Monday, July 22, 2019
Something tells me that most of these whiners have never read the original Norse source, or they wouldn’t be so upset about Thor in a dress.
POSTSCRIPT: Weird, all of the links seem to be broken, but the html coding looks okay. I will post links to the current outrage in the comments.
Sunday, July 21, 2019
The heat wave is finally subsiding, as a cold front is moving in, bringing rain. I’ll be off tomorrow while the promised rainstorm hits its full fury. Given the conditions I worked under all weekend, I’ve got a bunch of musty smelling shirts to launder.
Saturday, July 20, 2019
That world of fifty years ago seems remote... sure, while the Apollo missions themselves were peaceful, an achievement for humanity as a whole, secondarily an achievement for Americans, the United States was involved in bombing peasants to oblivion in Southeast Asia at the time (the Mekons pointed out this contradiction). The plaque left on the moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin is a beautiful bit of prose, but the mission didn't herald an era of peace:
Rather than heed the Call to Adventure, the excitement of discovery, humanity's leaders decided to become bogged down in greed, fundamentalism, superstition, and tribalism. What should have become a Grand Mission for All Humanity soured, and petty, parochial concerns came to preoccupy Homo sapiens. Scientific inquiry takes a backseat to distortions of data to push corporate agendas, government policies subsidize fossil fuel extraction rather than the development of clean, renewable energy sources. Monkey trials are conducted, flat earthers push their nonsense on social media platforms. I think that, by nature, I tend to be an optimist, but the empirical evidence that has confronted me for the entirety of the twenty-first century causes me to have flashes of pessimism. I'm not the kind of person who dwells on concepts like the Fermi Paradox, but fifty years after one of humankind's most lofty achievements, it seems as if our species is slowly sliding to stagnation, and possible destruction, so that a tiny majority of the Worst Persons on the Planet can engage in an overconsumption that will eventually consume us all.
Friday, July 19, 2019
Tonight, our cleaning contractor was my Chilean friend, whose mother brought her here three years ago so she could pursue a STEM education. She's a vivacious young woman, quick with a joke or an anecdote. When there was a lull in the workday, while all of the guests and VIPs were dining, she told me that she had had a nightmare... it was a nightmare specifically about ICE. Her family had gotten a visa extension, but still felt tension about the process going through. She told me that her mother had instructed her not to answer the door, not to talk to strangers, and to dress in her best clothes when she was in public. She recounted how, when she came to the US, she was shy, but that her confidence had grown as she learned English and started to take honors classes. Now, her confidence had been shaken. She came here to study, to learn, to live up to her limitless potential.
Luckily, one of my favorite co-workers, a manager who serves as den mother for the younger staff, saw us conversing in a manner other than our accustomed jocularity and noted that we seemed concerned. We recounted our conversation, knowing that she was completely trustworthy. The gauntlet had been thrown down, how do we protect our vulnerable immigrant friend? I told her that I could drive her to work on Saturday and Sunday mornings so she can avoid public transportation, and we both pledged to her that she could contact us if ever she had a problem. She's smart, so she downloaded an app which provides advice in case she is stopped. My co-worker and I told her we'd help her to dress in a more 'American' fashion (note to self, buy New York Yankees cap ASAP) so as to look inconspicuous. When she was occupied with a task which took her away from us, we discussed educating ourselves about actions we could take if something arose.
It's particularly infuriating that this charming young woman, who should be stressing out about taking the SATs and applying to colleges, is now preoccupied with raids, with keeping her head down when she should be beaming with pride about her accomplishments. In a very big way, I am now forced to confront the question, what will you do if the unthinkable comes to pass? The topic came up at the end of the night, when the guests left, and a skeleton crew helped to rinse off and pack the dishes and glassware. We have all come to know and love someone who believes, with reason, that she could have a target on her back, how will we respond?
I remember hearing from all sorts of people back in 2016 who feared that discrimination against them would ramp up. I gave a half thought-out statement of support back then... now, I have to think about concrete means of support. What do I do should the unthinkable come to pass?
Thursday, July 18, 2019
Most of the planet's surface, approximately 70%, is covered with water. Most of the ocean floor is unseen, unmapped, unknown. While humans have mapped 100% of the surfaces of the moon and Mars, only 15% of the ocean floor has now been mapped within a 100 meter resolution. Dr Ferrini displayed a map of the North Atlantic Ocean floor, and noted that little is known, most of our knowledge being limited to the continental shelf.
Dr Ferrini's specialty is bathymetry, the mapping of the depths. She noted that the shape of the seafloor in a very localized area can be observed at the beach. For mapping the seafloor in deeper waters, sound is used. She gave us an overview of mapping conventions, pointing out the rainbow colors of the maps, with warm colors indicating shallows and cooler colors indicating depths:
She then displayed a picture of the open ocean and joked that, on a good day, the view from her office is good, then contrasted that with a picture of a tempest-tossed sea and quipped that a bad day at work is dangerous. On a really good day, she is able to explore the depths of the ocean in the Alvin submersible, which can accommodate one pilot and 2 scientists- the Alvin is a national research asset, the use of which is open to any university faculty who gain approval. Dr Ferrini travels around the world observing the different processes that shape the seafloor, using a sound-based data acquisition system. Building a global ocean map can be likened to solving a puzzle, a coherent image of the sea floor must be pieced together. Different instruments have different resolutions, resulting in different errors- most of what we know about the ocean depths is estimated- much of bathymetry is predictive. Satellites can measure perturbations and produce a global image, but one with poor spatial resolution and low vertical accuracy. Dr Ferrini contrasted a Google maps image of Manhattan around the UN with an image of the McDonnell Seamount near Wake Atoll. In terms of resolution, satellite cannot compete with sonar. Dr Ferrini displayed a video of Alvin exploring the seafloor, and indicated that it is very expensive to map the depths.
