and culture. We can dig ourselves out of this mess, but the clock's ticking.

From Brooke Allen's No Shortage of Work, some job hunting tips.

Pitchers and catchers report...
With Spring Training underway, and with the increasing pace of global interconnectivity we are experiencing, I would like to offer this public service clarification: Tibetan Throat Singing has nothing to do with 'Chin Music'.

When someone says that something 'is all the rage', my little monkey brain wants to ask "Well, surely, there's some rage left, or else what's a heaven for?".

If you don't know what AR means yet, you will
Augmented Reality is not a self-improvement scam, although its proper use might improve one's life in the area of convenience. Familiar if only somewhat with the 'haeds up' display on jet fighter cockpits? Information is overlaid onto the pilot's view through the cockpit, thereby enriching what can be seen, with concommitant risk of distraction unless the design is good. Anyway, AR as previewed in the Terminator movies is now being rolled out, and this video is an engaging and to some frightening view of the near future.

I caught myself complaining about a slow drop-down on a web form just now, then remembered how in my early days, we used coding sheets to do personnel transaction input into a shared mainframe system; (yep, we called it 'personnel' back in those days). These sheets, coded by a staff of personnel clerks, were taken to a separate building where they were used to create decks of punched cards, which were then submitted to a person in a white lab coat behind a counter, who would schedule the job that would input our cards into the system. The next day, I'd go back and get my listings and forms (and card decks). If there was an input error, I'd see it in the listing and have to resubmit that night.

Considering that I now get my error messages back the same instant, not just the same day, shouldn't I feel fortunate?

Singularity Sensation
(Didya catch the Broadway reference?) Anyway: In The Singularity is Near, inventor, entrepreneur and big thinker Ray Kurzweil makes some mind-blowing predictions about the likely impact of technology in the coming years. He argues that our normal mindset for anticipating change is influenced by an intuitive and linear view of progress.

In an era of more and more synergy, widespread proliferation of ideas, faster product cycles, and environmental factors that will force drastic actions, our normal mindset means we will consistently underestimate the pace of change, and get caught off guard by technological change and social transformation. I still think of how Alvin Toffler's Future Shock first surfaced this notion in my mind many decades ago - good call, Mr. Toffler!

I am a default often devout well-wisher
Why would I NOT want ALL people of good will to be happy, as long as no one is threatening me or my beloved; I think I understand the world to be largely disinterested, often benign by default. I also acknowledge that it is inhabited by a non-trivial amount of fellow creatures who are execrable in extremis. Remember, by definition, there is a likelihood that there will be sociopaths walking among us or past us from time to time.

China's own Debt Crisis
This short article hits a couple of key points, in my opinion. China unleashed over a trillion dollars of credit in just the first half of 2009, but their domestic demand is not rising to sop up their production, and US is still muddling through, with no guarantee that Americans will be spending any time soon anywhere close to the crazy days of the past few years.

Hot ??? in the Old Town Tonight
Just picked up a space heater from Montclair Ma, which occasioned the question: what else would one heat? Time?

Bus Stop Ad shows proof of concept - proximity sensing
In this mention by the New York Times, a bus stop poster makes a good point about domestic violence, how it often is successfully hidden from public view. The theme is 'when no one is watching'. The ad worked via a camera attached to a computer using face-tracking software with a working range of about 16 feet. The picture on the poster changed based on whether someone came close and looked at the poster, hence the use of face-tracking to register that a face was, well, facing the novel message. Just another example of interesting combinations that keep me fascinated by this wacky world.

Furor over Wind Farms siting
causes me to reflect on how my Boomer age cohort has gone from Gumby to NIMBY. (But I guess I don't blame them; we'll have to see how such things get worked out, and worked out they will be.)

I think that if you like what Imma puttin' down on this page (erm, sorry 'dis' page), then you might enjoy this blog from fellow CDEIS 'Voices' member Pushback Pam.

I thought this was a joke post
Consider the implications of wetware tagging, (and don't always go to the dark place, btw).

A Venn Diagram
of those who know Loni Anderson, know Laurie Anderson and know both would be a slightly interesting waste of time, but who has time? (Well....., we all do; it's how we use it).

In the 'Interesting Times We Live in' category, for $200, this is from the list of criminal statutes for Missouri:
   Misdemeanor: "Employer requiring implant of personal identification microchip technology
   into an employee".

