Sunday, August 20, 2017

against killer robots ... lol

No artificial intelligence weapons? Don't hold your breath.
Some of the world’s leading robotics and artificial intelligence pioneers are calling on the United Nations to ban the development and use of killer robots.
Tesla’s Elon Musk and Google’s Mustafa Suleyman are leading a group of 116 specialists from across 26 countries who are calling for the ban on autonomous weapons....
In their letter, the founders warn the review conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons that this arms race threatens to usher in the “third revolution in warfare” after gunpowder and nuclear arms.
The founders wrote: “Once developed, lethal autonomous weapons will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.
Too late, guys.

strong man contest

Well, the Strong Man competition in Vaasa, Finland, appears to be over and Rich, my daughter Olivia's husband, came in sixth ... out of 14 as I understand it. Hooooot Shit!


Rich is enormous... as in fills-up-a-doorway ... until you create a context ... as for example, below (Rich is second from left)








third world America

In these grausame, dwindling times in my country, there are two quick descriptions that strike me as summing things up without too much head-scratching:

1. There was a Somali intelligence office who once observed in a TV interview that the piracy practiced off his country's shores amounted to, "If you do not share your wealth with us, we will share our poverty with you."

2. In the 17th century, the Baron LaRochefoucauld observed that "the intelligence of the group is inversely proportionate to its number." [Just because a lot of people agree does not mean what they agree on is necessarily true.] 

It is between these two observations that everyone needs to seek out a balance. Not a perfection, but a balance for which individuals -- and specifically, this individual -- might take responsibility. 

PS. LaRochefoucauld also wrote, "We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves."

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Aussie women take up the reins

There is a shake-up going on in the North Australian cattle industry, with the masculine image of cowboys and stockmen fast being replaced by young ambitious and talented women.
Both of Australia's largest cattle companies, Australian Agricultural Company and Consolidated Pastoral Company, have seen women applying for more than half of the stock camp positions in the last two years.
Emily Bryant is in charge of about a dozen staff and 27,000 head of cattle on Auvergne Station in the Northern Territory.
At just 29, she is paving new ground as the first ever female station manager for a corporate company in Australia.
I guess I like this because it seems to be not so much what anyone says ... it's what the DO.

ghostwriter predicts Trump will quit

Passed along in email:
The ghostwriter of Donald Trump's famous memoir The Art of the Deal doubled down on his prediction that Trump will resign the presidency before the end of the year."The snowball is beginning to gather momentum as it comes down the mountain," Tony Schwartz told Anderson Cooper on CNN Thursday. "It reminds me a lot of Watergate and the last days of Nixon... He's put himself in an isolated, no-win position. The level of his destructiveness is staggering."
However self-serving and ill-researched the statement may be, still the sense of relief I felt when reading this was whelming, at a minimum. What a nightmare the country has been living through. It goes on and on and on and on as the president deflects all cautions and turns the spotlight unerringly back on himself, his world, his thoughts, his conclusions.

And then, as quickly as the sense of relief descended, opiod-like in its wonder, the questions popped up no less insistently in my mind: If Trump did bow out, what would it be like to try to clean up all the detritus in his wake? A 16-year-war, jobless people still jobless, medical care in the balance, a balanced budget on the firing line, fat cats who are not really as fat as they wanted to be, no wall on the Mexican border as promised, education officials hoping to tear down education, coal miners still without the jobs Trump promised them, racism ... it goes on and on and on and in six months, with Congress in the Republican back pocket (a majority), not a single piece of legislation has been passed and there is no stated policy on anything.

It's probably just a wet dream -- that Trump will leave -- but, but, but .... enough with the nightmare, already!

Friday, August 18, 2017

stone-skipper extraordinaire

Charlotte Greenway does not necessarily look like a top sportswoman as she limbers up by Windermere in her distinctive Jackie O sunglasses. But the 32-year-old is a rising star in the traditionally male-dominated pursuit of stone skimming.
The winner of the British women’s stone skimming championships in Shropshire is preparing for another competition – the all-England stone skimming championships at Fell Foot on Windermere’s southern tip.
The champ wannabe who was diffidently praised by one male as "not throwing like a girl," is still a bit miffed that she is forced to compete with the boys.