Why do we map the oceans? Nautical charts are important for safe navigation. Maps are crucial for oil and gas exploration. Communications cables are often laid on the seafloor. Maps can also help researchers determine the progress of climate change. In one dramatic case, the search for the wreckage of the lost Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 jetliner was hampered by poor maps- one can't zoom in on an area for which no data have been compiled.
Four hundred and thirty thousand square kilometers of the ocean floor have been mapped, and the data is publicly available. Most bathymetry takes the form of ship-based mapping. Historically, this was done with a deadline, a weight on a chain which was lowered into the water, a technique which Dr Ferrini humorously characterized as 'low res/little detail'. In the 1950s and 60s, the use of sound to map the depths came into use- typically, one sonar device pointed straight down would measure directly underneath a boat to make a profile. One of the pioneers of sonar-based bathymetry was Marie Tharp, who was not allowed to go to sea until 1968, but who compiled sonar images into a map of the ocean floor in collaboration with Bruce Heezen. Their map of the mid-Atlantic ridge is remarkably accurate:
Marie Tharp's work was instrumental in the verification of the theory of continental drift. In a retrospective, she described her career:
The whole world was spread out before me (or at least, the 70 percent of it covered by oceans).I had a blank canvas to fill with extraordinary possibilities, a fascinating jigsaw puzzle to piece together: mapping the world’s vast hidden seafloor. It was a once-in-a-lifetime—a once-in-the-history-of-the-world—opportunity for anyone, but especially for a woman in the 1940s. The nature of the times, the state of the science, and events large and small, logical and illogical, combined to make it all happen.
Modern seafloor mapping uses a multibeam sonar array, a 'fan' of sound beams which create many data points when they are picked up by transducers on the bottom of the boat's hull. Dr Ferrini compared this multibeam mapping to 'mowing the lawn', complete coverage of the boat's vicinity is obtained. The multibeam array not only measures the depth of the ocean floor, but the intensity of the returning sound beams allows researchers to determine if the ocean floor is rocky or muddy. Also, anomalies can indicate the bubbles produced by methane seeps.
Continuous surface detail is obtained with these sonar arrays. Sound velocity depends of water temperature, so the data has to be corrected for. Because the ships are moving, the data has to be corrected (Dr Ferrini joked that she gets motion sickness). Many pieces of data are brought together and cleaned up. It's a slow process, a single ship would take one hundred thousand years to finish mapping the depths. One way to speed up the mapping process would be autonomous mapping platforms, a combination of surface and underwater robots... one of her colleagues developed an unmanned surface vessel which is a 'mothership' for underwater drones.
Dr Ferrini then shifted to the topic of the interdisciplinary approach that will take researchers beyond bathymetry... ship-based mapping is the beginning, and the maps can guide other research. Near-bottom mapping has been done with resolutions up to twenty-five centimeters. Dr Ferrini displayed pictures of spiky hydrothermal vents, which form the mineral-rich base of the deep-sea food web. She posed the question, what would it be like to stand on the sea floor and look around? A sense of scale has to be developed. There are emerging visualization techniques which assist researchers- Dr Ferrini displayed an image of the Hudson Canyon and delivered a groan-inducing pun: "How can we fathom this?" Once a base map is built, the Alvin can be taken down for a new perspective on the data. Mosaics of the photos can be color-corrected and compiled by artists into clean images of underwater features.
Dr Ferrini then told us about Earth's newest land, Hunga Tonga, born of a 2014 volcanic eruption. NASA satellite data measured the processes of erosion and redeposition which shaped the island (this data could be used as an analog for modelling how Martian land masses were formed). Dr Ferrini and her crew broke off from some planned work due to bad weather and pulled up to the island in order to conduct a sonar sweep from the depths to the shallows in order to fill in some blanks for NASA. A flat subaqueous portion helped to keep the landmass intact.
No single country can assemble the bathymetric puzzle alone. NOAA is dependent on a global community, a community not only made up of government and academic personnel, but of industry and the general public. Anyone with a sonar unit can contribute data. The United States National Archives make data available to all (Dr Ferrini did note, though, that certain information, such as the location of shipwrecks, has not been revealed in order to protect future archaeological sites). Intergovernmental organizations such as the International Hydrographic Organization also make data available. The General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) 2030 project aims to create a complete high-resolution map of the seafloor by (you guessed it) 2030 in collaboration with the Nippon Foundation.
Dr Ferrini stressed that the oceans are critical to human survival- 50% of atmospheric oxygen is produced by oceanic life. Ocean maps are critical to understanding the oceans. Technical innovations, such as improved sensors, improved data processing, and improved data sharing are needed. The world's oceans belong to all.
