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Previous Week

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

For a Democrat, like myself, a day with a mug shot of Texas Governor Rick Perry in the paper should not be a bad one.  It's always good to see yet another loud, baselessly confident Texan get hammered, especially a governor who may run for President again.  Perry faltered in 2012 because he could only recall two items on his list of three during a debate.  But the truly stupid, juvenile, and dubiously thought out indictment of Republican Perry by rival Democrats is one of the worst examples of misusing the criminal code for political gain in recent memory.

I know full well the GOP has done the same, and it's Texas, after all, the state that rounded off Pi to 3, but this isn't tolerable.  Every literate Democrat from Alan Derschowitz on down has damned this, and it will hurt at the ballot box if the Democrats remain at this level of stupid.  When former Obama advisor David Axelrod says the indictment is "sketchy", and Democratic analyst Doug Schoen calls it "outrageous," and Alan Dershowitz says its right out of Soviet Russia and totalitarian at base, it's a real problem.

So, that ruined the day.  But of course the beheading of another journalist by savage elements of Islamic retrogression coupled with attempted extortion of the US makes it so much worse.  There is nothing about this that isn't damning to the perpetrators and doesn't tempt massive, pointless, counterproductive retribution from the US.  The dream of watching the murderers with covered faces on television confronted with such a death falling apart in screams and panic presents itself.  But as could be predicted, we aren't given to that, and we were not when Daniel Pearl faced the same about a decade back. That's good, in all ways. James Foley was a brave and composed man at his cruel, pointless, death, and justice need arrive for my money.

There is a second journalist that this terrorist group now called simply the Islamic State announced it will kill on YouTube if the US bombings do not stop.  This would indicate that the bombings are working and the IS is fading like all pretend prostheses of the Almighty.  The Kurds have regrouped, and are on the offensive along with the supposed military of Iraq. This is good in most ways, but if the US drops a ton of military goods on the Kurds and they use it against Turkey for a free and independent Kurdistan made up of soil currently Turkish, Syrian, and Iraqi it doesn't take much to see the problem. People calling for huge infusions of arms to the various Arab wars at present are dangerously stupid.

Here in Freedom's Land, we celebrate the town that is Ferguson!  Ferguson, Missouri!  A suburb of St. Louis, Ferguson has been the scene of some retro racist violence in the last week.  Apparently a large black youth named Michael Brown, walking down a street, was accosted by and then murdered by a police officer.  Brown had no weapon, but was shot about six times at relatively close range.  Needless to say, people were annoyed, and many years of poor treatment by the police boiled over into riots and pillaging.

Not satisfied with initial public response to the dismissive attitude of the police chief, the powers that be offered up a video taken right before the shooting of Brown in a store and supposedly robbing it, and when confronted by the diminutive owner, showing him against the counter and stomping out. Today, more video of the incident seems to show Brown paying for the items.  Of course, as John Oliver pointed out Sunday, whatever happened in the store neither excuses nor explains the murder moments later, especially since the officer in question could not have known about the incident in the store, whichever interpretation you choose.

Missouri state police arrived and Governor Nixon - as if we needed any more retro memory - ordered in the National Guard, who have dubious legal basis to be involved at all.  Atop which, it seems that out of all the police in a town 66% black, only a few were African America, and there were no blacks in the higher reaches of city government. That may be a clue, but Ferguson's demographics have changed dramatically in the last decade, and so it's not impossible that there haven't been enough elections to balance out the government, but this assumes the blacks are voting.  If not, you know they will this November.  

As they will in Texas for Perry's successor.
Monday, August 11, 2014

So, Robin Williams died by suicide this morning or last night.  Williams was immensely talented and a very good actor when under some control and gave every indication of being a near parody of the unhappy and somewhat crazed comic, the ones who never allow themselves to be 'off' and always annoyingly way too high energy for those about them and often unaware of it.  Comedians are, truthfully, often but not always disturbed souls and both victims of bad behavior and/or creators of it.  You don't have to think long to come up with others who died by suicide or by bungled drug or theatrical sexual activity so implausible to provide relief you have to think it suicide. In that sense Williams was just another.