Trump's promises, Trump's delivery


America, when viewed through the bars on Blodgett's windows, looks a lot less great than it used to be. So she answered Donald Trump's call to the country's forgotten corners. Thousands of her neighbors did, too, and her county, once among the most reliably Democratic in the nation, swung Republican in a presidential election for the first time in 90 years.
"People were like, 'This guy's going to be it. He's going to change everything, make it better again,'" she says....
[These days] His administration's failed plans to remake the health care system may or may not cost millions their coverage, and there's a lack of clarity over how exactly he intends to eradicate a spiraling drug crisis that now claims 142 American lives each day - a growing number of them here, in Grays Harbor County.

"Has he done anything good yet?" she asks. "Has he?"
It's just so damned sad.

between piss and shit

Between piss and shit,
As the Bible says,
The Lord God Almighty,
Mightiest among the mighty,
Emerged me into this world.

He emerged me,
Do you hear,
Between piss and shit,
With neither blessing
Nor blasphemy attending.

And since the mightiest
Among the mighty,
Saw fit to emerge me
In his wisdom, so
I found little fit to add.

Belief or disbelief
Did not issue between
Shit and piss but only
This blooded blob, in all its well-planned
Glory ... it was enough.

What impudence or arrogance
I learned and broadcast
Came later -- only after
I had left the folds
Between piss and shit.

Who would I be to
Forsake the mightiest of the mighty?
To forswear by praise or blame
The wisdom already bestowed
Where I was so gloriously emerged?

Guardian photos





teen hits TWO holes in one...

An Armagh teenager has scored an amazing two holes-in-one in the same round of golf.
Joe Rooney, 16, managed the exceptionally rare feat at a tournament at County Armagh Golf Club on Tuesday.
The odds of an amateur golfer hitting two holes-in-one in the same round are a staggering 67 million to one.

in memoriam Charlottesville, Va.

In the wake of the rioting in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend, all sorts of head-scratchers have sounded off on racism and the role Confederate statues (Robert E. Lee in this case) have played. A friend sent along this Saturday Night Live commentary by Tina Fey:

Strange how the comedians hold more sway in my mind than the more oratorious (if that's a word).


On the other hand, I hope no one will forget to bitchslap the next demi-tasse intellect who quotes George Santayana's "those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it" when all of history teaches that "those who do learn from the past repeat it anyway."

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

wars past and future

-- Returning a flag:



-- Passed along in email: Soldiers resort to rocks instead of bullets in Kashmir.

-- Vietnam vet reassured that his duty is done.

-- Also passed along in email, this suggestion about what to do with Donald Trump.

-- The HMS Queen Elizabeth, newest and largest of Great Britain's warships and costing over 3 billion pounds, inspires awe and perhaps the question of whose flags might be returned as time passes.
 

off to foreign realms

At the risk of being pistol-whipped by the Sexist Police, I have to admit I felt what I can only describe as a sense of girlish giddiness this morning when, at 7:30, I got a call from my daughter who was in ... wait for it ... Stockholm, Sweden. Woo-hoo! Stockholm! Woo-hoo -- another country! One of my lifelong senses of coming up short as a parent has been a longing to see all of my children visit foreign countries ... any foreign country. I simply didn't have the money to send them. And here was my daughter Olivia calling from Stockholm. Hot damn!

I can hear my globe-trotting buddy Barney ho-humming that "all people are pretty much the same..." but... well ... color me giddy anyway!

My daughter was first in offspring line to make me remember, "Be careful what you pray for, you may just get it." First she visited a friend in Australia. Then she got married in Fiji. And now she was in Stockholm en route to Finland where her husband, Rich, will compete in a Strong Man contest -- one of those events where enormous men carry enormous weights from here to there. Why? Well, why not?

But the weekend just past had other whispers of travel and education and loss. My older son, Angus, flew south to Georgia to check out a job at a track camp. Track enthusiasts, I learn in the midst of this, tend to train in the south because the weather is warm ... or rather HOT, I should say. Temperatures while my son visited were in the 90's (90 F = 32+ C).