The lecture was followed with a Q&A session. The first question involved the effects of sonar on whales- the high frequency sound beams used for bathymetry scatter quickly, and pose little danger to cetaceans. Some anthropocene-obsessed Bastard in the audience asked her if she had observed any negative effects of human activity on seafloor communities, and Dr Ferrini answered that she hadn't yet, but that regulations to protect these habitats might be needed in the future. Manganese nodule mining might pose the biggest danger to seafloor biomes. Regarding changes to the seafloor- most changes occur in shallow areas, necessitating continuous surveying, but the depths are not as stagnant as originally thought. Concerning the location of earthquakes, sonar is insufficient, other resources are needed to pinpoint these occurrences. A question about the Alvin resulted in a funny aside- there is no privacy in the submersible, which operates from 8AM-5PM, and there is a sign advising users: PB4UGO. Dr Ferrini joked that occupants tend to bang their knees in the cramped interior, but everybody is too excited to notice. Regarding satellite data, satellites use optical techniques such as LIDAR, which are thwarted by cloudy or deep waters. A question regarding the extinction of oceanic life had Dr Ferrini stating that she is an ocean optimist- the ocean is the world's greatest museum, things die and become life for other things, and that humanity will be extinct before the oceans are depleted of life. In a hilarious tangent elicited by a question regarding the cost of sonar equipment, Dr Ferrini narrated a tale of shopping for a Boston Whaler with her wife and having the salesman giving her a lecture explaining how the sonar system worked.
Once again, the Secret Science Club delivered a fantastic lecture. Kudos to Dr Ferrini for hitting that 'secret science sweet spot', that combination of raw-information, explanation of research methods, and adventure narrative, leavened with good humor. Kudos also to Dorian and Margaret, and the staff of the beautiful Bell House on a job well done. As an added bonus, SSC co-founder Michael Crewdson was back in the ancestral homeland for his traditional Australian Winter break, accompanied by his oldest child. Welcome back!
For a quick taste of the Secret Science Club experience, here is a lecture by the good doctor about making bathymetric data available to the public.
Tuesday, July 16, 2019
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a ‘Bond’ film- even in high school, I figured that they were kind of ridiculous. Reading Frederick Forsyth as a kid pretty much ruined James Bond for me, and the final nail in the coffin was Chuck Jones’ ridicule of the character in his autobiography, Chuck Amuck... a spy would have to be totally incompetent to blow his cover by acting conspicuously and giving out his name, code name.
I didn’t even bother with the ‘grittier’ reboot of the franchise with Daniel Craig in the title role (my choice for the role would have been MacGowan, Shane MacGowan, who actually looks like he smokes and drinks as much as Ian Fleming’s character). Why would I spend my entertainment dollars on a franchise which glorified toxic masculinity, jingoism, and the mindset which led to the Brexit disaster? If I want to experience reactionary attitudes, I can get them for free.
At any rate, the entertainment value over the freakout about Lashana Lynch being cast as 007 (in the franchise, a designation, not a name) is greater than the movie’s could ever be. I love it when the SJWs ruin things for bigoted assholes. The only thing that could possibly make this better is if the character’s name is Peg Butts.
Monday, July 15, 2019
Workers in a Minnesota Amazon distribution center walked off the job, seeking better working conditions. It’s a gutsy move in this New Gilded Era, an era of poor worker protections. When all you have to lose is a dangerous, unpleasant, low-paying job, you have nothing to lose. It’s been over two years since I’ve ordered something from the Bezos Borg, I think I can wait a good long time before buying those out-of-print books I had my eye on.
Being a fan of classic ‘Star Trek’, I was impressed by the concept of The Prime Directive. If I have a Prime Directive, it’s the classic ‘do no harm’. My Prime Directive directs me to avoid Prime Day. I support local businesses, and the job I end up saving just might be my own.
Sunday, July 14, 2019
Two ICE raids yesterday, in NYC's East Harlem and Sunset Park neighborhoods, were unsuccessful, and the ACLU has disseminated information about dealing with raids. I only know about what's going on in my circle of friends, but it seems that these actual raids just haven't inspired the same sort of fears as the previously announced ones, or maybe the fears have been normalized, merely a part of the general background angst that characterizes this current era.
Saturday, July 13, 2019
Besides the earnest UFO 'researchers', there are the shitposters, the sort of pranksters who set up a Facebook page for a mass videogame style 'raid' on Area 51. Joking that 'they can't kill us all', over half-a-million respondents have stated that they want to 'Leroy Jenkins' their way onto the restricted military base. My belief that any of these people are serious is even lesser than my belief that ETs have buzzed the planet, given the difficulty of moving that number of people to a remote desert site in Nevada, meaning that the Area 51 staff would actually be able to kill them all.
Speaking of aliens, the SFFaudio Podcast did a fun episode on Alien, the movie's antecedents, and media franchises inspired by the movie. A few years back, I covered the same territory in a blog post... given that the movie is now forty years old, I really should re-watch it. That's a better way to spend a July afternoon than sitting in plastic cuffs in the heat of the Nevada desert.
Friday, July 12, 2019
I thanked her, and complimented her on her graciousness and good humor. She was being put through her paces on a rough day, and her charm and élan never faltered. In retrospect, I should have gotten her name so I could write a letter to the NJDoT. Besides providing information, she provided me with the Call to Adventure (if not the Lady of the Lake, she was the Lady of Lakehurst). I found myself on meandering rural roadways snaking through the hills of northern Jersey, suddenly traversing quaint hamlets thick with antique shops. If I hadn’t have been constrained timewise, I might have played the tourist in this region which, somewhat disconcertingly, was within range of my radio presets.
