Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What to expect in 2014


Let the good times roll... not.
I wish I could say unequivocally what 2014 holds for us, but I can't. No one can, although from perusing through articles on the topic, many prognosticators attempt to predict the future anyway. With some certainty, I can say, the rich will continue to get richer and the poor will struggle along as they always have.

One thing I can say about 2014 is that certain trends will continue.

The trend in the US is towards less personal freedom and more government oversight. That is almost a certainty to continue. Even with events like the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, the government is heavily involved and, while on the face of it, it looks good for freedom lovers and libertarians, take a look at the limitations and the onerous new laws associated with it. Layers and layers of more bureaucracy does not make for expanding freedom.

Expect to see more government duplicity in 2014 as the economy continues to struggle worldwide. Over a third of the population of the US is out of work or underemployed or whatever you want to call it, while entitlements continue to drain a failing system. It almost seems as if the government strategy is to manipulate a collapse so the public will be dependent on government-run resources. Indeed, this is an explanation we hear from alternative media sources more and more often. It is also an admitted strategy of committed socialists devoted to destroying capitalism and replacing it with cronyistic communism.

Security jobs booming in 2014.
Which brings us to the continued flow of martial power to government-run agencies. Expect to see more of it, as well as increasing abuses by civil authorities like police departments and ATF and FEMA and Homeland Security. Of course, these actions will not be called abuses -- they'll be given cute, side-stepping names, like "the judicious use of force" or "this whipping is for your own good" or "let us in or we'll burn you out".

Also expect to see more staged events designed to capture the imagination of the public and induce fear so that Americans will feel compelled to give up even more of their hard won constitutional freedoms. You like guns? Well, prepare to be chastised and called racist, backward, and redneck. Who cares if your rights are spelled out in the law of the land? Last year, fewer cops were killed by firearms in the US than since 1887. But we need to protect them even more by taking away guns from citizens whenever the opportunity arises -- whether it's legal or not. It's justified because... well, because they say it is. So, expect more of the anti-gun nonsense in 2014.

If we save just one child...
Expect a push for amnesty for illegal aliens in 2014. The Obama administration wants open borders with Mexico and Canada. It's a globalist vision and it doesn't stop just because we're about to be in a new year.

What about the economy? Who the heck knows? It depends on who you talk to, on which media source you read. However, numbers don't lie and the numbers say that eventually, the national debt is going to reach up and strangle us all. Will 2014 be the year? Inflation is hitting us hard already. The Fed is printing greenbacks like there's no tomorrow.

I see you, but you don't see me.
Prepare to be under surveillance everywhere -- even in your homes. If you like to surf the internet for porn, rest easy because although the NSA is tracking you, pornography is still the biggest industry on the internet. If you get arrested for downloading nasty movies from Denmark, the feds will have to arrest tens of millions just like you. On the downside, the feds have access to all computers linked to the internet. If they want you, they can simply plant evidence on your machine.

Those guys at TSA are showing up everywhere these days. 2014 will see an expansion in their presence as well as their power to detain, humiliate, and arrest.

Here's a short list of what most of us would like to see happen in 2014:

1. Miley Cyrus spends a week duck-hunting with Phil Robertson.
2. The concept of racism declared to be a non-existent red herring.
3. Affordable Healthcare Act repealed.
4. Government admits complicity in school shooting incidents.
5. Lake Michigan water declared safe for drinking.
6. Blue Bell ice cream announces a full day of ice cream giveaways.
7. Subsidies given to home-schoolers.
8. Congress endorses the Constitution and expels/impeaches members opposed to such a resolution.
9. Veterans with Honorable Discharges receive full pensions.
10. Cable television companies cut fees in half.
11. The homeless may eat free in any fast food restaurant.
12. Hollywood, CA is transplanted to Austin, TX.
13. All writers of science fiction are given free Super Bowl tickets, parking passes, and spending money for the day. Oh, and a free room for the evening at the nearest Howard Johnson's. It doesn't have to be HJ, it could be a Holiday Inn Express, or La Quinta as long as it has an indoor pool and free breakfast.

While the above list is not likely to occur, we can still dream, yes?

American Beauty


American Beauty is a 1999 American film directed by Sam Mendes and written by Alan Ball. Kevin Spacey stars as Lester Burnham, a man primed for a midlife crisis. Annette Bening co-stars as Lester's materialistic wife, Carolyn, and Thora Birch plays their insecure daughter, Jane. The movie is often described as a satire of American middle class notions, especially in its exploration of romantic and paternal love, sexuality, beauty, materialism, self-liberation, and redemption.

