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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Movie Review: Hugo


Hugo 3D (GK Films, Paramount, 2011)


Hugo is based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a children’s book. Set in a train station in Paris, Hugo begins with a young boy running up and down stairs working on all the clocks. But this is no ordinary train station. It has clocks all over the place. The boy lives in the walls and keeps the clocks running. His name is Hugo Cabret.

In between winding and setting clocks, Hugo works to repair a mechanical man, called an automaton. When fixed, its mechanical arm will write something on the pad in front of it. But Hugo needs parts to fix the automaton.

He gets them by stealing in the train station, mainly from an old man and his toy booth. The old man has a god-child, a girl about Hugo’s age, who comes in once in awhile with books in her hand. There are other characters who spend a lot of time in the train station, including a flower girl, the Station Inspector, a woman with a dog, and a man who reads the paper every day. The train station is a social gathering place, with musicians, shops, and restaurants.

What is this strange machine Hugo works on? Where are his parents? The movie begins mysteriously. Eventually we learn that Hugo’s Father found the broken automaton in a museum in Paris and left it for Hugo to finish. Now an orphan, Hugo is in danger of being picked up by the Station Inspector, a mustached war veteran with a spring loaded leg.

The old man at the toy store, Georges Melies, finally catches Hugo stealing and manages to confiscate his book of drawings of the automaton. Not only was this a keepsake from his father, Hugo needs it to guide him in his repair project.

But old Georges is mysteriously affected by the drawing book, and threatens to burn it. Hugo finds a somewhat ally in Georges’ god-child, Isabelle, and they attempt to get the drawing book back.

That’s the basic setup for a tale that was nothing like I expected. This is no Narnia or Harry Potter, where the fate of the world is at stake. Hugo is simply the story of a boy, a train station, and Paris at the turn of the Century. Yet it is much more, because there is a great deal of historical truth mixed in with Hugo’s story, including real people and a back story that is as poetic as it is true. And magic. Oh, yes, because Georges Melies was once a real life stage magician.

There’s a whole lot of computer graphics here. But its all part of the fabric of a wonderful children’s book, mixed seamlessly with unforgettable characters. The cast is perfect, with Ben Kingsley as Georges, Sacha Baron Cohen as the Station Inspector, Chloe Moretz as Isabelle, and Asa Butterfield as Hugo. There are also cameos by Christopher Lee and Jude Law and others you’ve seen in other movies.

Martin Scorsese, who put Hugo on film, is a director’s director. Every frame is planned and echoes the magic of the book. As for presentation and 3D, Hugo is yet another example of using the medium to its fullest. Scorsese doesn’t miss a chance to pull us into his version of storybook Paris, taking us up and down and all around the train station at dizzying speeds.

The movie is rated PG for a museum fire and safety violations (Hugo gets much to close to moving machinery.) But I would have given it a G rating. Adults and children alike will find Hugo fascinating. Enjoy. 









Friday, November 18, 2011

A list of things you may not have heard of (but will)


A list of things you may not have heard of (but will):



The singularity
The ether
Super gravity
Quarks
Entanglement
G.K. Chesterton
Thomas Kuhn
Hans Van Meergen
Symmetric Groups
Jeremy Bentham
Tunneling
Graphene
The Kuiper belts
The Van Allen Belts
The Anthropic Principle
Resonance
Non-Euclidean Geometry
Quantum Computing
 A Tesla Coil
 Phlogiston theory
The Antikythera Mechanism
Melatonin
Monte Carlo Simulation
The Cloud
Freerunning
Commercial spider Silk
Equal Temperament
The Bernoulli principle
Exotropy

Monday, November 14, 2011

From a Rant in TechCrunch

The Android/Amazon/Apple battle is the same as the Apple/Windows battle: by comparing apples to oranges, they hide the fact that the systems are all garbage given what tech could be doing today. These companies don't want to give you a quality experience. They want to make money by making things as cheaply as possible and rolling through a twenty year backlog of technology as slowly as possible, making you purchase upgrade after upgrade. Capitalism has been put in slow motion by the ability of large companies to hire lawyers and threaten/execute litigation, effectively shutting out real innovations. Nothing new, I just get sick of people talking about how great their systems are. As proof of my argument, I offer the sad fact that actual user input has gotten stuck since the innovation of the mouse. My Kinect can do better at input than my phone or computer, but it excludes any kind of productivity. The same basically goes for Kindle Fire and Android, and to a lesser extent, the Ipad. We should have had Siri ten years ago. We should have AI right now. Thanks for nothing, Microsoft and Apple.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A modern version of HG Wells' "Green Wall"

Somewhere in my past, this color exists. I'm pretty sure it was on a guitar or car or otherwise very glossy surface. I had to recreate it because I can't find it anywhere. There also exists the same color, I know on cars, in a blue and also a gold. It is an unspeakable transparent glitter color that you would really have to see in 3D.

