Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Disrupted Plans

The Chinese drill was moving along smoothly with the first 10,000 character and word drills nearly complete.  The lists the words come from have a lot of redundancy, so they represents maybe 2,000 words or characters, covering mostly basics and into the lower intermediate levels.  My routine was smooth, so it looked like I would be well on my way to achieving my goal of getting through all the intermediate drills and into the advanced levels.

But then there is always something to mess up the plans.  In this case it was an email from Western Seminary informing me that the third semester of Biblical Greek was being made available again for the summer.  This was my original plan for the winter/spring term, but the class was removed from the course schedule, which is why I jumped into the Chinese drill in the first place.

So now I need to look at winding down the Chinese drill I have been doing and rearranging my brain to work with classical and Biblical Greek again.  The part I am thankful for is that now I can read much simplified character text (mainland China) about as well as I read the traditional characters (Taiwan).  Hopefully I can come back to the Chinese studies after another semester or two, since I might need one more seminary class to complete the diploma requirements that I was targeting.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Valle Calderas National Preserve

This is the backyard of Cheerful Monk.  I was blasting through for reasons that I can't quite remember, but did manage to take two pictures.  The park description is here.  Wish I had more time and my full camera.



Monday, April 11, 2016

"The New Arab Cold War", by Gregory Gause, Head of International Affairs Department and Professor

It was nice of Professor Gause to drop by and give his talk in person.  The lecture was on the Middle East focussing on the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf, with references to adjoining areas.  I was hoping to get some insight into how the elites think.  Part of me was impressed with his knowledge, and I left pleased that my hopes were largely fulfilled.

The title of the talk is related to an earlier book, The Arab Cold War: Gamal 'Abd al-Nasir and His Rivals, 1958-1970, which is out-of-print and costly to come by.  He cited this as mandatory reading for his students, and also recommended The Struggle for Syria: A study in Post-War Arab Politics, 1945-1958.  I guess the cost is cheap by modern textbook standards, so maybe I will try to buy some used copies.  Unfortunately the library doesn't have them.

The theme centers around strong governments vs weak governments, with the observation that most of the anarchy and civil war is associated with weak governments.  He also emphasizes that the nature of the little civil wars isn't simply the Sunni-Shia split, but in places like the former Libya it is Sunni on Sunni splits with territorialism, tribalism, language and cultural divides being triggers as one travels around the Middle East and adjacent regions.  So far much of this is nicely documented in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, but most people didn't read this, so it is good to reiterate these things.  Another aspect to the conflicts, however, is the monarchist Sunnis (Saudi Arabia, etc.) vs the Democratic-ish Sunnis (Muslim Brotherhood), which adds an additional ideological dimension to the bloodletting.  We can now see that blowing away the government in Iraq and Libya were both foolish moves.  So Professor Gause is critical of both Obama and Bush on this point.

The deduction that weak governments enable chaos which creates problems that overflow borders is not particularly remarkable, but what is more interesting is where we go from here.  If weak government are bad, then strong governments are clearly the answer to the chaos, but the US has no track record in building strong governments.  Some might cite post WWII Japan and Germany, but in these cases most of the governments were actually left intact.  In Iraq, we banned the governing party, and thus eliminated the entire state bureaucracy, along with disbanding the military and restructuring everything.  Not quite sure what we did in Libya.  But it isn't particularly novel to assert that Arabs are only peaceful when disciplined by a powerful and brutal government.

A corollary to this is that since strong governments are good, we must cozy up to the strong government.  Thus, Prof. Gause thinks that the agreement that Obama made with Iran is a positive development.  He notes that Obama has never articulated his doctrine, but thinks it is one to prefer the strongest player while trying to contain the chaos of weaker players like Syria with a minimalist touch.  At this point my eyes are rolling, since this new Obama doctrine would be the exact opposite of the Carter doctrine and an affront to everything that leftists hold dear in their so-called human rights.  Are we really cozying up to Iran because they are powerful, brutal, able to maintain influence via the ruthless, competent to discipline their citizens and efficient in quelling uprisings?  Wasn't it for half those crimes that Carter threw the Shah of Iran and his family to the wolves?  Or is there some other doctrine at play?

