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Sunday Morning Reading Material Fourth Sunday in November 2011- Maniacal Laugh edition

Sunday Morning Police Brutality!

It’s Sunday Morning. Sundays are for watching whales. Sundays are for celebrating the birthdays of your children. Sundays might be for observing religious observances. Just possibly, Sundays might be for snuggling, breaking fast, and going to work.

This week: Egyptian protesters were militantly shown that they didn’t win quite as much as they thought they had when they ousted their dictator. This week Americans celebrated a victory against the forces of slavery and disunion by giving thanks to a deity- and eating Turkey. This week a US attack in Pakistan has lead to reports of a score of deaths among the Pakistani military– and the near destruction of diplomatic ties between those nations. This week NASA launched a probe to Mars to search for carbon.

The economy sucks. The world economy is sort of swirling along the rim of the abyss, and there isn’t a developed-world region that is unaffected. So it’s no surprise that San Francisco restaurants are doing poorly. Nothing mobile restaurants are doing seems to rise to the level of “unfair”, save that a low-capital investment would be a better fit for these times than a traditional-restaurant model. Should the City step in and hinder mobile restaurants’ ability to serve their clientele? That seems like the opposite of a free market to me.

One of the big sports stories this week involved the end of the NBA labor action. Whenever people who play games for a living try and get a bigger paycheck, popular opinion says that they’re overpaid. Which, you know? Maybe. To my way of thinking, that’s the wrong way to look at the problem. America (and the world market for NBA stuff) seems to want to spend a certain number of dollars every year on various NBA stuff. It used to be that 57% of that money went to the very tall, very athletic people who put their bodies at risk of permanent injury to create the enjoyment that causes people to want to spend that money. As of this agreement, the money will be split evenly: 50% to the people who risk their bodies, and 50% to people who risk only their money. The fact that the people risking their money had more power in this situation than the people risking their bodies is unsurprising. It is not, however, a good thing.

This is why people don’t take online petitions seriously. I mean: they got the publisher wrong! And the Punctuation!

Tax rates ought to be set to collect enough revenue to pay for the things society wants to pay for, while doing the smallest disruption possible to society. Duh. How much money is that? More than America is collecting. This means, if I’m reading the data correctly, that if society cares about it’s current budget deficits, it can easily afford to raise tax rates on the very wealthiest people. That way, we won’t have to cut budget for economicly stimulating things like food stamps and unemployment insurance.

I can’t be the only person wondering how antibiotics are administered to bees.

It looks like 2K Games is going to do an adaptation of Heart of Darkness. Rather than simply add background information to a simple shooter or platformer, though, they’ve decided to delve into the material and bring forward what makes the game great. There is no reason at all that a video game cannot or should not strive to comment on the human condition. What’s shocking is that it’s so rarely done as a prime driver of gameplay. Here’s hoping they pull it off.

Apparently there’s a new dude porn star who makes the ladies swoon. What’s interesting to me is that this is apparently a fairly rare thing. Given that half the sex-having population of the world is female, half the world’s pornography should be aimed at that market. If the female-pleasing porn market is thus far unpenetrated, it can be traced to deep insecurity on the part of male viewers.

Bank of America (and other banks) have changed their policies regarding checking accounts. From now on, they’re granting themselves the right to deduct money from customer’s accounts every month. In exchange, customers are getting the right to have those accounts. This does seem like it might almost be a fair deal. The problem, as I see it, is that Bank of America had the legal right to unilaterally change the terms of the deal without the consent of their customers. Not only do they have this right, but- near as I can tell- every other corporation in America also has this right. Facebook exercises this right all the time, to expose even more personal information to it’s advertisers. Obviously consumers can’t unilaterally change the terms of the deal to benefit themselves– they lack the power.

The American economy powered by the energy produced when small businesses grow into large businesses. What we need, if we want a healthy economy is the ability for individuals to find out if they can become entrepreneurs. If Americans could fail at opening a business- but do it in a way that wouldn’t leave them bankrupt- we’d find more people trying. Many of those who tried would probably succeed. So that’s one reason for a universal healthcare plan. Something else potential entrepreneurs need is access to capital. They’re not getting it.

I have not yet started playing Skyrim. I hear it’s an incredible game.

In a weird linguistic twist, people calling themselves “Nice Guys” are actually telling the world “I am a giant douche, but I don’t know it”. I wholeheartedly agree with Ms. Crigger’s post. Including the bit about the silly hat. Especially that bit.

The National Labor Relations Board is a government entity that helps keep Unions of money honest when dealing with corporations of Labor. Obviously Republicans hate the idea that tax money might be spent ensuring that workers have a level playing field with their bosses. After all, if they wanted democracy, they’d be Democrats.