Alan Ball began writing American Beauty as a play in the early 1990s, partly inspired by the media attention on the Amy Fisher trial in 1992. The play was shelved when Ball realized the story would not work on stage. After several years as a television screenwriter, Ball revived the idea in 1997 when attempting to break into film. DreamWorks bought Ball's script for $250,000. American Beauty was director Mendes' film debut after successful productions of the musicals Oliver! and Cabaret.

Released in North America on September 15, 1999, American Beauty was the best-reviewed American film of the year and grossed over $350 million worldwide. At the 72nd Academy Awards the following year, the film won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Kevin Spacey), Best Original Screenplay (Alan Ball), and Best Cinematography.

Wes Bentley as Ricky
 Lester Burnham is a middle-aged office worker who despises his job. His wife, Carolyn, is an ambitious real-estate broker; their sixteen-year-old daughter, Jane, abhors her parents and has low self-esteem. The Burnhams' new neighbors are retired United States Marine Corps Colonel Frank Fitts and his introverted wife, Barbara. Their teenage son, Ricky, is a secret marijuana smoker and drug dealer whom the colonel subjects to a strict disciplinarian lifestyle. Ricky, who had been forced into a military academy and mental hospital, spends time recording his surroundings with a camcorder; he keeps dozens of taped videos in his bedroom.

Mena Suvari
Lester becomes infatuated with Jane's cheerleader friend, Angela Hayes, played by Mena Suvari, as wife Carolyn begins an affair with a business associate, Buddy Kane. When Lester is laid off from his job, Lester blackmails his boss for $60,000 and quits. He begins smoking marijuana bought from Ricky and flirts with Angela whenever she visits Jane. Jane and Ricky find common ground and develop a romance.

Thora Birch
That's all the plot I'm going to tell you because I hate spoilers and if you haven't seen this marvelous film, it would be better to see it rather than be told how it ends.

American Beauty is about many things, but chief among plot devices is the hollow loneliness that comes from living in a sold-out, materialistic society. It is about redemption from selling one's self in such a society. Lester's tale of personal awakening is the story's center. As Lester throws off the responsibilities of a comfortable life he has come to despise, he begins to find renewed joy and purpose. When Lester shares a joint with Ricky, his spirit is released and he begins to rebel against Carolyn's middle-class ethics.

Kevin Spacey and Annette Benning
Like other American films of 1999 — such as Fight Club, Bringing Out the Dead and MagnoliaAmerican Beauty urges the audience to lead a more meaningful life. The film argues against conformity, but does not deny that people need and want it; even two gay characters, neighbors of Lester and Carolyn, just want to fit in.

However, all of the characters, except for Ricky and Jane, are unaware that they are sold-out materialists and devout consumers who expect the trappings of the American Dream to provide happiness.

Ricky is the movie's visionary and spiritual center. Ricky sees beauty in the minutiae of everyday life, videoing as much as he can for fear of missing it.

With other turn-of-the-millennium films such as Fight Club, In the Company of Men (1997), American Psycho (2000) and Boys Don't Cry (1999), American Beauty raises a broader issue of masculinity in crisis. In the reinforcement of masculinity against threats posed by war, by consumerism, and by feminist and homosexual challenges, these movies present a need to focus on aspects of maleness and emasculation and the journey to retrieve what has been lost in common society.

Two thumbs up for this one. A modern day classic.

Monday, December 30, 2013



And yet, it takes 3 to 5 days for deposits to appear in my bank account.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Delete Facebook



Epicurus


Epicurus
Epicurus (341 BC – 270 BC) was a Greek philosopher and founder of the school of philosophy called Epicureanism.

For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia — peace and freedom from fear — and aponia — the absence of pain — and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. Epicurus believed that pleasure and pain are the measures of all that is good and evil. Death is the end of both the physical body and the "soul" and should not be feared.

Furthermore, the gods neither reward nor punish humans. The universe is infinite and eternal and events in the world are ultimately based on the motions and interactions of atoms moving in empty space.

Many of Epicurus' teachings were influenced by earlier thinkers, especially Democritus. Yet, Epicurus differed with Democritus on determinism.

Epicurus never married and had no known children. He was mostly likely a vegetarian. He also suffered from kidney stones, which attributed to his death in 270 BC at the age of 72.

Atomism
Epicurus's philosophy represented a departure from other major Greek thinkers, but was nevertheless founded on many of the same principles as Democritus. Like Democritus, he was an atomist, believing that the fundamental constituents of the world were indivisible little bits of matter (atoms, Greek atomos, indivisible) flying through empty space (kenos). Everything that occurs is the result of atoms colliding, rebounding, and becoming entangled with one another, with no purpose or plan behind their motions. His theory differs from the earlier atomism of Democritus because he admits that atoms do not always follow straight lines but their direction of motion may occasionally exhibit a 'swerve' (clinamen). This allowed him to avoid the determinism implicit in the earlier atomism and to affirm free will. (Compare this with the modern theory of quantum physics, which postulates a non-deterministic random motion of fundamental particles, which do not swerve absent an external force; randomness originates in interaction of particles in incompatible eigenstates.)

