Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Pit of Depravity Gets Deeper

What possibly could make Jeffrey Epstein, child-raper, pimp, and human trafficker, seem even more depraved? Seems like he also planned on starting a breeding program on his ranch, and we’re not talking about racehorses. Apparently, he told acquaintances that he wanted to maintain a stable of women, by which he no doubt meant underaged girls, to impregnate. He’s gone beyond ‘Bond Villain’ status to ‘full-on Neo-Nazi eugenicist’ status.

The real weird thing is that he still maintained a ‘salon’ of intellectuals around himself, even though he had long passed the Medici phase, through the Borgia phase, eventually hitting Caligula status. He claimed a connection to Harvard (NOTE: Better Dead than Crimson), but it’s odd that such public figures as Alan Dershowitz and Steven Pinker would have spent so much time defending him.

I’d like to think that this atrocity can’t get any more disgusting, but I’m not really holding out any hope.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Che Schifo, NYT

Como un vero contadino, I was thoroughly disgusted by a a recent tweet from The NY Times. Besides the fact that the real story behind the Gilroy Garlic Festival mass shooting is about a teenager radicalized by misogynistic, anti-Semitic right-wing (but I repeat myself) propaganda, the assertion that garlic is a ‘once-stigmatized ingredient’ has me scratching la testa pilata mia... once-stigmatized? By whom? Garlic has long been a prized ingredient in cuisines the world over... Italian, Chinese, Indian, Korean, Middle Eastern, Greek, Thai, Spanish, French... it even colonized the New World, capturing los corazones of Mexicans and Caribbean peoples. Maybe garlic was stigmatized by upper-class WASP-y twits until they discovered ‘ethnic’ food, but those people ceased to be on the culinary vanguard since the Delmonico family emigrated from Ticino.

It’s exactly this sort of tone-deaf, inane journamalism that got me to stop reading the Times... well, that and the fact that they just can’t fucking call racism racism (no, Trump’s NC speech wasn’t ‘racially tinged’). Not even a garlicky skordalia recipe in the Wednesday food section could win me back.

Now, I feel I have to defend the sacred honor of my beloved garlic... One of my favorite summer dishes, which perfectly showcases the simplicity of Italian cooking and the vulgar (in the literal sense) appeal of garlic, is a potato/string bean salad dressed with a ton of garlic and a generous application of extra virgin olive oil. All proportion are to taste, I usually go with a 70/30 potato/string bean ratio. Boil the peeled, chunked potatoes in well-salted water, then add the string beans shortly before the potatoes are fork-tender. Drain, then add crushed garlic to taste (at least four cloves to a pound of spuds for me), and pour over extra-virgin olive oil, the good stuff, bright green and fragrant. The residual heat will slowly cook the garlic. Serve warm or at room temperature... bellissimo!

Once-stigmatized, il culo mio!

Monday, July 29, 2019

Fuzzy Buddy

Lately, a couple of our sites have been overrun by cute, fuzzy caterpillars with 'spiky' white and orange bristles around their heads. They are very distinctive, and qualify as charismatic minifauna. This little critter found its way into our breakroom, where it graced the table:

Poking around the t00bz (Insect Identification, for the win!), I was able to identify them as sycamore tussock moth (Halysidota harrisii) larvae, which makes sense, because we have sycamore trees on the two sites where I've seen them.

I caught this little critter in a plastic cup and relocated it to the outdoors:

Our trees are regularly monitored by a contractor, and I haven't heard of any problems caused by these caterpillars, so I can feel okay about setting my fuzzy buddy free. If a problem arises, though, the friendship is OVER... I've loved the big tree long before I even met this caterpillar.

