July 17, 2018

3D color x-rays could help spot deadly disease without surgery

Emily Baumgaertner—The New York Times:

Researchers in New Zealand have captured three-dimensional color X-rays of the human body, using an innovative tool that may eventually help diagnose cancers and blood diseases without invasive surgery.

The new scanner matches individual X-ray photon wavelengths to specific materials, such as calcium. It then assigns a corresponding color to the scanned objects. The tool then translates the data into a three-dimensional image.

Fascinating images of the co-inventor’s wrist and ankle using this new scanning technology. A clinical trial begins in New Zealand in the coming months.

#medicalTechnology #scanning #imaging #diagnosis #nonInvasive

July 16, 2018

∴ The day he went too far

I’ve steered away from politics lately. Either you get what I’ve said and agree, or you’re lost. I know that’s polarizing and partisan and harsh, but it’s also true. That’s America today. You’re either in the tank for Trump, racism, misogyny, xenophobia, hate and fear or you’re not.

I. Am. Not.

However, today Donald Trump gave me another reason to raise my voice. To wit:

Thomas Friedman—The New York Times:

My fellow Americans, we are in trouble and we have some big decisions to make today. This was a historic moment in the entire history of the United States.

There is overwhelming evidence that our president, for the first time in our history, is deliberately or through gross negligence or because of his own twisted personality engaged in treasonous behavior — behavior that violates his oath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Trump vacated that oath today, and Republicans can no longer run and hide from that fact. Every single Republican lawmaker will be — and should be — asked on the election trail: Are you with Trump and Putin or are you with the C.I.A., F.B.I. and N.S.A.?

“Trump and Putin,” indeed. Mr. Trump has acted in reprehensible ways prior to today, most egregiously in his treatment of people seeking a better life in America, particularly children. Today, he broke with our intelligence community and established fact by siding with the Russian president’s version of reality re: Russia’s interference in our 2016 presidential election.

This man is not only unfit to serve, but actively working against the interests of the American people and our allies. In his own words:

Trump actually said on the question of who hacked our election, “I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia. And in a bit of shocking moral equivalence, Trump added of the United States and Russia: “We are all to blame … both made some mistakes.” Trump said that it was actually the American probe into the Russian hacking that has “kept us apart.”

He actually equivocated between the US and Russia, just as he did between the neo-Nazi white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia and protesters last year.

This, after trashing our allies at the G-7 meeting in Canada and calling into question NATO’s value.

In the words of John Brennan, former Director of Central Intelligence:

Donald Trump’s news conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???

In an after-the-fact statement (Politico) by Senator John McCain:

The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate, but it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.

These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule. Coming close on the heels of President Trump’s bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today’s press conference marks a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency.

An assessment by David Frum (The Atlantic):

The reasons for Trump’s striking behavior—whether he was bribed or blackmailed or something else—remain to be ascertained. That he has publicly refused to defend his country’s independent electoral process—and did so jointly with the foreign dictator who perverted that process—is video-recorded fact.

And it’s a fact that has to be seen in the larger context of his actions in office: denouncing the EU as a “foe,” threatening to break up nato, wrecking the U.S.-led world trading system, intervening in both U.K. and German politics in support of extremist and pro-Russian forces, and his continued refusal to act to protect the integrity of U.S. voting systems—it adds up to a political indictment whether or not it quite qualifies as a criminal one.

The United States faces a national-security emergency.

Another, by James Fallows (The Atlantic):

I am old enough to remember Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon telling lies on TV, about Vietnam in both cases, and Watergate for Nixon. I remember the travails and deceptions of Bill Clinton, and of George W. Bush in the buildup to the disastrous Iraq War.

But never before have I seen an American president consistently, repeatedly, publicly, and shockingly advance the interests of another country over those of his own government and people.

Trump manifestly cannot help himself.

It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye. We’ve just lost an eye and there is no rock-bottom to Mr. Trump. Are you willing to wait for more?

Your vote was yours to cast. You now have one last chance to let the scales fall from your eyes.

I stand against this man and his so-called presidency, and hope for the downfall of his administration and his adjudication to prison for his past acts and, most importantly, his treasonous acts to legitimize Russia’s work that gained him the presidency. Where do you stand?

#treason #highCrimes #notMisdemeanors #Trump

July 14, 2018

Stephens: America first, America hated, America alone

Bret Stephens—The New York Times:

America First is America Feared. But it is also America hated, and hated with justification. Where’s the upside in that? For Trump, the upside is the substitution of a liberal order with an illiberal one, based on conceits about sovereignty, nationality, religion and ethnicity. These are the same conceits that Vladimir Putin has long made his own

This will suit Americans for whom the idea of a free world always seemed like a distant abstraction. It will suit Europeans whose anti-Americanism predates Trump’s arrival by decades. And it will especially suit Putin, who knows that an America that stands for its own interests first also stands, and falls, alone. Surely the dead at Colleville-sur-Mer fought for something greater than that.

The sad fact is that our president does not know, nor does he care about political or even moral norms of behavior. Whatever Donald Trump is or represents, it sure as hell isn’t decency, American leadership, or the Christianity his evangelical followers profess.

#Trump #AmericaAdrift #worldPolitics

July 5, 2018

Friedman: Where American Politics Can Still Work: From the Bottom Up

Thomas Friedman — The New York Times:

We asked people: ‘What is the most important thing for a successful community?’

“The answers that came up over and over again,” Bressi said, “were a community that creates respect and unity, respect and unity. People want to be heard and want to be respected. And they want unity, no divides. They see the national trends, they feel the division and they don’t want it.”

A blueprint for civil and cultural renewal in communities spiraling downward; at its core this is about pragmatic politics, devoid of posturing and labeling. Well worth a read.

#AmericanRenewal #communityOrganization #grassRoots

July 4, 2018

Reminiscence for the Fourth

President Barack Obama’s speech at Selma marking ‘Bloody Sunday’ anniversary — The Washington Post:

That’s what America is. Not stock photos or airbrushed history or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American as others. We respect the past, but we don’t pine for it. We don’t fear the future; we grab for it. America is not some fragile thing; we are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes. We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit.

the single most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.” We The People. We Shall Overcome. Yes We Can. It is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone. Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.

I miss that man. I miss his leadership, grace, and intellect. Mostly, I miss that he led by uplift and encouragement, with a vision for bending the arc of history toward justice.

How far we have fallen in so short a time. We can and will do better. That’s America, too.

Happy 242nd Fourth of July.

#BarackObama #Selma #America #FourthofJuly

May 30, 2018

∴ Mt. Rainier, and Seattle

Kelly and I spent a quick five-day vacation in and around the Seattle area last week. It was an add-on to her prior week at Spring Quilt Market in Portland, Oregon. She drove up with a friend and they picked me up at SeaTac airport to begin our stay, dropping us at our hotel in Renton.

Me posed next to a Boeing sign

Our hotel was adjacent to Gene Coulon Park on Lake Washington. To my delight, it was also adjacent to a Boeing assembly facility, the one where all new 737 jets are built. We saw three unassembled fuselages arriving by rail during our stay.

The hotel location provided for a nice hour-plus walk in the park, another stroll to dining on our first evening, and three relaxing day-enders on the rooftop lounge, sipping an Oregon Pinot Noir as the sun set over the lake. It was mostly that kind of a vacation.

Mount Rainier

We spent our first full day driving down to Mt. Rainier National Park. We purchased an annual pass at the gate when we realized that we’d use it again elsewhere in August.

The park is well southeast of Seattle and Tacoma, but Mt. Rainier is prominently visible from just about everywhere in the region. Still snow-capped in late May and bearing several permanent glaciers, Rainier is a beautiful site against a blue sky.

We drove into the park through the southwest entrance and continued along the access road as far as we could. There were numerous places to get out and walk or enjoy a view along the way. The road was closed due to snow just past the visitors center that precedes Paradise Valley, so we were unable to enjoy the view of wildflowers and greenery the area is known for. The snow must melt before any of it makes an appearance.

Nisqually River glacial valleyOne roadside stop, in particular, gave us a twenty-minute walk down into what used to be a glacial valley but is now only a wide gouge in the land with the narrow Nisqually River swiftly running through the bottom. It made for some great photos and a beautiful view of the mountain looking upstream. The rock- and tree-strewn valley also gave me an understanding of the enormous size and energy of a glacier. The overall mass of objects moved by what was once a slow-moving river of ice was mind-boggling seen up close as we walked the valley floor.