Classic Muppets bit originated in Porn?

It is a well understood phenomenon that language evolves over time. Latin becomes Italian (and French, and Spanish and Romanian and…). Similarly, but less often remarked on, is that food also evolves over time. Try finding Thai wontons in a middle class eatery in the 1950s. Today, it’s utterly unremarkable.

Reminder: the US government is one of the world’s largest employer of mercenaries.

Sunday Morning Listening Material.

This article, I think, goes too far in conspiracy mongering. And yet. When Pennsylvania State students rioted in favor of a child molester, those students were left unharmed by police. When University of California students sat down and shut up in protest of higher tuition, cops brutalized them. There is an obvious statement about which values are protected, and which values are antagonized. It takes monumental people to refuse to use force when power is threatened. In the later half of this year, we’ve learned that America lacks such monumental people.

I was on vacation last week, and so was unable to comment on the events at my Alma Mater: University of California at Davis. It will probably not come as a surprise to learn that in my time there, I was a rabble rouser. I’m not sure if I would have had the courage to sit on the Quad that day and simply _take_ what those cops were doing. It isn’t in my nature to sit by and let bullies be bullies. Nor, I am afraid, would my fellow Orwellians have been part of the organizing force for the protests. But hell. Maybe I’m not giving myself enough credit. Also: Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi must resign.

There is a very vicious part of me who is glad that the Chancellor felt threatened by the student body she had previously given orders to attack. It shows she had some small measure that the crowd had reason to be angry at her actions. Also: I am very proud that my fellow Aggies were in no way about to begin another round of violence.

What happened at UC Davis happens every day. All the time. Bay Area Transit police have accidentally murdered people. We have allowed our police to convince themselves that they are the “thin blue line”. Naturally they will react with force when confronted by even passive resistance. I want this one cop fired. I want the whole of policing reformed. I want cops who think their highest duty is to give directions to people lost on the roads. I want cops who are part of, and not apart from, society. We don’t have that.

This week’s theme was the Empire striking back. So in the comments section, let me know your favorite muppet.

Pallet cleanser.


Sunday Morning Reading Material Third Sunday in November 2011- Northern California Coast edition

It’s Sunday Morning. Sundays are for being with your loved one on trip to the countryside for her birthday. Sundays are for… Why don’t you tell me?

This week: The cities of San Francisco and New York called out their police departments to brutally crush peaceful protests against the rapidly worsening US political and economic system. Also this week: the newly-installed Italian government faced it’s second vote of confidence. Also also: The Yahoo! billboard that graces the San Francisco skyline will be coming down as soon as someone can afford to rent the current space.

One of the weird conceits of modern journalism is that truth, as such, cannot be objective. Rather, in an attempt to describe reality, opposing views must be quoted by a reporter. The Washington Post can’t simply say that a racist politician has written a book which contains factual errors which tend to be pro-confederacy. Rather, the Post has to be “objective”– which means finding someone willing to make those claims, and then giving equal time to the racist to defend the indefensible. And readers of modern American newspapers need to scrutinize their papers the way readers of Pravada had to read theirs.

One of the weird things about the state of the modern feminist movement: it’s still necessary. The US very plausibly could have elected a female President in 2008 (and instead got a black man), and so the temptation is to think that the barriers are down, job’s done. Time to go home. At the same time, powerful women are profiled in the style section of newspapers— and men are not. Women are taken seriously in a way that womanhood is not. It’s a tricky thing to combat. I’m not sure our language is capable of describing the struggle, let alone conceptualizing the next steps.

One of the weird things about racism– at least in the black/white manifestations thereof- is the way African Americans are allowed to be so much cooler then White Americans. I would much rather go into the “black” Burger King. I’m not sure I even want to know the person who would prefer the “white” Burger King. Alas, being the creators of the culture that America actually wants to show the world doesn’t seem to translate into actually better living standards.

One of the weird things about Electronic Arts is that they started out as a scrappy upstart, dedicated to fair play. Today… today they’re a huge corporate entity that can’t quite understand why keeping customers from using purchased products might be bad PR. I suppose it’s sort of the apotheosis of modern capitalism, right? Collect money, fail to deliver product, hide behind laws which prevent effective legal recourse to what might otherwise be termed “fraud”.

One of the weird things about video games is how revalatory they can be of the real you. given infinite possibilities, and no real-life consequences, we learn exactly how strong the small voice of conscience might be. Having said that, I loved Fallout New Vegas, and I learned that I am a society builder. So there’s that.

