Sunday, July 31, 2016

Willful and Persistent Ignorance





The christian church has long taught that there is no such thing as an unforgivable sin. I suspect whoever it was who handed down that doctrine never had to deal with the ignorance of anyone willfully and persistently ignorant like Mr. Trump or with his disciples. He is indeed a prideful son of a bitch.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Kiwi a Cosmic Joke

    
If ever there was a cosmic joke it was the creation of the kiwi bird. The kiwi is native to New Zealand and exists no where else in the world. It is functionally blind and it is nocturnal. It has no wings and it can not fly. The hens of the species ovulate once a year and the resultant egg is sometimes 40-50 percent of the body-weight of the hen. If any creature was designed not to survive in our terrarium it is the kiwi.
      The only thing the bird has going for it is that it has no natural enemies. At least it didn’t until the arrival of the British. The Brits brought their pigs with them and introduced porkers to New Zealand. Pigs are an ornery lot and lots of them escaped or were just turned loose. The pigs thought the kiwis tasted just fine and kiwis were suddenly on the diet of the pigs. The pigs taught the Brits that kiwis were indeed yummy. The population of kiwis dropped from the millions down to fewer than ten thousand in less than a century.
      I visited New Zealand a number of years ago and during that trip I went to a facility that cares for kiwis. Most of the remaining birds live in captivity. They had periodic kiwi shows. We were ushered into a large dark room with its walls painted black. There were benches in front of a large terrarium. The enclosure was lighted to resemble a moon lit night. No cameras were permitted and visitors were required to sit soundlessly on the benches watching and waiting. Finally we were rewarded by seeing a lumbering small chicken sized creature pecking around on the ground whatever they feed them. It was reddish in color. It didn’t sing or dance or do tricks. It just went and pecked at the ground and then went and hid. It was pretty boring.
      As a matter of full disclosure I have wondered many times since what one of those birds would taste like...and what kiwl-made wine would go with roasted kiwi. Finding out would probably provoke an international incident.

On Peaches and Eggs

An artist friend and neighbor stopped by a day or so ago.. He has both a peach tree and a mess of critters called chickens. They lay eggs pretty much one a day per hen almost like clock work. It apparently is one of the few things hens do, eat, poop and lay eggs. His peach tree is pretty amazing. It produces peaches and oxygen. The tree doesn’t appear to eat anything and it pretty much doesn’t poop. It isn’t quite as prolific as his hens but the peaches he brought by were really good and sweet. Well one of them was. The other two are being carefully cared for so they can be a later joy. Anyone growing up in California has to know the joy of summer time California peaches and the absolute joy of fresh peach pie on a summer eve sitting on the porch listening to frogs and crickets and nighttime song birds.. Try it. I think you will like it.
The peaches reminded me of a John Prine tune Spanish Pipedream

We blew up our TV threw away our paper
Went to the country, built us a home
Had a lot of children, fed 'em on peaches
.”

  I started thinking about chickens and eggs. Yes I do have a lot of time on my hands. It occurs to me that from what I can gather the average hen (whatever average means) lays one egg each day until the bird croaks. Occasionally chickens will get broody and stop laying for a few days but basically it’s one a day per hen forever. If you have a little land you can build a henhouse for a couple of hens, say ten thousand or so. Over a week’s time you are going to have a whole bunch of eggs. What if you have a million hens laying eggs? In that event you are quite simply a big egg farmer and all is automated even your government subsidy is direct deposited into you bank account.

   
      When a chicken builds an egg the last thing it builds is the shell. During this process what becomes the shell is coated with some kind hen body-fluid. This fluid hardens around the shell and seals it from outside intruders such as pathogens. Remember the egg inside the shell is pretty much sterile. There really is no need to refrigerate a chicken egg if the coating is intact. Commercial egg farmers wash the eggs to remove the coating and bleach them so they are white (subliminal association: white = clean and pure) Because of the resultant porousness of the shell the egg now has to be kept refrigerated.
      What this quick guide to being an egg farmer really brings to mind is the degree of control over the “free market” that can be exercised by the egg farmers by manipulating the flow of eggs to the retail markets. The retailer has to move his newly perishable egg inventory while the egg farmer can sit on his stock of non perishable eggs. That gives the farmer more economic power than I care to see.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Along the Banks of the Cayahoga