Sunday, July 28, 2019


Egrets, as the song goes, I've had a few, but never so many as I had this weekend. On Saturday morning, I counted nineteen (possibly twenty) great egrets (Ardea alba) on the jobsite:

The birds, given their large size and snowy, showy plumage, really stand out. They were gathered around the watercourse that is all that currently remains of our onsite pond, which had to be drained of about seventy-five percent of its water because of a large construction project that we are currently undergoing. The confines of our once sizable pond are now an all-you-can-eat buffet for waders seeking easy pickings. The egrets congregate in large breeding colonies, and I imagine that this lot wandered in from a nearby green space (of which there are quite a few).

I didn't even attempt to approach these birds- they tend to be shy (for good reason), I merely sat quietly, watching them as they interacted- jockeying for good fishing spots, occasionally squabbling. It was a nice way to spend the early morning hours, with no regrets, but many egrets.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Weaponization of the DOJ Against Leftist Activists?

Perhaps I'm being a bit paranoid, but I found this tweet from Vulgarmort very disturbing:

The characterization of antifascist activists as terrorists follows upon a similar proclamation by Ted Cruz. It is particularly sinister in light of the proposed end of the moratorium on the federal death penalty. It is not inconceivable that the Trump Maladministration would label political opponents 'terrorists', with the threat of a potential death sentence hanging over their heads.

In three weeks, a coterie of far-right figures from around the country plans on staging an armed rally in Portland. They have threatened violence, but in the current media climate, the gutless commentators will probably cling to the narrative that the Portland natives who protest this invasion are the villains.

The current regime is exhibiting the fourteen characteristics of fascism, and this current push to label their opponents on the left as terrorists may signal that their policies might take a turn for the worse.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Let Your Skyfingers Do the Skywalking

Being a child of the 1970s, it was inevitable that I would be a 'Star Wars' fan, albeit a lukewarm (HA!) one... I like the original movies, but I'm not obsessed with them. I'm more of a fan of written SF/Fantasy, a fan of the 'theater of the mind' that such fiction provides. Still and all, I am familiar with the movies and will often make reference to some of the better lines.

One of the iconic arcs in the original trilogy **SPOILER FOR DECADES OLD MOVIE** involves the loss of Luke Skywalker's hand and its replacement with a 'bionic' replica. In a nod to the movies (which makes me hope that some of the low-key tech in the movies will be developed), the developers of a prosthetic arm have named it in honor of Luke Skywalker. This prosthetic receives and sends signals via electrodes attached to nerves. It allows users to distinguish large objects from small, hard objects from soft. The good people of Mobius Bionics deserve some serious accolades. Ultimately, I believe that regenerative medicine will proceed to the stage at which limbs can be grown, these prosthetics are a great interim therapy.

Given the fact that this prosthetic is named after his signature character, I decided to check out Mark Hamill's Twitter feed and I found this reply to an actress who has a prosthetic arm:

Following this tweet down the rabbit hole, I discovered that this actress has tested various bionic arms. It's nice to see that she's received so much love from Mr Hamill, who, refreshingly, comes across as an unfailingly Good Guy. Now, I have to see about that leak in the roof, and figure out where this moisture is coming from, because it's not raining.

Post title taken from an old yellow pages ad... for anyone under the age of twenty-five, you'll have to look that up.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Sunset Silhouette

I often remark on the beauty of my workplace. While I love my co-workers, I have to note that some of my most fantastic experiences on the job occur when everything is locked up and I have the place to myself. Recently, I had the great good fortune to see four very large wading birds (I suspect either great blue herons or great egrets, judging by size) fly by, and two of them landed to perch on a dead tree adjacent to our property:

You can just make them out in the center of the photograph, those unmistakable silhouettes set against a particularly gorgeous sunset. Sometimes, on the job, I have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming... on this particular evening, the dream, by which I mean the reality, was particularly enchanting.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Tears in Rain, Indeed

Today’s bummer is the news of Rutger Hauer’s death. Like most moviegoers my age, I know Mr Hauer primarily from his performance as the main antagonist in Blade Runner. Hauer, with his chiseled features and platinum blond hair, convincingly played an android Ubermensch, an image undercut by the pathos he brought to the role. This Ubermensch was designed with a critical flaw, an extremely short lifespan, which he was determined to remedy, even to the extent of killing. Hauer endowed this pulp sci-fi/noir villain with humanity, and his Tears in Rain soliloquy (remarkly ad-libbed by the non-native English speaker) is one of the all-time greats of sci-fi AND of cinema. Sure, Rutger played in other movies, good movies at that, but this will always be his tour de force.

