Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Choosing to Be Disadvantaged

Typically, when a politician speaks of 'Two Americas', he or she is referring to unfair conditions imposed on a segment of the population by hostile or merely indifferent forces.  Segregation?  Imposed on Black Americans by a hostile White majority.  Wage gap?  Largely due to the sheer indifference of market forces, though racism and sexism do indeed play a role.  Now, however, we are seeing a 'two Americas' situation which is self-inflicted...  Dr Anthony Fauci issued a warning that there could soon be two Americas- an America in which the majority of residents of a locale are vaccinated, and an American in which low vaccination rates lead to spikes in COVID-19 cases.

The particularly enraging factor here is that this divide is self-inflicted.  Both Americas have roughly equal access to free vaccinations, this disparity is one of choice, with many gullible idiots falling for anti-vaccination disinformation campaigns.  This is particularly dangerous as the more contagious and possibly more deleterious Delta variant, which now accounts for more than 25% of  current COVID-19 cases..  Personally, I won't be ditching the masks anytime soon.

There is a political gap between these two Americas, the vaccinated America and the unvaccinated America, as a ranking of states by percent of vaccinated population reveals.  I find myself trying to avoid being callous about the MAGA Confederacy degenerating into plaguelands, trying to eschew a 'rona take the hindmost attitude.  In my worst moments, I even have stray, wicked thoughts that MAGA vaccine reluctance might be the Ark B solution to many of the problems our nation faces, but my more charitable nature, thankfully, returns.  There are individuals who, due to age or illness, cannot take the vaccine, which is a big factor in why I'm so furious about anti-vaxxers.  Vaccines are out there, but without the authorities resorting to the medicinal use of dart guns, they won't be chosen.  Dr Fauci may be right about there being two Americas, but, as in the case of the Civil War, this two America situation is one of choice.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Deer Boy, You're Supposed to Be Wild

Starting last year, we've had some fearless deer take up residence at my principal workplace. This summer, a handsome young stag has been particularly bold, showing absolutely no intention to flee even when approached within ten or so feet:

His favorite spot is beneath a pine tree onsite, a spot where there's a lovely, soft carpet of fallen pine needles.

Yesterday morning, he and I had similar designs on one of the onsite mulberry trees (I have been gorging on mulberries lately, as I do every year).  While I was stuffing myself with the fruit, he was waiting patiently to get some of the leaves (which are edible when picked young).  Basically, it was morning shift change for the mulberry racket.

He's a charming presence on the property, lending a hint of naturaleza to the suburbs not twenty miles north of Times Square.  I just have to find a little buddy or two for him.

Monday, June 28, 2021

A Dangerous Heat

I have a lot of internet friends in the Pacific Northwest, including champion of small bloggers and all-around good guy Tengrain.  The Pacific Northwest is currently gripped in a dangerous heat wave, with Portland, Oregon baking at a temperature of 112F (44.4444C).  The danger of this heat wave is compounded by the fact that air conditioning is far from ubiquitous in the historically temperate region.  As always, unhoused individuals are at particular risk.  I can't even begin to comprehend the effects this heat will have on the local flora and fauna.

A glance at a weather map of this region is enough to give one the creeping horrors, CBS is describing the phenomenon as a once in a millennium heat dome, though I suspect that 'once in a millennium' is going to be a regular occurrence in the coming decades.  Can we talk about global warming now?  Sure, it's too late to forestall a catastrophic change in worldwide climate, but the earlier we start combating the problem, the more we can mitigate the civilization-altering effects.

Here in the New York metropolitan area, the expected high is a relatively temperate  92F (33.3333C).  While not comparable to the heat cooking the Pacific Northwest, this temperature poses a specific threat, if the 1950s science fiction B-movie It Came from Outer Space is a credible source:

When has a B-movie ever steered you wrong?  Be cool, everybody.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Happy Pride Day! Returning to Last Year's Theme

It's the day of the NYC Pride Parade, the day I typically take to wish my LGBTQ+ readers a happy Pride Day and Pride Month.  I'm going to reiterate my theme of last year's Pride post- intersectionality is crucial to all liberation movements.  I don't think I could do better than repeating what I wrote last year:

An intersectional approach to human rights campaigns involves confronting all oppression- racial, class, religious, sexual and gender orientation/identification. Your feminism is broken if you are anti-transwoman. Your racial liberation movement is defective if it countenances homophobia. Your Democratic Socialist agenda just isn't working out if you are anti-semitic.

LGBTQ+ friends of mine have lamented the fact that homophobia still has a place among Black churches which have been at the forefront of the Civil Rights and racial justice movements.  Similarly, wealthy gay individuals have been insensitive to the needs of people of color.  As a straight white male, playing the game of life on the lowest difficulty setting, I urge everybody to take an intersectional approach- human rights should not be compartmentalized, period.

This year has been characterized by a record number of bills targeting transpersons.  Anti trans agendas are being promulgated by joke woke groups such as the LGB 'movement', which is attacking trans-identity from a supposed gay perspective, and the TERF 'movement', which is attacking trans-identity from a supposed feminist perspective.  Both groups have cynically allied with right-wing groups to attack transpersons' rights.

