Hunger and fear are the only realities in dog life: an empty stomach makes a fierce dog.
— excerpt, personal journal of Capt. Robert Falcon Scott
This short film by Aaron Dunleavy was inspired by his childhood in Blackburn, Lancashire UK. The script was improvised and cast using locals.
All districts in Lancashire voted Leave during last week’s Brexit referendum, with 65% of Blackburn voters supporting Leave.
Worth noting an article in Lancashire Telegraph about an Aldi’s store under construction. Aldi’s is a German-owned grocery store chain; have to wonder if construction will be completed.
Brexit botch bits
Waiting around watching the court for good or ill until this morning is kind of like waiting for Shark Week — hey, it IS Shark Week! What a coincidence!
Promises to be a busy week ahead. Stay tuned!
After the shock, denial, horror, anger, and grief of death, there’s always the second line. Seems fitting today in the wake of Brexit to observe the passing of an ideal — a United Kingdom, in harmony with its European neighbors and allies — that we have a second line.
You’re probably familiar with the imagery of the second line, a New Orleans tradition in which a jazz band plays for a funeral procession after the mourners have buried the dead. The history of the second line isn’t clear in no small part because it originated among the African diaspora and the creole community, whose cultural history is poorly documented because of race. The second line was the other face of death — the celebration of the departed’s arrival at better world beyond the reach of the living. Over the last hundred years, the second line became a community event not confined to funeral processions alone. Sunday afternoons revolved around street parties centered on the local Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs and Benevolent Societies from which many brass jazz bands emerged as a part of the services offered through their co-op funeral insurance.
The video embedded here is more of a traditional blues dirge among second line tunes, but it might be played before or after the funeral. This video, however, shares music with true second line spirit, recorded as an observation of the passing year. And this second line following the funeral of Ernest “Doc” Watson is the definitive example.
Best jazz I can do post-Brexit referendum.
Legal and other la-la
That’s a wrap on a particularly grueling week. Have a nice weekend.
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
— excerpt, The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats, c. 1919
This lovely bit of atmospheric electronica by åpne sinn from the 2012 album entitled en seier is an odd fit for the anarchic theme. en seier is Norwegian for ‘one victory’, which is how åpne sinn‘s Steve Brand characterizes each day of life after surviving a heart attack, a personal apocalypse like Yeats’ rough beast of The Second Coming.
The last couple of weeks culminating in today’s Brexit referendum feel like the onset of a global heart attack. Hope we enjoy a victory after this strife, but it’s too soon for more than hope.
Still a little off, not up to any more reading today after staying up far too late watching the House Democrats’ sit-in protest last night. Here’s a few things worth looking at:
…the problem of accidents in machine learning systems. We define accidents as unintended and harmful behavior that may emerge from machine learning systems when we specify the wrong objective function, are not careful about the learning process, or commit other machine learning-related implementation errors.
Worthwhile read, but I see a problem already, though, a blindspot they come so close to resolving but fail to recognize. The research team is not particularly diverse, nor is the AI development community. They will program systems based on a world as they understand it, not as it is even though they believe they are programming for a rich and noisy environment. The results will be far worse than blue screens of death.
That’s enough for today, I need to reserve my strength for the outcome of the Brexit referendum. Toodles.
Summer bug laid me up. I’m indulging in the audio equivalent of tea with honey, lemon, and a shot of something to scare away the bug. A little cello playing by Yo-Yo Ma never fails to make me feel better.
This sweet video is enlightening, didn’t realize Ma had an older sister who was an accomplished musician at a tender age. Worthwhile to watch this week considering the blizzard of arguments about immigrants and refugees here and abroad.
And then for good measure, a second favorite added in the mix — Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman together, performing Beethoven’s Triple Concerto Fantasy.
There. I feel a little better already.
Probably better than frustrated House Democrats led by Rep. John Lewis who are engaging in a sit-in protest on House floor demanding a vote on No-Fly-No-Buy gun control. If you want to watch the action, you’ll have to check social media. It’s said House GOP leadership ensured CSPAN cameras were shut off.