Vonnegut thought smoking was the accepted American method of suicide. Suicide sometimes seems its becoming the most common form of death, especially given the tamped down statistics that often insult our intelligence.

Williams had a spot in Boulder's collective memory.  Mork and Mindy took place here, and their supposed house is still here, although somewhat altered.  They shot some early footage here.  It was a show I couldn't take, primarily because of Williams, always loud, always sucking attention away from else.  Also, it was silly beyond the norm.  That said, his one man stage show was often terrific.  He idolized Jonathan Winters (anyone who did not is either lying or has zero sense of humor, and Winters became part of Mork and Mindy), and it showed.  He really was able to improvise.  He and Billy Crystal could be hysterical together just riffing off each other.

There was a real need to be loved and adored and applauded that never failed to irritate me and, I suspect, a lot of others even as we laughed.  Hysteria. Near pathological demand to laugh, applaud, pay attention. Every bit as bad as Jerry Lewis.

Williams did some diabetic inducing roles among his Oscar nominated ones, and he never gave the impression - or I never saw it - that he could be normal and relaxed and chill.  Interviewers seemed to bait him to go into his schtick, which was often very funny and somehow inappropriate in ways I cannot exactly define.  He was used, a lot, as a sure fire success rather than as someone who, given some objective direction, could have been much, much bigger a star.  That's how good he was and why it truly is sad he killed himself.  Hard to see or imagine what else he could have given of himself to the notoriously ungrateful audience.
Tuesday, August 05, 2014

So, here's some good news.  I think.

The NBA has hired its first female coach, Becky Hammon, of whom San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich thought highly.  Hammon was a six-time WNBA All-Star.  In her 15th pro ball season, her knee gave out, and Popovich invited her to team practices, as he'd thought she'd be a great coach.  Of a men's team as well as a woman's team.  Let's just hum a few bars of something gracious to match the free thinking Popovich, a pro in one of the most testosterone garnished endeavors on the planet.

How the players feel isn't known, probably the players themselves don't know, but this have to be viewed in our reality.  Hammon is a good looking blonde yelling at 7 foot young and mostly black men to get their ass in gear, and you can bet Limbaugh and the reactionaries are already stropping the knives.  If this works, and she's an accepted coach and she gains the respect of players (as male coaches must as well), this is bigger than the NFL allowing an openly gay man into the their league, although there is no condemnation in the Bible for learning from a woman.  Have no clue what Hammon's leanings are, however, but I'm sure it will be brought forth.

Wishing the head coach, Hammon, and the Spurs good luck and best wishes. I hope its not even a story come the season again, and that people just accept it as we all should.  In many ways, a black president, a gay defensive end, and a woman coach in the NBA sort of came quick, didn't it?  Momentum and the ground game are as important in social change, politics, and sports as in every other aspect of life.  Change and graceful acceptance are justified by success only.

Here in Boulder, we just hosted the first Ironman competition in the city Sunday last, and not only was it the biggest ever anywhere, it was a huge success.  The bike portion ran by my apartment and the people directing traffic and keeping things together were on top of everything with nary an incident.  Apparently our mile high altitude and somewhat deceptive maps deceived folks into not taking the bike course as seriously as they should, and not a few were on the ground gasping when they started on the marathon ending portion.

Both the women's and men's were won by Boulderites, which is pretty damned impressive, and the whole field was composed of the pros and the top amateurs, so it was not tilted towards the home town absent the fact that Boulder is composed almost entirely of world class athletes.  

One lady held a sign saying "It you're still married you didn't train hard enough...." which I hope was as funny to entrants as it was to me and many others.  

As an illustrative metaphor alert, I waddled across the track, with permission, to the 7-Eleven, and there could not have been a more explicit distinction of one end of the 'in shape' scale to the other than I and the entrants whizzing by.