Well it’s the month of July in the quadrennial leap year again and that means old white men and their obedient blue-haired mates in tennis shoes are gathering along the banks of the Cayahoga River to select their candidate for president to lead us into the 17th century once again.
You remember the Cayahoga River. It caught fire in 1969 from the pollutants and industrial waste it was carrying off to Lake Erie. Nothing but scum lived in the Cayahoga River. That fire on that river was one the major reasons the Congress and Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. People demanded it and the Congress complied. The river now supports a healthy eco-system thanks to the EPA
Now that the fire has been put out and only places like Flint Michigan have flammable domestic water systems the GOP can see no reason not to terminate the EPA. It gets in the way of what the one percent want to do. I can understand their reasoning: if it works get rid of it. Once it’s gone they can show what a lousy failure the remaining government agencies are. Soon you will be able to drown government in Donald’s gilded bathtub.
Speaking of Donald he has spent the weekend deciding things like the name of his veep and then getting his panties all a twist when he had buyers’ remorse and started making calls to his advisers. That was leaked to us. At about the same the campaign introduced his new TP logo and then, forgetting that the internet is forever, tried to scrub it from the internet. Finally there was the Leslie Stahl interview. What says “let them eat cake” more eloquently than two old white guys sitting on a pair of faux gilded Louis XIV chairs telling the world how they are going to “make America great again”? The comedy channel would do well to consider gavel to gavel coverage of the convention.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Ginsburg vs Trump

A massive explosion has torn across the political landscape. Flash flood warnings are posted. Surfers have been recalled from the surf because of tsunami warnings. Red flags are everywhere. Old Glory is permanently at half mast. Schools are on lock down and defensively we are at DefCon 3.
Notorious RBG has spoken aloud about Donald Trump and his qualifications to be president of the United States. She called the Donald a fake. She wasn’t clever about it. She didn’t use a euphemism for the word. She didn’t write in magnificent prose. She was plain spoken and actually used the word. She called him a fake. Donald was butt hurt. Donald newly proclaimed a fake by Justice Ginsburg was righteously angry and with his mane flying immediately and painfully sent off a “You’re Fired” tweet, a demand for her resignation. Donald’s choir tiaraed regally under memed baseball caps took up the refrain and also called for her immediate resignation from SCOTUS. The cacophony was deafening.
This entire affair is a nonsensical tempest in a tea pot and has been exaggerated beyond all rational inquiry and belief. The noises you have heard from pundits both qualified and unqualified alike are just the sounds made by any bovine when producing what Virgil would call cacas tauri. The whole thing stinks to high heaven.

Justice Ginsburg is an American citizen exercising her constitutional rights in America’s favorite season, a presidential election year. She’s also a member of America’s court of last resort but she doesn’t forfeit her own civil rights to sit on that court. She is supposed to be impartial not about political candidates (remember Bush vs Gore) but about the matters presented to her for decision until called upon to decide the matter presented. If judges were required to be totally impartial throughout a case then nothing would ever be decided.
As far as I know Trump has nothing pending before her so there is nothing for her to be impartial about. Until that changes he has no cause for complaint against her. He’s just another old white guy trying to continue to run things and pull levers for his own benefit.
This is such a silly season.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Brazilian Style Rice

I love this rice. It is tasty and it is reasonably quick to make and it makes me feel artistic when I make it (which I do often) and on top of those virtues it is almost fool proof. I’m qualified to say this because I am a fool and I have never ever been able to cook a satisfying dish of Uncle Ben’s Instant Rice. It is a grave disappointment to me, always and without fail. I don’t even try anymore.
For this adventure you will need some Basmati or Jasmine white rice, a one quart or larger sauce pan with tight-fitting top, less than a teaspoon of olive oil, a small strainer and water in a 2:1 ratio. Always 2:1.
Put olive oil in saucepan over lowest setting on your stove. Swirl it to cover. Pour given amount of rice into strainer and rinse with cold water. Let it drain and while it is draining return to the sauce pan and test the temperature of the olive oil. Test it by flicking a few drops of cold water into the center of the saucepan. If it sizzles and gases off the oil is at the right temperature. Immediately grab your draining strainer give it one more shake (you guys will understand) and dump it into the pan and stir. Stir it lightly (this isn’t waffle batter) and when the rice has been coated with the oil and become shiny it will suddenly brighten. At this point add your water in the prescribed 2:1 ratio. Stir it a bit and bring the mixture to a boil uncovered. When it boils, cover it and turn down the heat to the lowest setting on your stove. Do something else for fifteen minutes. When you return turn off the heat and give the rice a stir. It will be lumpy and sticky. That is just part of the process so don’t sweat that. Cover it back up and do something else for five minutes. When you return you will have a pan full of the most delectable nutty-tasting rice. Gone are the lumps and the stickiness. Enjoy! Don’t waste money on a rice cooker. They cause the user to engage in mindless non-artistic pursuits and they transfer money out of our economy.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Anyone Order a Bomb?