My point in bringing it up is that sometimes we see things that hit a part of our brains and make a mark. We carry that memory around. If it's a quote, ok, we can bring it back maybe by reading it. A color or a smell is much more difficult and subtle, because it is usually nameless. Sometimes we get hold of it and name it, like Parrish Blue, after the artist Maxfield Parrish. That helps, but you have to see it in person to really get it. Another example are the colors Vermeer used, which you have to see to understand. I think some of the colors in the movie Avatar are that way too.

When the memory of this red first came back, it startled me, because I could remember clearly my pleasure at seeing it but couldn't recall, (and still can't recall) the actual object that it was on. It was most likely a car or a guitar, but I really don't remember the object or where or when, just the color/texture.

You probably have similar memories in your head, maybe some you didn't even know were there. The reason I'm fascinated by this is because up until recently, I thought memory was linear and cohesive. It's not, at least once you hit 45 or so. Carlos Castaneda wrote about this, but I never really believed any of it. Now I do, having re-experienced the memory of the color above.

What does this have to do with the H.G. Wells story The Green Wall?

The story is about memories lost like this red texture/color. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Movie Review: Moneyball


Around 2002, Billy Beane was the general manager for the Oakland A’s baseball club. Not having a budget like the New York Yankees, he couldn’t afford the popular players. So he came up with a different approach.

That’s the background for the unlikely likeable Moneyball. In the interest of saving you time, I’ll let you know this is not your typical sports movie. Sure, it’s got dramatic game play and team building, but there’s also a twelve year old girl in a music store, singing a song she wrote for her dad. We have a first base player who has never played first base, and a young economics graduate from Yale trying to explain baseball to a star hitter. And if that’s not enough, there are scenes of Oakland that proved to me some places out west are much less beautiful than good old Southwest Louisiana.

So just sit back and enjoy the show. Brad Pitt plays Billy, although another actor plays Beane’s younger self in flashbacks of his short career playing professional baseball. It turns out Billy was one of many rising stars that fizzled out before he got started. I was expecting a movie of goofy misfits coming together as a team, sort of a Longest Yard of baseball. Instead, we find ourselves looking into the heart and soul of a guy who the sport has swept up and left in the back corner, now manager of the poorest team in the country. His boss, the owner of the A’s, doesn’t care about winning the World Series. The guy just wants people to buy hot dogs and make him a profit. The trouble is, that’s not what Billy wants.

In one of a number of great scenes, he’s trying to trade a couple of players to the Cleveland Indians, when a heavyset college type (Jonah Hill) whispers something to an assistant manager and blows the whole deal. Later Billy confronts the young man and finds out that he has some crazy ideas about baseball. Billy listens. He can’t afford to buy star players, so he buys the kid’s contract. Together, they build a team centered on statistics: draft players who can get on base and get runs.

It turns out that no one in baseball runs a team this way. They all go after stars. Billy’s team is cheap. All of his players have flaws. But they have the ability to get on base, even if it’s by getting a walk.

The story could have been mundanely told. Instead it’s beautifully told. In fact, if I had a complaint, it’s that some of the scenes in Moneyball seem over directed, as if we’re supposed to see every scene as key to the whole movie. But you can’t deny that the movie sports some extremely subtle humor with commentary perfectly sprinkled throughout.

I’m mainly a guy who watches only Houston Astros baseball, and then only when they’re winning. Thankfully, you don’t have to be a baseball fan to appreciate the human drama in Moneyball, the drama that comes from trying to reach a goal while trying to figure out what that goal is.

These days, to be rated PG-13, a movie has to be either violent or have vulgarity. The couple four letter words I heard seemed out of place, put in specifically to get the mature rating. Moneyball proves that you don’t have to have the charm of Brad Pitt to make it in baseball. But if you want to be a success, you may need to redefine what the word means as you go. 




Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Man's Search for Meaning - Viktor Frankl

Yet another important book immediately spawned from WWII, my parent's generation, is Viktor Frankl's book about his experiences in Auschwitz and other concentration camps. Doctor Frankl was a psychologist and survived the camps, largely through luck or Grace, certainly Grace for us who have the good fortune of his writing.

The details are not as grotesquely written as we are used to seeing these days, but they are alluded to in such matter-of-fact tone that the effect is chilling.

His message, which you can really only get from reading (I'm about halfway through) is this: Even in a concentration camp, with torture and death constantly at hand, even then, one can choose one's attitude. It's not easy, but it is possible. Frankl saw this with his own eyes as some of the prisoners chose the path of helping their fellow prisoners, even at risk to their own lives.