He regularly admitted women and slaves into his school and was one of the first Greeks to break from the god-fearing tradition common at the time, even while saying that religious activities are useful as a way to contemplate the gods and to use them as an example of the pleasant life. Epicurus participated in the activities of traditional Greek religion, but taught that one should avoid holding false opinions about the gods. The gods are immortal, but, according to Epicurus, they do not punish the bad and reward the good as common men believed. Epicurus believed that the gods did not concern themselves at all with human beings.

Imperturbability -- Chinese
Epicurus' core philosophy is based on the theory that all good and bad derive from the sensations of what he defined as pleasure and pain: What is good is what is pleasurable, and what is bad is what is painful. His ideas of pleasure and pain were ultimately the basis for the moral distinction between good and evil. If pain is chosen over pleasure, it is only because it leads to a greater pleasure. Although Epicurus has been commonly misunderstood to advocate the rampant pursuit of pleasure, his teachings were more about striving for an absence of pain and suffering, both physical and mental, and a state of satiation and tranquility that was free of the fear of death and the retribution of the gods. Epicurus argued that when we do not suffer pain, we are no longer in need of pleasure, and we enter a state of ataraxia, "tranquility of soul" or "imperturbability".

Epicureans showed little interest in participating in politics, since doing so leads to trouble. He instead advocated seclusion. This principle is epitomized by the phrase "Live in Obscurity" meaning to get through life without drawing attention to yourself, i. e. live without pursuing glory or wealth or power, but anonymously, enjoying little things like food, the company of friends, etc.

Arthur Schopenhauer
Epicurus was also a significant source of inspiration and interest for both Arthur Schopenhauer, having particular influence on the famous pessimist's views on suffering and death, as well as one of Schopenhauer's successors: Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche cites his affinities to Epicurus in a number of his works, including The Gay Science, Beyond Good and Evil, and his private letters to Peter Gast. Nietzsche was attracted to, among other things, Epicurus' ability to maintain a cheerful philosophical outlook in the face of painful physical ailments. Nietzsche also suffered from a number of sicknesses during his lifetime. However, he thought that Epicurus' conception of happiness as freedom from anxiety was too passive and negative.



Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Cubli





Prince Rupert's Drops


Prince Rupert's Drops (also known as Dutch tears) are glass objects created by dripping molten glass into cold water. The glass cools into a tadpole-shaped droplet with a long, thin tail. The water rapidly cools the molten glass on the outside of the drop, while the inner portion of the drop remains significantly hotter. When the glass on the inside eventually cools, it contracts inside the already-solid outer part. This contraction sets up very large compressive stresses on the surface, while the core of the drop is in a state of tensile stress. It is a kind of toughened glass.

The very high residual stress within the drop gives rise to unusual qualities, such as the ability to withstand a blow from a hammer on the bulbous end without breaking, while the drop will disintegrate explosively if the tail end is even slightly damaged.

While the head of the drop can be hit with a hammer without breaking, when any portion of the tail end is damaged, even the smallest section, the large amount of potential energy stored in the drop's amorphous atomic structure is released, causing fractures to propagate through the glass toward the head at very high speeds breaking the entire structure into flakes and powder.

An examination of the shattering of Prince Rupert's Drops by the use of high speed video has revealed that the "crack front" which is initiated at the tail end propagates in a disintegrating drop within the tensile zone towards the drop's head at a very high speed (1.45–1.9 km/s (0.9–1.2 mi/s)).

Because of the transparency of glass, the internal stress within these objects can be demonstrated by viewing them through polarizing filters, a technique used in the study of photoelasticity.


Saturday, December 21, 2013



Because the government-controlled media makes it sound that way. Quit listening to them. Today. Now. Do it.

Montezuma’s Gold


Montezuma
In February 1519, six hundred Spanish Conquistadors, led by Hernán Cortés, landed on the coast of Mexico near the modern day port of Vera Cruz in a fleet of eleven Spanish ships. Cortés' mission was to explore, claim land in the name of Spain, and hopefully, find treasure for himself, his men, and the King of Spain.

Montezuma, the Aztec emperor, thinking Cortés was a god, sent servants with gifts for Cortés and his men which served to draw Cortés to the Aztec’s capitol city of Tenochtitlán, (present day Mexico City).

Cortés entered the Aztec capital on November 18, 1519, and was received as a god at a lavish ceremony in Montezuma’s palace.