Meanwhile, right-wingers are using anti-trans bigotry as a Trojan Horse to promulgate a broader anti-LGBTQ+ agenda.  They lost the culture war against same-sex marriage, and, being reactionaries, they are fighting to roll back gay rights, especially in light of the Biden Administration's stated commitment to LGBTQ+ rights.  Ignore this wide spectrum right-wing approach at your peril.  Also, from a historical perspective, transwomen of color were at the forefront of the Gay Rights movement, at great risk to themselves.  If you celebrate Pride, you owe them a debt of gratitude, and more importantly, you owe them the protection that they need. 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

A Foundation of Sand

I haven't been able to devote too much time to coverage of the horrific condominium collapse in Miami, but it does concern a couple of my interests, namely the need for strict regulations on developers, and the foolishness of building on barrier islands... I'm not a big Bible guy, but that bestselling book has something to say about building a house on a foundation of sand.  While I was shocked by footage of the collapse, so reminiscent of the collapse of the Twin Towers visually, the thing which really grabbed my attention was the map of the locality:

The building was built on a barrier island, and with rising sea levels, water infiltrates the foundation, corroding steel supports and degrading concrete. A building doesn't even need to be underwater to be rendered uninhabitable. A 2018 engineering report indicated that the building had major structural damage, it "detailed significant cracks and breaks in the concrete, which required repairs to ensure the safety of the residents and the public."  Other reports indicate that the building was inexorably subsiding.

Of course, the conspiratorial fever swamps are abuzz with shitty narratives, from the relatively mundane domestic terrorism accusation to the outré war to save the Mole Children whackaloonery. The simple fact of the matter, so inconvenient to right wingers because it contradicts their worldview, is that the Miami building collapse is the horrific synergy of deregulation, a Republican tenet, and global warming, which Republicans deny... it's so much easier to opine that Q Team and the White Hats demolished the building to save some Tunnel Tots from Hillary Clinton's adrenochrome harvesting scheme. 

Returning to sober, thoughtful mode, I can't place any trust on the government of the state of Florida putting any regulatory burdens on oceanfront developers. Oddly enough, I think the one force which can stop the construction of large buildings on barrier islands is the insurance industry. If it becomes impossible to insure these buildings, and if insurance companies refuse to pay for claims involving improperly sited buildings, the developers will be forced to comply... once they take a bath financially. Of course, that won't bring back the victims of this building collapse, or alleviate the suffering of victims of future collapses.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Heroic Effort to Save a Villain

This morning's infuriating story is the revelation that Donald Trump was much sicker from COVID-19 than the White House admitted.  This idiot vacillated between calling the pandemic a hoax and stating that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was no more dangerous than a typical flu.

Trump was given a cocktail of experimental drugs, consisting of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies (antibody therapy was the topic of a Secret Science Club lecture last year) and steroids, to help his unlovely corpus fight off the disease.  Six hundred thousand dead Americans never received the benefit of these therapies.

The enraging thing about this story is that Trump's life-or-death struggle against COVID-19 did nothing to change his response to the pandemic.  Not even his near-death experience, or the death of his supposed friend Herman Cain, for that matter, would change his irresponsible pandemic response, his dismissal of the virus as a deadly pathogen, his disdain for the wearing of masks, his championing of dangerous quack 'remedies'.  Hell, he never even slowed the pace of scheduling superspreader events.  The assertion that the presidential succession was in disarray is, to me, merely a disquieting footnote to the anger I feel at Trump's endangering of the public.

Extraordinary measures were taken a man whose inaction and duplicity resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans.  Trump, a foolish man, gained no wisdom from his brush with death, he never even acknowledged that fact that only cutting-edge medicine, paid for from the public coffers, kept him on Earth's topside (even going so far as claiming that his good genes protected himself from the virus).  It was a heroic effort to save a villain.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

She's in a Cone, I'm Here Alone

It's lonely on the job these days because my companion and coworker Ginger is out on sick leave.  Last week, it was apparent that her ear was swollen for some reason.  A coworker, one of our daytime managers, took her to the veterinarian, and her ear pinna was drained, and her claws were trimmed so she wouldn't be able to shred us when we massaged her ear to reduce fluid buildup... unfortunately, squeezing her ear produced no draining, but did demonstrate the vet's prescience when Ginger made her displeasure known.

Yesterday, Ginger's ear was operated on, and my coworker took her home so she could convalesce- she's receiving an oral medication, so he brings her in during the day so he can give her her regular dose.  She is also, for the first time in her eleven years, wearing the Cone of Shame:



I know Ginger is in good hands, and I am relieved that she is being cared for, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss her.  She's pleasant company, and it's odd not to have her snoring on top of my bag, at my elbow.  She'll be back soon enough, once the cone comes off, and I'll be glad to have her company.

ADDENDUM: It's weird how Ginger's absence has subtly thrown off my routine. At shift change, I was looking around for her as my coworker drove off, and I was closing the gate to the property.  This morning, I stopped myself as I was reaching for a can of cat food for her morning feeding.  It's the little things that one does with little consideration that end up confusing oneself.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

A Hollowing Out of Our Institutions

 From the beginning of the Trump Maladministration, I was concerned that the Conman-in-Chief would destroy the non-partisan governmental institutions which are supposed to function with little fanfare, and a continuity independent of electoral results.  I saw it in the appointment of anti-public education crusader Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, and of anti-USPS grifter DeJoy as Postmaster General.  Throughout his tenure as PotUS, Trump put so many foxes in charge of the henhouse, it became a foxhouse.

I didn't even consider the fact that he would hollow out the Secret Service in a particularly gruesome fashion- via Tengrain, I found this news that nearly nine-hundred Secret Service employees, primarily in protective jobs, tested positive for COVID-19 between March 2020 and March 2021.  It is to be noted that Trump hosted numerous superspreader events throughout the course of the pandemic.  While a death toll has not been reported, by exposing Secret Service personnel to numerous unmasked, undistanced individuals, Trump placed these civil servants at risk for a lifetime of debilitating medical conditions- damage to the heart, lungs, brain... need I say more?

I can't even conjure up any snark about this... it's not a case of a sycophant dying in ironic fashion, eliciting a grimace and a quick 'everything Trump touches dies', it's a case of federal employees being put at risk needlessly (though, wasn't there anyone to say 'we have to protect this guy, but we don't have to obey his orders about not wearing masks'?).  More than eleven percent of Secret Service agents were infected, an unforgivable, unforced error.