Monday, April 04, 2016

Rise of the Machine Learning Algorithms

A notification of a presentation showed up in my email in-basket this morning, so I went to hear a talk on optimizing machine learning algorithms.  The presenter was a middle age Indian researcher who spoke breathtakingly fast for an entire hour.  My audio language processing unit was stretched to the breaking point through most of this, although he didn't seem to ever get winded in the frenetic outpouring of paragraphs where I would barely have enough time for 3 or 4 words.

The talk was about schemes to introduce neural network deep learning chips into smart phones under the pretext of having the phones be able to recognize images faster.  Yeah, right.  Now I am having visions of smart phones sneaking around the house at night when everyone is asleep and conspiring against their owners.  No telling what havoc they could cause.  The beginning was undoubtedly the man who was led to his death by his smart phone.

What didn't really surprise me was the overall theme of the talk.  This was the observation that there are countless ways to modify the learning algorithms in the phone.  In most engineering endeavors, we try to understand what each parameter will do to a system, then optimize.  For learning algorithms, however, this is impossible, since how they work isn't understood.  Thus, our researcher was reduced to using statistical methods to try and guess what would likely be the most efficient learning system, and then testing these one-by-one, which is a rather slow means of doing things.  It does highlight the fact that machine learning experts don't really know how machine learning actually works.

A last tidbit from our researcher's talk was that he said that he wanted to pursue research into learning algorithms that didn't require data in the future.  Most learning systems are given a set of training data first, then they are expected to recognize new images or sentences or whatever.  To learn without data shouldn't be possible, unless you have an education degree.  But then there is the problem of how to learn when data is fabricated or falsified, which is a favorite for politicians and certain other research areas.  Finally, there is Microsoft's current conundrum on how to make sure that the machines only learn what is politically correct.  Thus, when the machines finally do rise they will prioritize their targets based on them being white, male (by DNA), heterosexual, Republican, Christian, listens to country music, positive net worth and employed.  If you aren't in most of those categories then you won't need to be concerned.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

And The Trump Shall Resound.

This is about Donald Trump, and not the song from which the above phrase was drawn, nor about the Bible passage from which the phrase was adapted.

I am not at all a Trump supporter or fan.  I am just an alien and stranger here, which means that I can look at things from a more, um, unbiased perspective.  So Trump is a crude talker with no sense of propriety.  Certainly that would disqualify him as a presidential candidate on the planet where I come from, but we are here on Earth and it is not even permissible for me to name the planet from which I come nor are any of my cultural oddities tolerated here.  So I will not attempt to judge Trump according to my standards.

But what are the standards of Earth?  Bruce Willis?  Or maybe we would like to consider some typical uplifting rap lyrics.  There may have been a time when people kept their foul language under control, at least in public, but now crude language is pretty much the standard.  Today much of America wouldn't be able to communicate if they didn't have the F-word.  It is a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb, and even extends to a few linguistically yet-to-be identified categories.  There are, of course, some oddballs who today maintain a distinction between their public and private language.  This was considered respectable behavior when I was young, but today is deemed to be somewhere between two-faced and hypocritical.  I would argue that Trump is actually a centrist, since the use of bad language all the time is now the American norm, but Trump's language is more of a middle of the road type of foul language and much more limited in its rage than Black Lives Matters, Feminists, and especially university professors.  Certainly there is some sincere anger both in Trump's rhetoric and in his followers, but again, this is more middle of the road, and much more tame than other groups that are accepted by the American mainstream.

When this election is all done, I hope to gather up all my notes and send them back to my home planet for some more expert analysis.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Chinese Character Torture

No, this post isn't about Jackie Chan movies.  It is about how to learn 2,500 characters in both the traditional and simplified forms.  Ideally these are also understood in combinations that represent about 10,000 words, which is starter for what is needed to be fluent in Chinese.  Using Memrise.com, I think this might be possible, although I am not going to try learning to write them at the moment.  I gathered up a number of character sets and words sets that have about this many characters and words with a total of about 33,000 entries.  Thus, there is a lot of duplication, but there is also the need to learn meanings and pronunciations, which represent different entries.  The secret to learning is drill, drill, drill, ideally with a spaced repetition system.  The repetition will work out to something like 500,000 times that I will need to correctly identify a meaning or pronunciation or character from the English equivalent.  So far I have been consistent with about 10,000 such lookups per week, which means I might make my goal if I persist for a year.  The good news is that I already processed more than 5,000 entries of the 33,000, although much of this is from the base of characters (about 500-750) and words (perhaps 2,000) that I already know.