Montezuma gave more gold and silver to Cortés and his men, but in response Cortés arrested Montezuma and the Spaniards set up base in one of the many ceremonial temples along with about 600 native Tlaxcalan allies.

Montezuma’s Aztec treasury was vast and impressive. Legend has it that his treasury included two gold collars, a huge alligator’s head of gold, one hundred ounces of gold, birds and other sculptures studded with precious gems, wheels of gold and silver in different sizes and numerous other priceless objects.

The conquistadors were soldiers and conquerors and, in the name of the Holy Roman Church and the King of Spain, did what military men do -- they ransacked the palace and discovered a secret vault so full of treasure it took three days just to divide the spoils. And so commenced a bloody campaign of terror. Cortés' men tortured and murdered the inhabitants of Tenochtitlán while searching for yet more treasure – including the location of the fabled golden city of El Dorado.

The Aztecs eventually rebelled against the Spaniard’s tyranny after a group of conquistadors destroyed one of the cities' main temples and murdered its high priests.

On June 30, 1520, Cortés forced the Montezuma to make an appearance upon the piazza of his house in order to pacify the citizens of Tenochtitlán. Unfortunately for both Cortés and Montezuma, the Aztec Emperor was stoned to death by his own people.

With Montezuma dead, Cortés and his men were forced to flee the city amidst a full uprising. As they fled the city, the conquistadors threw down their stolen gold and silver, littering the network of concentric irrigation channels and streets with the treasure they had stolen.

Many of Cortés’ men died in the fighting on that night. Bodies of the dead were piled so high in the cities' canals that one could walk across them, from one side to the next. The night came to be known as La Noche Triste (The Sad Night).

Cortés survived and rebuilt his army, returning a year later to Tenochtitlan. With the help of his Tlaxcalan allies, Cortés took control of the city again. The new Aztec emperor, Cuauhtémoc, was captured and tortured, but even with his feet held over a fire, the new Emperor failed to produce more than a canoe full of trinkets. According to Cuauhtémoc, the treasury of Montezuma was forever lost.

Cortés tortured anybody who he thought might hold the answer about the location of the treasure, whether it be men, women or children. The only information ever obtained was that the treasure had been taken north and hidden at the bottom of a lake. Cortés search some 5,000 lakes in the surrounding regions but never found Montezuma’s treasure.

So where did the treasure go?

Some believe it remained where it was dropped on La Noche Triste, buried for all time beneath the layers of silt and cement of modern day Mexico city.

Others think the treasure was retrieved from the irrigation channels by the Spaniards when they took Tenochtitlán for the second time. It was sent to Spain, but lost at sea when the ship that carried it was sunk by a tropical storm. However, there is a third explanation that says after Cortés and his soldiers were driven from Tenochtitlan on La Noche Triste, the Aztec high Priests knew it would only be a matter of time before the Spaniards returned.

In an effort to save their treasure as well as their fallen society, the priests took the body of their fallen leader, Montezuma, and led a procession of more than 2,000 men on a mass exodus to the north in search of a place that would be safe from the Spaniards. They took the treasures of the Aztec empire, tons of gold and silver in the form of sacred religious objects they would need to reestablish their once great civilization.

According to legend, they traveled in a northwesterly direction, finally stopping at a mountain on the edge of a desert where the treasure was hidden and the slaves put to death. Dead men tell no tales.

Who knows where they went? Some say that the treasure was carried over two thousand miles to southern Utah.

A newer legend says that in 1920, a man named Freddy Crystal, a miner and amateur treasure hunter found a treasure map in an old church in Mexico City.

Treasure map?
The manuscript, written by a Spanish Friar at the time of the conquest of Tenochtitlan, stated that the map had been drawn using information gained during the torture of a surviving Aztec porters of Montezuma’s treasure. The Spaniards attempted to follow the map but were repeatedly failed and eventually gave up in frustration.

Now, Crystal had spent time in Utah several years before trying to decipher Aztec petroglyphs on canyon walls, so when he saw the old map he realized that some of the landmarks depicted on it were similar to a place in Southern Utah, a place called Kanab.

The map led Freddy Crystal to Johnson Canyon where he immediately found signs that he was in the right place. Aztec petroglyphs littered the area and clues on the map eventually directed him to an ancient set of stairs cut directly into the side of White Mountain.

Crystal followed the steps up to a sealed entrance. He broke through the seal into a long dark corridor, both sides lined with ancient statues. Crystal needed help excavating the tunnels and he headed back into the little town of Kanab to recruit diggers.

The people of Kanab were well aware of the Aztec petroglyphs in the area and had heard stories of Montezuma’s Treasure since they were children, so when Crystal presented his collection of clues it started a veritable gold rush.