As if this weren't insane enough, the new talking point being promulgated by right-wing media outlets is a conspiracy theory about the FBI orchestrating the 1/6 Capitol invasion.  If I were a Fed, I'd be fed up!

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Injured Reserve List

This has been quite the week, and it's only Tuesday morning...  Yesterday, I received a call from my coworker Jim's wife- he is in the hospital, and will most likely be there for at least a week.  Right now, the department is down to two able-bodied members.  I had to juggle the schedule, which was complicated by the fact that today is an election day, I called my coworker Tim and asked him if he could come in at 5PM and work until 5AM, rather than working the previously scheduled 9PM to 9AM shift.  Needless to say, I arrived at 5AM.  By 5:30, the poll workers had arrived and already had complaints (no, the central air conditioning in the building won't kick in for a couple of hours, the system is set to accommodate 9AM to 5PM occupants).

I've already sent an email to the vice president in my chain of command (my immediate boss is on vacation), alerting him to the current situation in the department, which will necessitate overtime shifts for Tim and myself.  We have already been approved for some overtime, but the sheer number of hours necessary (Jim is a 20 hour part timer) necessary might come as a surprise.

Obviously, my prime concern is Jim's health.  I've known the man for years, and consider him a friend as well as a coworker.  Our values align pretty closely, and we aren't far apart in age, so shift changes are typically a bull-session about music, books, and movies.  I also value his professionalism, he's the perfect foil to bounce ideas off of... when he was hired, my then-boss told me, "I hired another you."  It's stiff upper lip time, but that's what we do.

To compound matters, Ginger is also on sick leave, the swelling in her ear not having gone down.  We were instructed to massage her ear pinna and, if possible, squeeze out any fluid.  Tim attempted to do so on Sunday afternoon, but no fluid came out... needless to say, it's a good thing the vet trimmed Ginger's claws.  When I arrived for the midnight shift, I got her in a bear hug and Tim squeezed her pinna, with no results.  We made sure to give her treats as a peace offering, and she forgave us, spending the bulk of the night sleeping on my desk.  Right now, she is with one of the daytime managers, who brought her to the vet, and received oral antibiotics for her.

It's going to be a long week, and two of my beloved coworkers are out of commission.  As the cliché goes, this is a time which tries a man's soul.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Bronx Boy, Florida Bound

This afternoon, I headed down to the ancestral homestead in the beautiful Bronx to bid buon viaggio to my Uncle Richard, who will be flying down to Florida tomorrow to take up residence.  He and his wife sold their house in Port Chester, New York- the moving van packed them up last Wednesday, and my aunt drove down with a friend and the family dogs while my uncle stuck around for the closing, which happened today, staying with my aunt who serves as materfamilias and holds court in the ancestral home, a house built by my great-grandfather and his friends in the building trades, who pooled their labor and built each others' homes.

The best descriptor for my Uncle Richard is 'Runyonesque'... he was always a larger than life character, hearty and boisterous.  In many ways, he has always lived as he did while in high school, a member of both the varsity football team and the theater club.  You just know when the man enters the room, and you know it's going to be a blast.  

While I was still in high school, he got me a part-time job on Saturdays, and we had a morning ritual- I would meet him at the family homestead, we'd travel down to Manhattan where we'd work, then he'd bring me along to his day job, working as a project manager for a large construction project in lower Manhattan... I'd accompany him on his afternoon inspection tour, and then we'd wend our way north, stopping at Morrone and Sons bakery on 116th St in East Harlem to pick up a pane di casa and some other bread before returning to the Bronx.  The proprietress would invariably ask Richard when he was going to marry her daughter, would refer to me as Richard's bodyguard, and we'd have a great laugh before returning to dear old Pelham Bay for a late lunch.  When we arrived, my genius grandfather and a neighbor with Down syndrome would be sitting in the front parlor, listening to opera on WQXR and occasionally bickering like an old married couple.  After all this, I'd head home, having received an education on many levels.

Uncle Richard, like most men of his age, wouldn't exactly be considered politically correct, but he's one of those men who can pull it off without being an asshole.  While he might occasionally make an off-color joke, he's the sort of man who would, and did, jump through hoops to ensure that our friend Suzi, a lesbian immigrant from Argentina, would be able to adopt a child of drug addicted parents who was destined to languish in the foster care system.  Richard used his considerable Rolodex to find attorneys, with the help of a formidable activist cousin of mine, who could push back against a hidebound system and make sure that the baby would have a loving home with a parent that the system would not necessarily have favored, and that baby will be going to a prestigious public high school (one of the ones that has a demanding application process) in the fall.  That's Richard, he might tell a salty tale, but when it comes to helping a friend, color, creed, gender, and sexual identity are of no concern.  For the record, Suzi is paying her respects tomorrow, lunchtime, before Richard travels to the airport.

The move was largely precipitated by my aunt, Richard's wife.  Her siblings live down in the area, as do her nieces and nephews.  Richard has a bunch of friends within a twenty-mile radius, including an old college buddy.  They are moving into a ranch house with a decent yard, with no snow to shovel.  Sure, Richard knows that Florida is full of nuts, but he's prepared.  He's an old Bronx boy, with the sort of savvy that is second to none.  He'll be back on a fairly regular basis, I'm sure.  You just can't get good bread in Florida, not like you can in East Harlem... or Port Chester, for that matter.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Happy Fathers' Day

Here's wishing all the fathers in the audience a happy Father's Day.  I spoke to my brothers and they are doing well- in particular, baby brother is on a marathon hockey weekend with the family, and revealed that my niece made team captain for next season.