This is the hero's attitude turned inside out, and so foreign to us that we immediately think loser of anyone who takes it on. Sacrifice? You've got to be kidding me! Yet Frankl comes to the conclusion that it is this that kept some of the prisoners from the brink of giving in to suicide or worse, the slow death that comes from giving up. He observed that it was a difficult task, sometimes going against instinct, in the face of hunger, fear, sickness, and horror. In his own case, he decided to stay with a group of sick prisoners to help them when he could have escaped. It ended up saving his life. Luck? Yes, a random event if you will. Even so, he expounds on the claim that to do otherwise, to leave these men, would have been, for him, wrong. And that would have weakened his spirit, making feel even less human than his circumstances made him feel.

We all have this choice before us, every day. Do we follow instinct and inhumanely climb the ladder of self preservation, or do we stop along the way to give others a hand up or even a push from below them? Thoughtful reading this is, and I would recommend it to anyone from our era of having everything at hand, an era that could easily crumble into anarchy and decay.

What goes around - Arabian Nights



If you are among the millions who picked up all the Harry Potter Books including the Tales of Beadle the Bard, you may want to get The Thousand and One Nights, available for free at Amazon.com 

I woke up in the middle of the night thinking of Scheherazade and realized that with all the stories I'd heard growing up, I never actually picked up the book. It turns out there's no definitive text, and there's more than one volume but the one here has the prologue, which is fascinating. You can also find an online version with a menu for navigation here.

 As we in the west continue to scratch our heads over the turmoils in the Middle East, perhaps reading some of their classic literature will help us to understand our fellow humans with more insight.

What J.K Rowling did, we should try to continue, that is, introducing children to the wonders of reading. There has never been a better time to do this than now, with kindles and other ereaders available to make book reading cool and in the case of the classics, free.

Perhaps one day we will again be a society that appreciates history and culture. Thanks for getting the ball rolling Ms. Rowling!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Internet Governance Forum is a site and organization that really is talking about using the internet for democracy. Most of what I've found there so far is using social networks for campaigning, but it's fair to say that the world is just in the early stages of using the Web for running government.

What's important is that these guys have been around for awhile. Here in the U.S. we have the tendency to be alerted to issues for the short term, such as the current Occupy Wall Street Movement, which uses Twitter on the model of the recent Arab Spring movement. But other places have been working on internet governance for years.

Let's all be aware of this trend and learn more about it. Certainly internet governing should have huge advantages over our 250 year old system (older than that if you consider what it was based upon.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Real Steel Movie Review


Real Steel (Dreamworks, 2011)


My childhood was fulfilled when my parents got me a set of Rock-em-Sock-em Robots for Christmas. I think I was eighteen. (Definitely a late adopter.) So you can imagine how eager I was to see Real Steel, a Hugh Jackman father-son movie about fighting robots.

So much has changed since my eighteenth Christmas. Now robots have shadowing programs and remote controls, and so on. But they still look the same, with metallic, vaguely human bodies made of plastic and steel. Oh, I forgot, this is just a movie.

In this big-budget picture, Hugh Jackman plays Charlie Kenton, a vagabond traveling robot remote control fighter. The movie is set somewhere in time after 2016, but you’d hardly know it from the reflective opening scenes.  Here’s Charlie in his truck, visiting carnivals and other back road venues, putting his current robot up against whoever wants to fight for money.

In the midst of a losing fight, along comes the news that his son’s mother has died. Charlie hasn’t seen the son, Max, since forever. Now Max is eleven and about to be adopted by his aunt. In a shady deal with Max’s uncle, Charlie agrees to baby sit the boy for fifty thou while Aunt and Uncle take a quick trip to Europe. His plan is to ditch Max with an old girlfriend while he hits the road again with a new used robot.

Do you notice something here? There’s an overabundance of human plot structure in which the technology is sort of assumed. In this near future, robots are as ubiquitous (everyday) as iphones. Sure, they’re too expensive to use as anything but money makers, but no one gives a sophisticated fighting robot a second glance, unless they’re a fan of the World Robot Wrestling league.  


It turns out that little Max is a huge fan of robot wrestling, and insists on accompanying Charlie on the road. The rest of the movie plays out as you would expect. Along the way there are some very interesting and well played characters, including Charlie’s old flame Bailey (Evangeline Lilly), who runs a gym. In fact, her father taught Charlie everything he knows about boxing. The interaction between Bailey and Charlie, at least in the beginning of the movie, is engaging and well played.

In my opinion, the first half of the movie is the best, when we’re being set up for the fighting action that follows. The second half is very long on theatrics and close-ups of Charlie, Bailey and Max as their robot fights its way to a national robot championship. Oh, the action is great, but Max, played by Dakota Goyo, reminds me way too much of little Anakin Skywalker and Ricky “Champ” Schroeder combined. If you’re into cute, you’ll get plenty of it in Real Steel.

At the same time, the movie rocks on its own level. Having watched some of the robot revolution play out in Japan (where robot teams routinely play soccer with each other) I was pleased to see the yeah-so-can-your-robot-fight attitude that everyone had about the machines in Real Steel.