The South is another realm -- yes I can hear the Geography Police. It is a place where people often judge each other by which church they attend. I warned my son to take this seriously. And then it occurred to me that if anyone pressed him, he might say that when, by God's grace, he was born, God did not see fit to bless him with beliefs or convictions of any sort and that the notion of improving on what God provided struck him as impudent and possibly arrogant ... and that therefore he did not yet attend any church.

Angus is back now, looking a bit frazzled after his whirlwind weekend and viewing the job potential (bottom line) as, "will I ever be able to forgive myself if I don't take it?" It pays poorly thanks to the student debt the United States has seen fit to impose. The camp does things like train people for the Olympics and the boss said he might consider taking Angus with him to Tokyo in 2020. I keep forgetting that there is a homesickness quotient to be tallied for him at 26 as I tallied it in the fourth grade. And I forget that if he leaves, I will miss him, as will his mother ... and still I want him to spread his wings in a foreign land.

And all this time, Ives, my younger son, is stationed with the National Guard in Sinai where, like Georgia, it's hot and he hates it (is there anyone in uniform who feels differently?) and wishes, perhaps, he were somewhere that the bullets flew -- which is the precise opposite of what the old man wishes. Instead, he is on a United Nations guard detail which sounds about as interesting as watching paint dry.

So .... my children, in foreign climes, and the world is wide and round and my children are getting to see some of it ... and get their leashes yanked a little .... time passes.

I wish them all bon voyage and can't help wishing they were home.

Go figure.


where your job went in a 'perfect' world

MORIYA, Japan (AP) -- Thousands upon thousands of cans are filled with beer, capped and washed, wrapped into six-packs, and boxed at dizzying speeds - 1,500 a minute, to be exact - on humming conveyor belts that zip and wind in a sprawling factory near Tokyo.
Nary a soul is in sight in this picture-perfect image of Japanese automation.
The machines do all the heavy lifting at this plant run by Asahi Breweries, Japan's top brewer. The human job is to make sure the machines do the work right, and to check on the quality the sensors are monitoring.
"Basically, nothing goes wrong. The lines are up and running 96 percent," said Shinichi Uno, a manager at the plant. "Although machines make things, human beings oversee the machines."
The debate over machines snatching jobs from people is muted in Japan....

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

variations in Charlottesville, Va., rally

Christian Yingling
The men in charge of the 32 militia members who came to Charlottesville from six states to form a unit with the mission of “defending free speech” were Christian Yingling, the commanding officer of the Pennsylvania Light Foot Militia, and his “second in command” on the day, George Curbelo, the commanding officer of the New York Light Foot Militia.
“We spoke to the Charlottesville police department beforehand and offered to come down there and help with security,” Yingling told the Guardian.
Donald Trump has been roundly criticized for his slow-on-the-uptake failure to criticize the far-right constituency of last weekend's Virginia rally. It is interesting to see a news organization that parses the crowd and reports on motives for being there.

jokes in The Guardian

A couple of them that hooked me:

-- Paul Savage: Oregon leads America in both marital infidelity and clinical depression. What a sad state of affairs.

--  Olaf Falafel: If you’re being chased by a pack of taxidermists, do not play dead.

American debt level climbs

It's hard to imagine that those seeking "tax relief" (banks, brokerages, credit card lenders etc.) could be more happy than they are at present, but of course there's no reason not to hope for a dime when you're only getting a nickel:
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Americans' debt level notched another record high in the second quarter, after having earlier in the year surpassed its pre-crisis peak, on the back of modest rises in mortgage, auto and credit card debt, where delinquencies jumped.
Total U.S. household debt was $12.84 trillion in the three months to June, up $552 billion from a year ago, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of New York report published on Tuesday.
The proportion of overall debt that was delinquent, at 4.8 percent, was on par with the previous quarter. However a red flag was raised over the transitions of credit card balances into delinquency, which the New York Fed said "ticked up notably."
Loosening lending standards have allowed borrowers with lower credit scores to access credit cards, Andrew Haughwout, an in-house economist, said in the report.

ha-ha-ha-ha-ha in the Netherlands

Wholesalers in the Netherlands say that in the past two years there has been a 400% rise in sales of nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas.
New companies selling the small bullet-shaped canisters are popping up online, but there are concerns about the risks in taking the increasingly popular legal high. The BBC's Anna Holligan investigates.