Anyway, I hope you are all enjoying the day with family, making up for last year's non-events.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Juneteenth Goes Federal

The big news this week is that President Biden established Juneteenth as a federal holiday, the eleventh federal holiday in our calendar.  Until recently, Juneteenth was a Texas regional holiday because it commemorates the post Civil War announcement of the abolition of slavery to enslaved persons in Galveston.  I learned about it from a friend and former coworker who is a blerd from East Texas... she is a huge history buff, and grew up celebrating Juneteenth with her family.  For a one-and-a-half minute explainer of Juneteenth and a 'Schoolhouse Rock' parody, this video by Shah Wonders and the Roots can't be beat:


Of course, there is outrage (albeit incoherent) on the Right about this elevation of Juneteenth to federal holiday status, even members of the Blacks Against African-Americans contingent have weighed in. Personally, I don't get the outrage, I mean, it IS a new holiday in a month generally characterized by nice weather... it's almost as if their racism trumps any natural inclination to want more paid time off. Maybe the best way to shut these people up is to point out to them that the celebration is not just a commemoration of the liberation of slaves, but a celebration of a US military victory over a hostile, traitorous foreign power. Ah, who am I kidding? These people are more racist than they are patriotic, and pine for the Confederacy. Anyway, let them whine. Maybe they can console themselves when the holiday inevitably becomes characterized by white sales

On a happy note, I have been discussing celebratory menus for this new federal holiday. Of course, family favorites should be at the center of any celebration, but a nod to African-American foodways of Texas would be a nice place to start. On matters of historical American cuisine, with a focus on the foods of the African Diaspora, I can find no better authority than chef and historian Michael W. Twitty. If anybody is going to inspire you to create a 'curated' Juneteenth menu, he is. Freedom is delicious!

Friday, June 18, 2021

Writer's Block

Ever suffer from writer's block? Every once in a while, I am afflicted with writer's block, because somebody is blocking my keyboard:

Uhhhhh... I put a nice, soft cushion out for you, Ginger. Is this the Cancel Culture that Cons are always talking about? 

This week, I finally replaced my three year old (this pisses me off) smartphone because it was freezing up, and a large, dark splotch was inexorably 'oozing' across the screen. This Wonkette post by Robyn Pennachia hit home... 

Regular readers may have noticed a paucity of pictures posted to the blog, but with a new phone, and camera, I will get back to more regular photo uploads. With warmer weather and more daylight hours, there will be more subjects to capture, as well.

UPDATE: I didn't notice this at the time I took the picture, but looking at it again, I notice that Ginger's left ear is a bit crooked.  One of the day shift managers noticed that her ear was swelling and took her to the vet, who drained some fluid from it.  He then trimmed Ginger's claws to make it easier, by which I mean safer, for us to hold onto her if we need to squeeze additional fluid from the swelling. She currently looks, and sounds, well as she sits contentedly on that nice cushion I put out, but I will be monitoring her ear for any additional swelling.

So far, no fresh-squeezed cat juice has made its way onto the menu.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Another Trip Around the Sun

 It's a low-key birthday, I did the bulk of the celebrating last Sunday, and plan on going out to dinner with friends tomorrow and Saturday.  Today, it's a night on the job, though the phone calls and text messages are going back-and-forth.  I've never been a stickler for celebrating on the day itself, I have a whole lot of friends with birthdays this time of year, so the celebration is ongoing.  I guess tonight is a bit of a breather.

At any rate, I'll just be spending the rest of the night fielding ommuniqués

Anyway, here's an appropriate musical number, an uncharacteristically upbeat number from LA rockers Concrete Blonde: Excuse me, now, the phone is pinging.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Secret Science Club Zoom Lecture: Shape

Tonight, my great and good friends at the Secret Science Club hosted a Zoom lecture featuring mathemetician Dr Jordan Elleberg of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Dr Ellenberg's newly published book is Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else

Dr Ellebberg began his lecture by noting that everything is connected, showing a 'map' of connections of topics in his book. Ronald Ross was a physician who determined that malaria was transmitted by mosquitos. Ross was an indifferent doctor, but had a love for mathematics, and he applied mathematical models to epidemiology. Ross wanted to formulate a theory of phenomena, starting with epidemics. His work in this field was the beginning of mathematical modeling. He applied it to the problem of malaria... eliminating malaria would involve eliminating mosquitos, which is impossible. Mosquitos can be temporarily eliminated from an area- how long would it take for them to repopulate an area. Mosquitos do not move in predetermined fashion, they move largely at random. Ross enlisted mathemetician Karl Pearson to couch a model of mosquito repopulation of an area in neutral terms, removing references to insects- The Problem of the Random Walk

Botanist Robert Brown noticed the movement of particles in a medium, which became known as Brownian motion- he wondered if is it a vital life principle, noticing it in pollen first. Brown tested it on organic and non-organic materials (including a 'fragment of the Sphinx'). Albert Einstein noted that the molecules are colliding, causing this movement. This motion can be figured only on a basis of probability. 

Russian mathematician Andrey Markov had a reputation for being furious- he was angry that Tolstoy was excommunicated while he was not, so he ended up being excommunicated as well. He approached the problem of the Law of Large Numbers, which basically states that if one were to flip a coin numerous times, the more times it is flipped, the probability of heads and tails approach fifty percent increases. Flip a coin ten times, there is a good chance there will be six heads and four tails... flipping one thousand coins, having six hundred heads and four hundred tails would be less probable. Markov formulated the concept of the Markov Chain. He applied the Markov chain to determine the sequence of vowels and consonants in Pushkin's poem Eugene Onegin 

Dr Ellengram then played around with bigrams- what letters are likely to follow other letters? He mentioned playing with a computer game called AI Dungeon which can be used to generate texts. He presented an artificial intelligence generated text about geometry- not quite convincing, but with an occasional flash of brilliance such as: "But squares aren't just shapes, they're also numbers!" Can machines replace humans? There is a line of difficulty from, say Tic Tac To to a perfect Go game- computers aren't smarter if they can beat humans at chess or Go, it's a one dimensional difficulty issue... a robot may beat a human at chess, but it can't fold a shirt. Machines will be great collaborators for us- we must determine which tasks they can outperform us in. Dr Ellenberg hopes they can be capable partners. 