And parents be warned, there’s a lot of fighting in PG-13 Real Steel, not all of it robot versus robot. Charlie gets the crap beaten out of him by one villain he owes money to, while Max is forced to watch. This is definitely a testosterone kind of family movie, and small children should probably skip it.  But thankfully, its all set in the future. Moms shouldn’t have to worry about their kids wanting to run off and fight robots for a living. A least not this year.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I'm not materialistic, I'm technologyistic.

Many of us are not materialistic. We're technologyistic.  Really, isn't this how its been for a long time? We don't care so much for material things as having our music, photos, etc. all available on our device of current interest.

For those who subscribe to this way of life, it means that Sync is the game changer for applications. With sync goes all hope of privacy. Becoming more hive-member-like is going to be a real dealbreaker for many Boomers. Milestone transitional projects include Itunes, Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook and other social sites, but also Amazon and Google. In just a short time, we will all be one big sweaty, happy, bickering family.

As a Boomer myself, do I want this? Not really. Is it inevitable? Certainly. Your life has always depended on the hive busily making fast food, communication, and other things available for you. With the wave of computer interaction here today, we are about to get a lot more cozy in the near future. See you there!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Smartphones Part 2: A Review of Android

I'm writing this for all of you late adopters wondering why or if now is the time to buy a smartphone. My motto is "wait until the last possible moment". For me, that time has come.

A smartphone is now necessary for you to work with the twenty first century world of adults who were born into the computer age. Just as we can't think of not having a computer at work or home, so it is becoming with smartphones. Like early PC's and Apples, they aren't perfect. But they sure as hell are changing the game of life.

So here is my take on what makes the popular Android platform work on today's smartphones, and what you get.


1. Connectivity 

Your current cell phone is great for talking, and maybe you've even tried a text or two. What else could you need? The true answer is: sure you can get by without the web. For that matter, you can get by without a mobile phone at all. But the connectivity of the web brings with it a new level of information that has shaped everything else that you come into contact with. Let's start with that front page:

2. A choice of input

The most obvious difference between the dumb and smartphone is the lack of real keys. And for some of you, that's a deal-breaker right there. Even the staunchest geek will admit in their heart of hearts that navigating a virtual touch screen is a mixed bag.

For me, that led to my purchase of a slider phone with a real keyboard and a touch screen. And guess what? I'm actually getting along very well with both types of keypads.

The way it works in Android is you press in say the google search bar, and a virtual keypad comes up. If you want to use the real thing, just slide it open and let the phone reorient. Your virtual pad goes away and you are in keyboard mode. You can still use touch onscreen just like you would a mouse. (Remember those?)


3. Those things called apps
The little chiclet icons on the home screen are called apps, and they are different from the applications you're used to in computers. Another speedbump to get over in your transition to a new age, right? Not nearly as difficult as you think. In fact the difference is fundamental to today's smartphones, and explains the whole new world of the 21st century.

Your wonderful smartphone has a very limited memory. So apps are tiny.They download in seconds from the Android Market (one of those chiclets on your home screen) and a lot of them are free.

Many apps are pre loaded with your Android phone, and some of them work pretty good. You'll probably find others you want. For example, there's an app called browser that works pretty much off of Google. But you can download one called Opera Mini for free that has advantages. If you don't like it, then delete it. It's that simple.


4. Slide and touch

You'll get used to sliding and tapping your finger on the screen pretty quickly. You can also pinch and open your fingers to zoom, and some phones have different other finger movements you can use. Remember, all of this is designed so a middle schooler can use it. If you've worked on a pc, Android will be a snap.


5. What about all those crappy reviews? And lousy battery time?
Hey, every consumer item gets crappy reviews. What you really are worried about is getting stuck with a useless brick. Well, I got the cheapest Android I could find, and it works ok. Snob appeal it hasn't got, but I don't really look for those things. I'm a practical guy. Most of the issues you hear about, like phones freezing and such are rare, and when I had this problem early on, it was because my battery got low. So what about batteries getting low?

There's two things that use up batteries. Running apps in the background and having wifi on. Keeping them off saves battery. As it is, I have a mini usb on my phone and I just plug it into my computer if it starts getting low. So it's really not any more of an issue than your old phone was.



6. So what's the big deal? 

I've got a few other reasons that it took me so long to get a smartphone, and discuss them here:

Cost. Not much of an issue anymore. My Virgin Mobile Android cost me $99.00 and the monthly fee for unlimited everything except only 1200 minutes of talk is $45.00. About $10 dollars a month more than my non-web phone service was.

Quality. Aren't month to month phones a gyp? No. They're not as fast as the top of the line phones, but I've learned that Android is Android. And really, its not any slower than my older XP was. Glitches, sure, but the only perfect technology is Apple, right?  ;-)

There's really no reason not to get a smartphone. Your kids won't have to laugh at you any more, and they'll be wary of putting one over on you now that you're part of the real world.