Diesel do you
Sigh, cyber, sigh
Did you know Led Zeppelin is being sued over Stairway to Heaven? Allegedly a key riff in the famous 40-year-old tune was stolen, violating copyright. Forty years. ~smh~
Going back to a recumbent position. Stay braced for the outcome of the sit-in and Brexit vote tomorrow.
After my Go-Team-Yay-Space post yesterday, it’s time for a Monday morning reality check. Going to Mars will not be a panacea to our ills, as this darkly humorous animated short, Fired on Mars by Nick and Nate, shows. On the other hand, SpaceX’s Elon Musk offers an upside while acknowledging the inherent risk of space travel and colonization: “If you’re going to choose a place to die, then Mars is probably not a bad choice.”
Certainly beats an undiginified extinction by drowning on earth, eh?
We may not be leaving the planet today, but you’d best buckle up anyhow. This week’s going to be a doozy.
Brexit, Brexit, Brexit
Say that in your best Jan Brady voice — Brexit will suck all the oxygen out of this week’s market news. I’m afraid to look at the stock market at all because of it. Euronews has a roundup on the topic (though I warn you, it’s poorly formatted — keep scrolling down the page and increase print size). I’m not posting any other UK-based links here now because it’s quite obvious each media outlet has a position and their coverage reflects it. Most blatantly obvious are those owned by Rupert Murdoch’s Newsgroup, which has prompted some angry murmurs about an Aussie living in the U.S. telling the UK what to do.
Disturbing: Mexico’s federal police fire on teachers’ protest rally
I say disturbing for two reasons: first, that a democratic government’s federal would fire on protesters supporting the CNTE teachers’ union and actively deny it happened is appalling, and second, that its neighbor’s media would ignore that it happened. Teachers and supporters have been rallying in the state of Oaxaca, protesting the government’s education reform plan, characterized by some as neoliberal. It was clear from the outset that the government was in no mood to listen, given the number of riot police in place. The protests followed the detention/disappearance days earlier by police of CNTE union leaders Francisco Manuel Villalobos Ricardez and Ruben Nuñez. Conditions degraded over the course of the day, with federal police firing upon protesters. Early accounts claimed six were killed, of which one may have been a journalist and two teacher trainees. President Enrique Pena Nieto’s government at first denied there was any violence, and then later claimed the Associated Press’ photos of the violence were false. There were enough social media reports documenting the violence on the ground to neutralize the government’s claim — and thank goodness for social media, or the U.S. would have heard very little if anything about this conflict. Not exactly the fiesta of democracy President Nieto promised when he took office in 2012. For more current information about the conflict, follow hashtags #Nochixtlan (district) and #Oaxaca in Twitter; already the death count is disputed as some claim more than eight died after yesterday’s attack by police on protesters.
It’s extremely important to remember the protesters’ anger and frustration are not merely about the ENP government’s reform plan. The 43 young men who disappeared in 2014 and are believed dead were students at a teachers’ college; the federal police have been implicated in the disappearance of these students. To date, the mass disappearance of these students has not been fully accounted for. Imagine the furor if such a mass disappearance were to happen in the U.S.
Cyber, cyber, cyber
LOL sorry, I’m on a Brady Bunch jag. Forgot to remind you last Tuesday was Patch Tuesday — make sure you’ve updated your Win-based systems if you do so manually. Can’t hurt to check all your other non-Win devices, too.
Your recommended long read: Apple’s Differential Privacy
Crytography expert Matthew Green reviews Apple’s announcement this past week regarding development of “differential privacy,” which Apple defined as:
Starting with iOS 10, Apple is using Differential Privacy technology to help discover the usage patterns of a large number of users without compromising individual privacy. To obscure an individual’s identity, Differential Privacy adds mathematical noise to a small sample of the individual’s usage pattern. As more people share the same pattern, general patterns begin to emerge, which can inform and enhance the user experience. In iOS 10, this technology will help improve QuickType and emoji suggestions, Spotlight deep link suggestions and Lookup Hints in Notes.
This is worth your time to read as differential privacy suggests new approaches to meeting the needs of marketers while preserving the privacy of consumers applying algorithmic solutions. Read it now before this stuff gets really convoluted.
Check your safety harness from time to time. Catch you tomorrow!