The lecture was followed by a Q&A session, which began with a question about gerrymandering- new districts are going to be drawn, this gives the people who draw these lines great power over who gets elected. In Wisconsin, the current legislators draw the maps, which is a problem. Legislators are given the keys to thwarting the electorate. Districting is a geometric problem- there are districts which look like 'polyamorous octopuses'. Mathematical tests can determine how bad gerrymandering is. 

How many holes in a straw? It depends

Dr Ellenberg criticized a mathematical approach which separates the subject into discrete courses of study- mathematical fields are connected. 

The Random Walk is a probability problem, but also a geometry problem. Dr Ellenberg sees most math as having a geometric component. 

Was Lewis Carroll aware of Bigrams? Jabberwocky seems to hint that he was... his fake words sound plausible, but Dr Ellenberg wasn't sure if he were aware of bigrams... it would be a great fake theory to promulgate, Dr Ellenberg joked. 

 Squaring the circle- problem for the ancient Greeks, could a square be created with the same area as a circle? It became a symbol of a difficult problem. Lincoln, a geometry enthusiast, used this metaphor to express difficulty. 

Mathematics is built one the one hand on rigid reasoning and on the other hand on intuition. Geometry is based on our bodies, our two-dimensional field of perception and our three-dimensional space. 

Regarding internet searches, the search engines use a random walk process to determine the priority of search results. 

 Regarding the use of math to map pandemics, Dr Ellenberg referred back to Ross attempt to formulate a theory of phenomena. People move, pathogens are transmitted, this is a geometric problem. 

 Once again, the Secret Science Club has dished out another fantastic lecture, a humorous deep dive into esoteric topics. Kudos to Dr Ellenberg, Margaret and Dorian. For a small taste of the Secret Science Club experience, here is the Good Doctor speaking on the subject of his new book:


Pour yourself a nice beverage, sit back, and soak in that SCIENCE!!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

But His Emails!

Republicans sure do love their email scandals, braying about how Hillary Clinton's emails detailed heinous crimes, and John Podesta's emails exposed a cannibalistic pedo-cult.  It's entirely appropriate that emails reveal that Trump pressured members of his Department of Justice to overturn the results of the 2020 election.  Trump's team wanted to declare electoral votes from six states uncountable, and urged special elections to take place in these states.

One of the conspiracy theories promulgated by Trump administration officials is a whacko narrative of an Italian military contractor colluding with Obama to flip votes in the US via satellite (that entire thread must be read- the Italian satellite conspiracy was a sequel to the even crazier tale of a US Army/CIA gun battle over a server in Germany).

The very idea that a White House Chief of Staff, someone who would be privy to actual intelligence reports, would buy into a conspiracy theory from the fever swamps of the internet is very disquieting.  The very idea that his boss would also do so is absolutely terrifying.

Thank goodness these coup coup for Cocoa Puffs plotters, from Trump right on down to the Q Shaman, were too stupid to pull off a successful block of presidential succession.  That being said, I'm not exactly holding my breath to hear the mainstream media issue condemnations.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Flag Day 2021

Recently, I read a comment on the internet about how the individuals who display the American flag the most tend to be the least democratic of us. It's really a shame, because, from a graphic design standpoint, Old Glory is magnificent, standing out from a sea of tricolors in striking fashion. As far as flags go, only the Union Jack, also a symbol fraught with negative connotations, is comparable.  I have a small collection of American flags, salvaged from roadsides during the post-9/11 visible patriotism boom while I was riding my bicycle to and from work.  One of these flags is permanently displayed in my apartment, and another one graces my office at work.

How do we non-authoritarians and non-jingoists reclaim this symbol, especially since it has stood for imperialism since practically Day One?   Sadly, America has not lived up to its lofty ideals very well.  It's about time we decided to embody the values we claim to espouse in our founding documents, to cease letting oligarchs use the power of our government to benefit a tiny minority of individuals. 

There's a quote falsely attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville: "America is great because America is good. If America ever stops being good, it will stop being great." This quote is as ersatz as the idea of American goodness, but I'm willing to try to put it to the test, the only problem is that people who claim to want to make America great usually make America badder. I'm hoping that there will be an effort to make America good, perhaps by exporting soft power once more- the effort to export vaccines to needful countries might be a good start.

ADDENDUM:  Buzz Aldrin has a thing to say about this banner, which graced the surface of the Moon:


 Let's make it a proud symbol, and ourselves a people worthy of it.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Return to the Old Ways?