He’s no longer among us, but I just know he’s out there, glittering by the Tannhäuser Gate.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Not the Heroes We Looked for, but the Heroes We Needed

I’m pretty much a Smash Mouth agnostic- while their music was okay, I kinda dismissed it as a soundtrack for bros with regrettable hairdos and children who liked ‘Shrek’ movies. I wouldn’t switch the radio station if one of their songs came on, but I didn’t rush out to buy their albums. To me, the cool kids, by which I mean the nerds, were listening to Hedningarna in the 90s.

Earlier this year, though, Smash Mouth proved themselves to be a far cry from the bro-culture... uh... bros I always thought them to be. When a neo-Nazi front group announced that they planned to hold a straight pride March, the members of Smash Mouth put out a public expression of disdain. These bros, who I had dismissed as... uh... bros, had struck a blow for equality- Smash Mouth had... uh... smashed toxic masculinity in the... uh... mouth.

Checking the rest of the band’s twitter feed, I found posts amplifying fundraisers for sick people, extolling the virtues of bookmobiles, and invitations for ill children to attend their concerts as VIPs. It suddenly hit me, these bros are actually all about brotherhood, they are the goofy big brothers who will stand up for their less fortunate siblings. I immediately thought, “Hey, now, they are all stars!”. I’m not the only one who had a Smash Mouth Epiphany.

So why did I post this today? Smash Mouth is playing a free concert in nearby White Plains, NY. I’m not planning on going, because it’s bar trivia night, but I wouldn’t mind if the local DJ plays some Smash Mouth.

And in a coda to this post, I also have to note that another sartorially regrettable bro has proven to be a hero, proving that Flavortown is every bit as caring as Mr Roger’s Neighborhood. There are heroes, herbros if you will, that come, unbidden, in our hours of need, unexpectedly herbroic bros who prove that bros DO let bros bro, bro.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Perfidious J00z Are Ruining the Legacy of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby!!!

It’s been a few years since I’ve written a post about assholes being enraged about Marvel’s Thor. These creeps lost their part-time minds when a female iteration of Thor appeared in a comic book. Now, they are feeling the same angst over an upcoming movie in which Thor is a lady. Some of them are, as is distressingly fascionable today, blaming the Jews for emasculating Thor. Oh, the perfidy! Why must the Jews disrespect the legacy of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby?

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

Meanwhile, Back on Earth

This weekend, I found myself the victim of a Chinese hoax. Put succinctly, it’s been hot as balls. Today, the mercury hit 98, with the humidity making it feel like 105. I tried to limit my outdoor time, but my job involves spending quite a bit of time outdoors, so I coped by drinking a lot of cold water before stepping outside. Still, each day I sweat through a couple of shirts. It was a relief each day when everyone else went home, and I could sit in my office without a shirt. The dress code, like the hospitality standards, goes to hell at a certain time of night.

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

After Fifty Years, What Are We Achieving?

I enjoyed the Google doodle celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the first moon landing, narrated by Michael Collins himself. The Apollo 11 mission occurred shortly after I was born, the day of my christening... family lore has it that some of the attendees were glued to their car radios in the parking lot until they were told to get in the bleepin' church already! I've written a bunch of posts about the moon- musings over the celestial body's beauty, science posts, posts about the Apollo missions themselves. I work nights, the moon literally looms over me much of the time.

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

American Dream, American Nightmare

I have been in a foul mood all evening, and it's not due to the fact that I sweat through three shirts over the course of the workday. We had a lovely event, a dinner for a cadre of visiting teachers who have been at a workshop all week. The president of the organization attended, as did the head of HR and another vice president. Assorted other mucky-mucks were also present. Because we had a crowd of almost fifty attendees, we needed a cleaning contractor present to make sure the bathrooms were cleaned and stocked, and to assist in getting the post-dinner trash out to our dumpsters.