In my next installment, for those who are still scared of jumping in, (and trust me, that's the only way to go, because the technology is so different) I'll look closely at individual apps, namely a browser app and a couple of social apps.

Good luck!



This analysis of the Arab Spring, to which some are comparing the Occupy Wall Street Movement, gives insight to political realities: When the ruling parties (in our case I think it's both Republicans and Democrats) tries to get on your bandwagon, it can give your movement a burst of momentum and then leave you flat.

This is more or less what happened to the so called Tea Party, which began as a platform from which to endorse or disapprove political candidates in support of smaller government. They were successful in getting seats in our legislature. They've been less successful at sustaining their momentum as they're now seen as a tool of the Republican Party.

The Democratic Party is trying to do the same with the Occupy Wall Street movement. My instinct tells me that the key for success is for the groups of citizens, Tea Partiers and Occupy Wall Streeters alike, to combine forces, find common ground, and get people into office that would really try to reform things. Granted the Tea Party congress faction has tried this, but they've misread their mandate. I'm sure many would disagree, but the key to a grass roots effort is to listen to your roots, find common ground with the general populace, and grow.

The ball is now in the court for Occupy Wall Street to do this. Otherwise, they will fall to the attempt by establishment Democrats to adopt them. The platform seems obvious: smaller more efficient government, achieved cutting out the get-rich-paid-by-special-interest group congressmen. The method of achieving this change will come through exposure of the rascals in Congress for the money-grubbing that they're on record for. Are there some "well-behaved" members of congress? The New Party needs to agree on who these are, who they arent, and institute real change. For example, why aren't we voting on-line? Why is government located in one central place in the twenty first century?

Come on, Wall Streeters! Your basic non-oligarchy stance is good! Let's write the middleman out of our government and use the web for some 2.0 Democracy!


Friday, October 14, 2011

For all my fellow conservatives, aren't you tired of Fox's agenda? And liberals, the same goes for Huffington.

The speaker giving Fox News the buisness is Jesse LaGreca, a vocal member of the Occupy Wall Street protests. This video comes courtesy of Kyle Christopher from OccupyWallSt.org‘s media team.

 Regardless of what you think of Occupy Wall Street or even Fox, the point is they gave this guy the impression he was speaking for television and then just didn't air it. I call that journalistic dishonesty.

I'm just enough of a conservative to believe that everyone, conservatives and liberals and in between have members of their groups who are not stupid. Ok? I've already heard enough about how stupid ALL of the liberals and conservatives are (from the other's viewpoint of course.) That's a false picture, but those in power seem to understand the mantra "Divide and Conquer".

We hold Freedom of the Press as one of those inalienable rights. I think the new free press is currently Twitter. The big guys are just in turf protection mode and owned by their advertisers.And it's just a matter of time before the boycotts begin, which is stage 2 of real protest.

I Hate our Major News Services. All of them.

If this was happening in Iraq, it would be on a live feed on all the networks. Ho hum. It's New York City. Denver. San Francisco.

No, what it really is: a failure of our so called news services. I would imagine they're a little rocked by it. Maybe Occupy Wall Street should move to Rockefeller Plaza and Occupy NBC.

Hey, what gives with me? I'm no liberal. No, but I think that this movement, combined with the Tea Party Movement, is the real political news happening today. And I think it's scaring the crap out of BOTH the liberal and conservative parties in power. Just wait until these two grass roots movements realize they're fighting the same thing. Our outdated, corrupt, crony-phile political process. Congratulations America, it took over a generation, but you've woken up. Now if you could just get together...


Smartphones Part 1: The medium is the message.

I'm a highly sensitive person. (That's a real designation, HSP, see here.) What this means is that when I get something I really get it. My world is turned upside down. It doesn't happen often in big ways, though in small ways it happens every day.

All of that is by way of introduction to say that this week I finally got a smartphone. And now, finally, I get it. Or am starting to. But with one foot still in the before smartphone world (BSP, not an official designation but still very real for me) I want to post some insights for my BSP friends. You SP friends may gain from these too.

1. The medium is the message. And it's kept like a big secret. A smartphone is such a complex animal and so different from a computer that you can't possibly anticipate dealing with it. So no one tries, which means we all jump into it cold. Later I'm going to review my humble new phone from the standpoint of a BSP person.

2. The SP is an admission ticket into another world. Specifically, the world of a generation younger than mine. This is the world today, it is different from the world I grew up in, and even having a computer with all the latest stuff is still a step behind the world with an SP.

3. Twitter makes sense. Because smartphones live on a smaller platform than your computer (see #1). And because Twitter is good for really quick public posting, it's THE way to get the latest news. The real news.

4. Many many other things also make sense because of #1: The way the web has changed, the way icons have changed, the way we converse with each other. The fragmentation of our culture, thoughts, and values. The division in viewpoints. The loss of the semicolon in long passages, to be replaced by the period, which makes incomplete sentences the norm. And of course, the increase in speed.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

RIP Objective news sources. Again.