A footbridge over the rapidly moving Nisqually River

Rocks and debris alongn the glacier valley bottom

Torn and fallen tree on the glacier valley bottom

Crossing the footbridgeStacked stones with Mt. Rainier in the background

***

Christine Falls

A waterfall along the way, nearly hidden under a roadway bridge gave us a break from what was becoming our warmest day in the region. The temperature topped out at 85 degrees that day, and the refreshing air flowing out from the waterfall was welcome. We spent the rest of our time in the region in comfortable low- to mid-seventy degree temperatures.

We were fortunate during this trip; I flew in during a blue-sky day, and the skies remained so for the next two days. We woke to a solid overcast on our third morning, but that broke into partial sunshine later in the day. Only our fourth day was overcast throughout.

Although current and prior Washington and Oregon residents tell me that it doesn’t rain all the time, it’s very often cloudy to the point of no direct sunlight. What they refer to as “not rain” is more commonly referred to as extremely heavy mist back home. It may not involve big raindrops, but you’ll get soaked without a waterproof jacket and hat, and your windshield wipers get a workout throughout the year. So I think we lucked out; we had no rain of any sort during our stay.

Kelly and meOur journey to, around, and back from Mt. Rainier was something I’d greatly looked forward to. Our busy work and home lives give us less opportunity to sit and talk than I’d like; long drives are how Kelly and I get to relax, talk, and generally enjoy each other’s company. It was a physical and mental relief for me after the very long flight delay and trip from Dulles airport the day before, and a sweet slowdown for Kelly after her always-busy Quilt Market week.

The only driving downside was that Kelly did all of it. Enterprise car rental does not permit spouses to drive unless they’re present with a driver’s license when renting the car.

We spent another day browsing through Pike Place Market and the surrounding streets, having an obligatory coffee at the first Starbucks, and settling into lunch at The Pike Brewing Company’s brewpub.

Readers of my other blog, Bodhi and Beer, know I enjoy visiting craft breweries. Kelly isn’t a beer fan, so The Pike was a good find. It includes a full-service restaurant where we both enjoyed above-average pub food, and Kelly found a regional wine she enjoyed while I sampled a flight of six Pike Brewing Company beers.

We managed to hit some of Seattle’s renowned traffic on the way back to our hotel. I guess it was inevitable.

The roads are not under construction there, they’re wide enough, and there are plenty of signs and limited access exits and on-ramps. The trouble is, as is the case everywhere else with traffic jams, there are too many people in too many cars.

The Seattle area sports a bus system and a terrific light rail, which we’d attempted to make use of getting to Pike Place. By the time we reached the closest station that morning, however, commuters had filled the available parking. We could have headed a couple of miles south to the airport station and parked in the large garage adjacent to it, but I realized the Waze app could construct an eighteen-minute route into the heart of Seattle from where we were. It would have taken that long getting to and park in the light rail garage.

I’m frequently amazed at how well that app works, though I’m often not a fan when I see it routing traffic through local streets where I’m walking. Efficiently distributing the traffic load has its drawbacks.

A building in SeattleA building in Seattle

A building in SeattleA building in Seattle

For our last full day in the area, we took a ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, a half-hour sail across the Puget Sound. We were treated to some of Seattle’s beautiful architecture as we pulled away from the dock.

Temperatures were in the mid- to high-sixties due to a solid cloud cover, and the wind chill on an open deck was significantly lower. We rode much of the middle part of the trip inside the cabin, only to discover a much better place to enjoy the crossing: standing on the car deck at the stern of the boat. There’s a safety rope keeping passengers from getting too close to the deck edge, but we were left alone for the last ten minutes of the ride by staying behind it. Worth keeping in mind if you’re on such a ferry crossing!

Bainbridge Island is mostly residential, and the small town of Winslow sits just north of the ferry landing. We found a terrific place for lunch and beverages after walking along a short trail and through the Main Street area. There were plenty of shops along the way, but our goal was food, and we found it at Café Nola.

Our next stop was the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, the site where 227 Japanese Americans were forced to leave the island for internment camps at Manzanar, California and Minidoka, Idaho in 1942. The memorial park is half-constructed, with a visitor’s center planned but not yet built. It possesses a wooden “memory wall” bearing the names of those Americans and legal resident aliens whose forced departure by ferry took place from there. A modern dock with pleasure craft tied up sits adjacent to the property. The original ferry dock is gone, but the entire property sits across an inlet from the contemporary ferry landing where he had arrived earlier.

The memorial was quite moving, and remindful of our cultural bad habit of often looking at those who don’t look like ourselves as others. Objectification is the first step on the path to exclusion and it’s a steep drop after that.

We see the same behavior today in the treatment of Muslim Americans after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and subsequent wars. Some things do not change, which is why the memorial prominently features a quote in Japanese: Nidoto Nai Yoni, “let it not happen again.”

Kelly ready to flyOur trip home was just about the easiest, most comfortable air travel I’ve experienced. I wrote about it in a previous article. It featured a quick ride from the airport hotel where we’d spent our final night, to the terminal, through security in record time, and a first-class cabin ride back to Virginia. We even managed to arrive just before thunderstorms swept the area.

Seattle provided a varied, fun place to visit. Dodging the traffic was tricky, but the town yielded a wealth of things to do.

 

(← my favorite person in the Universe.)

#vacation #Seattle #MtRainier #BainbridgeIsland #Renton #LakeWashington #PikePlaceMarket

May 28, 2018

∴ A first-class experience

I joined Kelly for a short vacation in Seattle a week ago, after she completed her annual Spring Quilt Market work. Market is a quilt shop owner’s buying opportunity where vendors show off the latest products and wholesale orders may be placed for delivery later in the year. It’s moved from city to city each year and was in Portland this year. We met up in Seattle afterward.

I flew out on a much-delayed coach-class reservation, but we flew back together seated in the first-class cabin. The differences between the two experiences were stark enough to render air travel pleasant. Those are three words that almost never go together in a sentence.

I departed Virginia on a non-stop from Dulles, our closest airport. It’s only an hour and a quarter from our home in rural Culpeper county.

(Dulles possesses a somewhat aging neo-futurist style terminal designed by Eero Saarinen, and a set of gates used by United that have survived as “temporary” for nearly thirty years despite United being the dominant carrier. Security lines are usually long, but membership in the TSA PreCheck program solves that. Transport between the land-side terminal and air-side gates is by modern automated train, a recent improvement. The terminal parking area is currently in the process of getting a Metro subway stop; eventually, this place is going to be a great airport.)

Some days flying coach is, at best, not miserable. At other times, most times, it’s awful. Complaints of narrow seats, near-nonexistent leg room, cardboard meals for purchase in a cardboard box, overworked flight attendants, and the need of booking a window seat and checking in a day before departure to get a chance at the overhead bins are de rigueur. Checked luggage fees are an insult atop already pricey coach-class fares.

My outbound flight day also brought with it a mechanical problem on the aircraft that was to fly me west. Its flight north from Tampa was canceled altogether as a result. United managed to rebook some of the passengers while leaving the rest to wait for another aircraft, which departed, oh, five-and-a-half hours later.

I managed to bump into a friend at Dulles who has status with United, so my wait on the outbound flight was more comfortably spent in the United Club. I was a late sardine upon arrival, though, walking away from my Seattle arrival gate dazed.

The return trip was like air travel in Bizarro World. It was everything that flying coach is not.

To begin with, I have a financial issue with booking air travel. I look at the first-class fares, grunt, and book coach. Before last year I’d flown in the first-class cabin exactly once, during a familiarization flight as a young air traffic controller. The pilot excused me from the cockpit to sit “in the rear.” The rear turned out to be up front, which was nice. I was relatively young at the time and hadn’t begun my years of flying coach, and so didn’t fully appreciate what I’d stumbled into.

I flew first class to visit my pal in Bozeman, Montana last year, scoring a bonus A320 ride up from Denver that’s usually operated with a regional jet. I booked the flights with frequent flyer miles, and first class was a relative bargain one-way on award points. There were no award seats in coach, so the choice was the bargain up front or pay for it in coach. I flew coach on the return trip, looking longingly forward through the curtains.

Our return from Seattle last week was as I remember last year’s flights to Bozeman. In order, the process of making air travel both pleasant and even pricier includes electronics, the TSA, and the living room I typically walk through on my way to sardine hell.