10 Personal Branding Predictions
for 2010 by Dan Schawbel covers transparency, how bloggers can help employer's visibility, other tidbits.

Jake Adelstein, recently interviewed on Fresh Air due to release of his memoirs, Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan, covered the world of organized crime for Japan's largest newspaper, the Yomiuri Shinbun over a period of twelve years. Some fascinating topics were surfaced in the interview relating to the relative degree of impunity of the powerful yakuza:

Japanese law enforcement is hamstrung by:
  1. lack of plea bargaining, a strategy that has let US law enforcement unpeel criminal enterprises by offering a deal to lower level members for fingering their bosses; there is no incentive to 'rat' on the organization, as there is no commensurate reduced sentence
  2. lack of witness protection means that someone who cooperates will not be able to disappear (at least alive)
  3. difficulty in getting wiretaps
The extremely low number of murders in Japan may be misleading, as the crime organizations have a lot of involvement in construction, and it is possible that hundreds if not thousands of people are just dumped into concrete foundations of buildings (there are a lot of disappearances)

The yakuza have very obvious headquarters buildings, one of which is so large that it is visible on Google Earth; gangsters have business cards, and operate openly. Most put their employees through a battery of aptitude tests; they often hire the best and the brightest. Interesting country in so many ways.

Ten-finger User Interface
"Very Minority Report" says a tagline on Kottke.org that hosts a video on it. Once it rolls out to stores, watch out for that fabled 'five-finger discount'.

All blood vessels in the human bloodstream are protected by an almost infinitesimal nitrous oxide layer, produced by a layer of specialized cells that is ONE CELL DEEP. When any of those cells is damaged or dies, the protective layer of gas dissipates, and buildup leading to coronary disease may result.

TED Talk by Stewart Brand
I try to stay current, so I visit a lot of web sites and try to surf through the info glut. Somehow, I only recented discoved the TED talks, some of which are truly amazing. Stewart Brand, Green Forefather (Whole Earth Catalog), gave a talk at TED in June 2009. Some items gleaned from that talk:

The informal economy is huge in developing economies, furnishing 60% of employment over and against the formal law-compliant economy. Per Brand (and I think he's right), the people one sees bustling in the slums of say Mumbai, are not hopelessly down, but are working and networking vigorously to lift themselves out of poverty. The idyllic notion of the village has given way to a more mature perspective, says Brand, who says that he liked village life 'because [he] had never had to live in one'.

TED always provides food for thought, and the morsels are eminently digestible; the maximum length is about 20 minutes.

Can One's Spirits get a 'shot in the arm'?
This TED presentation is another one that inspired me to take up my keyboard and 'pen' this post. This one is by Craig Venter. This accomplished and provocative entrepreneur has an online talk that can be very techy, to be sure, but one of the prime takeaways for me was his calm assertion that we are on the verge of a new 'Cambrian explosion' of life forms due to bio-tech and genomic R&D.

The most interesting of the outcomes of this was his belief that there will be ways of making fuel from carbon dioxide. Why sequester, when you can use it as input to a biological process?

Major Shift in Credit for Lower-income Americans
My understanding of the 'old days' of the first half of the Twentieth Century was that only prosperous and stable Americans (who were white) were originally able to get loans of any size. This of course changed, and changed drastically with the advent of the 'credit card', which was ultimately a bank loan. This was not obvious, as were some other fundamentals about credit, we can see in sad retrospect.

Well, the landscape has changed a lot since the collapse of the financial system and its attendant attempts at correction. The Wall Street Journal has a piece on the end of the 'democratization of credit'. Poor folks may not now be able to get credit cards, certainly not as easily. And banks are now actually retrenching on credit, as opposed to constantly expanding it.

Pathetic
Look at what this guy is offering, to help students cheat:

I confess to a bit of mixed feelings, though. As someone who writes for a living, I guess this guy's customers are that much less likely to offer me any competition.