Hurry, we’re less than three minutes from launch, all systems go. I’ll add more remarks in a moment.
11:20 a.m. EDT — Wow. What a picture-perfect launch and landing. This is the most excitement out of West Texas since some lousy bird hunter shot his friend in the face a few years back. Today’s mission by Blue Origin, an aerospace company founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, had several objectives. The reusable rocket’s fourth mission included testing of backup and safety systems intended for future manned flights as well as multiple scientific project payloads. At least one project required the microgravity conditions (video) this mission would realize as the ship approached, reached, and left apogee at 331,501 feet (roughly shy of 63 miles above earth).
I’ve replaced the live feed of the mission with a video summary of the same New Shepherd rocket’s third flight from April this year. Compare and contrast with Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s recent reusable rocket launches; I am completely in awe of SpaceX’s attempts to stick a landing repeatedly on a puny drone raft at sea. (Video embedded here is from SpaceX launch last Wednesday carrying Eutelsat/ABS telecommunications satellites.)
If we have to endure gross inequality and a siphoning plutocracy, this space race is the kind of crazy oligarchs’ spending I love to see. Granted, Bezos is probably checking out future warehousing for Amazon facilities in space, crewed by robots — there’s no rent in space, right? But the opportunities for aerospace development and accessibility to the public have increased greatly with these two companies working fast and hard on this implicit competition. They also offer opportunities for us to save costs on government-funded missions — SpaceX has already won contracts formerly awarded to companies with an oligopolistic hold on launches.
I still want NASA to do all this and more as well; space shouldn’t be the domain of corporations after all. But if NASA has to work with fewer resources thanks to anti-science GOP-led Congress, at least they have a much larger hiring pool of experts to drawn from when they look for aerospace folks to add to their team, thanks to Blue Origin and SpaceX.
Explaining his refusal to serve in the military, that aforementioned sloppy hunter who shot his friend in the face said he had other priorities. It’s amazing in contrast what other rich guys do with their other priorities.
Jeff Bezos had one helluva Father’s Day already. Hope yours is just as exciting.
I was half way through a post yesterday when a friend in the UK told me a member of Parliament had been killed by a fascist.
An assassination, I thought at that moment, unable to write another word for my post. How many times has an assassination kicked off a horrible chain of events?
I hoped and prayed as best a lapsed Catholic can that the murder of MP Jo Cox by a man shouting, “Britain First!” was not the beginning of something dreadful. Research says it’s less likely than if an autocratic figure had been killed, but who can really say with certainty?
We won’t know for some time if this was a trigger event for something else, though it did set off a cascade of stomach-turning crap. So many media outlets referred to politician Cox’s death by a political fanatic as something other than an assassination. Really? Would Cox have been targeted had she not been a pro-EU unity supporter? Would the assassin — characterized by so many euphemisms as mentally ill — have killed her had he not been rabidly anti-EU and racist, impelled by ramped-up anti-EU rhetoric in advance of the EU-Brexit referendum?
And the disparity in coverage between [lone white gunman suspected of mental illness] and [armed terrorist—labeled so because they’re not white]? Beyond disgusting. The racism is all the more obvious. The public is conditioned by media’s implicit bias to expect and accept the lone white gunman, but never the dark-skinned person bearing a weapon. The accused must have sympathized with white nationalism, irrespective of country, having bought his firearm components from U.S. neo-Nazis more than a decade ago. The description of his attack on Cox is chilling — it was a cold political execution, not just some wildly insane flailing without care for the outcome.
The world lost someone very special when Jo Cox died yesterday. Someone who lived progressive values out in the open, modeling a better way for us. Don’t kid yourself this was just a crazed man acting alone when white nationalist politicians like Nigel Farage believe “violence is the next step” if angry constituents feel they’ve lost control.
And don’t fool yourself into believing this was an isolated event occurring in a vacuum.
Today’s Friday jazz is a performance of She’s Crying for Me by the Yorkshire Jazz Band, in honor of Jo Cox’s home county.
A note on hacking stories
The breach of the DNC’s computers is one of a number of stories over the last several years following a pattern: the breach is attributed to one entity and then yet another entity, while the story itself has a rather interesting point of origin. Initial reports may say the hackers were affiliated with [nation/state X] and later reports attribute the hacking to [unaligned third party Y] — or a variation on this order — a key characteristic is the story’s immaculate birth.