I made it through Jersey Rurality and emerged onto familiar roadways, right around the time that a single lane of I80 was opened. The imparted wisdom of the patient, good-humored Jersey Girl has won me through, and I arrived on the job with plenty of time to spare.
Thursday, July 11, 2019
Growing up, we always had money for educational programs and sports equipment, even when money was tight... we weren't the type of people who indulged in material luxuries. For instance, we went many years without a television, though there were always plenty of books in the house.
Having five kids, Mom always had room for more under her roof, so our house was the go-to place for all of our friends throughout our lives (from grammar school buddies to grad school buddies to my brothers' Army comrades), many of whom still drop by when they are passing through Northern Virginia. Did I mention that extending hospitality was another value that Mom stressed?
I am grateful for the values and traits that Mom instilled in my siblings and I, the values being handed down to the next generation, which is also thriving. I guess living up to her standards is the best birthday present that we could give her.
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
The best way to figure out exactly what you're looking at is to know generally what you are looking at. I immediately thought I was looking at a beetle, because the upper set of wings looked like hard elytra, and the long, yellow 'spine' at the end of its abdomen shouted out 'ovipositor' to me. I tried a Google image search, but it wasn't very helpful, so I headed over to the laypersons' Insect Identification website. Being 99.9% sure I was looking for a beetle narrowed things down, so it didn't take too long to find out that this was a female Broad-Necked Root Borer (Prionus laticollis), described on the site as 'mammoth'... which made me even more miffed that I didn't get to see her. I then emailed my co-worker, and our visitor to inform them of the result of my sleuthing, forever cementing my reputation as the company 'bug guy'.
Post title lifted from this movie scene.
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
I have set up a couple of posts, but I will be back in New York in time for Friday's shift (barring any untoward events). Here's hoping the traffic won't be horrendous!
Monday, July 8, 2019
The real story here is the probability that Epstein was procuring minors for wealthy, connected men, including current and former presidents. I'm with Tengrain, this is not a matter of politics... anyone found guilty of abusing minors should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I'm hoping that Epstein takes down a bunch of predators with him.
While I am not surprised that powerful individuals are engaging in the sexual abuse of minors (it's about power over), I don't believe that there's a satanic cabal that sacrifices and eats children. Evil is more banal that fantasists believe it is... this is sordid and mundane, a crime of men, not devils.
Hopefully, the Southern District of New York can put Epstein away for the rest of his life... this sort of task can't be trusted to Florida Man.
Sunday, July 7, 2019
Hallie Bailey is an attractive young woman with a lovely voice, so she fits the role of a young mermaid in a movie musical perfectly, unless you have racist tendencies. I propose that the white nationalists make their own 'little mermaid' movie, starring someone with the criteria they demand- pale skin and lustrous red hair... of course, an ability to sing would be nice:
Of course, in this version of The Little Mermaid, the prince would end up drowning.
Saturday, July 6, 2019
With yet another failure of a hyped event, the alt-right is looking even more incompetent than usual- they are a reverse Ouroboros, a snake with its head wedged up its cloaca.
Friday, July 5, 2019
The Washington Monument during the fireworks is pretty fuckin terrifying pic.twitter.com/FtyMW9rpLO— Matthew Gaydos (@MatthewGaydos) July 5, 2019
As if that isn't enough to convince the skeptics, Vulgarmort left a taint of evil lingering in the air of Washington D.C.:
I’ve lived on U Street for seven years and I’ve never seen this: The smoke from the fireworks downtown has invaded our neighborhood; it reeks of sulfur. Very weird. pic.twitter.com/OycMKR9vCg— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) July 5, 2019
Ominous tower, pall of sulfur over the city? I'm convinced... just wait until he rolls out his 2020 campaign theme song.
Thursday, July 4, 2019
Again, though, it’s the existential angst that I can’t shake, the fact that there are concentration camps on the border, and the Orange Ogre just had a tinpot dictator-style spectacle (in which he rambled incoherently about airports during the Revolutionary War, among other gaffes). The surreal nature of this current age is disconcerting, that tension between the straight white male privileged existence, and the reports from afar of fascist rallies, child prisons, and political stagnation. I wonder how late-Imperial Romans or late Weimar Republic Germans felt... did they have an inkling of how things were getting really bad? Am I overly dramatic here?
Wednesday, July 3, 2019
When Trump delegates his evil to factora such as CBP and ICE, alarming things happen, the sort of things that have people quoting Niemöller, but when he is in charge, he fails in spectacular fashion. He’s as clownish as Kim Jong Un, but he’s nowhere near as effective, and we should all be glad for that.
Tuesday, July 2, 2019
I'm taking this personally because booze tariffs are going to be levied. I'm just glad that I still have about a liter-and-a-half of Tullamore Dew in the house. Of course, whiskey is leading me astray, but not to Trump's AmeriKKK. I mean, have you seen what's happening in that shithole?
Monday, July 1, 2019
All kidding aside, it’s nice to know that there is a functioning country adjacent to ours... I hope that we Americans can look to their example and become a better, more compassionate society, glorious and free.