This report is from Reuters.com. I used to consider Reauters a neutral news source, but here they are putting out what to me is a biased report.

The  article insinuates and implies that George Soros is backing the Occupy Wall Street movement, but if you read it closely, all you find are unsubstantiated claims of this. Then it goes on to list other sources, including  Kickstarter. 

Let me just say here that I'll be looking twice at anything from Reuters.com. This is in no way an endorsement of political views, I just want to call attention to shoddy reporting.    

Who's behind the Wall St. protests?



Members of the Occupy Wall Street movement take part in a protest march through the financial district of New York, October 12, 2011. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

NEW YORK | Thu Oct 13, 2011 11:09am EDT
(Reuters) - Anti-Wall Street protesters say the rich are getting richer while average Americans suffer, but the group that started it all may have benefited indirectly from the largesse of one of the world's richest men.
There has been much speculation over who is financing the disparate protest, which has spread to cities across America and lasted nearly four weeks. One name that keeps coming up is investor George Soros, who in September debuted in the top 10 list of wealthiest Americans. Conservative critics contend the movement is a Trojan horse for a secret Soros agenda.
Soros and the protesters deny any connection. But Reuters did find indirect financial links between Soros and Adbusters, an anti-capitalist group in Canada which started the protests with an inventive marketing campaign aimed at sparking an Arab Spring type uprising against Wall Street. Moreover, Soros and the protesters share some ideological ground.
"I can understand their sentiment," Soros told reporters last week at the United Nations about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, which are expected to spur solidarity marches globally on Saturday.
Pressed further for his views on the movement and the protesters, Soros refused to be drawn in. But conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh summed up the speculation when he told his listeners last week, "George Soros money is behind this."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Federal Reserve Plans To Monitor Facebook, Twitter, Google News

  Here you go. The Fed is the first to react to Occupy Wall Street. Government by social media, prelude 1. (Well, unless you count Wall Street's announcement that they may be laying off 10,000 MORE financial workers.)

The New York Federal Reserve Bank is embarking on an ambitious social media monitoring project. Starting this December, the Fed will be monitoring Facebook, Twitter, and the broader web to gauge public response to economic policy. Civil libertarians and anti-big government activists are upset, but should they be?

As Occupy Wall Street gains stream, the New York Federal Reserve Bank wants to know--for better or worse--how they are perceived. And they're going to monitor social media to figure it out.
A vendor proposal request (or RFP) from the Fed, which describes a "Sentiment Analysis and Social Media Monitoring Solution," surfaced on Scribd on September 25, and was quickly featured on gonzo finance blog Zero Hedge.
According to the document, the Fed is now evaluating bids for a social media analysis system that will mine data from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, and web forums--beginning in December.

From fastcompany.com


That was quick. Good work, OccupyWallStreet. Around here,  "...it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"  -The Red Queen,  Lewis Carroll, Alice In Wonderland.

I think I posted uh, this morning?  That something like this was coming. Of course, the Red Queen didn't discuss running around in circles.


How To Be an Idealist

1. Don't argue with other people. Listen to them.

2. Save your views for when other people are finished talking. Sure, you may never get a chance to speak. But when you do, you'll have more information to work with.

3. Read books. Okay, read ebooks. Doesn't matter. You can get more qualitatively from a book than from an article. You can get the author's insight.

4. Put on an optimistic viewpoint. View the glass as half full rather than half empty, even if it does contain piss.

5. Maintain a sense of humor. Seriously.


Ok, if you got it, you can probably think of better ones on your own. Get to work.



All governments are on notice: we’re here, the citizens of the world, and you can’t silence us anymore.

     --- Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, from a recent  interview  .

I really like this quote. And I admire what the founder of Wikipedia has accomplished. But what do we have to say, Jimmy?

Are we to be a babbling multitude, disintegrated into adversarial groups, shouting at each other? Or are we to be a community undertaking discourse, rationally going forward as a culture and society?

To me what would be most encouraging, even more groundbreaking than other world events, would be the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street sitting down to discuss how (not when) they plan on changing government forever, using the web and other technology that the Founding Fathers didn't have.

The 53 Percent



The internet. It cuts both ways. Ok, more than two. Here is a blog of the so called 53%, self named people who aren't rich, but are proud of the fact that they support themselves.

Let's face it, all of us are partakers in this mixed up economy called the USA. The 53% has a point, so do the 99% so even does the 1%.

What's exciting is that all this dialogue is taking place outside of the authority of the unions, the political parties, and the other power players who really have played the system since the signing of the Constitution.

The internet is becoming a new way of doing Democracy. This is awesome.

I'm optimistic that this will ultimately help the cause of Democracy, which has always had real problems with efficiency. Have you got an opinion? Log in and voice it! Others are listening!