Hundreds volunteered for the chance to participate in the greatest treasure hunt of all time. A coalition was organized by the town council in which people could volunteer a certain number of hours per week to the excavation in exchange for a share of the treasure; at one point as many as 75% of the population of Kanab was involved in the treasure hunt.

The excavation went on for almost three years, clearing deadfall after deadfall, finding relics and ancient items, but never the gold. Finally, with the tunnels all reopened and no gold found the townspeople returned to their day to day lives and forget about the tunnels up in Johnson canyon.

Some believe the treasure is buried at the base of White Mountain, which unfortunately is now buried under tons of rock and dirt from the Crystal excavations.

There are similar legends of Aztec Treasure in the Grand Canyon.

Yet, others believe that when the inhabitants of Tenochtitlán heard that the Spaniards were returning for the second time, they buried the remains of the city’s treasure in and around Lake Tezcuco to prevent it from falling prey to the Conquistadors. It is possible that a vast treasure trove may still remain hidden beneath five centuries of mud and sludge on the outskirts of Mexico City. Many have sought the lost treasure without success. A former president of Mexico even had the lake bed dredged, but no treasure was found.

Some believe there is a link between the Legendary Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and Montezuma’s Gold. Jacob Waltz, (the Dutchman) found a source of pure, raw gold in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona, a location geologists say is devoid of gold deposits. It is this lack of mineral evidence which leads some researchers to speculate that the Dutchman may have actually stumbled over Montezuma’s fabled Lost Aztec Treasure.

Many of the tunnels in Johnson Canyon are still accessible, though the Department of Oil Gas and Mining (OGM) has announced that they were going to back-fill the tunnels for safety reasons. A Utah group called Gold Rush Expeditions is attempting to keep these historic tunnels open for future generations to explore. And perhaps, for someone to finally stumble upon the lost treasure of the Aztecs.

Gone, Gone, Gone



Friday, December 20, 2013

The Belief Cycle



Sensory Limitations and Perceptions of Reality


As hilarious as it sounds, humans are considered to be intelligent beings. It's because we can think about the consequences of our actions prior to pursuing an action. It's what separates us from the jungle. Well, it may not be the only thing, but it's one thing and it is profound. Our actions rely on the trigger mechanism being okayed by the driver of the bus. That's you. And me. Thus, our chances of survival and success in our endeavors are greatly increased if we perceive our environment correctly.
Click to enlarge.
Our senses disregard most of the virtually infinite amount of information that could be sensed about the environment. What we see, hear, smell, and touch is just a small piece of the picture. For example, considering sight and vision, the human visual bandwidth can handle about 10 megabits per second. If we could handle more, we might be able to see in the infrared bands or we might be able to see the higher ultraviolet bands, but we can't without the aid of finely tuned instruments

Essentially, we see things only by reflected sunlight, and not thermal night vision, radio or gamma rays or any other method that taps into the infinite spectrum of energy vibration. Sunlight brightness falls to less than 10% of the peak below 300nm and above 1500nm (nm is a nanometer, one-billionth of a meter (1 x 10-9 m)). The response of the human eye is about 380nm to 780nm, which is really a pretty good match. This is not a coincidence, because the eye evolved to sense reflected sunlight. We could push a bit into the ultraviolet and a full octave into the infrared, giving a potential bandwidth of 1.6×1015 bits/sec. This bandwidth allows for all possible color and any changed over time (such as motion.)

I see you.
We could potentially receive this much at each distinct point that we can see. While it would sometimes be useful to be able to see miles away, let's limit ourselves to an eye the size of the human eye. The optical (diffraction limited) resolution for a 1cm lens at this wavelength over a 90 degree field of view is about one gigapixel.

Multiplying the spatial and time/spectrum resolution gives about 1×1024 bits/sec. It'd also be useful to have at least ten eyes for seeing behind your back, etc., so let's make that 1×1025 bits/sec, which is 1×1018 times more than the actual human visual bandwidth, a vast difference.

So, why are our eyes so much weaker than this? Biological possibility is one constraint — this is a theoretical limit that far exceeds the capabilities of the best camera made, let alone what could be achieved using biological goop. But by making the eye a bit bigger, adding more different color receptors and packing the entire field of view as densely as human central vision, it would be possible to increase the bit-rate 100 times or more.

The reason we have the eyes that we do is that there is a tradeoff between what it would cost to have better vision and what the benefits would be. We have pretty much the best eye that we can afford. Better eyes didn't give any significant advantage for staying alive in the savannah. A large part of the cost of better eyes would be in the need for more brain to process the data.