Sunday, June 30, 2019
Fifty years later, Pride is often seen as a white male celebration, though alternative marches have arisen to counter the sanitized narrative pushed by government agencies and corporations. The point of Pride is visibility, a display of solidarity in the face of peril. A gathering such as took place in Manhattan today could not have occurred a half-century ago... the Powers That Be simply would not have allowed it. The problem is that the struggle isn't over- violence against transwomen of color is rampant and Republican congresscreeps still oppose anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The Bad Old Days could always return in these days of weaponized bigotry and fanatic populism.
Dr Martin Luther King, Jr said: The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. That arc needs to be bent toward justice. The Stonewall patrons who refused to accept abuse at the hands of individuals who were supposed 'to protect and serve' strained to bend that arc, and any bit of complacency can cause that arc to bend in another direction. Here's wishing my LGBTQ readers a happy Pride day, albeit a cautious one. The struggle isn't over, and the forces of regression never stop.
Saturday, June 29, 2019
The 'inorganic' nature of this campaign was apparent from the start because so many of the social media posts were repeated verbatim. The anti-Harris campaign was amplified by the outré ADOS (American Descendants Of Slaves) 'movement', which seems to be a group of trolls trying to drive African-Americans away from the Democratic Party, and more troubling, trying to drive wedges between the various sub-populations of the African Diaspora. ADOS is a blend of Trumpism and gatekeeping... it's a more under-the-radar version of Candace Owens' grift-y Blexit. I'm a white dude, but I look askance at the ADOS contingent because, while Amadou Diallo's family never lived under Jim Crow, his 'blackness' was not questioned by the police officers who slew him. Some of them are even claiming that Kamala Harris' father was a white Jamaican descendant of slave owners. While the particular history of one enslaved Diaspora group differs from the history of other groups, their descendants tend to share the same experience of discrimination- racial profiling, redlining, and harsher police treatment.
Reading about this troll campaign, the phrase 'Schrödinger's Blackness' popped unbidden into my mind... to Conservatives, the 'blackness' of a Democrat of African descent is uncertain until a determination is made of the particular needs of a campaign, by which I mean smear campaign. Right now, while ratfuckers are trying to undermine Kamala Harris' support among African-American voters by claiming she's not a genuine 'black American' (sic), those very same ratfuckers will accuse her of being an 'angry black lady' when it suits their needs. These arbiters of blackness, many of them black Russians, are not acting in good faith. Meanwhile, decency prevails in other quarters. It's good to know that the pushback has been well-coordinated... Kamala Harris knows her lived experience, and can define her own approach to her African Diaspora heritage. If she wants to use this classic as her campaign theme song, she can do as she damn well pleases.
ADDENDUM: I googled the phrase 'Schrödinger's Blackness' and only came up with one other instance of its use, for a concept which differs from my use of the term, but that I suspect will also be used as a weapon against Kamala Harris.
Friday, June 28, 2019
How about Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells to put you in an absolutely not-creeped-out mood?
A little later on, Blue Öyster Cult's album version of Astronomy was featured. Good thing that light never warms, it's been hot and muggy all day... but only eldritch for the last hour or so.
Thursday, June 27, 2019
The use of Spanish by Beto O'Rourke didn't please everyone, but the guy DID grow up in a city named El Paso in a state named Tejas... besides, the Irish have long had a tradition of supporting their Spanish-speaking brethren. The Irish and Mexicans share a love of beer, fútbol, accordions, and veneration of the Virgin. Really, who could possibly distinguish between the Irish and the Mexicans?
Dumbass Brian Kilmeade asked, "Do Spanish people like people to speak Spanish with them?" In my experience, most people do appreciate any effort made to communicate with them in their primary language... but my Spanish is pretty good. A few weeks back, when I first met my young Chilean friend, I said something to her in Spanish and she joked, "You just want to practice your Spanish on me!" I answered, "Practicar es importante, pero hablaré cualquiera lengua que prefiere." That was enough to convince her that my Spanish was, if not fluent, proficient, and we typically bounce back-and-forth between the two languages. Since I usually work with her and my Argentine-American friend, we have a lot of conversations about dialect and specialized vocabularies. On one afternoon, I got a lession about Lunfardo, the tango-influenced, largely Italian-derived slang of Buenos Aires. Since my Spanish education, like most Spanish-language instruction en los Estados Unidos, comprises a sort of 'greatest hits of the Spanish speaking world', I was able to introduce one of my favorite short stories, Gregorio López y Fuentes' poignant and hilarious Una Carta a Dios to my South American friends. I imagine that my Argentine friend and I will have our Chilean friend reading El Sur before the summer is over. Of course, about half of our conversations are in English- my Argentine friend came to the US to study art history, and married a Yanqui. My Chilean friend was brought to the US by her mother, who doesn't plan on settling here long-term, so she can pursue a STEM education that would be harder to obtain in Chile... she's National Honor Society, so she's doing her mother proud.
I don't think for one moment that the Fox commentariat's pondering whether or not Spanish-speaking US citizens like to hear presidential campaigners hablan español... it's the sort of rank concern-trollery which is even less sincere than an attempt hablar la lengua.