Friday, July 04, 2014

So, the colorization process is getting better.  This is George Custer and his crew in the Civil War when he is in his early 20's, and on his way to three stars brevet rank.  I remain interested - barely - in the Last Stand solely because it is an easy entry into American history back and forwards, and it is handy for entry into the Great War in 1914, which centennial is about to begin in August.  I cannot but recommend The Proud Tower and the Guns of August, both by Barbara Tuchman and neither improved upon by other works in their half century of existence.  She was as excellent a writer as her discipline has ever produced, but of course she was in many ways self taught in it and not actually of it, which gets her resentment given her two Pulitzers, one for Guns and another for her study of Stilwell in China.  I like her because she lists her prejudices (she is not fond of Germany, go figure) so the reader isn't fooled, but I've noted nothing that felt warped because of it. Or hidden.  

She is funny, insightful, brilliant.  And amid all the screams about plagiarism and error about near all her contemporaries, starting with Ambrose, she is untouched.  She falls in love with men in the past, primarily Balfour in the Proud Tower, but Tom Reed as well.  Her family was deeply involved in the era, her grandfather and cousins have been high ranked in national and state governments, and the emotional tugs can be felt but are not deforming.  

At any rate, I've been trying to cough out a piece on the first modern and most ridiculously pointless arms race, the one that led directly to WWI, and Custer and a British admiral are near twins in personalities if not social status and their fates meld well but to different outcomes.  I might have missed it, as so many have, but for Tuchman.  Conveniently, it reflects on the current arms races here and about.

In the last few weeks we here in Boulder have had a few humdinger thunderstorms, and near every day has brought the welcome dark clouds over the mountains and into our lives.  I say welcome because even the floods don't scare as much as fire, and the rapid manner in which all moisture evaporates of late, not matter how much snow melt (150% of normal) and rain (a lot) fire danger is always there, just under the gossamer of the seemingly pleasant forecast.  The tree pictured is only about four blocks from me and I heard it hit as it raised me about four feet off my bed and somehow did not break every window in the city, although it got not a few.  Keeps us honest, I guess.

Below is the northern end of the Isle of Skye in the Hebrides of Scotland, off the west coast. In summer, the sun sets about 11PM and rises at 0230 it seems, and in the winter the 45 minutes of sunlight a day probably are terrifying given the huge arctic storms that hammer down up there not far from the arctic circle.

The Isle of Skye is the home to the MacLeods, or so it is said, but 'we' have a castle there and assorted parcels including a mountain range of sorts and fishing rights and all that.  It's very confusing, and given the rightful Chief is an Australian bartender who has no interest in running things (given a zero budget) we have only vague connections as a family unlike when Dame Flora, all 4 feet and perhaps an inch of her, was the Chief in the 50's and 60's.  Still, it's nice to see such German like care of the land and husbandry in the far north where the lighthouse is undoubtedly covered with foam and sea much of the freezing months.

If the ocean rises as much as feared, this will be a memory soon enough.

Friday, June 13, 2014

So, welcome to Brazil!  This week: the World Cup! And in two years, the Olympics!  Here are Brazillian police in their new duds that again give credence to the assertion that all the annoying things in science fiction comes true but very little of the good.  If these were painted white, they're out of The Empire Strikes Back.  I assume it's all bullet proof absent the creases, and that it's still light enough for movement.  But in Brazil at the equator or near, how god awful would it be to have to physically work in such an outfit.  

This is not the warm and fuzzies that police probably need to project, and it does look pretty terrifying which is surely the point if these guys are mandated for quick insertion, but ye Gods, if this is what is needed by mere police on the beat, that nation has more issues than we do.

If you have not seen John Oliver's take down of FIFA, I don't believe you, but if somehow you have missed it, try it here. Also, you have to see his destruction of General Motors two weeks previous.  It's a terrific show.