A particularly clever economy in the human visual system is made by giving a high resolution in the center (the fovea), and then moving the eye around to build up a larger mental image. The eye doesn't work at all like a camera, taking in an entire scene in one go. Instead it is more like a paintbrush used to fill in the holes in a virtual canvas in our mind. Visual perception and attention are extremely complex brain processes that take place almost entirely automatically and unconsciously. The result is a user illusion so compelling that most people are naive realists who imagine that they directly see the real world.

How much more is going on?
Ah, but we don't and there's the rub. In reality, we miss out on all kinds of stimulus throughout the bandwidth spectrum. We've only briefly discussed sight and vision, but we haven't touched upon sound and hearing. How much are we missing? A lot. Yet, we insist that the world we see and hear is all there is. Seeing is believing we say, although we know there is more going on.

How much more is going on? Now, that's a question scientists, and philosophers, and the great religions have sought to answer throughout history. There are new revelations concerning the answers to the question of what is going on, that is, what is reality? The answers are coming from studies in particle physics and quantum mechanics -- the interactions of these particles prove that the world as we see it and interact with is not quite what we think it is.

While the world may appear to be material and lasting, it is, apparently, neither. Nor is it limited to the lifetime of any perceived organism. But, you ask, how could we possibly know anything beyond our own limited sensory perception?

That's easy. It is faith that allows us to persist in both our delusions and in our hopes. What we believe becomes reality. It may be a false reality, but if our belief is strong enough, we will operate on false assumptions as long as our belief works for us in dealing with our surroundings. This realization makes me wonder just how much of our accepted reality is merely what others want me to believe or what has become accepted as truth due to force or popular opinion.

If you've followed me this far, and I have successfully gotten these ideas across to you, then you may have a troublesome inkling that what we generally base our lives upon is like building castles on shifting sand. You think you know what's going on?

Misandry


Misandry /mɪˈsændri/ is the hatred or dislike of males. Misandry is manifested in sexual discrimination, denigration of men, violence against men, and, believe it or not, sexual objectification of men. Warren Farrell has written of how men are uniquely marginalized in what he calls their 'disposability', the manner in which the most dangerous of societies' jobs throughout history, particularly soldiering, have been left for men to perform. The female counterpart of misandry is misogyny, the hatred or dislike of women; the antonym of misandry is philandry, the love or fondness of men (not to be confused with homosexuality, which is something else altogether, you ragged rascal.).

Thursday, December 19, 2013

My Private Holiday Experience


Hey! Merry Christmas!
My father died before I got out of my teens and, subsequently, I wandered for several years not knowing what was my proper direction in life. He did instill in me the need to attend college and become educated, I think, because an education gives one more choices in life. Looking back, I'm not certain that is true.

Somehow, I completed college and even went on to graduate school although I'll be the first to admit I was a poor student. I had no focus and no aspirations for a career. While in school, I worked as a bartender, a carpenter, an apartment house manager, a restaurant manager, a librarian (assistant), a Veteran's Service worker, a retail store clerk, a janitor, and a teacher.

I was constantly broke, perpetually poor, but well read. I eschewed any real commitment to make money not because I was lazy but rather because I had watched my father work himself to death. Early on, I figured out that if life had any meaning at all, it wasn't in devoting yourself to pulling someone else's plow.

Now, many, if not most of my friends and acquaintances, seem to be all about status and prestige and power in the material sense. These attitudes have captured me from time to time and I have sold myself to the highest bidder while neglecting what I consider to be more important life pursuits -- that is, matters of spirit and truth.

I have a cousin, an only child, whose parents sent him to a prestigious and expensive college. This cousin of mine gradually began to accept the belief that class aspects of his education made him more worthy, more moral, and capable of making better decisions than others. As friends, we drifted apart. Today, he no longer attempts to contact me and I understand he considers me a failure as a human being. I am fairly certain he doesn't read this blog, so this isn't some attempt to be snarky. Rather, it is an observation on the futility of believing one can raise their moral character through the power of materialism.

I have a brother-in-law who did not attend college at all and has done well in the financial sense through constant work. He, however, has also neglected those unseen aspects of life and relies solely on the forces of materialism to lend credence to his existence. As a result, he is lacking in the level of empathy required for entrance into the higher realms. He also disparages anyone with an education, claiming that the material pursuits are what life is all about. He who dies with the most toys, wins. The truth is, this man's life is twisted with all the lies he's had to tell in order to gather his mound of money. He has cheated and stolen and continues to allow himself to be influenced by the dark forces that invade the lives of all men. Like my cousin, he also disparages me and my wasted life.

I have acquaintances and relatives who have allowed the news media to become their soul/sole guide. And why not when they spend practically every evening lounging in front of wide screen televisions assuring themselves that the great bosses of the land know what they are doing.