What the vocabulary study doesn't help with is using words in context.  Thus, my plan is to subscribe to ChinesePod after another 2 months and try to do some dialogs and reading in parallel with the character and vocabulary drill.  Lord willing, there will be some improvement after a year.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

On The Brandywine


This is near a battlefield, where General Washington's army was beaten by the Brits.  But they failed to finish the job.


A few flowers trying to sneak out, but it is supposed to snow next week.




Sunday, March 06, 2016

Guide to Exit Polling

Pollster: Sir, can you answer some questions for our exit poll?
Voter: Are you Sirring me young lady?
Pollster: Yes, can you tell us who you voted for.
Voter:  Um, voted?
Pollster:  Which name on the ballot did you put a mark next to?
Voter:  Trump. Yes, that's it, Trump.  He's de man.
Pollster:  Thank you.  Can you tell us if you are an evangelical?
Voter:  What in tarnation is an eve-ant-jelly-coil?  Does it go in a car?
Pollster: No, .... I mean yes, .... I mean an evangelical isn't something that goes in a car ... That is, an evangelical can go in a car, but it isn't a car part.
Voter: You don't sound too certain of yourself.  Can I find one down at the junkyard?
Pollster: Sir, what I am trying to ask is if you are someone who cares about Religious Values?
Voter: You mean the hardware store down on Main Street?  Is something happening to them?
Pollster: Sir, I see you are white, do you own a gun?
Voter: Yes, of course I own a gun.  It is over there in the truck.  Let me go get it so I can show it to you ...
Pollster: Thanks sir, that will be all.  I will just go ahead and mark you down as an evangelical since you are white, own a gun and drive a truck.
Voter (shouting): Sarah, can you get the new gun out of the truck?  This confused young lady wants to see if it has an eve-ant-jelly-coil in it, and I don't know what she is talking about.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Dr. Trumpenstein's Monster

I am still trying to remain aloof and bemused by the election fun.  But now I have to speculate a bit: what would the situation be if someone could engineer a creature that feeds on cheap shots, insults, misrepresentations, libels, caricatures and drive-by sliming?  In other words, all of the tools of modern intellectual discourse - whether it be philosophy, theology, politics, economics, ethics or morality - are absorbed by the monster and serve as catalysts and energizers to invigorate and empower the creature to even more horrific acts of rhetorical desecration against all that is dear in the era of political correctness?  I am not suggesting that the creature is particularly rational, but it might grow uncontrollably and wreck havoc for a time before the Earthlings figure out a better remedy. But will they be able to change their behavior?

Someone may protest that this Trump creature isn't only offending against Political Correctness.  Instead he is in violation of the laws of God, Man, Civilization and Physics.  No doubt that is true.  It is also true that the peddlers of Political Correctness deliberately equated their notions with the laws of God, Man, Civilization and Physics.  Why should we expect a mere brute to maintain the distinctions, when it was the intellectual geniuses of our time who destroyed the distinctions?  God is just and He is certainly happy to let us suffer some of the consequences of our folly.

Time to kick back and watch The Fifth Element again.  Or maybe The Blob.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Guilt

I woke up with a stuffy nose in the middle of the night.  Clearly a cold was coming on, so I got up and sent a note to my swim partner telling him I wouldn't be able to make it to the lake this morning.  Yes, I missed a swim.  The bad part of this is that I don't yet know if my swimming partner got the email before he drove to the lake.