      Thursday ’s lawful and peaceful #blacklivesmatter demonstration in Dallas marked a technical ‘advance’ in policing of lawful peaceful demonstrations. After watching this from my safe perch in the Santa Ana Mountains I am not sure we want to continue on this path in the use of violence. I am bothered by the use of the robot-delivered bomb by DPD to end the violence. I certainly believe that the shooter certainly did a terrible deed many times over and he really have been prosecuted.. I just wonder about the method used to bring him to heel. I am not dismayed that the guy is dead. I wish he had survived so he could be tried for the crimes the government would have alleged against him had he survived. I would not have been upset if he had been killed by a sniper with what is essentially a hunting rifle. Given what the shooter was up to i.e. killing people, pitting sniper against sniper seems a reasonably tailored use of deadly force to end the ongoing situation.

      But the means of delivery of deadly force was quite unusual. Essentially the government built an IED an Improvised Explosive Device. They called Amazon and had it delivered by drone to the intended target. Well it really wasn’t a drone because it was land based and as far as I know Amazon wasn’t involved. But that doesn’t change the fact that they sent the fellow the bomb via a robot. People in Dallas were terrified and I don’t blame them. I don’t live in Dallas so I wasn’t terrified per se. To me the massacre was “another one just like the other one.” The other one having occurred only days before. There is a pattern emerging, gun violence is happening on a weekly basis. More people are getting guns and more people are dying. Is that connection so hard for us to make and understand? Okay let’s put that issue aside and let me try to explain why and on what levels the use of the robot bothers me.

      Let me state initially that I am a science fiction buff. So when I heard that they used a robot to deliver the bomb my ears stood up in coyote fashion. Robots were the cool thing of science fiction. The genre deals with weighty issues. One of the early and oft repeated issues getting the attention of scfi authors was the then infant science of robotics. Scifi’s fascination with robotics finally culminated in the perfect android, Lt Cdr Data of the StarTrek franchise. Along the way scifi authors created a code of conduct that bound that nascent science and the robots it created. The problem the roboticists was basically how do you prevent something smarter and stronger than you from taking over the society and even exterminating or enslaving that society?. The solution that developed in the literature pretty much said robots had to do what their human masters told them. This was subject to the overriding rule that no robot could ever cause harm to a human being under any circumstances whatsoever. This was the prime directive of robotics.
      The use of the robot-delivered bomb in Dallas certainly violated that prime directive that the robot must never harm a human being. When it did what it was told to do, deliver the bomb it killed the shooter pretty much by splattering him up against wall. That was certainly a violent act. I don’t think there can be much serious argument about that. That’s what IEDs do. Perhaps that’s the issue I am dealing with. The technology of robotics has developed to the point that it is no longer necessary to kill the malefactor with a rifle or a robot. Just recently I read a note about a similar robot being used to deliver sleepy time gases to a fellow barricading himself. He was gassed with the robot, he went sleepy time and was captured. Well now that seems like a good outcome to me. We get to put the alleged malefactor on trial to see if we can punish him. We could let his guilt be decided by the conscience of the community a petit jury. Speaking as a lawyer that is the preferred outcome of these things.

      It’s been reported that the Dallas PD obtained the robot from the US defense department under a program through which surplus or outmoded military physical assets are released on favorable terms to local law enforcement. That program is a major factor in the increased militarization of local law enforcement agencies. Militarization of local law enforcement is a big issue in large metropolitan areas such as Dallas. Law enforcement in that context acts like an occupying army in those cities which have had their police departments militarized. The government assures us the robot was not intended to be an anti-personnel asset. Somehow that assurance isn’t very comforting to me or I think to the people of Dallas or any large city.
 
      Now this morning the malefactor is dead and the area sanitized so that no one will remember any of this in the coming weeks or months until we are visited by another malefactor. We have to decide what to do about all this before it is too late. There are those who offer “thoughts and prayers” which of course do nothing to solve the problem of violence and America’s first choice to remedy violence. Something else that does nothing except create more violence are the ridiculously insane calls for more guns. More guns as we have seen means more death and destruction. It is time to deal with this nonsense and put it to rest.