Monday, August 14, 2017

the unending war on chewing gum


Each night dozens of trucks carrying 15 people depart from Mexico City’s downtown to Francisco I Madero Avenue, the most famous pedestrian street in the capital. Armed with 90C vapour guns called Terminators, the group begins the laborious task of combing the street looking for small, black circles fastened to the ground.
It takes them three days, working in eight-hour shifts, to go through the 9,000 sq metre avenue. By the end, they have removed a total of 11,000 pieces of chewing gum....
The war on gum is waged in cities worldwide. The Wall Street Journal denounced gum as a “black plague” on New York City almost a decade ago, and cities from Seattle to Singapore have made eradicating it a central part of their urban philosophy.
Imagine what it would be like to extract the thoughts and plans and sorrows and laughter from each colorful bit of chew. What an advertisement for silence, perhaps.

Trump looses campaign ad

He has been in office for seven months, but today the re-election of Donald Trump came to the fore in the shape of a political ad aimed (maybe) at the next presidential season... a first.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump's reelection campaign released its first television advertisement on Sunday, a 30-second spot that attacks Democrats and touts the accomplishments of his first seven months in office.....
Trump filed for reelection the day he took office, an unusual move that has allowed him to begin campaigning long before the November 2020 election. Historically, incumbent presidents have waited two years, until after the midterm elections, to file formally....
The ad says Trump has created jobs and helped the stock market since taking office. ...
"This new campaign ad speaks directly to the American people and sets the record straight, reminding them that President Donald Trump will not stop fighting for them and will not allow anyone to stand in his way to deliver success for them,” campaign manager Michael Glassner said in a statement announcing the ad.  

women communists had more sexual fun

Passed along in email by a friend, came this NYTimes Magazine piece suggesting:
When Americans think of Communism in Eastern Europe, they imagine travel restrictions, bleak landscapes of gray concrete, miserable men and women languishing in long lines to shop in empty markets and security services snooping on the private lives of citizens. While much of this was true, our collective stereotype of Communist life does not tell the whole story.
Some might remember that Eastern bloc women enjoyed many rights and privileges unknown in liberal democracies at the time, including major state investments in their education and training, their full incorporation into the labor force, generous maternity leave allowances and guaranteed free child care. But there’s one advantage that has received little attention: Women under Communism enjoyed more sexual pleasure.
How logically woven the piece is, I don't know ... but it's fun

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Donald Trump clone

I can't figure out how to make the sound work, but the idea is irresistible in my juvenile little mind.

Of course, the obscene little man (and I don't mean Urkel/Jaleel White) would never have the courage to ask....

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Moscow feasts on Venezuelan carcass

CARACAS/HOUSTON (Reuters) - Venezuela’s unraveling socialist government is increasingly turning to ally Russia for the cash and credit it needs to survive – and offering prized state-owned oil assets in return, sources familiar with the negotiations told Reuters.
As Caracas struggles to contain an economic meltdown and violent street protests, Moscow is using its position as Venezuela’s lender of last resort to gain more control over the OPEC nation’s crude reserves, the largest in the world.
Can I keep it all straight? Nope. But it sounds about right ... follow the money and marvel at U.S. ...err... diplomacy.

the apple of my eye

Last night, I got somehow lassoed by the TV into watching a romantic comedy called "Love is All You Need." I suppose it could be called a chick flick -- touching but with smiles. I am increasingly drawn to such gentle fantasies and this one had a complexity to family connections that kept me watching, kept drawing me in. If it was sappy, I am increasingly a sap and was touched in some deep ways.

A kind of meandering sorrow overtook me even as I knew the movie would end on a happy note. "Knowing is not the same as knowing," the sorrow whispered. And what did I wish for so silently and know that I did not know? I wished that I might, in my lifetime, have been the apple of someone's eye and lived in that sweetness, trusting and safe. But I was not brought up to believe it was possible I might be the apple of someone's eye -- I was not worthy of such affection and so, even if I had been the apple of someone's eye, I had not grown up being capable of accepting such a designation. It was a conundrum whose meandering sorrow extended from root to branch.

