In the absence of rules and sheriffs, bandits will multiply.
The end game of the heavily mediated engine driving American political strife boils down to these questions:
What is the appropriate size of the federal government?
Who should decide that?
Who should run the “right-sized” government based on what values determined by whom?
Big, big money was wagered in the 2016 election cycle on the outcome of this game as gazillionaires of the right and left poured donations (wonder how many are legal?) into competing PACs, SuperPACS, and 501C’s.
What do we want from our art – novelty or originality?
“The… idea, then, is that every technology has a philosophy which is given expression in how the technology makes people use their minds, in what it makes us do with our bodies, in how it codifies the world, in which of our senses it amplifies, in which of our emotional and intellectual tendencies it disregards.” – Neil Postman
I think maybe it started with John Wayne.
The Duke and the King of Cool (image courtesy MovieMarket)
That icon of of Real America® appeared in beer commercials for Coors – even though he’d been dead about fifteen years. I won’t spoil your day by embedding one of these atrocities, but I’ll provide a link so you can enjoy the work of whatever weasels the Real American Beer Company® hired who foisted upon the American public this ad to sell their reconstituted dog urine.
Resurrecting the Silent Generation’s favorite cowboy wasn’t enough for our consumer culture, though. Ford Motor Company, looking to begin selling Real American Cars® again since they’d ceded that task to smarter, more forward thinking car makers from our Old Mortal Enemy®, Japan, decided to add some cool to their piece of junk – I mean innovative new car design by resurrecting a Baby Boomer icon (a guy so cool he got a name check in a Rolling Stones song), Steve McQueen. McQueen had been dead seventeen years.
And so we entered the era of the Undead cultural icon as marketing tool. Technology was harnessed to make us want to drink shitty beer because Hondo supposedly does or drive a shitty car because Frank Bullitt supposedly does. Continue reading →
No, famous people won’t stop dying on January 1. But we lost too many bright lights this year and we hope that 2017 will be better. Here’s a list of noteworthy people who died in 2016.
For the past several months a lot of us have been saying we can’t wait for this damned year to be over.
2016 gave us the worst election season I can remember, and every ten minutes or so another beloved artist would die, it seemed. Any year that gives us Donald Trump and takes Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Prince in return has done more damage than some decades.
No, people aren’t going to stop dying at the stroke of midnight tomorrow. Continue reading →
The news was first reported by NBC affiliate KUSA in Denver, Colorado, and by the Boulder Daily Camera. The two news outlets did a joint investigation in October which pointed to a variety of potential flaws in the interpretation of the DNA evidence in the case.
Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett confirmed in a statement to NBC News Wednesday that his office had met with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which he said will be conducting “some further testing of the DNA evidence in the Ramsey case, as well as other cold case homicides and pending investigations,” in a new lab with new testing procedures.
There is now doubt as to the conclusions reached by former Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy in her 2008 letter clearing the family. Specifically: Continue reading →
Abandon all hope, ye who try to install third party hardware on a MacBook Air.
MacBook Air (Image Credit: Apple)
A couple of weeks back the Curmudgeon’s had another Windows 10 failure in their house. In this case, it was the cheap, $200 HP Chromebook-style Windows machine with a poor-man’s solid state drive that largely crapped out. But that was Mrs. Curmudgeon’s work PC, and it died in part because the Tech Curmudgeon misjudged how much memory she would actually need and should have bought a step up instead. So now it’s a second Chromebook-like machine for doing homework, and Mrs. Curmudgeon has a brand new MacBook Air.
Mrs. Curmudgeon loves it, and it meets all her needs so far. But Curmudgeon child #2 wanted to be able to control their computer-controlled robot with the MacBook Air, and that robot needed an Ethernet connection. The MacBook Air does not have an Ethernet port. What it does have is a USB port into which you may plug, if you are so inclined, an Ethernet-to-USB adapter, along with whatever software you need to run it.