Already, local authorities have had to kill two young bears, one that was dying and one that was annoying.  That's a lot early in the season.  Boulder has mandated bear proof garbage cans, but I'm still under the impression it's the odor that attracts the bears, and they'd have to have repeated frustrations at every house before light dawns or fat, clumsy deer beckons them back into the mountains.  Of course, the various 'sides' in this issue cannot help themselves.  Those that want a bear hunting season again and those that want either 1) fewer people, 2) people devoted to caring for the bears, 3) a magic dream where peace prevails and bears play with puppies and are available for baby sitting at a moment's notice for a reasonable rate and all concurrent with the idiocy that - somehow - people are not part of nature, and are unnatural, and they themselves have no responsibility for anything that goes wrong.

I'm inching closer to having a hunting season, absent the fact most people with hunting licenses aren't hunters and lousy shots.  I'm not big on arrows, either, but it requires more skill and proximity, and certainly danger with bears.  But, I foresee wounded bears dying later in some agony.  So.......what to do.

The thing about the bear proof containers is that they ain't pheromone proof, and what attracts the bears in the first place will turn to irritation if they can't get it.  I don't know what the learning curve is, or if it exists for a limited area.  

Atop else, Boulder is looking at a city broadband network, which many have done and which would stick it to Comcast and Verizon, our two non-competitor competitors. This is somewhat easier for the public to understand than the muni project, where Boulder becomes an electric distributor for itself and others. So, this ought to be a sure thing.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

So, on this hallowed Hallmark holiday, a Happy Mom Day to all you, eh, mothers, and wishes for many more. And for those whose idea of a holiday is one without the screaming kids and dogs and husband, but one of silence, sleep and staring at relaxing views from a reclined position with a refreshing beverage - at least for a significant portion of the day - I hear ya.  Don't feel remotely guilty about it: it's owed.

The infant armadillo and its Mom, above, look about as composed and relaxed as anyone being gussied up for a photo shoot, but they are such odd creatures with few of the aspects - like big expressive eyes - humans associate with the attractive and cute. Yet, they radiate such contentment and happiness in each other's company that you don't notice or care.  Given the road kill quotient, I don't know how the dillo's are doing in the southern states of residence (and, I hear, sometimes in southern Colorado), but they surely aren't overpopulated and its nice to know they're not threatened as a species. The dillo is near blind, has great smell, and when surprised jumps straight up in the air, which I read is how even when you try to not hurt them at night in a car, and speedily rush over them centered between your wheels they don't help themselves.

I now read because of lack of predators, they do well, and have extended into Illinois and South Carolina. Given they are a threat to near nothing, all to the good.

That said, here in Boulder the Damned, we're due 8-10 inches of snow through Monday noon, if you can believe it.  It's heavy snow now which is, in the manner of all spring snows, wet and heavy.  I was awakened by what I think and hope was the CO2 alarm announcing that it was on battery power for about four hours, if I can judge. So: trees down, and Xcel Energy is out there with chain saws and a small amount of courage to keep the lines up and functioning.  Standing on metal lifts around high power lines in a snow storm with wind and wet with grabby, bouncing chain saw in action isn't safe, no matter how you slice it.  So long as I don't miss Game of Thrones, I'll be fine.  Always with a sense of proportion and value, I am.

This is normally great news for farmers and Colorado in general: lots of water over the spring seedings that will slowly melt and be absorbed rather than run off and gullied by mere rain.  And, the snow is real heavy in the mountains which normally bodes well for a long extended run off and a green and blossomed summer.  Hear, hear!  Like that, of course.

But, last September, after prolonged droughtish weather, we had the Indian Ocean equivalent of water dumped upon us, providing wide, deep, and long lasting floods unmatched in our history.  It was not the constricted and more intense flood that scored out Big Thompson in '76, but it was a horror.  So, huge water buildup is not the unquestioned good thing that high deserts like Boulder live for.  We're seen the back side, and it can be awful.