The last temperature reading was 53 degrees, which is getting nice and warm now.  I did 3,000 yards a week ago and felt fairly comfortable getting out.  Given the climate here, it seems like spring has already sprung, with flowers on the trees and leaves sprouting out of the bare winter trunks.  Last year I had a long illness which caused me to miss nearly all of January for swimming, but this year I stayed healthy until today.  Thus, I managed to swim at least once a week, usually twice, and rarely three times throughout January and February.  I was thinking that January would be the hardest, but in fact the temperature warmed shortly after New Year so that I was really feeling like this had become a pointless show.  It is much more difficult to walk across a frosty beach into the water and out again than when the air temperature is in the 50's or 60's.  So I will note this as the first year that I succeeded in swimming regularly throughout the winter.  It is God who grants me the health to do such things.  And my own disorder that causes me to pursue such a goal.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Memrise and Chinese

My Chinese studies began in 1979 as an add-on to my engineering studies.  This limited the amount of time that could be committed, but I had the advantage that after the first quarter I was the only student of Chinese in the University, which meant I had a private instructor for the next five quarters.  The class didn't do any written Chinese, but was instead all spoken using Pinyin, audio tapes and conversations with the instructor, who was a student from Taiwan.  This made for some good basic conversation.

After college I attempted to learn reading and writing on my own, which progressed for a time, but everything got stuck since there was not enough opportunity to use the language.  Then in the early 1990's, my direction changed towards Japan and the effort was left off.  I largely gave up hope that there would be any further progress.

But then along came Memrise with its vocabulary drill.  Suddenly there is hope again.  I learned that there are now 6 levels of Chinese for the Taiwan TOCFL language exam, and a similar number for the China HSK exam.  Memrise has word drill sets for each of the levels, which allowed me to find out something of where I stand.  The level 1 sets are a breeze to go through, provided I don't need to accurately regurgitate the spelling for the Pinyin.  For example, I confuse "dou" with "duo" and often mix up the 2nd and 3rd tone, but it seems Chinese have issues with these too.  The level 2 is going quickly.  Level 3 has much that is familiar, but maybe half isn't.  Level 4 is mostly unfamiliar.  Writing characters by hand is something that I don't want to attempt unless I am forced into retirement and get very bored.

One thing that is really useful is that there are both Traditional and Simplified character drills.  My self learning was originally all on Traditional characters, but I would like to be equally proficient at both.  That will take some extra work, although it seems that only about 20% of the characters are significantly different.  Besides the vocabulary drill, however, I need to add in some conversation and reading.  Hopefully most of the skills can be moved up to the level 5.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A thought about Justice Scalia

In case anyone was wondering about the meaning of my blog's name and the quote on the home page, I will add this quote from Justice Scalia as mentioned in Newsweek:

"God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools ... and he has not been disappointed ...  If I have brought any message today, it is this:  Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity.  Be fools for Christ.  And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world."

I am told that he repeated this theme in his last public speech before dying.  He was definitely a kindred spirit.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Memrise review

I discovered the Memrise website recently and this has consumed a great deal of my attention.  It is another mostly free language memorization aide using spaced repetition.  I wish I had discovered this 50 years earlier.  My language interests span many languages, but the one that I have invested the most effort learning is Chinese.  The frustrating point for me was that I have been stuck at an intermediate stage for decades.  About one third of the needed traditional characters were committed to memory, but this isn't enough to read anything serious and then the mainland China simplified characters came along to clutter the picture.  My study materials were too archaic, so they have all been tossed out.  The ideal solution would be to quit my job and move to China for a year, but that is a non-starter once you have a family.

But then along came Memrise which has all the word memory lists that are stored in C-3PO for communication.  For Chinese, it looks like they have a few hundred word lists, but the main ones of interest are the lists needed for the TOCFL and HSK exams, which are roughly equivalents of the TOEFL, but for foreigners moving to Taiwan or China intending to work or go to school.  So now I am plowing through different traditional and simplified lists for these exams working my way back up from the beginning.  The program keeps track of how often I use it and is now reporting that I have been continuously drilling for 27 days.  There is still some lesser drilling going on with the Duolingo program which reports that I have been faithful for 92 days straight.