This is where the Curmudgeonly saga truly begins. Because the only Ethernet-to-USB adapter that could be found at Best Buy on Black Friday was not, actually, a piece of Apple-branded hardware. And so the Tech Curmudgeon spent several hours downloading the latest drivers from the adaptor manufacturer’s website, noticing that the drivers were only compatible up to MacOS 10.10, figuring out where on a damn Mac the OS is described, discovering that the MacBook Air was at 10.12, researching if updated drivers were available, reinstalling the driver after the Tech Curmudgeon realized he’d accidentally installed the driver for 10.6 and that it definitely wasn’t going to work, downloading a fresh copy of the drivers just in case, and finally throwing his hands up in frustration. Continue reading →
On 1 September 1859, telegraph operators across Europe and North America watched in horror as their equipment began to spark and behave erratically. Some disconnected their equipment from their power supplies and discovered they could still transmit.
Cables arced. Sparks flew. Operators fled as their offices caught fire.
What became known as the Carrington Event was the result of a solar eruption as a magnetic field containing a plasma mass equivalent to Mount Everest was flung out from the sun towards Earth. Continue reading →
Be careful when you get the Windows 10 “black screen of undeath,” because your PC might not be dead yet.
The Tech Curmudgeon is old enough to remember the bad old days of Windows 3.1, Windows 98, and the infamous “blue screen of death.” The Tech Curmudgeon and everyone he knows lost hours of effort to crashes that ate our work, lost grades to crashes that ate our work, maybe even lost jobs to crashes that ate our work, all the while cursing Bill Gates and Micro$oft. The Tech Curmudgeon learned to set every program to autosave every five or ten minutes, how to find and import the backups, and how to invent new profanity when the blue screen of death inevitably murdered the files on the few programs that wouldn’t autosave and ate the backups too.
Raise your hand if you ever fantasized about taking a sledgehammer, napalm, or tactical nuke to your PC as a result of a blue screen of death… and if your hand is down, you’re lying.
Yet Windows 10, an OS that the Tech Curmudgeon generally likes, has upped the “piss him the fuck off” factor of Windows even higher than the blue screen of death with what the Tech Curmudgeon calls their “zombie screen.” You know, the black screen you get when Windows 10 is updating (without asking you for permission first, of course) and all you can see – sometimes – is the mouse pointer. Continue reading →
The once and future first daughter’s bout of reefer madness notwithstanding, please remember: “anecdotal evidence” is another way of saying “no evidence”…
Chelsea Clinton, who has been out on the stump a bit lately “helping” her mother’s campaign, recently dove face first into the muck by saying that pot can be fatal.
“…we also have anecdotal evidence now from Colorado where some of the people who were taking marijuana for those purposes, the coroner believes, after they died, there was drug interactions with other things they were taking.”
Clinton didn’t provide any details on this “anecdotal evidence,” and later one of her “spokesmen” was trotted out to explain that Chelsea “misspoke.”Continue reading →
With the 1962 World’s Fair, Seattle asserted itself as the city that invented the future. Seattle Center, home to the Space Needle, Key Arena, the Pacific Science Center and other Jetsonesque architectural wonders, gave us a stunning Mid-Century Modern vision of our presumed technotopian future. In 2000 the EMP Museum opened, inserting a postmodern generational overlay in the form of Frank Gehry’s gripping postmodern architectural style. Ever upward, ever forward.
For #HopeTuesday today, I offer you a metaphor. Let’s rekindle our dream of a clean, sustainable, prosperous future with opportunity for all – a true and attainable American dream. I took this shot of the World’s Fair monorail, which connects the EMP and Seattle Center with downtown, in November of 2013. What could possibly be more optimistic, more hopeful, for Americans than a train destined for a technological Utopia?