Fake Guru
I know a guy who fancies himself some sort of enlightened spiritual guru who spends much of his time and energy on current left wing social projects endorsing all the dimensions of political correctness. He cannot see that he has also sold out. He makes his money by presenting himself as a sort of healer and often spouts communist ideals and philosophies. He's a Love Guru. It really gets to be a drag being around this meglomaniac for long.

This Christmas, once again these people will not reach out to me as I have done to them in the past. Perhaps it's because I don't deserve their compassion. Or maybe they believe I am a lost cause, too far gone to be of use.

Yet, there will be people I come across this holiday season who strike me as honest and passionate and unafraid. These folks will garner my attention and I will ask that they be blessed. I will seek out, as I do most Christmas holidays, those who need help and I will do my best to make someone's life a little easier, a little happier, maybe.

In the act of counting blessings.
Don't think I am setting myself up as some sort of saint. I'm not and I am very aware of the fact. If I could take a club to my cousin, my brother-in-law and the silly local guru, and get away with it, they'd share their horror stories with one another in the local hospital. Instead, I struggle with my own nature as I consider the blessings that have been bestowed upon me by forces beyond my control or my understanding. As a matter of fact, it's why we have Christmas in the first place.

Go ahead and think of it as a pagan holiday, if you must. You know, you don't have to participate, but it's funny because you and I both know you most likely will participate in one form or another. Don't worry about it. It's good to participate whether you understand it or not.

Merry Christmas, everybody, and, as always, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Elysium


Last night, I surfed over to YouTube and ponied up my four dollars and twenty-five cents for the privilege of watching Elysium, a new science fiction movie starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. The movie wasn't bad, but more on that in a moment. First, a little about the hassle of ordering a movie through YouTube.

Ordering streaming video is not something I do very often, so admittedly, I'm not terribly familiar with the entire process. Still, it's got to be pretty simple for people to do, right? I mean, they're trying to make money so they want to make it as easy as possible, eh? Well, it wasn't. After I signed into YouTube using my Google account (Why do they do that? Make you sign in? Then use a sign in for a different account?), I had to pay with my debit card. Okay, we all know how to do that and subsequently must suffer buyer's remorse immediately -- and what if somebody doesn't have a credit card or a debit card or a PayPal account? What then? I'll tell you what. No movie, that's what. Although, I did get past that point. I paid and was cleared to watch the flick.

I pressed the GO button. The screen changed, I got excited, then a message flashed on my display informing me there had been a problem with my Flash plugin. Please do this and do that, close your browser and open up again. I did. It didn't work. Over and over it didn't work. Thus, I didn't get to see Elysium last night.

Matt Damon going all Mad Max.
I did finally get to watch it today when it dawned on me to try a different browser. I typically use Mozilla but have Internet Explorer and Chrome installed. Internet Explorer worked the first time and I got to watch the movie 24 hours after purchasing it. What a hassle.

Now, for my thoughts on Elysium.

Elysium comes from Greek referring to an ancient Greek paradise reserved for heroes to whom the gods had granted immortality. Homer described it as a land of perfect happiness at the end of the earth, on the banks of the Oceanus River. From the time of Pindar (c. 500 BC) on, Elysium was imagined as a dwelling place for those who had lived a righteous life.

Like most movies these days, the story pushes a leftist, mixed agenda that explores political and sociological themes such as immigration, overpopulation, transhumanism, health care, exploitation and class issues.

Elysium orbits the earth.
The story opens in the year 2154, where only two classes of people exist: the very wealthy, who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest (the bulk of humanity), who live on an overpopulated, polluted Earth policed by ruthless robots. Imagine East L.A. and thousands of Buford Pusser clones. Everybody in the global ghetto is desperate to escape the planet's crime and poverty; they also want to access the free healthcare available on Elysium. Unfortunately, the residents of Elysium don't want to share their lifestyle. If you're thinking this is shaping up as a pro-immigration propaganda piece, you are dead on. However, let's not let a little thing like propaganda prevent us from enjoying the story. Matt Damon plays Max, a criminal trying to be a good guy in the garbage dump called earth. After suffering an accident at work, Max finds himself in desperate need to get to Elysium in order to use its cure-all medical resources.

Jodie Foster as Secretary Delacourt.
The queen of Elysium and the one calling the shots is Secretary Delacourt played to cruel perfection by Jodie Foster.

Elysium was produced by Simon Kinberg, and written and directed by Neill Blomkamp, the director and co-writer of District 9 (2009). It re-unites Blomkamp with some of his District 9 crew, such as editor Julian Clarke, production designer Philip Ivey, cinematographer Trent Opaloch, and actor Sharlto Copley, playing one of the film's villains. Blomkamp wrote the film by himself. Ergo, the screenplay has the same look and feel as District 9.