We arrived at the airport already checked-in with electronic boarding passes on our phones. Nothing new there. The TSA PreCheck line was, as usual, shorter than the regular security line. Our wait in line for a coffee was longer than it took us to get from the airport hotel, through the terminal, and past the TSA. $85 for three years of shorter to non-existent lines is well worth it.

Then began the best part of the trip. We sat across from the gate and read news headlines as we drank our coffees. As soon as the first passenger got up to stand in the group 1 boarding line, we walked across to join him. Ten minutes later we were walking down the jetway.

Boarding as a first class passenger was like walking into a restaurant. The lead flight attendant greeted and welcomed us aboard. There was no rush; plenty of time to place carry-ons in the overhead bin in which there is always room for your bag. There’s no crush squeezing into a window seat; the leg room in each row is like another aisle.

I’ve been a coach-class passenger eyeballing the first-class passengers already seated as I trudged through the first-class cabin many times. The experience sitting in first class is the exact opposite. Once seated, I spent the next twenty or so minutes getting situated and forgetting about the rest of the boarding process. The wait wasn’t unpleasant; it wasn’t all that much different from waiting in the gate area. And it’s very easy to completely forget there’s anyone sitting behind you, which amounts to the bulk of the passengers. All I saw were people comfortably lounging and a blur of bodies walking past.

That’s the first significant difference between seating classes. The boarding process for coach class is almost always a hassle. The wait to board is long, the line in the jetway is long, the trudge back to your seat is long, and there’s almost always someone who has pre-boarded (i.e., elderly or with small children) already seated in the aisle and middle seats who then has to unbuckle, stand, and move out of the way, negating the benefit of pre-boarding.

About five minutes after I sat down a smiling flight attendant (They always smile in first class. I’m not making this up; it’s all smiles. It’s like you paid for the smiling with your fare.) asked whether I’d like something to drink. It was eight am, so I opted for orange juice. It was served in a glass. Whatever they have onboard to drink, it’s yours free of surcharge. Morning Mimosa? Check. Bloody Mary? Check. Wine? Check. Bourbon? Buffalo Trace, check.

The door closed and we were off, taking a brief ground delay for Dulles by slow-taxiing to the end of the runway. So, no delay.

Breakfast service began about twenty minutes into the flight. Breakfast was the second big difference. Meals are, of course, free of extra charge. And they come on ceramic plates, with metal silverware and a linen napkin, served on a linen-lined tray. Mine was a savory egg and vegetable soufflé, a cup filled with fresh fruit, a decent sized cup of yogurt and a sweet roll, which I declined. Oh, and a glass of water to wash it down.

As I was wondering about that Buffalo Trace bourbon a couple of hours later, the flight attendant came through again smiling and asking whether we’d like something more to drink. I wasn’t in the mood for whiskey, so I opted for water. I’d taken them up on the complementary bourbon on my first-class flight last year, though, and enjoyed every drop. So much so that I went ahead and paid for it on the way back, in coach.

Arrival is the third significant difference flying first class. Best begin buttoning up any books, tablets, or earphones as soon as the aircraft rolls off the runway because getting off the jet is a speedy process for someone accustomed to the stand up-and-wait of coach class. Many first-class passengers stand-and-wait, as well, but the difference is that there isn’t a line. There’s just a group of people pulling and assembling bags from the overhead and under-seat storage and looking in the general direction of the lead flight attendant. With a wider aisle and longer leg room, it still feels more like a living room than an airplane. The door opens within about a minute, and off you go.

No more airplane. No more passengers, no line, no hassle. In an instant it’s like the whole trip didn’t happen. If you’re using carry-on luggage only, you’re probably on the conveyance to the main terminal by the time the last row of coach empties.

I remarked about all of these conveniences to Kelly during our drive home. We’d split at the end of the automated train; she headed to the baggage carousel for her luggage while I went to free our car from the garage where I’d parked. She had her bags before I reached the car; I saw later that United fastened “priority” tags on them. I guess they rode first class, too.

First class is hands-down costly compared to coach, which is merely expensive. There’s a fair argument to be made as to whether what you get in exchange for the price bump is worth the extra money. Having flown many miles in what I derisively refer to as steerage, I’d say yes, if you have the coin to spend, the first-class cabin makes air travel the exact opposite of what most of us experience every time we fly. It turns mental and physical torment into actual pleasure.

#airTravel #firstClass #coachClass #upgrade #premiumExperience

May 27, 2018

∴ Despicable Donald

A tweet by Donald Trump

An appalling lie from Donald Trump obfuscating his own administration’s culpability for separating children from their families as they illegally cross the US border, and the 20% of them who have gone missing.

This policy is not the work of Democrats or the United States Congress. It is a policy decision implemented by the Trump administration itself, publicly announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions this year. Donald Trump is directly responsible for it.

Whatever has happened to those missing children is on him. His decency and fitness for the office he holds are belied by his willingness to publicly lie about the facts leading to their disappearance, despite the wealth of information disproving him.

In general, though not exclusively, Trump was swept into office on the backs of middle-aged and older white voters, both men and women. How much responsibility do you bear?

#mendacity #ignorance #DonaldTrump #illegalImmigration #families #separated

May 20, 2018

∴ Trump, in his own words

On the face of it, this is just another spittle-flecked missive from the remarkably uninformed mind of Donald Trump:

A tweet from Donald Trump

But a little more consideration leads me to wonder whether this is the inflection point where his nonsense earns him a co-conspirator label for obstruction of justice. If Trump follows through on this threat by directing Rod Rosenstein to “look into” what has become an investigation of his own campaign, staffers, and family members he’ll be interfering in the justice process.

Can he really be this careless?

#Trump #impeachableOffenses

∴ Hobby Lobby manager calls cops on black customer

Noor Al-Sibai—RawStory:

Birmingham’s WVTM reported that customer Brian Spurlock both had his receipt and was well within the store’s 90-day return police when he brought the goods he wished to return to the Hobby Lobby location in Trussville. Nevertheless, the store’s manager would not let him return the most expensive of the items that Spurlock said was defective because it had already been opened.

Spurlock is black, making this another example of white folks using the police as a means of oppression.

Or maybe they’d pull this same trick on a white woman returning a defective product, right after she rode in on her pet unicorn.

See: police called by white manager of a Starbucks coffee shop on two black men waiting for a friend and arrest them; police called when three back people checked out of an AirBnB rental; or police called by white woman on a black grad student napping in her dorm common area at Yale, because, I guess, what would a black woman be doing sleeping in a Yale dorm? Living? Going to school there?

***

The thirteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States states:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

“Except as a punishment for crime …”

And you thought slavery was illegal in the United States. Both Northern and Southern states, through their enactment of the infamous “black codes,” have used the cops and courts as means of keeping black and brown people in check ever since the Union gave up on Reconstruction. Today’s mass incarceration of black and brown folks far more than their proportion to the total population is but a continuation of the practice begun immediately following the Civil War.

America has a long and varied history of knocking down the black man. Slave labor began with the landing of kidnapped black Africans in 1619 (399 years under the white thumb), but the Federal codification of white claims on black bodies began in earnest with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. With that legislation officially sanctioning the right of whites to claim custody of black bodies without evidence of their slaveholding “ownership,” the United States moved to use it and the states’ law enforcement and judicial systems to keep the black man and woman in thrall. By law, a white man could point out any free black man or woman anywhere in the United States and claim them as his property on only his word.

How is Brian Spurlock’s near-arrest, and the arrest of other black and brown people across the US on trumped-up grounds anything but the descendant of these codes and laws? Each instance of false charges and incarceration is further evidence that for many, the American Dream is a nightmare, while for others of a lighter skin tone it is no more than a collective hallucination.

All men are created equalbut not equal before the law in the minds of many.

… that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The highest law of the land there, folks, written by a man who owned humans. There will come a reckoning for these crimes against humanity. We should be addressing inequity in all its forms now, rather than electing bigoted clowns to our high offices to keep white right.

#racismNeverDies #whiteSupremacy

May 19, 2018

#SayHerName: 100 Years Ago, Mary Turner Was Lynched

Lawrence Ware—VSB:

What happened next is so horrific and inhumane that I struggled with whether I should even write it. Tears obscure my vision as I write these words, yet, as America tries to ignore the bloody stain of a white supremacy as ubiquitous as it is haunting, we need to bear witness to Mary Turner. We cannot forget what she endured. It is certainly not reveling at the specter of black death to prevent time and the institutional white-washing of history to erase Turner from our collective memory, thereby retroactively saying that her life did not matter. We need to know what happened. But please understand that what comes next is triggering. What you read, you cannot unread; the mental images created, you cannot unsee.