Try looking for yourself for the earliest story reporting the hacking of the DNC. Who reported it and when? Who were the original sources? Did the story arise from a call to law enforcement or a police report, and a local beat reporter who gathered named eyewitnesses for quotes? Or did the story just pop out of thin air, perhaps simultaneously across multiple outlets all regurgitating the same thing at the same time?
My point: Be more skeptical. There’s an adage in reporting, drummed into journalism students’ heads: If your mother says she loves you, check it out.
Three examples of manipulated opinion
Speaking of being more skeptical, bias manifests itself in all manner of ways and can be easily used for good or ill.
Worthwhile long read
This commentary at Tor.com looks at the movie V for Vendetta, saying it’s “more important than ever,” in spite of the adaptation’s rejection by Alan Moore, author of the graphic novel on which this film was based. The essay was published this past Tuesday; read it now in light of Jo Cox’s assassination Thursday. A single event can change perception. This line alone now means something very different to me:
It seems strange that my life should end in such a terrible place. But for three years I had roses, and apologized to no one.
If time permits, I may slap up a post this weekend to make up for yesterday’s writer’s block. Otherwise I’ll catch you on Monday.
Hills have eyes, the hills have eyes
Who are you to judge, who are you to judge?
Hide your lies, girl, hide your lies
Only you to trust, only you
— excerpt, The Hills by The Weeknd
That tune’s NSFW, by the way, as is much of The Weeknd’s oeuvre.
Today’s theme is stuff to watch — things that aren’t quite done, may have long-term impact, or don’t make sense just yet.
U.S. Senate gun control filibuster
Right now I’m keeping an eye on the filibuster under way, now 13-plus hours in progress on the Senate floor, begun by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) to support legislation for universal background checks and barring firearms sales to suspected terrorists. As of 11:15 p.m. EDT, 40 Senators had already spoken in participation; there were only two Republicans (Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Ben Sasse of Nebraska) and one Independent (Angus King of Maine) who joined Democrats so far. The Brady Campaign has been taking calls from constituents in support of the filibuster at (855) 331-8593 and redirecting calls to senators’ voicemail so that the Senate can hear the public’s demand for gun control.
If you want to watch the filibuster, you can catch it on cable at CSPAN-2 or this link.
I’m also keeping an eye on these issues:
Next on Net Neutrality
A rare bright spot over the last week is the FCC’s win over ISPs in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; you can bet this fight isn’t over, though the court found the FCC could regulate ISPs as it does common carriers. Worth brushing up on net neutrality, given Comcast’s support of candidate Trump by way of NBC coverage both as candidate and reality TV personality. Comcast could well parlay its support into demands for an end to net neutrality should Trump win the White House.
Brexit bonking bankers
Polling flipped over the last two weeks from Remain to Leave. Bankers are beginning to worry and are scheduling a very long night when polls close next week.
Microsoft and LinkedIn merger
Technology folks can’t make any sense out of this prospective marriage, which must yet be approved by the feds. I can’t make any sense out of it, either, given the losses several of LinkedIn’s largest investors must eat — they’re also Microsoft investors, which means the money merely changes pockets without actually increasing. The deal is massive in terms of cost, dwarfing previous acquisitions by Microsoft.
So why do this deal, apart from the obvious access to technology decisionmakers with high levels of discretionary income? Wouldn’t it simply be cheaper to buy ad space on LinkedIn or even invest a smaller amount rather than acquire the entire business?
Or has Microsoft changed its overall business model — does it intend to sell something other than software once it has closed the LinkedIn deal?
All I know is that I’m leaving LinkedIn as soon as the feds approve the deal. I don’t want Microsoft to have any more of my time and money than they have right now, and I’m sick of their highly intrusive habits. Imagine the persistent nagging of Microsoft combined with the icky annoyance of LinkedIn reminders, like ones I still get about long-deceased acquaintances. Clippy the Undead, nagging me about software updates…Gah.