One of the weird things about transparency is the way that illuminates power relationships. Our government has been demanding more and greater access to our lives. Skirting the edges of the 4th Amendment, insisting that our every public moment be broadcast. And yet, when presented with “Freedom of Information” requests, they lie, cheat and act unaccountable.

One of the weird things about having made the point above is that I’m going to show you video proof. watch as armed members of the State target journalists. The first Amendment is, in large part, answer to the old Latin question “Who watches the Watchmen”. By attacking members of the press, the police keep their actions from being held to account. Under the cover of undocumented actions, they allow themselves to commit enormities on the body politic. Disgusting.

One of the weird things about working in the video game industry is that it’s often a pretty shitty industry.

The weird thing about binary is how open ended it can be.

The weird thing about the Republican party is the disconnect between their rhetoric about believing in the American dream, and them being caught standing over the corpse of the American dream with a bloody knife. Not everyone has parents who can afford to send them to college, and the alternative to grants seems to be indentured servitude.

One of the weird things about getting into Ivy League schools is that it creates the impression that you really are better than everyone else. After all: those kids had to legitimately work hard in high school to avoid embarrassing their parents when they were allowed into Princeton as a legacy student. It is very easy to simply not realize that nearly every other student on the planet was literally born needing to work harder- and be smarter- than you to get into not-quite as prestigious a school. Is he an entitled asshole? Yes. But it’s not really his fault. American society is built to create his sense of entitlement. Part of the Occupy [city] movement has been an attempt to tear down that preconception.

One of the weird things about having a weird brain is that everyone thinks they know what it means. Very few people do. Earlier today, I forgot a guy’s name a minute after asking for it. Forgot that I’d even had that part of the conversation with him. Ironically, the biggest problem with ADD medication (for people who need it) is that we often forget to take it.

The weird thing about Moore’s Law is that no one is working on AI. That’s not, strictly speaking, true. For instance, spam detection uses some rather sophisticated artificial intelligence. But the large percentage of raw processing power seems to be dumped into either graphical output or in less heat-intensive computers. Somewhere along the line, we seem to have decided that a dual 1.1 ghz processor was “good enough”, and now we’re just shoving that much power into smaller and smaller things. In 2030, we may be able to design a computer that would be able to run a program that was as smart as a human. But right now, the software wouldn’t be there. And the people who would write that software aren’t doing it. Not to mention that we seem to prefer better phones to smarter desktops. And thus we defeat Skynet.

One of the weird things abut science is the way it doesn’t. A couple months back, CERN released preliminary findings to the scientific community stating that they’d seen particles traveling faster than light. Those scientists at CERN were fairly sure they couldn’t possibly have actually disproved most of modern physics, and so were looking for people to tell them what they’d done wrong. It seems they may not be. I want my starships and I want them yesterday.

The weird thing about writing this post on a Thursday? I get to do whatever the hell I want on Sunday Morning– and Saturday night. Since I’m going to be gone, I’ll ask that you share this post with your friends, family members, and frenemies. I’d really appreciate it if you use (http://goo.gl/IdOfs) that link, so that I can track how many visitors I’m getting. In the comments section, let me know how you would spend a birthday weekend with your significant other.

Science can’t be wrong, it’s a process. It allows for corrections. Occasionally, it allows for awesome songs.


Sunday Morning Reading Material Second Sunday in November 2011- Rim of the Sky edition

It’s Sunday Morning. Sundays are for prying yourself out of a snuggly bed to go to work. Sundays are for Sunday mornings are for reading finely worded prose- or dying of hate rays. Sunday mornings might be for Saturday hangovers. Sunday mornings might be for body pump and pancakes with your favorite girls. Or Sundays might be for early birthday celebrations.

Maybe, just maybe, Sundays might be for bad ass ta-tas.

This week, Republican Presidential candidate Rick Perry killed his aspirations by failing to remember the names of 3 Federal agencies he wanted to gut. This week, Italian strongman Silvio Berlusconi resigned- it seems that after only a decade of misrule, Europe can no longer tolerate his bad economic policies. The Greek Government also saw a major turnover this week– it’s new Prime Minister might be the first ever to have been installed by the EU leadership.

The holiday that we celebrate annually on 11 November is known around the world as “Armistice day”. The First World War was so intrinsically awful that most countries in Europe and North America decided to set aside one day a year to explain that war is bad, and we shouldn’t do it ever again. I recommend opening this link in a new tab and listening to the songs as a playlist.