All of this is coming into play as Boulder the City and Boulder the County face some harsh choices in the near future.  The City is about to push the Go button on municipalization of its electric grid portion, condemn Xcel's structures, and give the citizens a city owned system.  Supporters feel that such would allow us to get our energy easier and faster from more 'green' sources than Xcel's stockholders and other internal power agents would allow.

The most important thing to me, though, is the image it gives Boulder as it becomes more and more a high tech start up center and production center.  We have uncommonly impressive, cutting edge, and successful firms all through the county, and having the municipality controlling much (gas would still be Xcel) of the grid and rates and distribution, it strikes me as something that would allow future and bigger high tech build ups to get approval and ecologically sound help to flow quicker to fruition without Xcel.  May not, there's no way to be sure and I cannot pretend to understand everything or even most of it.  

But, I feel sure that the majority of the objections come from those who, to oversimplify, just want to weaken the Boulder government which stifled the traditional olde economic trails to riches in the mythology of those who lost out and remain resentful.  They want to weaken both city and County government so that developers and such can run amuck. It's the unifying theme of those who have found a small but cozy tent in the Tea Party. It's also false, but then too.............    

Have fallen away from Politifact, but now that the elections are coming every three weeks, it seems, good for everyone to have this on their favorite bookmarks.  Helpful.

One area that might be of note is, here in Colorado, the abusurd fracking controversy.  Like GMO's, there are pretensions of it being difficult and complicated but it is not.  Fracking cannot be allowed since neither industry nor government can fix a leak at the depths of relevance.  And this: feds aren't able to inspect even the known risky wells because of outdated this and irrelevant that but mostly money that the Congress and states won't allocate, because it hurts Republican politicians, at last count, underwritten by gas and oil companies.

It's protection of short term profit as if they don't care what it means for folks in 100 or even 50 years.  And they may not, because they'll be dead and, in any case, believe in the End Times a'Coming.  So why not?

The Colorado Symphony, like near all symphonies, is broke and is currently being underwritten by association with the new cannabis growing industry, now legal in Colorado.  But the Denver mayor has pointed out that it is still against the federal law and that the symphony is breaking law accepting money from criminals. This could affect all sorts of things, starting with the tax free status and then the bad stuff: prison and penalty.

We all know pot will be nationally legal soon, and this will be a restrained giggle in the new future, but the story here isn't the pot it's that the symphony has been reduced to going there rather than be able to count upon less dangerous supporters as it has in the past.  That's because their supports, their audience, is dying off like moderate Republicans, and nobody is terribly interested in either the music or the culture it represents any more.  It's been heading that way for decades, and soon we'll see them collapsing left and right.

Irritatingly, as live performance dies, a whole world of application in movie soundtracks and the like continues to open.  It's true that much of the new stuff can be done on computerized keyboards and we now know that people cannot tell computer composed music from that by humans, but we have to think that there IS, and that that distinction ought to be underwritten till, at least we know.  

When I whine rather constantly about the lack of a frontier, anymore, and that it has mental and physical penalties for people, this photo does nicely.  This is a May jaunt up Mt. Everest, the world's tallest mountain, but far from the least visited.  This wasn't this year, but we learn this year was worse.  That many people cannot go up and down the last part of the mountain without huge clogs and that's in good weather.  

A lot has been made of the Sherpas for insufficient pay risking their lives to allow white folks who have no business on an E ride at Disney World, much less a death dice on a mountain, to risk the lives of others for peanuts and themselves for god knows what.  Given the numbers who've been hauled up and down as near knapsacks by the guides, rather than climbing themselves, who are they fooling?  I used to joke that someday we'll be celebrating the first gay oriental Gnostic hemaphrodite's pogo sticking up Everest and barrel roll down.  It's become like the Ed Sullivan show: acts that are hard to do and sorta impressive but with no grip on the viewers because.......nobody cares.  It's a mental world that is getting smaller and more competitive and that's dangerous as hell.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

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