Occupy Lake Charles

 
Lake Charles residents joining "Occupy" movement - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

This Saturday, residents of Lake Charles will be demonstrating in front of Books-A-Million on Alamo Street from 12-3 pm. This demonstration is an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street demonstration currently going on in NYC.

The movement has gotten toghether a list of grievances (my term, you can call them demands or whatever you like) that was read by Keith Olbermann and is available here.  Keep all these folks in your prayers and pray for our country. We certainly need it. 

Having listened to the statement, it sounds to me like there are some pretty smart folks up in NYC who are pissed off. The whole event is an education for all involved. Someone recently described Democracy as "endless meetings". It's easy to see how a group of people trying to govern themselves could over the years morph into the political dinosaur that our government has become. It takes so much time to keep the machinery running. As a result, we the people delegate the work. Now, through our own lack of attention over the years, those we have pushed the job to have built a nice little business for themselves.

I think both the Tea Party movement and the Occupy Wall Street movement have a lot of learning to do. They're going to find out that self government is hard work. Hey I'm not saying it isn't necessary, quite the opposite. It's our own apathy and inattention that has caused the whole mess. Fact is, Americans DO have the power to change their government completely during elections. So let's do it! Vote the suckers out and vote in people who will represent you, not the rich lobbying groups.

Monday, October 10, 2011

These articles you find everywhere. What's missing?

This article from Lifehacker

How to Live Cheap and Put Hundreds of Dollars Back in Your Pocket (Without Becoming a Hobo) 

 

Is one of many, many I see these days on smart living. It's trendy, and good, and really covers a lot of ground.  So what do I know? 

First of all, there are too many of these articles, too many for you to choose from, and you can never know if the source is some wise sage (like me) or a kid (like the one in the picture). So, I've decided to do some of the work for you, and refer you to articles like these that, from my personal experience, are pretty much on target.

 Let's face it, I don't have time to write them all, and you don't have time to read them all, so just check back with me from time to time and I'll try to give you some of the good ones. Oh, and who else is annoyed by those 5 Things articles that force you to click on five different pages to get the information? Lately I've been boycotting these.
 

Book Review - Good Calories Bad Calories

I don't know about you, but I'm a pretty consistent person. I've tried for years to drop about 30 pounds, and even succeeded for a short time, mainly through willpower.

Since then I've gotten older and less active, even though I exercise about 3 times a week. I like to run, even if it's on a treadmill. After three years of this and still weighing in at 208 pounds, I got hold of the Readers Digest article by Gary Taubes.

Consider me an experimenter. When I saw the statement "All calories are not created equal," I figured this was easy enough to disprove.

Taubes' main beef is this: Everything we've been told about calories in equals calories out is at best suspect. According to the article, you can supposedly lose weight by eating things like bacon and eggs. Lots of weight.

Haha. I have no willpower, ok? I live and breathe hunger, mainly borne of stress. I'm on the statins and the blood pressure medicine, exercise like I said, take vitamins, and so on. Do you know how far you have to run to work off one doughnut? (2 miles at least.) I'd pretty much given up on any idea of ever controlling weight. Who wants to live in misery?

So reading the article, I decided to try it. Hamburgers minus the buns? I can do that. Eggs and bacon? I can do that. Cheese and broccoli? I can do that. Sausage, yes.

About two weeks later I was at about 195 pounds, eating like a pig (if not actually eating pig) and decided to get the Taubes book.

Thirty three pounds more, and I'm finished with the book, but keeping it off. Here's my take:

First of all, Good Calories Bad Calories is not for the lighthearted. It is practically a textbook, although very well written. Taubes starts off with the guy who started it all, Banting. From my amazon e-copy:

            WILLIAM BANTING WAS A FAT MAN. In 1862, at age sixty-six, the five-foot-five Banting, or “Mr. Banting of corpulence notoriety,” as the British Medical Journal would later call him, weighed in at over two hundred pounds. “Although no very great size or weight,” Banting wrote, “still I could not stoop to tie my shoe, so to speak, nor attend to the little offices humanity requires without considerable pain and difficulty, which only the corpulent can understand.”
             Taubes, Gary (2007-09-25). Good Calories, Bad Calories . Anchor. Kindle Edition. 

He wrote a little book about what he did to lose weight. Maybe the first diet book! The craze was started, but instead of dieting, they called it Banting. Go figure.

Here's the thing: Banting was doing a low carb diet. No kidding. Back in 1862! If you want to read his little pamphlet instead of Taubes' Tome, it's right here

What you don't get from Banting is "why"? Why does low carb work and why is our medical establishment in such denial about this?  Taubes spends 500 pages or so trying to figure that out.

I don't know if he truly answers the question, but for me, he pretty much nails the coffin shut on the current government sanctioned food pyramid.

Sugar? Gone. Grains? Severely limited. Fiber? All you want. Meat? All you want. Vegetables? It depends. But it's all in this book, study after study that contradicts "common sense". This isn't a diet book, mind you. There's plenty of those out there, and the big daddy of them was Dr. Atkins himself, who died controversially at the height of his career.