People in this country like to think themselves as being above this kind of gruesome violence; as if the genocides we witness in other countries could never happen here. We’ve built an entire ethos on the notion of American moral exceptionalism. In fact, recent Congressional hearings about Gina Haspel, the intelligence officer nominated by the 45th president of the United States to be the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, was all about discovering if she would live up to the moral expectations of citizens of this country. What Mary Turner and the subsequent silence about what happened in Georgia in 1918 teaches us is that America, at best, is morally compromised and, at worst, morally bankrupt.

I mentioned Mary Turner in an article this MLK Day, alongside Emmett Till and Ossian Sweet. You probably know who Till was. Turner? Click through to this post on Very Smart Brothas to read what became of her.

America is, in its contemporary conception, a fraud. It is a failed expression of an idea never quite realized and, as we read the words above, moving away from the ideal many of its people believe we’ve already obtained. Fools.

Keep dreamin’ that American dream. That’s all it is. May the scales fall from your eyes.

#lynching #whiteSupremacy

May 18, 2018

The Birth of the New American Aristocracy

Matthew Stewart takes a deep dive into American cultural and political inequality for The Atlantic:

The source of the trouble, considered more deeply, is that we have traded rights for privileges. We’re willing to strip everyone, including ourselves, of the universal right to a good education, adequate health care, adequate representation in the workplace, genuinely equal opportunities, because we think we can win the game. But who, really, in the end, is going to win this slippery game of escalating privileges?

A great, long read exploring the accumulation of wealth and blindness to privilege, the rise of resentment in American culture, and the political maneuvering that keeps us headed that way.

The analogy here to America’s Gilded Age is apt. That brief period of comfort for the top decile of our population didn’t end well.

#SecondGuildedAge #aristocracy #culture #class #race

May 14, 2018

The Racist Impact Of Michigan’s Medicaid Proposal

Arthur Delaney—HuffPost:

Michigan Republicans are pushing a new, Donald Trump-inspired bill that would require Medicaid recipients in the state’s mostly black cities to work to keep their health benefits, but exempt some of the state’s rural white residents from the same requirement.

Under the bill, Medicaid recipients in 17 mostly white counties, all represented by Republican senators, would be exempt from the work requirements, according to an analysis by the Center for Michigan, a think tank. But Medicaid recipients in the six municipalities with the highest unemployment rates, including Detroit and Flint, would have to work at least 29 hours a week to keep their health benefits. All six cities have black majorities or significant numbers of black residents.

This quote from the bill’s supporters in the Michigan Chamber of Commerce takes the lily-white cake:

“We were just trying to be helpful,” Michigan Chamber lobbyist Wendy Block told HuffPost. “It was really just a simple suggestion, not one that we’re married to.”

Tell me again how we’re all equal before the law since the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Chamber may not be married to this proposal, but America sure as shit is married to its self-image as the land of opportunity. Zero self awareness, there.

#contemporaryRacism

April 30, 2018

Michael Hayden: The End of Intelligence

Michale Hayden—The New York Times:

I wondered whether the officers I saw at the ceremony realized how much we are now counting on them. They know we traditionally rely on their truth-telling to protect us from our enemies. Now we need it to save us from ourselves.

Hayden was director of both the CIA and the NSA. He’s a retired four-star USAF general and, more importantly to me, a fellow geek. He prizes intricate, nuanced knowledge.

His pedigree endows this NYT op-ed with insight worth reading regardless of your political stripe. Our national reality is this dire. Or, this is how a contemporary empire falls.

#MichaelHayden #CIA #NSA #truth #post-truth #freedom

April 27, 2018

∴ Finally, an Avengers of consequence

I went to see the premiere of Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War Thursday night. I walked in with middling expectations, but I emerged impressed. It was really very good.

There are no spoilers in this article (I lie), but perhaps there’s a hint or two if you read between the lines. Like this: Infinity War is the first Avengers story of any actual consequence. It’s about losing. Ultimate loss. It opens with Thanos speaking of it, and it ends with it.

The story is well-written and well-directed, keeping my attention throughout its two-hour, thirty-minute-long runtime. In this way it exceeds Black Panther, which dragged at times. I was as enraptured by Infinity War as I was by Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Action fans will not be disappointed, either. The CGI was seamless, and fit right in with the story-telling. There was no FX for its own sake; this was good, modern film-making.

The theater was full of cheers and laughter as the plot moved toward a dreaded possible conclusion, but fans expected the Avengers to save the day. That’s how it’s supposed to go, right?

That did not happen.

Gasps heard throughout the theater during the final twenty minutes of the film were loud and in unison from fans not expecting what they were seeing. As the picture faded to black and the credits rolled, I heard cries of “no!” At the very end, where Marvel Studios often deposits a trailer of things to come, there was again unexpected, impactful loss, and bewilderment among the audience.

Fans were subdued as the lights came up. Many were looking at each other, slack-jawed. Did that really just happen? Quiet discussions ensued before people moved out of the theater.

I loved it. After two Avengers stories bearing little consequence for the main characters, this time out not everyone lived happily ever after.

This film clarified that the lack of consequence amid the battles and destruction of previous movies is what left me expecting another ordinary experience last night. It’s the difference between a film akin to an amusement park ride and one that tells a story worth hearing. Tragedy and comedy should appear on opposite sides of the same coin. A story without one or the other is out of balance.

Let’s review.

The Avengers: ok, the title of this one snookered me. Somehow I thought this film was to be a remake of the 1960s British TV spy series starring Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg. Imagine my disappointment.

Regardless, the plot involves the god Thor’s crypto-adopted brother Loki leading an alien invasion of New York. The Big Apple gets beat up, the Avengers save the day, and they eat shawarma. Joss Whedon wrote and directed, which made it entertaining, but still. Tony Stark as Ironman actually almost died at the end, but no cigar. The Hulk shocks him back to life with a scream. No lasting consequence to the Avengers; fans knew they’d triumph.

Avengers: Age of Ultron: I liked this one primarily because of James Spader’s voice-over of Ultron. He’s a terrific actor and he played Ultron almost identically to his Raymond Reddington character in the TV series The Blacklist, which Kelly and I enjoy.

Ultron does some bad things leading up to dropping a city back upon the Earth, which the Avengers must blast apart lest it creates an extinction-level event like the one that killed the dinosaurs. The plot ends with Sokovia (the city) destroyed, but the residents safely evacuated by the Avengers. Sucks if you’re from Sokovia, or the Scarlet Witch’s brother what’s-his-name, but not too bad for the Avengers. They even get a new superhero pal, Vision. So there’s that.

Thursday night things didn’t end too well for the Avengers, and that made it a complete story.

Actions have consequences. Lives are not fairy tales. This film takes comics fun and smears it red across the screen. Well, there’s no red blood to speak of, though Black Widow did get a few drops of someone’s blue blood on her, but you get the idea. Tragedy complemented comedy, with plenty of action as the backbone of the story.

Not to worry, there’s much more money to be made off these comics characters. A look at the cast of the fourth Avengers film, due out next year, reveals that some characters just can’t stay away for long. I’m glad of that for Black Panther and Scarlet Witch, kinda meh for others, like Dr. Strange. Love Cumberbatch, not so sure about the Doctor.

I was bummed about the Panther. Black America clearly had a moment going after Black Panther debuted, only to see him …

Ok, enough sorta-spoilers. Go see the film. It is the best of the three Avengers films extant, and given the casting of the next outing my satisfaction at seeing consequence befall these characters, though grim, will be short-lived.

#TheAvengers #deadNotDead #TonyStarkShouldHaveBeenVictimNumberOne

April 24, 2018

How much alcohol is too much? The science is shifting.

Julia Belluz—Vox:

“We wanted to find how much alcohol people can drink before they started being at a higher risk of dying,” said the lead author on the study, Cambridge University biostatistics professor Angela Wood. “Our results suggest an upper safe limit of drinking of around 100 grams of alcohol per week [about seven 12-ounce beers or 5-ounce wine pours or 1.5-ounce liquor servings] for men and for women. Drinking above this limit was related to lower life expectancy.”