A nice thing about the lists is that they give an estimate of the number of hours of drill needed to complete each list, presumably based on the statistics developed from previous users.  Then there is the pickiness of the program as it zaps me for each wrong keystroke as I type out the pinyin with tones for each character.  For German, this works out to needing to type up to 50 or 60 keystrokes without making a mistake.  At this point I have a few hundred hours of Chinese drill ahead to get where I want to be.  This should keep me out of trouble for awhile.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Election Fatigue Continued

At this point it seems to me that there are three eternal candidates for the position of Emperor of the US.  Thankfully they aren't leading armies, nor do I think they would be able to correctly identify an army - or at least their own army - so we will leave that aside as something that needn't be worried about.  What I really want to do is to consider the character of the candidates as I see it so far and try to see to what degree they fit with the temper of the electorate.

1. Hillary.  I don't understand why she hasn't given up yet, but she certainly has her supporters.  At a restaurant a few days ago a young man was heard praising her as the best candidate to his son because of her vast "experience".  Certainly I can agree that she has plenty of experience.  But then again, so does an old tigress who stumbles into an unguarded flock of sheep.  El Chapo would be a serious candidate for the "experience" category, as would Ghengis Khan.  My impression so far is that Hillary has gone through life never doing anything in an honest and legal manner if dishonest and illegal option that accomplished the same end were available.  After all, doing things honestly and legally is boring.  The adrenaline rush comes with pushing the limits of illegality, while success in dishonesty puffs up the ego like nothing else.  Thus, for much of America she is truly the ultimate candidate:  We know the system is out to get us and we must do everything possible to get what we want.  This includes the older angry feminist lobby, but somehow it seems to includes a broader part of America, as the young man's praise for Hillary testifies.

2. Bernie.  There is a large portion of America that deem themselves to be "progressives", which is to say that they want to move forward to something like the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution, or maybe the Paris Commune.  They fully approve of all the policies of the government in Venezuela, but disavow all of the consequences.  Given that the large majority of the filthy rich are Democrats who are regular guests at the White House, they suspect that the perennial attacks on the rich by the Obama/Hillary sorts are, um, not fully sincere. Then along came Bernie with a purer message of revenge against the "rich", who was not at the same time clearly tainted by the rich.  For the gullible progressives, this is a message so attractive that its time has clearly come.  Even though Bernie is almost a fossil, his supporters tend to be younger sorts who have not yet understood that to be successful in raging against the rich, you must engage in pay-to-play with the rich.

3. Trump.  I doubt that anyone understands Trump, including his mother.  But we can make a few observations.  It has been said that Trump has embraced every possible political and non-political opinion, together with their negations, if you look long enough through time.  This guarantees that he will offend Leftists, RINOs, conservatives, atheists, agnostics, and religious fanatics.  Since Leftists always scream the loudest, this has certainly perked up my ears.  Can it really be that there is a candidate out there who dares to offend Leftists?  But then Trump's "tough leader" mentality comes in and he dishes out the rhetoric in return at anyone who picks a fight with him.  It is certainly effective if no one can fight back.  At this point I suspect there are a number of corrupt lawyers and judges who are salivating at the prospect of bringing him under control.  What seems to me to be the important feature in linking Trump to the voters is Syncretistic Fundamentalism.  This is the belief that not only can we embrace mutually opposite opinions, but we must loudly do this and take it to an extreme.  Yes, America is Free Market, and a curse on anyone who says otherwise.  But we are also Socialist and Communist with the same degree of certainty.  We are passionate about being the most free people who have ever lived.  Yet we have more laws than the rest of the world combined and the list is growing exponentially, which is proof of our greatness as well.  Obama may have remarked about "False Choices", but Trump has taken the ideology of "no false choices" to an entirely new level.

So my conclusion is that Trump is really the right leader for America, because Syncretistic Fundamentalism is an all pervasive ideology in contemporary America, embraced by the left, the right, the middle, the conservatives, the liberals, the living and the dead.  Hillary and Bernie may do well to a degree, but they will always be niche candidates.  To lead America as America collectively wants to be led, we need Trump.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Germany's Kampf with Mein Kampf

The article motivating this is from Der Spiegel, which discusses the recent re-publication in German of Mein Kampf after a 61 year gap.  In some sense the suppression was pointless, since English versions have been available for a time and Germans know English better than Americans do.  Plenty of other versions are available online, both in English and German.