Clearly candidate Trump is watching Venezuela closely, though I wonder if he would have noticed without being included in security briefings. With the latest El Nino now ended, the weather may change bringing relief from drought if not from political insecurity and volatility due to the collapse of oil prices over the last several years. Interesting op-ed on the violence in Venezuela suggests a new perspective must be considered: the violence suggests the end of the state apparatus.
The country is migrating physical addresses to a three-word phrase to accommodate a spread-out nomadic population in country with few roads and little infrastructure. In some ways, this mirrors virtual addresses used in networked environments. Is this a model for other countries in the near future?
Zika virus and blood supply safety
Hadn’t even thought of this — if Zika can be transmitted by sex, it’s certainly transmitted by other bodily fluids like blood. We need to think about blood supply safety, especially once the virus is spread by domestic mosquitoes. Pregnant women, and persons intending to become parents within months of receiving a transfusion should not receive Zika-contaminated blood.
What are you watching?
I’ve been so damned angry I’ve had difficulty wrapping words around what I want to say. It’s still Tuesday somewhere, so I’ll grit this out.
Assault weapons should be banned for sale to civilians.
Spare me the crap about hunters and taking their guns. My freezer contains 25 to 100 pounds of venison at any time. This household lives off the results of hunting and respects the power of firearms. None of this meat required an assault weapon.
If an assault weapon had been used, it would have been a waste of a deer tag. There’d be no meat left.
The embedded video above shows the damage hunting ammo does at close range — approximately 15-20 feet — on meat. The next video shows the damage #4 and #8 birdshot can do at short range, even through multiple layers of denim and drywall. Imagine what an assault weapon would do to flesh at similar range.
Better yet, listen to what a combat vet says about assault weapons.
There’s nothing in the Second Amendment to suggest a prohibition on certain weapons is wrong; if anything, the framing of a ‘well regulated militia’ suggests limitations are in order.
There’s also nothing in the Second Amendment to suggest that gun manufacturers have an absolute right to an unrestrained business model, or to profits at the expense of the public’s general welfare.
Nor does the Second Amendment say a damned thing about catering to ‘gun enthusiasts’ who want guns for ‘pleasure’. A ‘well regulated militia’ doesn’t possess guns but as necessary for the ‘security of a free state’, not personal enjoyment.
And both embedded videos embedded make a bloody good case that arguments about assault weapons being necessary to stop a home invasion are trash. Birdshot at close range can do one hell of a lot of damage, as do 00 buckshot and a 1-oz slug.
Congress — more specifically, the GOP — needs to strap on its spine and draw the line on assault weapons. How many more dead Americans is it going to take before Congress clues in the terrorist threat is already here? It’s domestic, and it’s better armed than the police because GOP-led Congress is as weak as the GOP is against Trump.
Spare the empty moments of silence and prayers which might as well be to Moloch after another human sacrifice. Such fail at protecting the American public.
Speaking of which…
Information Security Fail
The depth of the penetration reflects the skill and determination of the United States’ top cyber adversary as Russia goes after strategic targets, from the White House and State Department to political campaign organizations.
Total blowjob for access. If the hackers got in by spearphishing as suggested in the article, there’s no finesse required. Just poorly trained/educated users and no firewall between email and database. The only thing that surprises me about this is that ransomware wasn’t deployed. Imagine it: a major U.S. political party ground to a halt by spearphish-delivered ransomware.
Basta. Enough. Let’s hope Wednesday is kinder than the last handful of days have been.
It’s Monday in more than one way. Monday has become synonymous with the weekly return to the rat race of school and work, the bruising grind of life. It’s the blues after a relaxing weekend, but even worse after a horrific weekend like the one we just left. But it also means a new day, a chance for improved direction assuming we note well where we’ve been and mark well where we want to go.
This weekend marked the 30th anniversary of writer/director John Hughes’ movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. This film seems like a frothy bit of fun after yesterday’s gun-riddled hell chased by corporate-owned electeds’ hypocrisy. Yet it’s a really important work if one wants to know what’s going on in the heads of so many Americans who continue to support the death-dealing Congresspersons who refuse to ban assault rifles.