The article is worth a read for its more detailed comparison of what we thought we knew about alcohol intake and what the subject meta-study suggests. I’m mildly surprised, but not shocked at the results. I’m still below the exponential departure from “safe,” but I’ll bet a quid this opens a few eyes.

Amusing that some craft beers (imperials, doubles) rate as malt liquor in this article, and that a standard pour of wine amounts to about one-fifth of a bottle. 750 ml is roughly 25 ounces. Five, not four, and not a half-bottle.

This piece reminded me of an article from the New York Times Magazine—Is Sugar Toxic? Turns out it is. And the American diet is full of it.

Keep thinking.

(Hat tip to Dr. Kenning for this article.)

#drinking #alcohol #health

April 21, 2018

∴ Utter crap on Medium

Do you have a Medium account? Do you read the weekly digest of recommended articles? Have you noticed that much of the content is navel-gazing crap?

I’ve taken the weekly digest of Medium articles for a few years. There were some interesting articles there when I began reading, but more recently I’ve found a cacophony of introspective nonsense masquerading as intellect. I’d sum it as a waste of time if it weren’t revealing of the contemporary state of writing.

I shit-canned the Medium digest. Maybe you publish there. Maybe you take the content. I’d urge you to give it all a harder look, a more thorough read. There’s a lot of junk, applause for junk, and dumb ideas sprouted by people who have so little experience of life it’d take a day to explain what they don’t understand about the words they wrote.

***

Today feels an appropriate moment to let on that I’ve withdrawn from much of social media. Maybe I’ll return to some of it. Now seems a better time to look inward and consider the takeaways from what I’ve read. At the same time, I plan more writing on my blogs and less scanning the wasteland of where content winds up.

Sometimes the right move is to fold and move on with your agenda and let the world burn.

#Medium #writing #thoughts

April 11, 2018

News Release: Board of Advisors Appointment — Acreage Holdings

Acreage Holdings:

Acreage Holdings (“Acreage”) (www.acreageholdings.com), one of the nation’s largest, multi-state actively-managed cannabis corporations, announced the appointments of former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives John Boehner and former Governor of the State of Massachusetts Bill Weld to its Board of Advisors.

Nothing like money on the table to bring Republicans running.

Where were these guys on the issue a few years ago? Oh. But it’s all about research now, and veterans, of course.

And no more voters to be faced.

#hypocrisy

Paul Ryan won't run for re-election

Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen—Axios:

Speaker Paul Ryan told House Republicans this morning that he will not run for re-election in November.

Why it matters: House Republicans were already in a very tough spot for the midterms, with many endangered members and the good chance that Democrats could win the majority.

Paul Ryan, taking his tax cut and going home. I’ve heard no greater indication that the GOP House majority is likely coming to an end than this. Nobody willingly steps down from so lofty a post unless they hear footsteps a’comin’.

#GOP #PaulRyan #retiring

April 9, 2018

VSB: Dear White People, If a Memorial Dedicated to Lynchings of Black People Makes You Uncomfortable, Good

Panama Jackson—Very Smart Brothas:

On April 26 of this year, the Equal Justice Initiative will open both a memorial and museum in Montgomery, Ala., dedicated to the victims of lynching in America post-Civil War. The memorial is called the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and the museum is called the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration. Both were featured with a first-look on Sunday evening’s episode of 60 Minutes.

With reporting done by Auntie O (Oprah Winfrey), the story included a trip to the memorial and museum with the Equal Justice Initiative’s director, Bryan Stevenson.

The soon-to-be-opened monument is riveting in its execution. It features more than 800 pillars hanging from the ceiling, representing the more than 800 counties in America where lynchings have been recorded, and each pillar includes the names and dates (if known) of the victims.

(Emphasis mine.)

I saw a piece about the new memorial and museum on the CBS Sunday Morning show, I think, months ago. The part where the camera came up under the hanging columns as the journalist described their meaning flat-out chilled me. My mind stumbled over their import a second or two before the words were spoken—it’s difficult not to understand what those many brown, hanging columns represent—and it felt like a wave of sadness and not a little shame washed over me.

Keep in mind this is a memorial and museum to an American tradition of oppression now almost three hundred, ninety-nine years long. It has come in varying practices and legalities and manifests no more visibly today than the over-policing of black communities nationwide. “Unarmed black man shot by police” has become commonplace.

Later in his article, Jackson writes

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. Martin Luther King Jr. said that, and the people who whitewash his mentality and messaging will one day learn what that means.

While I imagine that black people and white people who feel guilt will be the visitors of the museum—and let’s be real, it will be ripe for racist vandalism—I’m glad museums and memorials like this exist to shed more light on this country’s past.

Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.

Dr. King was a radical in his time and reviled among the majority of the majority-white population. His story has been whitewashed, his person turned into a kindly, benevolent elder, but all you need do is actually read his words to understand the change he was seeking and why folks with nothing more than their whiteness going for them hated what he was doing.

I think we’re in the early stages of repeating something extremely bloody and devastatingly consequential in American history. Its echo needn’t be violent, but every day the reality of Living While Black continues makes it more likely it’ll be a harsh awakening.

The South African policy of apartheid lasted less than American ethnic inequality. They ended their sins with a truth and reconciliation commission. It didn’t mend that country’s ethnic and economic divisions, but it did lay bare their sources and allow into political power the long-oppressed. Simple demographics may do much the same for us.

#racism #lynchings

Lindsey Buckingham has been fired from Fleetwood Mac

(pause) … again.

Katie Rife—AVNews:

Lindsey Buckingham, guitarist, singer, and one of the principal creative forces behind ‘70s supergroup-turned-21st century hipster favorite Fleetwood Mac, has been fired from the band, according to Rolling Stone.

I hope we get a decent album out of it this time.

#FleetwoodMac #LindseyBuckingham

F.B.I. raids office of Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen

Matt Apuzzo—The New York Times:

The F.B.I. on Monday raided the office of President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, seizing records related to several topics including payments to a pornographic-film actress.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan obtained the search warrant after receiving a referral from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, according to Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, who called the search “completely inappropriate and unnecessary.” The search does not appear to be directly related to Mr. Mueller’s investigation, but likely resulted from information he had uncovered and gave to prosecutors in New York.

Oh. The lawyer has a lawyer. Hmm.

#Trump #corruption #Mueller #FBI

∴ Baseball begins

A chilly evening at the ballparkWe took a ride into DC for our first Nats game of the season yesterday. After a thoroughly enjoyable dinner at Gordon Biersch with friends—including a six-beer sampler for yours truly—we walked over to the park and were seated just prior to the first pitch.

The temperature began at a warmish 54 when the sun was up, but clouds and nightfall brought it into the lower forties where it remained the rest of the night. It wasn’t too chilly until around the sixth inning. The game ran to twelve innings.

Our car’s heater never felt so good.

The Nats are off to a slow start this year. Last night made five straight losses.

IMG 5483Particularly galling were the number of Mets fans in attendance. “Let’s go Mets” was routinely drowned out by boos. It was a friendly rivalry in the stands.

We’re looking forward to more games—and warmer weather—this season. Nats Park is a great place to watch a game and last evening’s seats were terrific, positioned in the arc behind home plate and just above field level. There’s really not a bad seat in the house, but these were the lowest-level seats we’ve sat in since the stadium was built.

Bonus: it was pups in the park night, so we say plenty of four-legged friends including a beautiful two-year old Lab.

#WashingtonNationals #baseball #NatsPark #dinnerAndAGame

April 4, 2018

April 2, 2018

∴ 'Isle of Dogs' and Japan as a Plot Device

Nina Li Coomes—The Atlantic:

Critics and viewers might argue that this invented city, which exists in a parallel universe 20 years in the future, eases the story’s burden of faithfully representing Japan. But even given this leeway, Anderson’s Megasaki at times slides dangerously close to tokenism, and often fails to truly bring to mind the country the director claims to invoke

My first awareness of a filmmaker’s flawed use of Japanese culture as a plot device came in a Medium article about Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation a couple of years ago. It was an awakening for me because that film revolves around the alienation of its two main characters from their families and their chosen lives while immersed in a confusingly alien culture, but I’d completely missed its slights to the Japanese people. The Tokyo of Lost In Translation is mentioned in this article as another example of Japanese culture and settings appropriated as a sort of Stranger In a Strange Land backdrop. It is also, as is pointed out, a caricature of a real-world culture and people.