Grow your own Meat?
I just saw an online article about a device that allows one to insert a relatively innocuous mix into a high-tech Chia Pet/Crockpot combo and literally grow fish or meat. As Swedish inventor Richard Hederstierna put it the device would "create 100 per cent pure meat without the need for animals to be killed and with no risk of contamination. It will change everything." This must no doubt come as great news for those who fear the "death panel/Soylent Green synergies" that the Godless Democrats have been promoting for Grandma, something the MSM will not tell you about. (Sorry; couldn't resist)

Real eye-opener about Kiva
To their credit, they helped promote the article on Twitter in a lemonade out of lemons fashion; they did not suppress it and mentioned it.

Kind of disappointing a little bit, but reality's complicated; people are still helped, which is the main thing. Interesting reflection on the 'feel-good' aspect of giving, and the power of a compelling, one-to-one type of story.

Almost Perfect
Nicole Eggert, of Baywatch fame, has a great video on Funny or Die; it's a well-done commentary on our culture.

Nazi References are Irresponsible
I think so many people use language as a weapon in such a way that political violence can ensue. Calling someone who happens to be our President a 'Nazi' is to me WRONG. People kill over such terms. As David Frum said recently, if he truly felt that Obama was introducing a dictatorship, he would have no choice but to oppose him with all means necessary including violence. He is the type of principled Conservative I respect.

Like David Frum, I would give my life for my country, and give it to save this country, if I felt it were under threat by a dictator, as I have seen what life is under dictatorships.

Like David Frum, I do NOT feel that the current Administration is 'evil' , and we have had several Presidents killed in the short history of the US, So PLEASE, PLEASE fellow citizens, just think about what you are saying; be clear on how the pejorative 'Nazi' has such powerful associations, and rightly so, and do not use that assessment so lightly.

We have a resilient system in the US, but it can only sustain so many body blows, and this charge is gratuitous and intellectually irresponsible. There, that's my opinion.

I don't know how you feel about this matter, and frankly exert my right as a citizen to not care, but I had to say this. I recently read of how when Adlai Stevenson went to Dallas in 1963, he was given such a heated reaction that he warned JFK about going there; the fear and anger were as strong as one finds nowadays in many places.  Admittedly, this was in an era where the Secret Service was not at the highest level, let us say, but still...

L, U, W?
What shape do you think the recovery will take? I'm not sure it's here actually, so the question is moot.

Many of Obama's recent decisions regarding such matters as military commissions and gays in the military are well within the wheelhouse of the previous administration. This to me is pragmatic and non-ideological. This also does not rule out ideologically-based actions in other realms. Such behavior is just to be expected from administrations.

Mozilo Mojo
This short article on Wonkette neatly encapsulates the scam that the predatory lenders foisted on the US taxpayer. Enjoy your millions, and don't spare a thought for the millions you have hurt. And think, once or twice, about the justice that awaits you in the next life.

CSI - yeah right
The Innocence Project details the many abuses and errors of crime labs nationwide; thanks to the success of DNA testing, a lot of people are now being released from prison after serving decades in some cases for crimes they did not commit. It's tough being poor in this country for a lot of reasons, and one of them is the likelihood of having very poor representation in a criminal trial, stacked up against prosecutors and police who want to remove another case from their caseload.

Farrakhan and Hagee
There are people who fall prey to a common fallacy, or maybe are looking for any reason to further oppose a political candidate. The fallacy is assuming that the support of a candidate by a less-than-desirable group or individual is reciprocal. Louis Farrakhan and John Hagee have come out in support of Barack Obama and John McCain; both have made, shall we say, non-mainstream pronouncements over the years (which makes me want to say 'God bless the mainstream').

Hagee is a right wing Christian nutjob who somehow has a following, and Mr. Farrakhan has had decades of notoriety. There are some overlaps of Obama and Farrakhan, given their common Chicago backgrounds, so this story might have 'legs', but let's see how that shakes out. I think that every one of the candidates has some taint.

This election is one where we must maintain a temperate, sensible perspective when trying to choose our candidates and our next President from a finite set of imperfect political practitioners. We must heal the nation and restore our reputation in the world, so please, fellow citizens, choose wisely. And vote.

This is not Hillary's time
For an accomplished civil servant (and, yes, politician, because that is how you get things done), it looks as if the Obama phenomenon will simply swamp her bid for President. Let's hope that the two unite for the larger good. For all the things that have been done in the past 8 years, the GOP deserves, in fact I would say NEEDS, a repudiation. They must be chastized so that they can reformulate and be born again as a more moderate party, revivifying some of the traits that won them allegiance in the past. The record turnouts in the primaries indicate the support both Democratic frontrunners (and John Edwards) have had, and the fundraising is phenomenal, to say the least---one place where the economy is getting brief localized injections is the sector relating to campaign commercials. That being said, the election is up for grabs, due to the non-traditional nature of either of the two frontrunners on the Democratic side, and McCain does seem to be a reasonable and basically honorable man (although the Keating scandal will come back, be certain of that).