One of my June traditions is to get together with my former coworker T, and our friends S and I to celebrate our birthdays, which fall within a week of each other. T and myself worked together for years, we met S when he worked for us as a contractor during our busy Fall fundraiser season- he became an indispensible ally during a stressful period at work, a steady, even-keeled presence who managed the young parking professionals who make large events possible. I is S's husband, a hilariously funny fellow who is as animated as S is staid. Typically, we'd meet for dinner, by which I mean a few drinks accompanied by some food. Today, one of T's friends is playing in a band at an outdoor venue not too far from my workplace, a venue which I patronize on those rare days when I work a afternoon rather than a graveyard shift. Today, I'm working the graveyard shift, but I am planning on heading out for the 5PM performance- it'll be tough trying to cope with my schedule because I have to return to work at midnight. This is not an ordinary happy hour, though, so I will just have to deal with taking a nap before going to work. Even better, old friends from the Yonkers crew will also be heading up to this summer-friendly venue, so it will be a good opportunity to get two social circles to intersect. As an added bonus, I haven't heard live music in over a year, and hearing a live band play on a nice patio while sipping a gin-and-tonic is something that wouldn't have seemed feasible even three months ago. I imagine it will feel like a bit of a return to the old ways in the old days, though I plan on wearing a mask while wending my way to our table. And it's not even the 4th of July.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

We Conclude Science Fiction Week: Capitalist Pigs in Space

The big story of the week, perhaps the biggest story of the century, is ProPublica's coverage of the fact that billionaires pay abysmally low taxes on their wealth... if they pay income taxes at all.  Far from being overtaxed, the twenty-five wealthiest Americans pay a tax rate of about 3.4% while the median American household is taxed at a rate of about 14% on the federal level.  The wealth accumulation among the tip top tippy top not only robs the public coffers of funds better spent on infrastructure, or perhaps a national health plan, it ensures that the plutocrats have an outsized effect on public policy- they can simply buy legislators, or use the court system to crush detractors.

Now, we get to the science fiction part of the post... there seems to be an obsession with space exploration and colonization among our billionaires with space cadet Elon Musk now being challenged in the plutocrats' space race by Jeff Bezos, who looks to be launching into orbit with... well... a cock-rocket:

I mean, that thing is straight out of an 'Austin Powers' gag: Well, now I have that bit of juvenilia out of the way, I can aver that, as a science nerd, and a science fiction nerd, I do see a need for humans to establish an extraterrestrial presence, to gain footholds on various objects in our solar system, and eventually to set courses for other stars, but that should be a sideline to the more crucial work of mitigating climate change here on old Terra. If our billionaires were taxed at a sane rate, the funds garnered could go a long way toward creating sustainable energy infrastructure, and reducing our carbon footprint. These capitalist pigs should be held to earthly obligations before they set their sights on the stars. Post title inspired by the classic Muppet Show skit.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Science Fiction Week Continues: Supervillain Origin Story

Stupid Science Fiction week continues!  Today's entry is a supervillain origin story, a stupid supervillain origin story!  Via Tengrain, we have some serious anti-vaxx whackaloonery out of Ohio, with one Sherri Tenpenny (fifteen cents short of a quarter) claiming that vaccine recipients are, basically, Magneto now:

This idiocy began on the Tik Tok video platform. This being Summer, we're all a bit sticky, so any practically light object pressed onto one's skin will briefly adhere. Again, in Ohio, some dumbass tries to push this nonsense, with mixed results:

This idiocy makes me pine for those halcyon days when the idiocy was just as real, but wasn't quite as pernicious, when the stakes of anti-science lunacy weren't so high: 


Fucking vaccines, how do they work?

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Decided to Make This Science Fiction Week: Gohmert Style

Yesterday's post concerned Stupid Time Travel, with a convoluted temporal paradox plot involving 'Q Team' and a bad-guy Ulysses S Grant... I figured that this would be a good opportunity to declare the remainder of the week Science Fiction Week, or more properly Stupid Science Fiction Week. In today's installment, we have planetary science day, courtesy of the stupidest man in Congress. 

I've been ignoring Louie Gohmert of Texas, being distracted by the newer, shinier object that is Marjorie Taylor Greene. This is unfair to Gohmert, who is actually stupider than Greene. Here's Gohmert, proposing a plan for the Bureau of Land Management or National Forest Service to mitigate climate change:

Yeah, that's Gohmert proposing that BLM or the forestry service change the course of the Earth or the moon in order to combat climate change. Sure, even if it were possible, it would be vastly more costly than promoting renewable energy sources to reduce our carbon footprint, but that's not how Republicans operate. Far better to let the fossil fuel industry keep on pumping carbon into the atmosphere while pumping limitless funds into some harebrained scheme to shift the planet's orbit. 

Now, a normal human with a functioning brain would enlist BLM and the forestry service to engage in reforestation projects to capture carbon in the form of trees, while limiting extractive industries which add to atmospheric carbon, but Gohmert is not a normal human with a functioning brain. I'm looking forward to Gohmert's plan to enlist the Space Force in a planetary seed-dispersal/reforestation program... because that would make perfect Gohmert-sense.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Time Is a Flat Circle Goddamn Spirograph

Viewers of television crime dramas might think that time is a flat circle, but the truly red-pilled know that time is a spirograph. Via Tengrain, we have the true history of QAnon, which did not start off as an anonymous 4Chan shitpost by a LARPer: Let me get this straight... Q was formed in 1860 to design a Christian Constitutionalist movement in order to protect the secular Constitution of the United States from the Act of 1871 which instituted a new Constitution, by order of Ulysses S Grant, who sold the country to the Vatican and the Rothschilds? And that, dear people, is the QAnon time warp... it's just a jab at the left, and then a lurch to the far, far right.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Fake Date for a Fake Scandal

One of the definitions of the word 'conservative' is 'averse to change', and boy do conservatives hate change, even when it comes to their tactics.  Just like the band Foghat (ON TOUR NOW!!!), forever doomed to play "Slow Ride" to aging audiences, conservatives like to play the hits, which for the past five years has been trumped up email scandals.  Back in 2016, we had the Hillary email nontroversy, and the Podesta email leak, which inspired Pizzagate and its succesor, QAnon.  The current right-wing email frenzy concerns Dr Anthony Fauci, who the right-wingers believe created COVID-19 as a bioweapon, which, paradoxically, is also no more serious than the flu.