“Review a little history and you’ll see that creators seem to find inspiration in adversity.” – Gavin Chait, Lament for the Fallen
Lament for the Fallen by Gavin Chait (Image courtesy Goodreads)
On the surface Gavin Chait’s debut novel Lament for the Fallen seems to have a classic sci-fi plot: an alien comes to Earth, interacts with humans, reveals remarkable super human powers in helping his human hosts/friends, then returns to his home, humans having been taught an important lesson or two. If it seems that this plot line that has been used with remarkable success in the genre, it’s because it has. While it is well known among my friends and critics that I am not a fan of science fiction books (which I noted again very recently), I am a fan of sci-fi films. Besides the ubiquitous and just okay behemoth E.T.: the Extraterrestrial, other films that have explored the genre interestingly include The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and Starman.
Having said all this, I suppose I should make a clarification. Lament for the Fallen is not about an alien visiting Earth. It is about a human who has lived his life in a “space city” (think colony – that’s important to the themes of this work) visiting Earth and doing some of those remarkable things mentioned above. To miss this might cause one to miss important themes and ideas that this book explores.
As I find I must say too often in my role as crusty old professor, read more closely, students. Harrumph…now to this excellent book… Continue reading →
Bad science journalism is almost as bad as bad science, perhaps worse in some ways, insofar as it may popularize error where there had been none before. Carping about bad science blogging, on the other hand, should probably be beneath me, at least most of the time, because hey, at least there’s folks trying, right? Isn’t this just another case of XKCD’s “someone is wrong on the Internet?”
Well, here’s two examples. I’ll let the critical reader decided for themselves whether or not they serve to engender better critical reading more generally speaking. Continue reading →
(At the sound of wolves howling) – “Children of the night: what music they make!” – Dracula (in Tod Browning’s Dracula, 1931)
Dracula, Lugosi style (image courtesy Wikimedia)
Several recent news items from reliable sources have explored the research of scientists into the benefits of blood transfusions from young persons to old ones. If you are like me and find this at its best macabre, at its worst Mengelean, then the following is, as a writer and TV host used to say, “submitted for your approval….”
A new company called Ambrosia is willing to offer customers trial participants a series of blood transfusions from 16-25 year old donors. Recipients must be older than 35 to qualify for the deal trial. The purpose of these transfusions is to combat aging, particularly by improving brain function and muscle strength.
If you followed either of the links for the clinical trials, you’ve noticed that there are a ethical issues galore related to doing this kind of research and these kind of clinical trials, no matter how noble the aims might be. One of the issues causing real concern in the scientific community is that those who wish to participate in the trials are being charged $8,000. Yep. $8,000. Continue reading →
“Our houses and machines will be in ruins, our systems will collapse, and the names of our great will fall away like dry leaves. Only you, love, will blossom on this rubbish heap and commit the seed of life to the winds.” – Karel Capek
Karel Capek (image courtesy Wikimedia)
The Czech writer Karel Capek, in terms of being a writer of slender acquaintance, falls somewhere between Rudyard Kipling, a Nobelist remembered now only for children’s stories and Rhian Roberts, a Welsh writer of great promise who published a few short stories and then disappeared. While he is often (erroneously) credited with having coined the word for a creation that may haunt the 21st century, was nominated for the Nobel Prize numerous times, and even has literary awards named for him, Capek is not widely read now.
He should be. His central themes – the ability of technology to overwhelm and destroy humanity, the dangers of rampant consumerism, corporatism run amok, the evils of authoritarianism of both left and right political persuasions – will resonate powerfully with contemporary readers. Given that Capek died in 1938, his prescience about the power of these forces in our lives makes him a writer who should be widely read and discussed. Continue reading →
John Hairr’s North Carolina Rivers is part reference book, part history, part guidebook. What it is not is particularly engaging….
North Carolina Rivers by John Hairr (image courtesy Goodreads)
While I haven’t completed my book list for 2016, I will say a couple of things about it for those who have any interest in such things: it will be considerably shorter (12 books – to allow room for the numerous reviews I am asked to do and to allow me some writing time for completing my latest book), and it will focus on no particular area as the 2015 reading list did.
That said, we begin 2016 with a book I picked randomly from one of our many groaning bookshelves. In an effort to get away from my penchant for reading fiction, particularly literary fiction, I chose what I thought would be an interesting read for a dedicated fly angler: North Carolina Rivers: Facts, Legends, and Lore by John Hairr.