I’m of two minds about this. While not having seen Isle of Dogs yet, I’ve watched and re-rewatched Lost In Translation. Its theme of alienation as a backdrop to Johansson’s and Murray’s Charlotte and Bob finding one another resonates powerfully with me; it is one of my most beloved stories rendered on film. At the same time, I’m somewhat taken aback and disappointed that I didn’t recognize the negative appropriation of Japanese cultural elements to tell the story. Once you see them, though, they’re impossible to miss. And yet they successfully convey a sense of disorientation through the eyes of the characters.

A better criticism asks why that is so. Is Japanese culture so different to Western eyes as to be incomprehensible, and if so does that make it an appropriate plot device?

I’d answer the former question, yes. Clearly, significant cultural differences exist and dropping a character from one into the other for his or her first time can render a comedic or even frightening, disorienting effect. Amplifying the differences for effect, though … there’s a fine line between whimsical caricature and insult.

I’m reminded of the old TV series Amos and Andy, in which caricatures of two black Americans and their interaction with one another are used to the same comedic effect. Rather than rendering their unique behavior and black American culture as a way of understanding them, they’re amplified to clown-like effect. That’s what takes place in short bursts during Lost In Translation and, I take it, in Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs.

I like to think I’ve become more sensitive to the differences between us in positive ways, but I’m still on the fence about this storytelling trope. Humor directed at ourselves is fair. The same directed at others says something about the “us” characters, the filmmaker, and ultimately about ourselves. And who is truly an “other?”

The degree of comedic amplification is at the heart of the question. How much is too much? How much otherness is each of us willing to tolerate in the service of humor? My answer to the latter question a few paragraphs back is I don’t know what makes for an appropriate plot device, but I can take a stab at it.

Does it insult without any sense of familiarity or affection? Does the caricaturing work to move the story along? Answering yes to the first question makes the device inappropriate. Answering no to the second makes it bad storytelling.

I do know that I simply like Lost In Translation’s story, Wes Anderson’s films in general, and expect that I’ll enjoy his Isle of Dogs. I don’t know what that says about me.

Comments are welcome.

#IsleOfDogs #LostInTranslation #culturalAppropriation

March 30, 2018

∴ My boss retired today

Cleaned-out, empty office where my boss used to workHe’d announced his intention a few months ago and followed through shortly after with the paperwork. His words at the time left me remotely unsettled, but I wasn’t expecting his departure to affect me so personally.

Joseph came to work with us about three-and-a-half years ago during a particularly turbulent time in our facility. We were implementing a replacement of our automation system fully five years behind schedule and buggy as hell. If that weren’t enough, he had the misfortune of inheriting management of a difficult employee. No, it wasn’t me.

The first year and a half were rocky for him, and for us. We got through operational readiness of our new system, and the morning our problem child departed for good there was an air of unspoken celebration in our office. The rest of his time managing our group and our work turned out enjoyable for everyone.

An old adage holds that some manage people well, some manage projects well, but few do both. Joseph was an exception. He not only competently managed both completion of our new system as well as the ensuing year of reorganizing our region’s arrival and departure routes, but did so without my ever feeling the weight of our large organization bearing down on me.

Early in his tenure, I was moved to remark to Kelly that although I didn’t know where he’d gotten his managerial experience, he’d sure figured me out. Part of managing our problem child was managing how the child affected the rest of us. My first closed-door meeting with him occurred in week two. It was a fruitful and enjoyable working relationship from that day forward.

Management is a skill. I don’t know where one gets it; it isn’t taught, at least not in my world, and I doubt anyone is a born leader. I don’t think I have this skill, but the guy who just walked out our door does. I was pleased to tell him all of this in the days before he left. I’ve not ever directly complimented a superior in this way in a nearly thirty-one-year career.

Joseph and I are very similar people. Our worlds revolve around our wives, who are our rocks and our confidants. Professionally we both bear the same marks of having successfully trained and worked as air traffic controllers; the general attitudes of do your job and do not waste my time permeates how we do what we do. Fit within those lines and we can enjoy each others’ company. And I suppose we did, which is why today bears more than a little sting.

I shook his hand, wished him well, and told him to take care of himself. He’s the first departure from my career I genuinely mourn. Our two other long-time specialists feel the same. He was a good boss, a willing ear, and a pleasure to work with. I’ll miss him.

#retirement #management #employment

FCC approves SpaceX plan to launch 4,425 broadband satellites

Jon Brodkin—Ars Technica:

The Federal Communications Commission issued an order approving SpaceX’s application with some conditions. SpaceX intends to start launching operational satellites as early as 2019, with the goal of reaching the full capacity of 4,425 satellites in 2024. The FCC approval just requires SpaceX to launch 50 percent of the satellites by March 2024, and all of them by March 2027.

SpaceX has said it will offer speeds of up to a gigabit per second, with latencies between 25ms and 35ms. Those latencies would make SpaceX’s service comparable to cable and fiber, while existing satellite broadband services have latencies of 600ms or more, according to FCC measurements.

This should prove interesting. I’m getting 225 Mbps down, 12 up with 14 ms latency from our Comcast cable broadband setup, as measured by Speedtest using a Comcast server for download/upload. My throughout and latency are slower measured against other servers, but still very fast. We could see lower pricing and an opportunity to switch providers if SpaceX can provide a stabile, faster, and comparably priced alternative.

#SpaceX #Starlink #satelliteInternet

How to use Battery Health in iOS 11.3 to monitor and control power throttling

Serenity Caldwell—iMore:

In the wake of negative reaction to iPhone advanced power management — the system that slowed down older iPhones with degraded batteries to prevent shutdowns — Apple is including a new Battery Health feature in iOS 11.3. Currently in beta, the feature is built into Settings > Battery, and provides information on current maximum capacity and peak performance capability.

It will also inform you if your iPhone is being slowed down, whether it needs service, and even allows you to turn off advanced power management — now called performance management — if you so choose.

This one’s for the conspiracy theorists who’ve long held that new iOS versions purposely slowed their one-year old phone to push them into an upgrade. There’s more than one reason older phones slowed after an OS update, but now these folks have insight into the only one that Apple purposely caused: throttling the CPU when the battery was unable to handle full-clock operation due to wear:

If your iPhone SE, iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, or iPhone 7 had previously been slowed down to prevent power surges and unexpected shutdowns, iOS 11.3 will restore it to its previous, unmanaged performance levels. The system’s performance management will only restart if you experience an unexpected shutdown; until then, it’s a clean slate.

The feature, added last year in iOS version 10.3.1, can also be disabled altogether.

The other, more consequential cause of phone slow-down, and the only one applicable to pre iPhone 6 models, is the additional API and core OS code delivered in each new version. Same CPU, more software running, OS runs slower. Most of the time it’s a small slowdown but if your phone is in year two or three of its life and significant additions have been made to the OS (in the Fall of most years, but sometimes also in late winter), you’ll notice.

Normal battery wear and different usage patterns are at work here, plus software engineering. No conspiracy.

#iPhone #iOS #slowdown #batteryPerformance #BatteryHealth

March 28, 2018

Krugman: Putting the Ex-Con in Conservatism

Paul Krugman—The New York Times:

To be sure, there have been plenty of crooked Democrats. But usually the revelation of their crookedness ended their political careers. What’s striking about today’s Republican landscape is that people who are obvious crooks, con men or worse continue to attract strong support from the party’s base. Moore narrowly lost in Alabama’s special election, but he received 91 percent of the votes of self-identified Republicans.

Claiming that I won’t vote for another Republican until the party is restored to something resembling its pre-Reagan intellectual and moral self is not a partisan statement.

I couldn’t fathom how anyone, let alone any self-respecting woman, could vote for a man like Mr. Trump in 2016. It turns out that the answer was self-identifying Republicans will often vote for anyone with an “R” after their name for that reason alone. That includes a man credibly accused of child molestation and another man who was convicted of conspiring to endanger the lives of coal miners, the latter in West Virginia where coal is king.

How could such obvious disqualification for voter trust succeed?

this sustained reliance on the big con has, over time, exerted a strong selection effect both on the party’s leadership and on its base. G.O.P. politicians tend disproportionately to be con men (and in some cases, con women), because playing the party’s political game requires both a willingness to and a talent for saying one thing while doing another. And the party’s base consists disproportionately of the easily conned — those who are easily fooled by claims that Those People are the problem and don’t notice how much the true Republican agenda hurts them.