Is there really a conspiracy out there, perpetuated by the sugar and corn growers in America, to get rich off the diabetic crisis in our country? I doubt it. But having worked for in the pharmaceutical world for many years, I do know that the drug manufacturers can spot a bonanza when they see one. And diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and all the other diseases of being overweight are ripe for making dollars. On the flip side, no one makes money off of low carbing, because (at least in my case) the food and doctor bill actually goes down with a little work.

Needless to say, after working through Good Calories Bad Calories, I know a lot more about the science of weight loss than I did before. It all comes down to hunger and insulin levels. Insulin, isn't that what diabetes is all about? You got it.

But what I really didn't know was how controversial the whole subject is. I have a nutritionist in my family, and she pretty well thinks I should be dead by now. I love her, but she's part of the scientific community. To get a job, she simply has to talk the mainstream talk. What's more, she believes in a low fat diet, heart and soul. As do most people I know. What do I know?

The biggest thing I can tell you about low carbing, or Banting, is this: after eating bacon and eggs for breakfast, cheese and chicken for lunch, and a low carb salad for supper, it's hard to be hungry. If you are, usually you're really thirsty, not hungry. Eight months down the road now, I feel guilty. Guilty that I get to eat so much and keep the weight down, while virtually every one I know is struggling with low fat diets.

Taubes realized that his book was pretty dense, and has written a lighter version. It's called Why We Get Fat (and what to do about it)  If you're overweight and don't want to be caught reading a heavy book, you might want to check it out.

All this being said, I have to put in a disclaimer: Always confer with your doctor before starting a weight loss plan. Low Carbing can be dangerous for some people, and you may need extra vitamins or minerals, depending. I'm not a doctor, I'm just a guy. A much skinnier guy.


Dolphin Tale Movie Review

Note: This is an excerpt from my review published in the latest issue of The Jambalaya News.

 
Dolphin Tale 3D (Warner Bros. 2011)

I was never much a fan of Flipper or even the water shows at aquariums and such. Toss it up to my Louisiana upbringing. I’d rather see dolphins down at the Intercoastal Waterway. But this movie is very different.

Dolphin Tale is a true story, not just inspired by. A real dolphin gets to try out an artificial tail. The movie is a dramatization, but really happened. Caveat: I usually skip these kinds of true story fish movies (see above). But in this case, we have a production that might be one of the better family movies you’ll see this year.

Sawyer Nelson is a Florida boy who loses his favorite older cousin to the military, which ruins his summer. Well, to be honest, having to attend summer school doesn’t help. Early on in the film, he’s on the beach in his hometown of Clearwater and comes across a beached dolphin wrapped up in the windings of a crab trap. As he cuts it loose, a rescue team from Clearwater Marine Aquarium (sort of a Baywatch Humane Society) shows up, transferring the dolphin into a van and leaving Sawyer feeling even more isolated on the beach. 

See the rest of the review at  The Jambalaya News.

Note: I usually get called on things like this: A dolphin is a mammal, not a fish. I knew that. I was just hoping you didn't. I hark back to The Incredible Mr. Limpet, in which Don Knotts sings "I Wish I was a Fish" and gets turned into a dolphin. The song wouldn't have worked as "I wish, I wish, I wish I was a mammal." Ok, so I'm no Don Knotts. But I can dream, can't I?

Next Review: Real Steel

Politics solved.

This article from the Huffington Post about invasive pests proves once and for all the Democratic philosophy: Everything wrong with the United States is the fault of the Bush administration and the Republican Party.

This fundamentally contrasts with the Republican philosophy, which states that everything wrong with the United States is the fault of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party.

The philosophies of the two parties are not surprising. What puzzles me is why the two parties both have members, given the nihilistic tenor of their simplistic views.

In the spirit of constructivism that I hope characterizes my nature, I propose an alternative party, that provides a much more coherent and sensible basis for political discourse: The Cow party, that believes that everything wrong with the United States is the fault of Chik Fil A.
Tiger Woods got attaked by a hot dog yesterday. It could have been me or you. Someone needs to do something about this.

Unfortunately, our choices are limited:
Congress
Me (and I decline)
You
God

If you don't believe in God, or for some reason thinks that He doesn't care about hot dog attacks, then you have no choice but to do something about this dire situation yourself. Unless you like it this way.

Think deeply upon this koan, grasshopper.

You don't know me.

First things first. If you know me personally, you don't know me. You only know a physical version of me that happens to exist in your world. That's ok, because I don't know you either.

Now that this is settled, I'll tell you what this blog consists of: It will be one of my public faces online, the most honest face I can manage at this time. You can find others at my facebook page and elsewhere. 

However, I usually keep a low profile. What better place for keeping one than right out in front of all, hidden in the ocean that is the internet?

You can begin to understand me a little bit more now.