America is one of the most productive agricultural nations on Earth. We’re so good at growing food that our farmers have always had a very hard time avoiding debt peonage. The fact that Americans can go hungry is a shocking failure on the part of the American political system. Reading the methodology of the polling, I realized that I was a hunger statistic at the beginning of 2011. I wonder if anyone I know still is?

I’ve said it. Plato has said it. Every teenager in the world proves the truth of it. Humanity is a social species.

Speaking of speaking, I love maps. Wait. That’s a non sequitur. Let me back up. There’s an old saying that “a language is a dialect with an army and a navy”. One of the more interesting results I’m seeing is the _lack_ of Catalan. Granted, that might well be a limitation of the software.

A couple of weeks ago, the Oakland PD sent out a passive-aggressive open letter to the Oakland mayor asking her to “clarify” of their mission. It’s more than a bit shocking that the OPD doesn’t understand that their mission is to protect and serve the population of Oakland. Indeed, it seems that the Oakland Police Department has trouble understand that they are public servants. I’m not sure they realize that the Oakland protests are in large part sparked about this very lack of self-awareness on their part.

I do try and make this blog a font of useful knowledge. Not all of it has to be weighty, but I do like it to have a point. And, as we all know, this blog would be nothing if it were sans comic.

Sunday Morning comics.

In the United States of America, trials must come before verdicts. Even if “everyone knows” someone is guilty, a prosecutor cannot simply hand wave at a bunch of evidence and hand down a sentence. We have a procedure, and that procedure must be followed. When that procedure is not followed, power is abused and the innocent are inevitably harmed. Protip: if a prosecutor fears procedure, they probably have a terrible case.

Rouges with Rakes.

“Hard work” might be one of the major dividing lines in America. We liberals tend to valorize the backbreaking labor of cleaning crews, line cooks, and retail workers. Conservatives think of “hard work” as that done by people who stay up for days and shuffle digital dollars. I won’t deny that America’s loan sharks exercise their trade with great skill, but I do deny that they provide socially useful output.

This post is so gay.

We straight guys really are hemmed in. Even after I’ve demonstrated a sense of style, it is still assumed that I can’t actually be interested (or good at!) clothes shopping. Why? Because I’m not interested in men.

Ta-Nehisi Coates final column.

America seems to go through cycles of drugs. In the 1980s, we had crack. The 1990s saw a rise in meth use. We went after cocaine a lot harder than we went after methamphetamines. I can’t help but recall that crack cocaine tends to be a drug associated mainly with the African American population.

I’m not sure why anyone would be shocked by this. Assuming that it’s legal- or if they can earn more than the fines would be if it’s not- Zynga has an obligation to act in this ruthless manner. Labor is not valued. It’s called “Capitalism”. That’s not a descriptor, that’s a warning label.

For decades, space-interested people have understood that the biggest impediment to space exploration wasn’t technological, but social. Small groups of people cooped up in close quarters for months on end will tend to drive one another batty. It looks like video games have come to the rescue. I’m not sure if they simply let players blow off steam in a non-destructive way, or if it was the unbinding of the player from their immediate environment. But video games did seem to keep this crew sane. That’s a small step for [hu]mankind.

There is no question that piracy is a huge moral problem. When people simply take work of others without permission or recompense, it’s a sign of major disrespect. It would seem, however, that it’s not actually damaging in a business sense. Treating it as though it is damaging a company’s bottom line seems, ironically, to be doing far more damage.

One of the defter moves in business history has been VALVe’s Steam project. They’ve found a form of DRM that consumers are so attracted to that they will pay for it. Considering how many company’s DRM is so off putting that users will not buy a product at all, this should cause a major re-think in the games industry. And the music industry. And the book industry…

Arbitrage, the other white meat.

If you click just one link:

The nature of identity in constructed worlds. This is the sort of writing that everyone should strive to be able to accomplish.

This week’s theme was comedy and farce. Also: I’m between books. What ought I be reading?


Sunday Morning Reading Material First Sunday in November 2011- Remember Remember Edition

George… Washington?

It’s Sunday Morning. Sundays are for getting ready for work. Sundays are for feeling sore after a night of birthday revelry. Sundays might be for hungover sex. Or, perhaps Sunday mornings are for squandering the year’s only extra-sleep hour to attend your son’s insanely early chimes performance.

This week, the US announced that it’s employment rate nudged up .10%. Also this week, Humanity took another halting step starward as China docked a pair of uncrewed spacecraft with one another. Also also this week: much of the East Coast of the US was without power as a result of weather. Oddly, they aren’t considering moving somewhere nicer. Also also also: The City of Oakland was shut down by it’s local Occupy movement on Wednesday. And finally: news searches for Oakland barely mention the Occupy movement, and all coverage is being done from the government POV.