MANY lapses in security at Obama events
Don't think it can't happen again. There are many people in this country who would gladly kill someone like Obama. My generation has suffered the loss of leaders to assassins; it HAS happened.

Poor Lil' MSNBC
After proposing that Democratic contender Dennis Kucinich be barred from a recent debate on their channel, MSNBC was hit with a suit by Kucinich asking for a place on the stage. A judge issued an injunction against MSNBC, but they came back with an appeal, and won. Get this, they cited their FIRST AMENDMENT rights in support of banning him. Words fail me.

JDAM's to Saudis
900 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (of the variety that were used so effectively over the past few years by US forces) were recently sold by the US to Saudi Arabia. JDAMs are guided by an inertial navigation system with positioning updates from GPS satellites; it's not like the satellite is illuminating the target with a radar signal or some such. A JDAM is just a free-falling bomb with the dumb fin section replaced by a smart fin section containing a guidance package. The Saudis have said that they would 'have to' intervene on behalf of their Sunni brethren if things deteriorated in Iraq; let's pray this does not happen, and also pray that these extremely effective weapons are not deployed against Israel or US forces and interests in the Gulf. One thing that can never be ruled out is that someone on the US side has 'gamed' the circuitry to permit some override or abort capability from the US side.

Interesting quid-pro-quo?
I heard a commentator from the Middle East Institute float the surmise that the recent damping down of Shiite violence is partly if not largely due to Iranian influence, and that the recent NIE report by 16 separate intelligence agencies that concluded that Iran had ceased nuclear weapons development was a horse swap by the US in exchange for the mellowing of that threat. Wow. It's hard to get surprised lately, but this one was a very interesting theory. I could swear the guy actually winked when he floated that theory.

Ironing Shirts, Diner Tears and Politicians
There's something about the Clintons, that's for sure. Many have attributed Hillary Clinton's recent 'comeback kid' narrow victory in New Hampshire to a combination of the female reaction to the two guys who waved the "Iron My Shirt" placards and the apparent (you never know with them) glimpse into a more human Hillary when she tearfully spoke of what the election meant to her. Even if both of these were carefully staged and the tears rehearsed, you must give Hillary props for being clever and having strategy and organization. The long campaigns, while annoying, do serve the purpose of limning the ability of potential Presidents to run teams, keep pushing, and roll with the punches.

By those metrics, she measures up well, in my opinion. And, again, regardless of what she is finally able to pass if elected President, it IS true that electing a woman would be a significant change, and an inspiration to women the world over. (And a late catch-up of our country on the world stage in that area---there have been women leaders worldwide for many decades now). All that said, I feel that Dodd, Biden, and Richardson would have been able Presidents, and I would be happy if any of the three frontrunners on the Democrat side were to win.

Good for you, Ron Paul
This Republican is trying to return the GOP back to principles that were not only popular, but sound and sensible. Limited government, avoidance of foreign entanglement, against which President Washington warned, the fact that we have 700 bases in dozens of countries, the intrusion of religion in the public sphere, precisely when the US is becoming even MORE diverse (re: Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Coptic Christians, Sunni, Shiite, etc. ), lots of other ideas, some of which I don't agree with, but what a platform for further discussion of common ground?

Subsequently, I ran into some disquieting information about racist pronouncements that were published in a publication for which he was responsible. Fittingly enough, the information came from a Republican-friendly source, so questions of motivation and provenance did come to mind.

I agree with Andrew Sullivan
The country has turned a corner this past year, in the sense that torture is not only expected and justified, but is within guidelines.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics
I have to laugh when I remember that the 'core' rate of inflation the government uses does NOT count the cost of food or energy (and think of the cost of energy to grow and transport food). Amazing.

Interesting Sighting of Ann Coulter in Gay Mecca
It appears the lady is a fraud as regards her outrageous comments. Too bad a lot of people take her at her word. It's kind of a habit of mine as well---silly me. To think that what a celebrity says actually is what they believe, and not how they make a tawdry living. C'est la vie.