My parents were not raised up to be the apple of anyone's eye, I was not raised up to be the apple of anyone's eye and, being trained as I was, I was not capable of making anyone the apple of my eye. How I must have short-changed my family and friends and .... it was a meandering sorrow. I am sorry, but at this late date it is a bit like being sorry I did not have a sixth finger or a third eye: Done is done and the best I can do is pray that too much harm was not done ... to wife, to children, to kith and kin.

The movie sucked me in and warmed me to the extent that I could be sad.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

two birds with one stone?

                             IMPEACH 
                         D. TRUMP-UN!

upscale hovel

No cooking in the kitchen....
Responses in Amsterdam, where property prices have been rocketing due to a crippling housing shortage, have ranged from astonished indignation to wry resignation.
An estate agent has been caught offering for rent a 35 sq metre apartment, boasting its own “private kitchen”, for €1,100 (£995) a month (or €1,000 not including bills).
Just a couple of catches, however: cooking is strictly prohibited and no more than two people are allowed into the flat at any one time.

sonic attack?


WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Canadian government said Thursday that at least one Canadian diplomat in Cuba also has been treated for hearing loss following disclosures that a group of American diplomats in Havana suffered severe hearing loss that U.S. officials believe was caused by anadvanced sonic device....
In the fall of 2016, a series of U.S. diplomats began suffering unexplained losses of hearing, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation into the case. Several of the diplomats were recent arrivals at the embassy, which reopened in 2015 as part of President Barack Obama's reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Some of the U.S. diplomats' symptoms were so severe that they were forced to cancel their tours early and return to the United States, officials said. After months of investigation, U.S. officials concluded that the diplomats had been attacked with an advanced sonic weapon that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been deployed either inside or outside their residences.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

a nation of cowards

Reading the newswires as I do each morning, I realize that I am sick of being ruled by cowards. By cowards, I do not mean simply the politicians who long for another term and seek out the most expedient way to excite one voter base or another -- who use, for example, "terrorism" as a means of frightening the many while diverting attention from policies that might enrich and lift up others.

A coward is not the one who can espouse a position considered credible and creditable and then stand by that position....

Or...

Admits forthrightly that s/he has had a change of heart and admits that change of heart and shoulders the responsibility.

I am sick of being led by those who squirm and seek out a good name for themselves at all costs while others are left dangling or sick or hungry in their wake. If there was something "I did not mean..." then the one who is not a coward steps up and says more clearly what s/he did mean.

This goes as much for those who object to neighbors flying the Confederate battle flag as it does for the Republicans who had seven years to construct a health care plan that would outshine the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and failed to do it even as the current president promised that the first order of business, when he was elected president, would be to get ride of Obamacare ... and build a wall along the Mexican border, and deliver tax reform and do something about the need for infrastructure repairs that would benefit all Americans.

That policies and principles should fail is not the mark of a coward. The cowards are marked by their unwillingness to concede the loss. It used to be called "character." Character means a willingness to reflect and reconsider the policies espoused.

Is rattling sabers or yet another war an answer to healthcare or poverty or jobs or infrastructure or tax reform?

Donald Trump's disenfranchised voting base is bit by bit becoming the rest of us ... a nation led by and becoming cowards.

Just a little ranting.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

pink rainbow

A rare "pink rainbow" was spotted in the west of England on Monday evening.
The phenomenon, seen in areas including Bristol, Taunton and Yate, has been described as an "optical illusion" by experts.
People photographing it described the view as "amazing" and "so pretty".
PS. Associatively:
 

1% suffer unexpected bite

Residents of an illustrious San Francisco private street where homes sell for millions have had the street itself bought from under them.
Presidio Terrace is now owned by two investors, Tina Lam and Michael Cheng, who snapped up the private road for about $90,000 (£69,039, €76,203).
The street - parking, pathways and all - was sold by the city over a $14-a-year tax which went unpaid for decades.
Wealthy residents say they knew nothing about the sale until it was done.
And here you were busy thinking San Francisco was financially out of reach.