Hairr’s book might be thought of as part reference book, as part guide book, as part informal history of the rivers – and the river systems in North Carolina. It is trying to be all these things, perhaps, that causes North Carolina Rivers to be problematic for readers. Continue reading →
Noted sociopath and PharmaDoucheBro Shkreli spent 2015 redefining what it means to be an asshole, upsets GOP presidential frontrunner Trump.
You’ve all known an asshole — a rude, arrogant, contemptuous person. Assholes are irritating. Assholes are the bad breath of personalities. A reasonable person’s reaction to the presence of an asshole is Get the fuck away from me, asshole.
In my favorite bad movie, The American President, Michael Douglas as the fictional President Andrew Shepherd confronts his Republican challenger’s claims about Shepherd’s character.
We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: Making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.
You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character. … You scream about patriotism and tell them [who’s] to blame for their lot in life … [emphasis added]
Now remove Bob Rumson’s name and insert the name of any of the recent CNN main stage GOP presidential candidates (or even Wolf Blitzer, as he goaded them into ISIS hysteria). Continue reading →
Senators Michael Crapo and Orrin Hatch have implied that they agree with the Global Warming Petition Project’s false, anti-consensus narrative while climate “experts” J. Scott Amstrong, Kesten C. Green, and Patrick Moore gave wrong and misleading testimony on the subject.
Comparison between total Bureau of Labor Statistics 2013 employment and Global Warming Petition Project data derived from the Qualifications of Signers page (accessed 8/22/2015)
For other posts in this series: click here for data and debunking, here for GWPP mentions by US politicians, and here for conservative/libertarian media references.
Up until now, S&R has focused on the members of Congress who have explicitly mentioned the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine’s (OISM) Global Warming Petition Project (GWPP) in the course of their official duties or their reelection campaigns. But there are other, less obvious ways to indicate agreement with the GWPP’s false narrative that the signers represent a counter-consensus against the reality of industrial climate disruption (aka human-caused global warming or climate change). S&R found that two Senators, Michael Crapo of Idaho and Orrin Hatch of Utah, have indicated that they agree with the false narrative without explicitly saying so.
In addition, three men have given testimony to Congress that the GWPP’s signers disprove the many peer-reviewed studies that have found an overwhelming consensus that climate change is occurring, that the changes are largely a result of industrial emissions of greenhouse gases, and that the changes will be disruptive to global ecosystems and human society. Those three men are J. Scott Armstrong, Kesten C. Green (who testified together), and Patrick Moore. Continue reading →
In 1993, during my first year in the PhD program at the University of Colorado, we had a guest speaker in one of my classes. The subject was information technology and the Internet. He explained that at that moment, the largest repository of stored electronic data on Earth was at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, about four miles away. That building hosted two terabytes of data.
One of my external backup drives seems to be failing, so I ventured out to get a replacement. Continue reading →
Representatives Conaway, Luetkemeyer, McKinley, Pearce, and Poe and Senator Inhofe have all made serious factual errors and repeated the false narrative that the Global Warming Petition Project represents an anti-climate change counter-consensus.
Comparison between total U.S. Department of Education Bachelor of Science degrees and Global Warming Petition Project data derived from the Qualifications of Signers page (accessed 8/22/2015)
For other posts in this series: click here for data and debunking, here for GWPP mentions by US politicians, and here for conservative/libertarian media references.
An overwhelming number of climate experts agree that climate change is occurring, is largely driven by industrial emissions of greenhouse gases, and will be disruptive to ecosystems and human society (aka global warming or industrial climate disruption). But this evidence-based consensus is rejected by many people who deny that global warming is a threat or who fear that countering industrial climate disruption will require policy responses that are counter to their political ideology. The Global Warming Petition Project (GWPP), organized by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine and published most recently in May 2008, was an attempt by deniers of industrial climate disruption to counter the overwhelming scientific consensus of climate.