Apples and Oranges Potatoes
What do the two have in common? Well, in some languages, the potato is called an 'earth apple' (Dutch: 'De aardappel' is 'the potato', just as, incidently 'aardvark' is 'earth pig', and not just on Earth Day) Another, more relevant linkage is that the two food items are likely to have a very high residue of pesticides. A 2006 U.S.D.A. test found 81 percent of potatoes tested still contained pesticides even after being washed and peeled. The same holds true, unfortunately, for apples. This is one place where going organic can have an impact on your family's health.

Is it just me, or is Maria Bartiromo a hottie?
Just like a little old lady, I've got my 'shows', and I jealously safeguard, when possible, the Sunday morning time slots when I can watch them, fending off offers to take walks, 'do Brunch', etc. I'm referring to the gaggle of gabfests that start at 10 AM, and that includes Meet The Press, McLaughlin Report, Face The Nation, This Week, Fox News Sunday, Chris Matthews, and others. George Stephanopoulos (remember how he was a sex object on 'Friends'?) used to start at 9 on ABC, which opened up the schedule a bit and made it easier to catch more 'content', but some marketing genius or macho scheduling exec decided to go 'head to head' with other networks, and split the audience unnecessarily, in my opinion. Whatever. In any event, if you can wade through the personality and self-promotiion, there are some nuggets of inadvertent disclosure, or offerings from late-night cocktail parties with insiders in the Beltway. The assumption is that you already have traction with the basic themes of how the world works, but I guess I have that understanding, so I get a kick out of the back-and-forth. What can be a bit off-putting is how the insiders who are invited laugh at the quips, 'gotchas' and insider humor which is the province of ALL insiders. The difference is that the stuff of these conversations often deals with life-and-death matters.  It's always important to understand, in general, that people in power will accord access to reporters under a more general rubric of a relationship, with calibratable inputs such as candor, fidelity to the truth, opacity, manipulation and the like. These inputs calibrate the parameters of what is made known, at least through that reporter. It's the diversity of information and opinion which is transforming the world, reducing the role of the talking head in forming opinion.



An undercurrent of unrest roils China
For years, the government, in the form of corrupt local officials, has been taking advantage of the powerlessness of the poor of China, but in a story that is becoming more and more common (witness the Burma/Myanmar information leaking out via email, Skype, etc.), the poor are filiming their dispossession and eviction. Here is an article from Sky News. We think we have problems in the US, (and we do), but China has a bushel-full, and once that feverish growth rate and the stock boom level off, as they inevitably will, some dark days will descend on the Middle Kingdom. It will be interesting to see how the 2008 Olympics impact on all this, in the glare of world press coverage, and the limitations the press will be subjected to.

Changing of the Guard
It is always helpful to see positive developments, and one good change in the Administration is that it now incorporates more savvy inhabitants in certain key roles, such as Secretary of Defense Bob Gates. The earlier infestation of ideologues and hacks was a disservice to the country. See the reference early on to the 'Mayberry Mafia' in personal inside accounts of the White House.

Let's push Tech
The Bush White House has been affecting our competitiveness in some areas of science. The whole technological area of business, and the unforeseen synergies of health/wellness, genetics, quantum physics, ecology, nanotechnology, etc. will produce a lot of products and services in response to a global demand. The global platforms that tie the world together do 'flatten' the playing field.

There are many areas that offer promise, such as the new generations of biofuel, such as algae-to-ethanol, and switchgrass.

Government can bootstrap the success of new ventures (while never guaranteeing it), with temporary tax breaks, grants, loans and other instruments. This to me is a sensible use of a government, for those who wonder if it even needs to exist.

Three reasons why I love Ellen Degeneres
1.) Her comedy is gentle and light
2.) Her dancing is so happy and natural; you want to dance with her
3.) In those somber days after 9/11, Ellen was the host of the Academy Awards ceremony. It got postponed a couple of times, as you may remember. Anyway, during her opening monologue, she mentioned that here she was, 'A lesbian in a suit, surrounded by Jews---I'm Al Qaeda's worst nightmare'. I don't know why what she said struck me so strongly, but I welled up and shouted at the tube, "That's right, that's what this country is all about!" I felt proud to be an American, and knew that we were on the right side of history, living the daily example of tolerance, diversity and liberty. Subsequent events have taken the wind out of my sails somewhat, but I fondly remember that moment as one of optimism, humor, and humanity.