Why do poor Americans so often vote Republican, when the GOP has enacted policies of upward re-direction of wealth and curtailment of social programs benefiting them? Believing others are easily fooled is the same as believing yourself of superior judgement for seeing through the con, and I’m loathe to believe myself superior to anyone. In this case, though, and as Krugman points out, the fact of GOP voter ignorance is plain. Donald Trump speaks like nothing more than a carnival barker, particularly when he’s off the teleprompter. And his base loves him for it.

The GOP hasn’t only lost its way. It’s led and populated by the morally corrupt and the willingly fooled who steadfastly march the wrong way.

#GOP #Republican #morallyCorrupt

March 25, 2018

Facebook scraped call, text message data for years from Android phones

Sean Gallagher—Ars Technica:

This past week, a New Zealand man was looking through the data Facebook had collected from him in an archive he had pulled down from the social networking site. While scanning the information Facebook had stored about his contacts, Dylan McKay discovered something distressing: Facebook also had about two years’ worth of phone call metadata from his Android phone, including names, phone numbers, and the length of each call made or received.

This experience has been shared by a number of other Facebook users who spoke with Ars, as well as independently by us—my own Facebook data archive, I found, contained call-log data for a certain Android device I used in 2015 and 2016, along with SMS and MMS message metadata.

This is … distressing. If you’re an Android phone owner you might want to click the link near the top of the quoted story, download your Facebook data, and have a look. Hell, I have an iPhone and I’m going to have a look just to see what’s there.

FYI: this data “sharing” scenario cannot happen on an iPhone because each app runs in its own “sandbox,” restricted to its own data. Sandboxing is the polar opposite of the “open” philosophy behind the Android operating system. Many Android advocates have criticized Apple’s App Store and sandboxing security approach as a “walled garden.” Choose your poison.

#Facebook #dataPrivacy #Android

March 23, 2018

Instagram is changing its algorithm. Here’s how.

Javey Fortin—The New York Times:

Instagram is one of several social media companies that are striving to find the right balance between arranging content chronologically and ranking it according to machine-learned impressions of relevance.

Twitter’s feed is largely chronological — though it is has been known to experiment with ranking, sometimes irritating users — while Facebook, which owns Instagram, relies more heavily on algorithms, meaning well-liked content and posts from good friends tend to show up front and center.

Machine-learned ranking is the worst. I’ve heard and read many complaints about it, but few if any who actually like it. And what it says about the service is, perhaps, worse: they know what’s best for how you should view your friends’ activities.

Thanks, no.

I’m a fan of Twitter’s lists—assign the feeds you follow to one or more self-created lists and see those tweets as a group—because they gives me full control over how I see what I want to see. Worth checking out if you’re a Twitter user and haven’t tried them yet.

#Instagram #Facebook #Twitter #socialMedia #machineLearning

March 22, 2018

∴ Facebook gave data about 57 billion friendships to academic

Julia Carrie Wong and Paul LewisThe Guardian:

Facebook suspended Kogan from the platform, issued a statement saying that he “lied” to the company, and characterised his activities as “a scam – and a fraud”.

On Tuesday, Facebook went further, saying in a statement: “The entire company is outraged we were deceived.” And on Wednesday, in his first public statement on the scandal, its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, called Kogan’s actions a “breach of trust”.

But Facebook has not explained how it came to have such a close relationship with Kogan that it was co-authoring research papers with him, nor why it took until this week – more than two years after the Guardian initially reported on Kogan’s data harvesting activities – for it to inform the users whose personal information was improperly shared.

If you’re reading this article in a Facebook cross-post from my blog, or if you’ve read this Guardian article elsewhere, are you beginning to feel uncomfortable?

The bad news is, all the data given Facebook over the years—movie, music, book, friend, and social trend affinities, as well as personal data such as employment, college attendance, marriage status, etc.—is long gone wild, with age and email addresses attached. The good news is that its use hasn’t been for identity theft (that anyone knows of), but rather for marketing.

Products, politicians, “memes,” whatever Facebook advertisers are looking to hawk at you, that’s where your personal data comes in handy. So help yourself: first, dig into your Facebook profile and delete every last bit you’ve tagged as “liked.” Then delete access to your Facebook profile for every phone or tablet app as well as every service you don’t readily recognize from daily use.

Second, stop using your Facebook id to log into other services. If you’re given the option to sign up for a service or a website with Facebook credentials or some other id, use another id. Make up a userid or use your email address. Better yet give an email address you don’t use for personal communication, one that can generally be ignored.

Third, stop playing Facebook online games and taking Facebook quizzes. Every time you do, you’re giving whoever runs it—that’s not Facebook, it’s a third-party player. Why would they put out the effort to make an attractive quiz? Think about it—a little more information about yourself, which is used to custom fit a marketing scheme more likely to entice you to …

Fourth, stop reading or clicking through ads. It’s a well-worn truth that if you’re not paying for a service, you are the product. By not clicking the ads, you’re not submitting to Facebook’s marketing model. Install an ad blocker (Ad Block or Ad Block Plus) and an anti-tracking extension (Ghostery) for your browser.

Fifth, investigate other social media outlets. Or just take a long break from Facebook. I am. And remember, Instagram is wholly owned by Facebook.

None of this will undo what has been done, but it will prevent the same from happening again. What, you still trust Facebook? The company entered into a consent decree to safeguard user data in 2011. Seven years later here we are. They will do this again, and again, until they are regulated or go bankrupt. It’s baked into their profit model.

#Facebook #TheGuradian #AleksandrKogan #dataPrivacy

March 20, 2018

Brown: It Takes Two

Josh Brown—The Reformed Broker:

Lots of people have had their brains turned into mashed potatoes through years of exposure to hyper-partisan cable news and a lack of reading, learning and contact with the world outside of their own immediate friends and family. They don’t buy books, they don’t travel, they have very homogenous life experiences, they revere the past and fear the future and consistently make poor choices for themselves.

And then a data analytics company scrapes at the outer layer of what they post about themselves online and pushes their emotional buttons on a key topic or two. The rest takes care of itself. We have a legion of zombies in this country who refuse to accept that they’ve been conned. Partly, the con is their own fault – similar to many of the supposedly sophisticated investors who bought into Madoff’s flawless investing prowess or the Jobsian aura of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos.

This sounds an awful lot like a group of people we know. The sunk cost fallacy is, ultimately, a fallacy. You can bail on this degradation of our culture, our country, and its jackass president any time now.

#Trump #JoshBrown #ReformedBroker

March 15, 2018

Mueller Subpoenas Trump Organization

Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman—The New York Times:

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents, including some related to Russia, according to two people briefed on the matter. It is the first known instance of the special counsel demanding documents directly related to President Trump’s businesses, bringing the investigation closer to the president.

Mueller has hopscotched his way from lackeys to the top man’s businesses, collecting evidence, indictments, and guilty pleas along the way. Every step provided reason for the next. By the time this lands in Donny’s lap the facts of the case will be undeniable.

Hopefully by then we’ll have a House of Representatives controlled by the opposition party, which might actually do something about it.

#Trump #Mueller #specialCounsel #impeachableOffenses

March 5, 2018

Special counsel wants documents on Trump

Katy Tur and Alex Johnson—NBC News:

The grand jury investigating alleged collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has sent a witness a subpoena seeking all documents involving the president and a host of his closest advisers, according to a copy of the subpoena reviewed by NBC News.

According to the subpoena, which was sent to a witness by special counsel Robert Mueller, investigators want emails, text messages, work papers, telephone logs and other documents going back to Nov. 1, 2015, 4½ months after Trump launched his campaign.

Getting closer, Donny. Can you hear the footsteps yet? They’re coming for you.

#specialCounsel #investigation #president #Russia #election #Trump

∴ Roger Deakins wins an Oscar for 'Blade Runner 2049' photography

If you loved the photography of Blade Runner 2049, you can thank Roger Deakins who won an Academy Award for it. This was his fourteenth nomination, but his first win.

Have a look at what won him the Oscar this year. Gorgeous.