Ferris Bueller’s family is a fictional snapshot of white middle-class suburbia in the mid-1980s. Assuming the main character Ferris and his closest friends are 17 or 18 years old in 1986 (when this film was released), they’d be 47-48 years old now, members of Generation X.
Look at this next segment, which follows the first one above. Take careful note of the dialog. While Ferris is an idealized middle-class suburban white teen, much of this dialog reflects the thinking of real teens of that era. This is why Hughes’ movies remain so popular today; they reflected the audience back at themselves in a way that was non-confrontational while poking fun at their culture.
Over time, this movie was more than a mirror of culture. Ben Stein, who played the deadpan economics instructor, parlayed his increased profile to become a proponent of neoconservative socioeconomics as well as a TV game show host. What better way to gain ready access to the public’s mind than as comic relief. The reaction to Stein’s character teaching economics legitimized the general public’s reaction to econ — it’s just boring and repetitive filler, no need to pay close attention.
Ferris’ fluffy wisecrack about European socialism and fascist anarchism takes on a more ominous perspective thinking of former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s snark about “Old Europe,” or the willful blindness of tuned-out whites towards fascism’s rise in the west over the last three decades. It’s just the Donald they support in throwing over the GOP, not an -ism, right?
Which came first — the Bueller family’s materialism and its cultural validation by this film, or the materialism Hughes and his script depict? It’s difficult to separate them over the distance of 30 years. Many white straight suburban middle-class men in their 40s identified with Ferris and have now become leaders of business and government. They’re either wealthy enough (read: blessed/cursed by materialism) to see the world as Ferris did, not as it is in actuality.
The most important line of the film, its tag line, demanded action:
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
And yet, did any character in this film truly look around? As much as I appreciate Hughes, he built an incredibly homogeneous world — it’s clean, safe, white 90% of the time, males have 80% or more of the dialog, and there’s no doubt that these suburbanites will succeed even if it means they don’t get to go to the school they want, exactly when they expect to do so. What exactly would these characters see if they did as bid? Departures from homogeneity are only opportunities for a laugh — like the parking tower attendants (who aren’t white) who “borrow” Mr. Frye’s car, or the ostensibly gay maitre’d whose behavior is treated as an annoyance to be blown off, or ‘Boy In The Police Station’ in trouble because of drugs (played by real-life drug abuser Charlie Sheen) who counsels Jeannie Bueller to relax.
Jeannie’s anger and frustration at the unfair double standard between her life and her older brother’s is brushed off. The last person from whom anyone should take advice basically tells her to chillax and focus on herself, to stop looking like a whore. And she validates his advice by getting all giggly because of his attention. This is feminism in the late 1980s, in the eyes of a white male — what has this kind of projection done, 30 years later, to Generation X women and their daughters?
What has it done to all of us to laugh off Bueller’s rule-evading lifestyle? What would that character end up doing as an adult — did he end up in finance like his dad or real estate like his mom, selling subprime home mortgages to individuals or bundled in tranches, disregarding what the fallout might be to everyone else, laughing it off as good fun because he finally got his second BMW/Porsche/Hummer?
In retrospect, Bueller’s vanilla Chicago suburb is shocking, distressing to look at now. Has this same image also become embedded in the minds of Gen X men who run corporations and government? Does it shape even the mixed-race former senator from Illinois now in the White House who is only slightly older than the Gen X folks impacted most by this film?
Here we are, decades later, in a world now owned and shaped by the best-of-breed Gen X. They’re traditionalists and work addicted compared to Baby Boomers and Millennials. Thanks to them in no small part, we’ve been foreclosed upon, shot at, marginalized, told to suck-it-up-comform-comply-because-Freedom-and-the-American-Capitalist-Free-Market-Way-uber-alles. Images of a safe suburban teenhood have been replaced with quarter-after-quarter superhero films featuring GUI-based homogeneous spandex-covered male archetypes protecting the American Way, because the Gen X white men running today’s film studios can’t even handle the risk of contemporary suburbia on the screen.
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
As much fun as Hughes’ Bueller has been, he represents a narrow, distorted perspective from the rear-view mirror. His innocuous 1980s Midwest suburb was at best a wish, when the truth is Monday morning in street in front of Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
Take a look around. Really, where’s Bueller now?