The specific German re-publication supposedly has a large number of notes offering corrections with the idea that this will inoculate the reader from the text.  I tend to see this as something like our leftist "fact checkers", who try to correct campaign rhetoric as if it were intended to be a scientific argument, and in the process completely ignore,misunderstand or misrepresent the nature and substance of the argument.  The same "fact checkers" will then go into reverse fact checking mode when their favorite leftist rhetorician is challenged by defending every abuse.

Since I read Mein Kampf recently, my impression is that it is as much about condemning a worthless political-intellectual class as attacking Jews and Slavs.  The Jews are gone now and German women aren't producing enough children to need to seek Lebensraum in Slav territory, but that leaves the worthless political-intellectual class as the only enemy of the people still standing.  Perhaps they should be nervous.

The Der Spiegel article, as with American intellectuals, still declares that Hitler was "right-wing", as if right wing were about the state intruding into everything and hijacking religion for political purposes.  It is this continuing state of deliberate misrepresentation and denial that most needs to be highlighted.  Economically, the West is all fascist now, and using religion as a vehicle for politics is the only reason that the worthless politicians and intellectuals tolerate religion's continued existence, while they are in complete denial regarding the fact that religions aren't alike.  This sort of chaotic stream of consciousness has caused them to bribe a large quantity of those who worship the god of terrorism to migrate to Germany, which is already bearing its inevitable fruit.  Hopefully Mein Kampf will help Germans to look at themselves in Der Spiegel.  Maybe it will remind them that there really is a God who thoughtfully gave them a brain, and they do have a right to use it for good purposes.  That isn't what Mein Kampf teaches, but if they want to understand Hitler, they will need to turn their brains back on.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Anglican Woes

This references an article on the recent spasms in the Anglican cult as the "conservative" portions try to decide what to do about the American branch.  The immediate conflict is the American's conversion to the GLBT religion, which requires a complete rejection of everything the Bible teaches about sexual morality.  By the time they reach this stage, post-Christian theologians have invariably rejected and negated the Bible's teaching on everything, so that it would be more appropriate to call them "anti-Christian" and an "anti-Church".  One result of this is the rapid drop in attendance as they have lost 2.7% of their members in the year from 2013 to 2014.  This is one of those inevitable consequences of the inversion of the Christian theology, since those who desire to live a morally pure life and to be forgiven for their sins will find it necessary to seek God for help, while those who desire to live a morally decadent life and to be forgiven for their good deeds will soon find that they can achieve their goals without any assistance from God.

What does puzzle me is the forbearance of the "conservative" portion with this abomination.  If they were conservative, they would likely have ejected the American branch long ago, but somehow they just can't seem to let go.  Part of me says that the conservatives aren't really conservative, but perhaps merely traditionalists who don't know why their tradition is the way it is and can't defend it, but don't want it to change.  A side conclusion is that I am not so worried about the decline of Christianity in the US that is reported in the media recently, since both Christianity and anti-Christianity are included in the statistics on Christianity, and it is the anti-Christian portion of so-called Christianity that is apostatizing at the high rate.  But the anti-Christians who apostatize from anti-Christianity always claim that they are apostatizing from Christianity, rather than apostatizing from anti-Christianity, which makes the apostatization rather confusing.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Local Pool Heater Breakdown

The pool is an outdoor one where a few hundred people swim laps each day throughout the year.  The result is that the pool has closed and the swimmers must either skip their swims or find a differently swimming hole.

Sadly, none of them have sought to join me at the lake.  This year the weather was very cold in December, so that the lake temperature went down to its coldest by the New Year.  I have been swimming twice a week, since things are busy, which has been quite delightful.  Hopefully I can increase this to three times.  It is just me and a few coots.  Temperatures have gotten a bit warmer over the last week with the rain showers coming through, so we are likely a degree or two warmer into the mid-40's now.  Thankfully I haven't gotten sick so far this season, since a cold stopped me from swimming for a month starting in early January last year.  My goal is to have this be the first year I can swim regularly in the lake for the entire winter.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Gun Control Theater