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

Secret Science Club Post-Lecture Recap: This Subject's Deep

On Tuesday night, I headed down to the beautiful Bell House, in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, for this month's Secret Science Club lecture, featuring Dr Vicki Ferrini of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping. Dr Ferrini's topic was Mapping the Ocean Floor, and she kicked off the lecture by noting that maps are a common part of our lives- we are a geospatially oriented culture, to the extent that we have maps on our phones, and a lot of data at our fingertips.

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

Shaken, not Stirred

I’m deriving a lot of Schadenfreude from the outcries of MRA types over the casting of a black woman as 007 in an upcoming ‘Bond’ movie. It wasn’t too long ago that these same morons were losing their minds over the prospect of Idris Elba being cast as Bond. Well, now they are shaken, not stirred, because there are now girl cooties all over their male wish-fulfillment fantasies.

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

Prime Directive

The Google tells me that today is Amazon Prime Day, when Deep Discounts can be found on the e-commerce titan’s website. Being a believer in the sort of mom and pop stores that anchor my neighborhood, I haven’t purchased anything from Amazon in years (though I have to confess that I would use it to buy something I could not obtain otherwise, should such an occasion arise).

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

Return of the ICE Age

Back in June, I wrote about my Peruvian friend discussing how proposed ICE raids had cast a pall over the local Hispanic community. Trump postponed the raids until this weekend, but either due to a slow rollout or desensitization among the immigrant community, this round of raids doesn't seem to have caused a similar panic. In contrast to that June morning, the topic of ICE raids never came up in our conversation this morning, which revolved around more mundane matters.

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

Not Exactly an Alien Invasion

My take on extraterrestrial life is that I have no doubt that it exists, given the vastness of the universe, but that no intelligent extraterrestrials have visited this island Earth. I do, however, sometimes read up on UFO conspiracy culture because this sort of bad sci-fi appeals to me almost as much as good sci-fi does. Apparently, there had been hopes that Trump, an 'outsider', would reveal the 'truth' about UFOs, but that didn't materialize, to the disappointment of True Believers.

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

The Most Popular Woman in New Jersey

The plan was simple- leave mom’s house before 9AM and drive straight to work, leaving a couple of hours of grace period in case of bad traffic. Everything was smooth sailing until I got to Interstate 80- a roadside flashing sign indicated that the entire highway was closed at exit 30 in New Jersey due to an overturned tractor-trailer. The road had been closed from before rush hour, and I found this out around 1:30PM. I crossed into Jersey at the Delaware Water Gap and stopped at the Information Center a few miles into the state. That’s where I met HER... I grabbed a road map and, like everyone else, conferred with her about bypassing this 100% blockage of a major traffic artery. She went over the route with me: get off I80 at the exit for State Route 206 northbound, then turn onto Sussex County Route 517 northbound, then exit at State Route 23 southbound (which is a southeasterly route), and take it to Interstate 287 northbound to 87 east and the Tappan Zee Bridge.

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

A Tribute to Mom on Her Birthday

Mom, what can I possibly say about her which would be at all adequate? The best tribute to Mom is that she raised five children who are all responsible adults. I chalk that up to the fact that she instilled in us a sense of the importance of education, and she embodied the values that she espoused. Hypocrisy has always been foreign to Mom- it was always something she hated, and she realized that kids have a keen sense for it, so she avoided it at all times.

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

Beetlesleuth! Beetlesleuth! Beetlesleuth!