Interesting assessment of Democrat position on Iraq
Jeffrey Feldman has a piece which he wrote after a recent Democratic candidates debate, where he concludes that "Iraq is seen as an opportunity to demonstrate to the electorate that the Democratic Party candidate is strong--in militaristic terms--rather than an opportunity to demonstrate the problem solving skills of the Democratic Party." This seems to me to be right on the money. Maybe we'll be out of there in 20 years.  

Why should you care that 'Kanye crushes 50 Cent'?
In the great scheme of things, this item is not earth-shaking, but it's interesting, I think. The two current superstars of the hip-hop scene recently got into a contest about who could sell the most albums, with rapper 50 Cent saying he would retire if he lost. Although the made-up feud was largely the product of a promotional functionary, an extra subtext caught on among many in the music community, regarding lyrics. Although Kanye West is no stranger to profanity, his lyrics are devoid of references to gunplay and murder, whereas the other gentleman, according to a commentator on a radio show recently, has lyrics which either describe "shooting someone, getting shot, or thinking of shooting someone".  Based on this distinction, a lot of folks created a buzz around voting for the message by voting for the man via sales. Kanye West won handily. Let's see what happens.

The ACLU
I find this too precious not to mention; make of it what you will:
"On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a brief in court calling Sen. Larry Craig's bathroom bust unconstitutional." I was a member (card-carrying, like Dukakis) some years back, and although they have been lambasted lately for a couple of reasons, what I always liked about their mission is their adherance to the fair application of the rule of law --- to everyone. The ACLU is generally a Republican bogeyman, too easy a target for people without subtlety of thought and historical perspective (not that all Republicans are like that, to be sure). Anyway, just couldn't help making note of it. Wonder if he'll accept their support.

T-Mobile and Flash Mobs
You've seen the ads on TV, I suppose. A group of young people use their cell phones to coordinate an arrival at a location, then wreak minor havoc on unsuspecting fellow citizens. In one example, they bring 'silly string' aerosol spray cans to an office building lobby, and opposing teams get on the up and down escalators. When they pass each other, on a signal from their T-Mobile devices, they let loose, spraying that crap all over each other, with bystanders probably sprayed, but that's conveniently not shown, and who cares, these young people are carefree and thoughtless. A hapless security guard tries to catch them as they flee the building; stupid authority figure; he doesn't get it.

In another ad, they create an ad hoc race down the aisles of a supermarket, with someone quickly running duct tape across the ends of all the aisles, and teams of grocery cart drivers and passengers, at the signal, race down the aisles to the finish line. Again, I suppose they run away after this more dangerous stunt. (Do you notice how the ad designers devote a split second to the expression on one of the faces of the participants which seems to be saying 'Hope I don't get hurt or hurt someone else'? Edgy, edgy.) Remember, this is a multi-million dollar ad campaign, so leaving/putting that short scene in was intentional.

I know, these stunts are not radically new, and not that many teenagers or college students will attempt this (or have the brains to pull them off successfully), but it's really a shame that this campaign ever came to the tube. Jerks.

Administrations and Press Manipulation
I heard a very informative Diane Rehm show recently about how Administrations have had a battle with the press about controlling the message and the image that Adminstration wants to put forward. What was informative was that both parties do it, and that each successive President has been more successful and clever in doing so. It is all too easy to see this in partisan terms, and lament the 'talking points' that become obvious, and the 'stonewalling' that Press Secretaries do, but we should remember the big picture that this manipulation is endemic in the system. A brief note of praise for the Daily Show was voiced by one of the panelists or Diane, about how they have an occasional piece that tracks the talking points on a given topic over various speakers over time, and how parrot-like they seem. Compressing the time frame like this shows the workings of that particular strategem, and makes the principals involved look mildly ridiculous at times. Don't even get me started on those press pieces that ostensibly come from some 'third-party' sources, but are actually packaged product that finally is paid for by our Government. This sort of controlled news regime is why I am glad for the Internet.