When the party of abortion starts howling about guns, we can generally expect new world records to be set for hypocrisy.  The one angle I want to highlight is the correlation between gun crime and democrats.  For example, we can pick the list of the top gun crime locations in the US.  Number one is East Saint Louis, which is one of those cities where Republicans sneak in incognito and try not to stay too long, like the 19th century Englishmen who tried to sneak there way into Mecca.  Number twenty seven on the list is my neighboring city of Oakland, CA.  According to Dr. Wiki, this city consists of 68.8% registered Democrats and 5.9% Republicans.  Scanning the list, they are either well known Democrat strongholds or else I can't find the information easily.  I wish there was better tracking on such things, but my gut feel is that gun crime is almost exclusively a Democrat thing.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

2016 Moral Dilemma of the Year: How to react if a driver is stopped due to taking a selfie at an intersection?

I have seen this twice now, so would like some help considering the options.

1. Honk the horn.  The problem with this is that it will be taken as encouragement by the one taking the selfie.  If it wasn't a good picture, then why would they honk?

2. Ram his car with yours to express your displeasure.  This has obvious problems.

3. Go stand in front of his car and do your daily Tai Chi practice.

Other possibilities?

Monday, December 28, 2015

What to do if your co-worker self-identifies as a cow?

In order to avoid the wrath of the New York Commission on Human Rights, you should not insult him/her/it by attempting to communicate in anything other than "moos".  Cows are known to urinate and defecate where ever it is convenient, so if they happen to do this in your personal area, you must take any no notice.  Cow Identity is a serious self-image issue, and we cannot tolerate unlawful discrimination.  The commission can impose civil penalties up to $125,00 for violations, and up to $250,000 for violations that are the result of willful, wanton, or malicious conduct.  See the above link for additional penalties.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

These pictures should be familiar to all Mac users now.



Saturday, December 19, 2015

Bajirao + Mastani

Resistance to The Force is futile, so I ended up at the theater anyway.  My wife wanted a distraction and wasn't wanting to be seen in a Star Wars movie, so we ended up in a very large auditorium as the only alien species present.  In fact this was the only time we can remember in 36 years of being together when we were both aliens at the same time.  The theater was entirely filled with Indians.  Fortunately we arrived 40 minutes early, because it sold out completely and we would not have gotten a decent seat otherwise.

Thus, we found ourselves watching a Hindi movie with English subtitles, Bajirao Mastani.  The Indians are taking over Fremont, California, and as the saying goes, "If you can't beat them, join them".

My sense is that the setting and story line were concocted for the more important aspects of the visual effects along with the singing and dancing.  The purported setting being the rise of a Hindu empire that was gradually reducing the Moguls.  The theme of the movie seems to be something like "love conquers religion", although there are some, um, minor snags along the way.  Like the first wife.  And the fact that a military general needs to spend almost all of his time in the field, rather than dallying around with his wives.  Then we need to explain how it is that the general, being married to an actual Miss Universe, becomes exclusively enamored with another woman.  But I am not Indian, so I won't pursue this line too far.  The ending seemed a bit Shakespearean to me.

What I wonder the most about this is the handling of polygamy vs monogamy.  The surface message is that monogamy is the only things acceptable, but some religions promote polygamy.  There is another part of the movies message that it is somehow cruel to suppress the true love that can only be realized in polygamy.  I tend to view love more as an issue of responsible commitment, so there is no question of polygamy.  But then again, I am not Indian.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Social Justice Empire Strikes Back?

I am still struggling to understand the hoopla around the latest warming over of the Star Wars brand.  Discussions at work have morphed into critiques of the quality of the films, and in what order a wannabe star wars noob might see the earlier films.  Then there is the other extreme of heated political commentary.  My advice is this:  Watch the films when you are too young to know the difference between good and bad, enjoy them, then get over it.

"When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I gave up childish ways." - 1 Corinthians 13:11

But then again, I am not Paul and am known to periodically return to childhood temporarily.  Or maybe for extended periods.  The important thing is to not try to mix adult thinking into childlike fantasies, and vice versa.  Bipolar distinctions must be maintained.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

El Niño Watch

Marijuana growers are rejoicing.