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
There’s one critic who had a review of the debate, a man who is an amalgam of all of the bad kids in ‘Willy Wonka’. His review was one word:
BORING!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 27, 2019
Too many big words for his pea brain... Me? I want a return to boring politics. I want a return to the boring days when I didn’t check the PotUS’ Twitter feed to see if he nuked Iran, or Iowa. I want a return to boring technocrats running various Departments, of stable policies run by staid bureaucrats. There’s a value to boring routine- roller coasters are fun, but you wouldn’t want to commute to work on one, especially not one with non-working harnesses and faulty brakes.
Unlike Donald, I want boring, it sure beats horrific.
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
A half hour later, another one asked me if I had a roll of duct tape, and I told him no. He said, “You’re unprepared.” Hearing this a second time, I shot him a dagger-glance and hissed, “My job was to open the doors, turn off the alarms, and turn on the lights. My job is pretty much done. YOU are the one who’s unprepared.” He scooted away pretty quickly, which was good, because I was tempted to add, “I’m still here to make sure you don’t steal anything from the gift shop.”
At another point, one of them couldn’t get a backup scanner (Plan B) to turn on. She asked me if the outlet was good, and I pointed out that the power strip on light was lit. I suggested that she call the Board to see if they could determine the problem. It’s after ten AM, and nothing has been resolved.
A couple of them asked me for the company WiFi password and I told them that the guest WiFi comes online after 9AM.
Even the voters are annoying today. Our retail staff is in Manhattan for a trade show, so nobody is here to work the shop. I put stanchions up to block access. One ninny walked in from the rain and placed her umbrella on the floor on the verboten side of the stanchions. Again, I gritted my teeth and barked, “Don’t put your wet umbrella by our merchandise.” What kind of asshole thinks that’s acceptable?
I’m here until 2PM, when my sarcastic colleague takes over. I’m usually patient, but today has been a string of annoyances- I’m going to warn him about what to expect. Then, I’m going to grab a couple of well-earned beers.
Monday, June 24, 2019
The movie definitely demands suspension of disbelief... after all, it does feature a moth larger than a jumbo jet as a main character. Put your skeptical adult brain in neutral, embrace your inner eight year old, and bask in that nostalgia, because there are tons of Easter eggs- callbacks to other kaiju movies. Zang Ziyi’s Dr Chen shows pictures of her mother and her twin sister conducting research on Infant Island, calling to mind the pixies from the classic Mothra movies. The three-headed monster is known as ’Monster Zero’ before Dr Chen identifies it as King Ghidorah by perusing old legends. An oxygen destroying missile, reminiscent of the device used to kill Godzilla in the 1954 movie, is deployed against Godzilla and Ghidorah, with unexpected results, revealing the true nature (and true danger) of Ghidorah. Even Ken Watanabe’s (as Dr Serizawa) viral ‘let them fight’ line is referenced by another character.
The plot is a mishmash of Gaia hypothesis (an ‘eco-terrorist’ villain describes the Titans as the ‘immune system meant to bring ecological balance to a world undergoing a mass extinction), military thriller (terrorists vs international monster monitoring organization), and family drama... but you’re really here for the monster battles. There are topical scenes of child separation in refugee crises, and a nod toward the need for finding a balance between humanity and nature... but you’re really here for the monster battles.
The movie does convey a sense of wonder- such scenes as the emergence of Mothra from her cocoon were gorgeous. There are moments of pathos as well- particularly when Dr Serizawa approaches a stricken Godzilla and intones ‘goodbye, old friend’ in Japanese. Watching the movie, I became an eight year-old again, which was a nice way to spend two and a half hours, in a world where real monsters dwell.
Sunday, June 23, 2019
This afternoon, I returned to work, albeit at a different site. Typically, the first two people I see are both South American women. One is a gift shop clerk about my own age from Buenos Aires. She's a sophisticated lady of European descent, who would look at home in Madrid, or Milan, visiting museums or working in a boutique. She was appalled when I told her about my conversation of the morning, and we had a dolorous conversation about the cruelty and capriciousness on display- she asked my why there weren't mass demonstrations on the streets, and I didn't have a good answer for her. We Americans tend to be more passive than Europeans when it comes to making our displeasure known en masse. Her husband is a US citizen, and her daughters are fine, upstanding young Americans who are just now approaching the age at which they will become politically involved... and involved they will be.
The other South American woman, a cleaning contractor who works for the same company as my Peruvian friend, is a Chilean teenager who has only been in the 'States for three years- she's a perfect example of what José Vasconcelos termed 'la raza cósmica', a walnut-complected girl with a sweet, expressive face. Her mother emigrated to the US specifically so that she could receive an education, and she has plans to study nursing, and then pathology, so she could become a medical examiner. She seemed to be unaware of the planned ICE raids, and I wasn't about to bring the topic up because she already has to deal with her remaining NY State Regents Exams. She's a hardworking girl, and she quickly became an indispensable help to the staff of the site, even going out of her way to help organize supplies for school groups. She is exactly the sort of person you would want to move to your city or town, a National Honor Society member who is working hard and pulling good grades in school.
It bothers me that good people, good friends of mine, feel like they have targets on their backs. These people contribute to our society, their potential should not be scorned. It bothers me even more to have to work out ways in which I could protect them if things take a turn for the worse. A gauntlet has been thrown down, and I have to figure out the best way I have to pick the damn thing up.
POSTSCRIPT: The ACLU has a good primer on what to do if the raids go through.