#RogerDeakins #cinematographer #AcademyAward #BladeRunner2049

February 28, 2018

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Why I'm Writing Captain America

Ta-Nehisi Coates—The Atlantic:

Two years ago I began taking up the childhood dream of writing comics. To say it is more difficult than it looks is to commit oneself to criminal understatement. Writers don’t write comics so much as they draw them with words. Everything has to be shown, a fact I knew going into the work, but could not truly know until I had actually done it. For two years I’ve lived in the world of Wakanda, writing the title Black Panther. I’ll continue working in that world. This summer, I’m entering a new one—the world of Captain America.

Captain America #1 drops on the Fourth [of] July. Excelsior, family.

What a huge development for comics fans and fans of Ta-Nehisi Coates. His work on the Black Panther books has been (comic-)world changing. His writing in The Atlantic has been mind-expanding. I expect his Captain America to be nothing less.

#CaptainAmerica #BlackPanther #Ta-NehisiCoates

February 26, 2018

Salon: 8 ridiculous NRA defenses of the AR-15

Timothy Johnson—Salon.com:

In the wake of yet another massacre carried out with an AR-15 assault weapon, here are eight ridiculous defenses of the murder machine from the National Rifle Association (NRA), a major recipient of donations from assault weapons makers

 

These people and their like have lost their collective minds. “Banning assault weapons is like racial discrimination. Really. Preventing the sale of military-grade weapons to civilians is akin to four-hundred years of slavery, racial oppression, impoverishment, and mass incarceration? Are you nucking futs?

Read through these eight to see if anything, even one thing rings true. Do you fear a coalition marching people into extermination camps? Does anyone other than the truly unhinged fear this? Does anyone other than the paid lackey speak out about it?

 

#NRA #gunViolence #AR15

February 25, 2018

∴ The Afrofuturism behind ‘Black Panther’

Brent Staples—The New York Times:

The cultural critic Mark Dery galvanized a generation of artists and intellectuals when he argued during the 1990s that African-Americans whose histories had been obscured by slavery and racism were in danger of being written out of the future as well — unless they engaged the areas of art, literature and technology through which that future was being envisioned.

Mr. Dery coined the term “Afrofuturism” to describe the work of artists who used the tools of science fiction to imagine possible futures.

The genre of Black Panther, among other properties and arts, was unknown to me until the film debuted and I began reading the word “Afrofuturism.” ‘What is this?’ I thought and later realized what a rich field of work could inhabit the genre. Imagine an Africa uncolonized and untouched by the slave trade. Even without the incredible superhero-like resources and technologies of the comic, the mind boggles at the possibilities.

Would Africa have developed similarly to South America? South Asia? Something world history hasn’t seen? We can never know. Afrofuturism is akin to gaming out a battle or a war by changing one decisive event—the act or the death of a general, the introduction of a new weapon, say—and second-guessing succeeding events and outcomes in light of that change. Wakanda is an extreme example of playing “what if,” but as the film and the comic portray we would certainly live in a very different world.

England would never have known the profit enjoyed from the slave trade. America would never have known rapid economic expansion, and then the ethnic and racial violence and strife of the twentieth and 21st centuries. Black and brown Africans would never have known genocidal disaster and their descendants would not have known marginalization in a distant, white-majority country.

What would all of our histories look like in retrospect? The mind boggles.

#BlackPanther #Afrofuturism #Marvel

February 24, 2018

Annihilation is a gorgeous movie that went terribly wrong

Annalee Newitz—Ars Technica:

Annihilation desperately wants to be about the fragility of human identity and the existential dread of the unknown. Unfortunately, it’s just a movie about scientists being stalked by magical DNA bears and tripping out about how love is, like, super hard. And that’s before the silver body paint and interpretive dancing. I wish I were kidding. Garland strains to make something like the original Solaris, with its bizarre exploration of alien and human consciousness, but he’s lost his way.

I’m sensing a trend in these reviews. You?

#Annihilation #scifi #NebulaAwardWinner

'Annihilation' Review: A beautiful heap of nonsense

Christopher Orr—The Atlantic:

Ambiguity is not necessarily a bad thing in a motion picture. But Annihilation, the director Alex Garland’s adaptation of the first novel of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, is so resolutely vague, so eager to confound, that its ambiguity becomes itself ambiguous.

Or, as the subheadline states it:

The director Alex Garland’s followup to his debut feature Ex Machina is frequently a pleasure to look at, but lacks structure and coherence.

I’ve not yet seen the film, but I read the book shortly after it received the Nebula Award for Best Novel, in 2015. Nebulas are awarded by a majority vote of science fiction authors; this is no popularity contest winner. Of the story, I’d say the subheadline captures its essence well. I finished the book not exactly sure of what I’d just read.

I’ll see the film, if only for Natalie Portman’s portrayal of an emotionally and intellectually tortured character in an alien-on-Earth landscape. I expect to emerge puzzled.

#Annihilation #scifi #NebulaAwardWinner

Ryan Coogler, Michael B. Jordan, and Ta-Nehisi Coates are teaming up for a new movie

Danette Chavez—AVClub:

Time and again, Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler have proved to be a winning duo—the actor and director are currently celebrating the runaway success of Black Panther, the third film they’ve made together. There’s no resting on laurels here, though, as Variety reports Coogler and Jordan are teaming up once more on the big screen. And this time, they’re bringing Ta-Nehisi Coates with them.

Adding of Ta-Nehisi Coates as the screenwriter should produce a meaningfully consequential result. Coates, a national correspondent to The Atlantic magazine and perhaps the most thoughtful and articulate contemporary writer on ethnicity, race, and America’s broken social contract, is also the current author of the Black Panther comic book series. His script—well executed—should emerge from the screen and swathe the audience in familiar, if uncomfortable sounds and furies; his writing is, ultimately, about all of us.

#Ta-NehisiCoates #RyanCoogler #MichaelBJordan #WrongAnswer

February 23, 2018

Cohen, Two Years Ago: Donald Trump’s Intolerable Cruelty

I posted this article, which resurfaced this morning, to Facebook two years ago. In it Richard Cohen condemned then-candidate Donald Trump for his innate cruelty, obvious bigotry, and general lack of empathy. How prescient it was, and how damning.

All of which leads me to ask those who supported this man, and who continue to do so, how could you? Have you no sense of decency?

(The Washington Post:)

Trump’s other outrages arguably had an element of political calculation to them. The stuff about Mexicans, about immigrants in general, and about Muslims was popular among his supporters. It’s not that I think these insults were disingenuous — the man’s bigotry was evident when he insistently questioned whether Barack Obama was a natural-born American — but they applied to large groups, momentarily unpopular, and no single person either had to bear a stigma or feel the hurt. Trump came closest to showing his innate cruelty with his remark that John McCain, who spent five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, was no hero. Trump has an adolescent’s contempt for the suffering of others.

#Trump #bigotry #intolerance #cruelty #RichardCohen

February 21, 2018

Amazon Is Turning Iain M. Banks' Iconic Culture Books Into a TV Series

James Whitbrook—io9:

Amazon’s been making some major genre plays in its original programming recently, but its latest grab is one of its grandest plans yet: An adaptation of Iain M. Banks’ iconic scifi saga, the Culture Series, starting off with Consider Phlebas.

Banks’ scifi novels, particularly the Culture Series, are some of my favorite stories of the past decade. I discovered Use of Weapons and Player of Games just before he died, so the work is a finite treasure.

I’m not sanguine about anyone making a TV series (or movie) from it. There’s just so little room to exceed what played out in my imagination, and so much room to screw it up.

That’s not to say I won’t give it a shot. I’ll just try not to think about it until it debuts.

(The article refers to Banks’ work as “iconic.” The recovery barges used by Elon Musk’s SpaceX for automated recovery of their space launch system’s first-stage boosters are named for two of the spacecraft in Banks’ stories.)

#iainMBanks #TheCulture #scifi

'Black Panther': Erik Killmonger Is a Profound, Tragic Villain

Adam Serwer—The Atlantic:

Where was Wakanda? Wakanda failed. Killmonger was right. He is blinded by his pain to the evil of his own methods, but he is correct that Wakanda abandoned its responsibility to use its unmatched power to protect black people around the world. They could have stopped the endless march of souls into The Void. They did not.

Terrific deep dive into Black Panther’s internal politics by Adam Serwer. I’m still not convinced of the wisdom of laying blame for centuries of black African subjugation at the feet of an African kingdom, even a fictional one, but the story was powerful despite this jarring detail and well dissected by Serwer.

If you liked the film for more than its spectacle, you’ll enjoy this read.

#BlackPanther #Killmonger #Wakanda #T’Challa