Last weekend, I was set with the job of identifying a showy, thumb-long insect that had drawn the attention of visitors to one of our sites. Sadly, she (I'll get to this later) had left her perch when I arrived, but one of our visitors forwarded a picture to one of our shop employees, who e-mailed it to me. This is one impressive looking beastie:

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

Virginia Bound

Today is a travel day- I'm heading down to northern Virginia for a family visit. Mom's birthday is coming up, and I haven't seen my sister and her kids in a while. Special thanks to my co-worker for swapping a Monday shift for a Thursday shift so I could be around for mom's actual natal day. I've already been tasked with some yardwork- laying down some topsoil and spreading grass seed where mom had an emerald ash borer stricken tree removed from her yard. I have already accomplished another task, a self-imposed one, namely buying up the entire stock of Vita pickled herring in sour cream from a local supermarket because mom can't find it in Virginia stores. A cooler full of herring isn't exactly traditional road-trip accompaniment, but this boy knows his mom.

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

SDNY Steps Up When Florida Fails

The biggest local story is today's biggest national story- the arrest of Jeffrey Epstein on child sex trafficking charges. It looks like the Southern District of New York will hold Epstein accountable for his crime spree after Florida dropped the ball, in a case which looks like an egregious quid pro quo.

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

I've Got Your White Nationalist Little Mermaid Right Here

There was a bit of an online kerfuffle over the casting of African-American singer/actress Hallie Bailey as Ariel in an upcoming live-action production of Disney's The Little Mermaid. Normal people don't give a dolphin's dingus about such matters, but it did cause a stir, amplified by a teenage troll/catfisher posing as a young woman online.

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

Rightwing Reverse Ouroboros

Today, there was supposed to be a big right-wing 'free speech' rally in Washington D.C., which had already promised to be a shitshow due to infighting. It turned out to be even more embarrassing than anyone expected, with various speakers crying about Tinder bans, trying to pull off failed stunts, and infighting. Besides being characterized by pettiness and disunity, the entire program really smacks of involving only the Extremely Online. Thankfully, the day wasn't marred by the sort of violence which usually erupts in places like Portland, but I wouldn't be surprised if the youngish right-wing crowd goes looking to beat up lone pedestrians after their post-rally drinking. If I were a DC native, I'd use cicrumspection while downtown tonight... after a failed rally and a few drinks, I imagine the frustration level is pretty high among the MAGA-types.

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

Dark Lord Confirmed

I've been calling the Orange Ogre in the White House Vulgarmort for years, ever since a certain author said that he was worse than the arch-villain of her best-selling series of novels. Vulgarmort came across as a villain, albeit an incompetent one. This week, though, the Dark Lord vibe was readily apparent. I mean, get a load of Barad-Dumb:

As if that isn't enough to convince the skeptics, Vulgarmort left a taint of evil lingering in the air of Washington D.C.:

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

Mixed Feelings this Fourth

I had to work today, but I usually work on Independence Day. It was a lovely day on the job, I spent the first hour with five attractive, intelligent coworkers, and I just spent a half hour watching the local fireworks display from the privacy of one of our site parking lots. Personally, I’m doing okay.

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

He Can’t Even Play Dictator Correctly

From the Department of Schadenfreude, it’s looking like Vulgarmort’s Grand Spectacle is shaping up to be a debacle. Who could have guessed that the guy who was made to look like a success through the magic of TV editing would muff up yet another endeavor? There seems to be a lack of planning, a flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants quality to this tawdry affair. The fact that the heat index will be in the triple digits, and there’s a possibility of scattered thunderstorms only add to the general air of haplessness.

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

Make Alcohol Go Astronomical!

Via Tengrain, we have news that Trump wants to impose four billion dollars worth of tariffs on goods imported from the European Union in retaliation for European aeronautical subsidies.

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

For My Canadian Readers

Here’s wishing my Canadian readers a happy Canada Day. A perusal of my blogroll will indicate that it adheres to ‘Canadian Content’ rules. Despite the fact that Canadians are mysterious and inscrutable, and possibly dangerous, I can’t help but love them. In honor of Canada Day, I will blast the Canadian national anthem, which I’m pretty sure is Aldo Nova’s ‘Fantasy’.

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.