The project had a production budget of $115 million. As of October 20, 2013, Elysium has grossed $93,050,117 in the domestic box office and $192,957,131 internationally for a worldwide total of $286,007,248. Elysium opened on August 9, 2013 and grossed $11,088,228 on its opening day, ranking #1. The film proceeded to rank #1 for the weekend, grossing $29,807,393.

Monday, December 16, 2013


Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Total Information Awareness


How do you feel about government surveillance of citizens' communications and Internet activity? Prefer not to think about it all? Or, do you deny it? Perhaps you're one of those who say, if you're not doing anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about.

Did you hear about the wholesale FISA court order to Verizon to provide all customer "meta-data" for a three-month period -- and the clarification that the order is simply a renewal of orders that have been in place since 2007. That metadata, by the way, spells out who we call, who those people call, when, where, etc. -- essentially everything about the call. This comprehensive data collection permits the mother of all social network analysis projects -- to reconstruct the widening circles of persons with whom person X is associated. This is its value from an intelligence point of view; but it is also an affront to the constitutional rights and liberties of all of us.

How about PRISM? It's an NSA program that claims to have agreements with all the major Internet companies permiting direct government access to their servers, without warrants or specific requests for specific information. (These companies deny knowledge of PRISM.)

As US citizens we have the right of political expression without harassment and association. We have the right to be left alone. It doesn't matter much if a government agency is able to work out the network of people with whom I am associated around youth soccer in my neighborhood. But if I were an Occupy Wall Street organizer or an advocate for marijuana legalization, or even an active supporter of the second amendment, I would be very concerned about the fact that government is able to work out the extent of my network of associates, their associates, and times and place of communication.

There is a chilling effect on political organization and protest -- both of which are constitutionally protected rights of US citizens -- with the government-sponsored and government-approved spying on its own citizens. There is no place for it in a free republic. Obviously, such oversighit makes possible police intervention and suppression based on the "intelligence" that is gathered. The rogue activities the IRS conducts with respect to the tax-exempt status of conservative political organizations illustrates the point nicely. Our government, at all levels, is out of control.

The whole point of a constitution is to state clearly and publicly what rights citizens have, and to place limits on the scope of government action. The data collection and surveillance programs within the US government makes one doubt whether a constitutional limitation has meaning anymore. Our leaders, again -- at all levels of government -- stand guard over these data collection and surveillance programs while wrapping their operations in tight secrecy. Telephone and internet providers are not permitted to make public the requests that have been asked of them. Thus, the public has no legitimate way of knowing what kind of information collection, surveillance, and intelligence activity is being used with respect to their activities. In the name of homeland security, our government is prepared to transgress what we thought of as "rights" without due process for the individual, and with massive force.

Government spokespersons assure us that appropriate safeguards are in place in order to preserve our constitutional right. Do you believe them? In the face of so many proven government lies, I have to ask, why would you believe anything they say? Because the media says so? Because it's the party line? Are you crazy? There are two problems with those assurances, both having to do with secrecy. Citizens are not provided with any account by government about how these programs are designed to work, and what safeguards are incorporated. Additionally, citizens are prevented from knowing what the exercise and effects of these programs are -- by the prohibition against telecom providers of giving any public information about the nature of requests that are being made under these programs. Secrecy prevents the very possibility of citizen knowledge and believable judicial oversight. By design, there is no transparency about these crucial new tools and data collection methods. They don't want us to know and they're getting away with it.

All of this makes one think that the science and technology of encryption is politically crucial in the Internet age, for preserving some of our most basic rights of legal political activity. Being able to securely encrypt one's communications so only the intended recipients can gain access to them sounds like a crucial right of self-protection against the surveillance state. Being able to anonymize one's location and IP address -- through services like TOR router systems -- also seems like an important ability that everyone ought to consider using. Voice services like Skype are fully compromised -- Microsoft, the owner of Skype, was the first company to accept the PRISM program. New Internet-based voice technologies using "trust no one" encryption and TOR routers may return the balance to the user, but don't count on it. Intelligence and law enforcement agencies often suggest that only people with something to hide would use an anonymizer in their interactions on the Web. Given the massive personalized data collection that government is engaged in, it would seem that every citizen has an interest in preserving his or her privacy to whatever extent possible. Privacy is crucial when it comes to the exercise of our constitutional rights of expression and association.

These programs of data collection and surveillance prove that government has overstepped its role. How are we to combat such an all-encompassing surveillance technology? The creation of more laws restricting agencies like the NSA? Ya think that's going to work this far down the road to tyranny? These agencies are accustomed to working in the dark. No, the genie appears to be out of the bottle. Without a groundswell of public sentiment, methinks nothing will change. So long, freedom. Hello, comrade.