Saturday, June 22, 2019
As is typical of the post-November 2018 mediascape, the 'controversy' was ignited by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the favorite bête noire of right-wingers and the idiotic media flacks who 'bothsides' issues to a fare-thee-well. The hair-splitting also plays into the hands of Holocaust deniers, who often dispute the fact that the Nazis intentionally killed Jews in an industrialized fashion.
The real problem here isn't the definition of 'concentration camps', it's the definition of 'Americans'... who are we? What have become?
Friday, June 21, 2019
I call it the Madman Theory, Bob. I want the North Vietnamese to believe I've reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war. We'll just slip the word to them that, "for God's sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about communism. We can't restrain him when he's angry—and he has his hand on the nuclear button" and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.
The basic gist is that an opponent would be reluctant to provoke a madman... Trump's decision to retaliate against Iran for shooting down a drone was immediately followed by a reversal, supposedly ten minutes before the planes were to have been sent to strike Iran. Trump claimed that his change of policy was motivated by compassion and a sense of proportionality, but cynical persons aver that his boss called him to tell him to back off. While Trump said the military was 'cocked and loaded', it seems that the Republican congresscreeps were cockblocked. Whether or not Trump is bluffing or actually had a change of heart regarding an actual attack on Iran, all I can really say is that I am thankful that my brother Vin retired from the Army in April.
The problem with the Madman Theory is that it doesn't work if the person using it is actually a madman.
Thursday, June 20, 2019
It was enraging to read that a wealthy billionaire couple has donated an ungodly sum of money to an organization which spreads anti-vaccination propaganda. These people are engaged in action deleterious to human welfare... they are squandering their riches on disinformation which is immiserating children, putting innocent individuals at risk. Whatever their motivation, they are making things worse for humanity.
I am all for Elizabeth Warren's proposed wealth tax- it's only fitting that the ultra-wealthy should be forced to pay to offset some of the damage they are inflicting on our nation.
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
Tonight, I met with a coworker whose birthday was last Saturday and a former contractor we have become close with whose birthday is today- his husband rounded out the group. We hit the Maya Riviera restaurant in the village of Briarcliff Manor, about seventeen miles north of the City of Y_____. It’s a nice, old school Mexican restaurant, but not particularly ‘Mayan’ (they don’t serve the typical Yucatán dish cochinita pibil, which is pork stewed with blood orange juice and black peppercorns in a banana leaf and served with pickled onions). I ordered chicken mole poblano, which is sauced with an elaborate melange of chocolate, nuts, and spices. It’s a culinary tour de force, the kind of dish that involves a lot of grinding and mixing- I’ve only made it once, for a special occasion, years ago.
It was one of those slow dinners, very talky, pretty boozy... just the kind of dinner between old friends celebrating getting older. The birthdays continue until next week, but the bender ends tonight- this guy’s work schedule is heavily weighted towards weekends, after all, and with maturity comes responsibility.
Tuesday, June 18, 2019
I’m reminded of the outlandish gangs from the 1979 movie The Warriors, from which I’ve taken the post title- each in their fanciful dress code. I can’t dig it, though, I can’t dig it at all.
Monday, June 17, 2019
I wish I could say that the half-century I've spent on the planet was marked by progress, but I don't see it. Again, personally I am doing okay, I am surrounded by friends and a loving family, and I even work in a gorgeous place. I might be looking a little craggy lately, largely as a result of keeping horrendous hours, but generally speaking, life is good... I mean this is me at work:
It's a funny week, a lot of my friends and one of my uncles were born around this time of year- today marks the start of three days of celebrating birthdays. Sure, the promise of the era of my birth has been squandered on five decades of missed opportunities, wasted potential, but I'm doing okay, and the people around me are doing okay, and I am still optimistic enough to believe that we will be working to make things better. Things had better get better.
Sunday, June 16, 2019
I chose my 'nym years ago as a send-up of tough-guy masculinity... paradoxically, I think it's ridiculous while being able to draw upon it on those rare occasions when it's handy (sometimes, coming across as someone who'd be perfectly happy to rip someone's head off is a useful skill, especially when backed up with the ability to rip someone's head off). Part of me believes that much of the current crisis of masculinity is due to the synergistic effect of poor job prospects, lack of physical activity combined with a toxic gamer culture, pop-cultural depictions of largely-unattainable physiques, and an echo chamber of disaffected misogynists who want to blame women for the woes of young men rather than blaming the effects of the metastatic stage of current capitalism. Thankfully, my brothers, my male cousins, and my friends are involved with their children, and the next generation of my social circle is made up of well-adjusted kids with impressive accomplishments. It's imperative that we, as a society, break this cycle of radicalization.
Men just have to do better, and part of it is making sure that masculinity isn't seen as a straitjacket which limits boys' and men's emotional expressions and life experiences, masculinity shouldn't be monolithic. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The problem with toxic masculinity is the toxicity, not the masculinity... and we need poison control badly.
Saturday, June 15, 2019
lmaooooooo 8chan just got search warranted pic.twitter.com/Rhi6g2OWKo— shoshanot at cannes, pls stop asking 🛸 (@swodinsky) June 14, 2019
It will be interesting to see how the Chan Klan handles the prospect of being outed after having assumed anonymity on the imageboard... how many anime-Nazis are sweating over the prospect of their employer finding out that they are egging on potential mass shooters? What is 8Chan's biggest 'celebrity', the anonymous hoaxer(s) known as "Q" going to do if anonymity is compromised? Ben Collins of NBC speculated about this as well...