The right-wing hatred of Dr Fauci has metastasized until the Good Doctor needed a security detail due to the death threats he has been getting.  Right wing media figures are currently calling for Fauci's execution or life imprisonment, but when challenged to expose the content of the emails, inevitably fall back on saying, "do your own research!"  Yeah, they've got nothing, but that doesn't stop them from baying for blood.

The culmination of right-wing rage against Dr Fauci came when Marjorie Taylor Greene sent a letter to Joe Biden, demanding that he investigate Dr Fauci's role in assisting the Wuhan Institute of Virology's weaponization of COVID-19. For the record, while I certainly believe that the virus might have leaked from the lab, I do not in any way believe it was, or is, a bioweapon. Bioweapons are just too difficult to contain, which is why they are generally eschewed by the advanced militaries of the world. In typical MTG fashion, her letter to President Biden is a farrago of falsehoods and foolishness: She's demanding that the Biden Administration respond by June 31st... a fake date for a fake scandal.

Monday, June 7, 2021

An Anti-Luddite Manifesto?

 This post follows on my previous post... there's a reason I listen to college radio.  Without the strictures imposed by commercialism, these stations can play whatever they want, so obscure songs from former decades can be played.  In this vein, I present a song which I haven't heard in a long time, a song which is probably tongue-in-cheek, but just might be an anti-Luddite manifesto from Hull based band Red Guitars:


It's here where I note that the Luddites were not anti-technology per se, they were against technology which affected their ability to make a living.  I'm not a Luddite, and I'm not sure whether the song I posted is satirical or not- but it is a damn fine track.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Danceable Dystopias

Longtime readers of mine will know that I am a fan of electronic/industrial musician Gary Numan ever since I heard his smash international hit Cars on the radio back in 1980, when I was a pup...  My adult take on Gary's oeuvre is that he was one of the first electronic musicians to come from the pop/rock scene rather than, say Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk, who came from a classical/jazz background.  Numan came up with the punk scene, and went electronic after a start as a more conventional rock-and-roller.  Gary Numan was inspired by dystopic science fiction works, releasing the album Replicas, which was based on a planned SF novel in the vein of a Philip K. Dick or Jack Williamson novel.  Replicas is in the same vein as the films Blade Runner or The Terminator, a postmodern horror tale of a slo-mo robot apocalypse.  Even Cars, a danceable uptempo electropop song, was about urban paranoia- Gary wasn't having fun fun fun, he was locking the doors to feel safe.

Well, Gary is back again, decades later, with another apocalyptic work, but this one in a more Ballardian vein.  His new album, Intruder, is based on the Gaia hypothesis.  Joking that he stole the idea from his eleven year old daughter, who wrote a poem from the standpoint of an Earth saddened by the human population, Mr Numan penned an album about an Earth engaged in confrontation with its wayward apex species.  Eerily, the pandemic hit while he was writing this album, lending a creepy topicality to the material.

I had the good luck to hear an interview with Mr Numan on a local college radio station, with local DJ and Renaissance man Evan Toth having a spirited conversation with the music legend.  The interview also appears on Mr Toth's podcast.  In the interview, Gary talks about the new album, about his fascination with Middle Eastern music, the phenomenon of being inspired by younger musicians who took inspiration from him, and the general dystopic themes he covered throughout his career.  It's a great interview, and Gary Numan is very charming and funny for a doomsday prophet.

Here is a video of Gary Numan performing the title track of the new album back in 2019:



Once again, the man has delivered a particularly danceable dystopia, doomsday even.

ADDENDUM: I'd be remiss if I didn't single out the best line in the interview-  after noting the rollout of robotic police 'dogs', Evan Toth quipped, "In five years, we'll all be living in a Gary Numan song."

Saturday, June 5, 2021

UAP Is This Year's Summer Hit

After yesterday's disheartening post, I figured I'd post on something which is a lighter topic... or so I hope.  It seems that US intelligence agencies are taking Unidentified Aerial Phenomena seriously. UAP is the new non-sensationalized term for UFOs, probably because the latter term has been inextricably linked in the public imagination with aliens... and all of the attendant baggage.

While the intelligence report doesn't offer a definitive explanation of the UAP/UFO situation, the mere fact that there is an acknowledgement that something funny's going on is preferable to sweeping the whole thing under the rug.  Right now, I am going to state that I have no doubt that there is life on other planets in this vast universe, but that I do not believe that any of these organisms have visited this planet.  My personal feeling is that most UAP/UFO consist of vagaries of human perception.  People don't always have a good handle on judging the speed of objects, and pareidolia causes mistakes in perception... simply put, people trick themselves into seeing things 'wrong'.  Additionally, there are probably aircraft that the general public aren't aware exist, and with the growing preponderance of drones, such aircraft would not be subject to the physical limitations of human pilots.

Recently, I saw a livestream with Chelsea Manning, a former military intelligence operative (she was a recent guest on the QAA Podcast), and she noted that the current crop of videos being broadcast in the news media are the products of military equipment- they are not to be interpreted in the manner in which you'd interpret a video taken with an iPhone camera.  Without a knowledge of the sources of these images, interpreting them is a fool's errand.  The content of the stream I watched was similar to this video.

Mick West is one of the yeomen of the UFO debunking community, and is consistently entertaining.  His analysis is sober, but never boring.