Market Solutions to Problems
To combat illegal fishing and hunting practices, Sea Shepherd is offering rewards for those who help document the abuse. Like the Nature Convervancy, which buys land to keep it from development, this should appeal to a wider spectrum of society, which I am all for.



Rapture Ready: Christians United for Israel Tour from huffpost and Vimeo. This bunch of nutjobs and misled ignorant people are dangerous, since they have George Bush's ear. Molly Ivins (late departed) has written about the influence of Hagee on our current President. Sigh.
Editor: Pushback Pam has some thoughts on this as well.

Earmark Reform
One of the constants of Washington politics is the 'pork barrel' type legislation that we find every damned year, like the infamous 'Bridge to Nowhere' in Alaska, spending on pet projects and other abuse. Since 1996, earmarks, specific allocation of funds to specific named vendor, in most cases, have quintupled, to rank at 15,000 per year. My understanding is that a lot of this is extra-judicial, so could be struck down procedurally, but not sure. Regarding pork/earmark: Sure, it's a point of pride when a local legislator 'brings home the bacon', and incumbency and pet projects reinforce one another. But how much of this stuff can we afford? Citizens Against Government Waste is putting a spotlight on the waste, and I would put in my two cents worth and say 'visit the site and get knowledgeable'.

'Personal Virtue'
Early in the Bush administration, Vice President Cheney was heard to remark about conservation that it's a matter of 'personal virtue'. While some think that's not satisfactory commitment, I can live with the fact that levels of individual engagement will vary. In my opinion, I think conservation should become part of a personal lifestyle, not something enforced by a government mandate, as I don't have tremendous respect for bureaucrats.

Conservation, to me, indicates a desirable level of enlightenment about what's happening, so virtue or not, it's a good behavior to cultivate. When we take the vantage point of generations, most of us (in the 'developed' world) have a comfortable baseline of convenience that didn't even exist before. Adding more stuff to that baseline does NOT give one a corresponding extra boost of happiness; (see the economic theory of utility and 'diminishing returns'). With a conservation orientation to our thinking, we can possibly simplify our life, if only by 'attrition', (choosing not to replace that third TV, for example). Getting to a point of renunciation of 'big ticket items' is not a difficult journey, and it sure clears out the old living space.

Suing Telemarketers
This site tells you how you can make claims in Small Claims court to win $500 judgements against pesky telemarketers. It's surprisingly easy, and he's had success.

Whistleblowers and the culture of retribution
I have been reading about Bunnatine Greenhouse and the no-bid contracts that she fought while working as the highest-ranking civilian at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in the run-up to the Iraq war. She cautioned against awarding a multi-year contract given the conditions of the contract, to KBR, a Halliburton subsidiary. Ms. Greenhouse wrote her objection on the original, document-number controlled, fully executed copy of the KBR contract itself, rather than attaching a memo with the complaint and reservation. This made it essentially impossible to suppress her professional opinion about the multi-billion dollar matter. She was recently demoted due to her first bad performance review in a twenty-year career. She is simply the latest whistleblower to be sacrificed on the altar of public good and probity, and, although the Bush administration is doing the demotion, this is sadly not a partisan issue, but an issue of politicians of both major parties stifling dissent. [Update, August 2007: Bunny is still working, in some minor position, but is proud of having done the right thing --- 'Good on ya', as they say]

The case of Sibel Edmonds, former FBI translator, is one that is potentially more deadly. In her account, Ms. Edmonds was told not to expeditiously process Arabic translations because her superiors (in title, not in integrity) wanted to make a case for more resources for the next budget, and being too productive would not help the case. Her work was actually even erased, according to her account. After she continued to complain about this, she was eventually not only fired, but physically escorted from the building, and warned not to talk about the matter. If true, this is amazing, as the incidents began shortly after Sept 11, 2001. The ability of the career bureaucrat to see the people's business as grist for advancement is disgusting, but not surprising to this correspondent.

For yet another look at the bureaucratic response to whistle-blowers, click here.



Why "Tuppence"?

Well it means, literally, "two cents" in old English. This is my 'two cents worth' of opinion on topics of interest (well, my interest, hopefully yours as well; we don't have to overlap on every topic; I honor your interest in what I offer). Thanks to CDEIS.COM for giving me a soapbox; while not always a steady perch, it is a welcome one, and cleanliness is next to Godliness (you know, the 'soap' reference).