Reading over this post, I realize that I need to step away from the internet for a bit- it's a beautiful summer night, with an almost full moon... that beats a shitstorm anytime.
Friday, June 14, 2019
Thursday, June 13, 2019
I really don't want to sound paranoid, but it's not like trumped-up naval incidents in the gulfs of the world are that far-fetched.
Wednesday, June 12, 2019
The US is a large, wealthy country, and one that places more of a premium on women’s athletics than most other nations (though the Michigan State horror shows how far we need to progress). It’s no wonder that the women’s national team would be a dominant force in the World Cup. Coming opponents will be wealthier countries than Thailand, countries with stronger soccer traditions- the outcomes of the games might be uncertain. Let the women’s team have their moment of exuberance, they play a lot better than their male counterparts.
Tuesday, June 11, 2019
Monday, June 10, 2019
what a joke pic.twitter.com/Oqn80Djgyi— jordan (@JordanUhl) June 10, 2019
What we have here is
Sunday, June 9, 2019
Then it’s change into shorts and T-shirt and run around making sure that the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed... making sure the caterers know where the dumpsters are, then locking up the service entrance. Thankfully, the weather is perfect, so I won’t be running around in a quagmire in my best shoes.
It’s been a weekend of contrasts, a night with young Bronx working class heroes and an evening with well-heeled (some exceedingly so) philanthropists. It’s the blend of job experiences that makes the position interesting... well, that and being with all the critters once both poor and rich humans leave.
Saturday, June 8, 2019
The ‘kids’ are all vetted- they wouldn’t be working with high school students if they hadn’t been. My coworker told me that there were about twenty of them, so it should be a lively night. They will be setting up a campfire in a designated firepit when they get back.
My job is to act as keyholder, to make sure that our guests can get where they need to get and to use my local knowledge if there’s an emergency (which I don’t expect). I anticipate that it will be a fun night, but a busy one... and it’ll also be a busy night for the mosquitoes.
UPDATE: It’s dawn now, and the guests are still sleeping. When they came back from dinner, they built a campfire and made s’mores, making sure that I got one. One of the old-timers, who was here on the overnight last year, told a funny story about cooling off in our one air-conditioned building (for the record, last night was a lovely 60 degrees) and hearing a bang-and-clatter overhead... he didn’t want to stay inside, and he didn’t want to leave the building to face whatever made the noise. He was in the classic horror movie dilemma. I joked that I’d be the guy to go outside and investigate, to my doom!!! That’s why I’m the night guy. Even though I only live a few miles from this crew, I came across as some sort of eccentric Druid type.
The highlight (literally) of the night was when these young adults, who are mainly from the Bronx, looked up and saw the (truth be told not-many) stars of the northern suburban sky. One young man, making out the constellation, joyfully exclaimed, “The Big Dipper!” It was just the sort of moment that camping is made for.
Friday, June 7, 2019
For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon - We did that 50 years ago. They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part), Defense and Science!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 7, 2019
Weird, we never learned that in astronomy class! The most charitable interpretation of this tweet would be that a Moon mission would be part of a broader Mars mission, but besides the incoherence of the tweet, such an interpretation would assume that going to the Moon is, in fact, a place where NASA would be going. At any rate, the whole thing is mind-bogglingly stupid.
The post title is taken from a song from the B-52's first album. Poking around the t00bz, I found a great live version of the song from 1985
, and as an added bonus, Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz of Talking Heads (who are also the Tom Tom Club) are playing bass and drums respectively.
Maybe if someone told Trump he could ride in a gold meteorite, we could get his ass out of the White House.
Thursday, June 6, 2019
Dr John was one of the pillars of the New Orleans music scene, working as a session musician with artists across the color-divide since the 1950s (he played with Professor Longhair as a teenager).
I am a fan of the various musical traditions of Louisiana, a point I belabor on Mardi Gras, and I have posted Dr John's version of the standard Iko Iko, a song I posted a 'dissection' of a few years back.
My favorite song by Dr John is the otherworldly, creepy even, I Walk on Guilded Splinters, the tour-de-force of his psychedelic voodoo-inspired album Gris-Gris. Just try to listen to this song without feeling a sligh tingle up your spine.
Malcolm John Rebennack was a one-of-a-kind performer, a flamboyant character from a flamboyant city who took the mélange of cultures from that storied burgh, tripped out, and unleashed the resulting idiosyncratic style on an unsuspecting listening public... maybe he was the one performing brain salad surgery on the rest of us.
Wednesday, June 5, 2019
Tuesday, June 4, 2019
A dog person would interpret this as a desire for a belly rub, but cats are more ambiguous than dogs and that soft, fluffy expanse of fur is surrounded by four sets of switchblades. In this particular case, it's probably a sign of Ginger's trust, but I know her well enough so that I stick to the safe spots when I pet her.
Monday, June 3, 2019
Is that color not outrageous? Of course, with peonies, you get the ants, which are attracted to the nectaries the buds feature much like the trumpet vine does. The vampire hell ants are long extinct, and the current ants tend to prefer heavenly food sources.