Post title riffing off last year's big hit, which melted conservatives' brains for months.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Herrnstein and Murray Have a Lot to Answer For

Back in the 1990s, a book titled The Bell Curve, authored by psychologist Richard Herrnstein and political scientist Charles Murray, ignited a firestorm... one of the central themes of the book is that there are racial gaps in IQ, with Asians being slightly smarter than non-Hispanic Whites, and non-Hispanic Whites being smarter than Blacks.  I'm going to get out in front of this by claiming that I believe the whole concept of IQ is bullshit, and that intelligence is a fuzzy concept, one which really can't be measured.  I mean, if I were dropped by parachute into a community of, say, Kapauku Papuans, I'd probably be considered the village idiot, at least until I learned how to interact with the environment.  Hell, I would define 'intelligence' pretty much as the ability to interact with one's environment, and the ability to switch between environments.  For a measured, humane look at the concept of racial-based intelligence, the late, great science-populizer Stephen Jay Gould is the go-go guy.

At any rate, the book was celebrated by right-wingers as a politically incorrect reality check to counter liberal policies which fostered population growth of 'the wrong people'.  It gave the veneer of 'SCIENCE!' to racism. and is trundled out to bolster racist claims even to this day.

Now, here's why I am bringing up this book, this manifesto which was basically character assassination against an entire race of people- in the 1990s, the NFL based brain injury claims on a model which assumed that Black players started out with lower cognitive function.  You read that correctly- monetary settlements for traumatic brain injuries were lowered because of an assumption that Black players weren't as brainy as White players.  It's very suggestive to me that this model was created right around the time The Bell Curve was released, and the racist model just happened to align with the financial interests of a league which sought limits to financial liabilities for player injuries.

The whole thing is monstrous, and thankfully the bad policy which the NFL had in place is being discontinued.  The poisonous effect of The Bell Curve will pollute our social and political discourse for years, but hopefully, this will increasingly be limited to the fringes, rather than such national organizations as the NFL.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Total Perspective Vortex Failure

Back in 2016, I wrote that the best case scenario for a President Donald J. Trump would be the Zaphod Beeblebrox scenario, wherein an outrageous, zany Trump would serve to distract the public from the crimes perpetrated by the true wielders of power, those oligarchs which backed his candidacy.  Over a half-million deaths of Americans later, I have realized that Trump was far worse than a Zaphod Beeblebrox, but there remains one thing the two characters have in common... which is that neither one has a firm grip on reality.  In the course of the 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' series, Zaphod is subjected to the most horrific torture known in the galaxy, the Total Perspective Vortex:



Through a bit of chicanery, he survives the ordeal intact (****SPOILER****: the device was altered to benefit him, preventing him from seeing reality).

Similarly, Trump is insulated from the Total Perspective Vortex by living in a bubble, filled with sycophants and courtiers.  Thus, he possibly believes the canard that he will be reinstated as PotUS by August.  The main vector for this conspiracy theory is the 'My Pillow' Guy, who has claimed that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent in various online streams and bogus 'documentaries'.

Besides being ensconced in a bubble of sycophants, Donald Trump cannot bear the thought of being a loser, so he has retreated from the reality of being beaten by a man he consistently portrayed as weak and tired.  Like Zaphod Beeblebrox, he has been placed in a falsified Total Perspective Vortex that deceptively portrays him as the center of the universe.  August will eventually arrive, he will remain out of power, but the self-deception will linger, and he and his worshipers will move the goalposts once again, perhaps claiming that he will return just in time to save Christmas, or some other batshit loonery.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Self-Hate Synergy

One of the most bizarre features of our media landscape is that the Blacks Against African-Americans gig is a profitable one, as is the Ladies Against Women gig.  One of the craziest self-hating Black pundits is one Jesse Lee Peterson, who actually opined that the enslavement of African persons was a gift from God.

Well, Jesse Lee Peterson has some things to say about Pride Month:

We should have never fallen for this idea that oh, we just want to come out of the closet. Just let us out of the closet. And then they said, oh, we want to go to church. But we don't want to be talked about at church. So a lot of preachers stopped mentioning that homosexuality is wrong, that something has gone wrong and they must repent and return to God. Now they've taken over the churches. There are a lot of preachers afraid to speak out against so-called Pride Month.

 You know, I started the white history month in July. White — this is our fourth year coming up where we're celebrating white history.And what I've noticed that in America, a country that was founded by white people and created by white people, one of the greatest country on this side of heaven. And so white people — invited all these other — allowed all this other stuff to happen but you can celebrate everything but white history. We must remember white history.  Because if it wasn't for that, there would be no America. And so they got Black history, women history, Mexican history, so-called gay pride. What's happy about being perverted? There's nothing good about that, living in sin, right? And, but we celebrate — I don't — but they celebrate that. But when it comes to white history they're afraid to even mention white history. 

This being Jesse Lee Peterson, the element of self-hate just has to work its way into this discourse... I mean, being the most extreme of the Blacks Against African-Americans cadre just isn't sufficient for such a whacko as Peterson:


Now, that's some self-hate synergy!

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Super Sarcastic Sister's Birthday

Today's subject is considerably lighter than that of recent posts- the annual celebration of the birthday of my super sarcastic sister.  On her fell the burden of bestowing disparaging nicknames to people in our family and social circles, nicknames which in certain cases stick to this day.  For instance, she dubbed my older brother 'Sweetums' while chastising my mother for thinking that he was perfect... the name stuck as an unironic moniker because, in reality, he was perfect, and still is.  She and I are 'Irish twins', and for the slightly more than two weeks that we share the same age, we were both impossible to be around.  Other family members were resigned to this annual odium-fest, knowing that would pass as soon as my birthday rolled around.  We've considerably mellowed in our adulthood.

My sister is a rocket scientist, married to a rocket scientist, and her oldest son is currently a rocket scientist working for the Space Force (he went to college under the Air Force ROTC).  Her sarcastic personality has been no barrier to brainy pursuits (is it ever?).  She's not a disembodied intellect, though, give her a bat and she's a terror on the softball field.

Happy birthday, sis!  I mean that non-sarcastically.