No mater the media, sequels to huge properties sell. Big. If Shooty-Shooty Bang Bang made a billion dollars, 18-24 months later, there will be a Shooty-shooty Bang Bang 2: The encoloning. If “money” is the answer to “why should we make another version of this thing?”, it doesn’t answer the question of what the characters are going to be doing. That’s why it’s refreshing to read that there won’t be another Incredibles movie until someone has a good idea for a story.

Moral dilemma indeed

“Chivalry” seems to be a polite way of saying that someone else is less capable than you are. Sometimes, that’s a manifest truth. For instance, if a bus is crowded, it would be the height of rudeness to not offer my seat to an old person.
Or a parent and child. “Offer” is the key word here. When “chivalry” is enforced, it’s often used as a cover for something a lot more sinister.

Video game marketing is ridiculous.

As we all know, the US Post office’s insolvency is entirely the fault of a congressional order to fund it’s retirement account for workers who haven’t yet been born. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see that Europe’s post offices seem to be working along entirely different lines. Perhaps bizarrely, those Euro-style post offices seem reminiscent of how US post offices operated before the days of Teddy Roosevelt.

Warning: tear jerking story. My cat would totally do this.

I literally cannot conceptualize 7 billion human beings. Nonetheless, we seem to have celebrated the birth of our 7 billionth human co-habitant of planet Earth this week. The industrial revolution did amazing things for the human population, including freeing us from a cycle of misery and poverty.

Edge of the America West is back. This is the best news ever.

When I was a kid, we went door to door trick or treating. And then came the wave of stories about how random psychos were poisoning candy. Today, many many many children get dressed up and beg for candy from stores in malls, rather than their neighbor’s houses. It does seem interesting that America in the 1980s and 1990s seems to have scared itself silly about mostly-fake stories. Just as the nation was getting to be safer than it ever had, we were telling ourselves that we were in more danger than ever. And now we cocoon ourselves inside “secure communities”.

I always knew that the Washington Redskins team name was flamingly racist. I had no idea that was on purpose. The real question, as always, is: what biases do I have which will look absurd and petty in 50 years?

As this post goes live on Sunday, it will be the 3 year anniversary of when I returned home- triumphant- from Ohio. One of the big hurdles I faced when trying to get voters to the polls, was making them believe that they would be allowed to vote. Our target voters were poor black folks who had faced decades worth of intimidation. 2008 was the first year when the State of Ohio stopped doing everything they could to hinder their voting, and instead did everything it could to help them vote. That is the legacy I am most proud of. That is what the GOP is busy trying to undo.

Want more adorable? Puppy with a seeing eye dog.

Class Warfare. Class Warfare never changes. I don’t mind when people have more money than I do. I don’t even mind when they have more money than I do and don’t work as hard. But the absolute sense that having more money makes someone a better human being? That’s the part I mind. That’s a lot of what the Occupy [city] protests are about. The only way to fix the problem is to create in America a genuine sense of Democracy.

I’m not sure why Steven Brust is asking about massacres of US citizens by the US government. The answers people are giving are frightening; most of the history they’re talking about is forgotten. Also? Most of the deadliest uses of US power against it’s citizens has been in the service of capital against labor. Remember: it’s only class warfare when the poor fight back.

The girl responds, “Oh I’m not nearly drunk enough.”

Walking is one of most powerful tools humans have developed for health. All things being equal, 30 minutes a day of walking- regular, boring, walking– can give an “obese” person most of the health benefits they’d gain by dropping weight until they were merely “fat”. American living spaces are created in such a way that we actively discourage walking. As someone who dropped 100lbs, I am speaking from personal experience.

These old white men plotting a terrorist attack will probably not trigger calls for race/age profiling. I am, however, sort of impressed that they connected the dots between Fox’s paranoid mutterings and an actual necessity for action. If only they’d applied that energy towards solving a real problem.

Whenever I hear about one of my coworkers behaving badly towards a guest they’re supposed to be serving, I mentally cringe. It’s shameful to know that someone in my organization is their job badly. Me? I’m just a server in a restaurant. If, say, I were an armed member of a police force, I’d like to think that I’d do everything in my power to encourage others to behave with the utmost professionalism. But I’m just a server in a restaurant. I’m sure there’s a very good, perfectly professional reason that cops are outraged that they’ve been caught abusing their power. I’m sure they’re simply unaware that their fellow police officers are making less safe the city they’ve sworn to protect and serve.

Here there ARE rules: MY motherfucking rules, and I govern with an iron fist. No, wait, fuck that, it’s a PLATINUM FIST with lightning bolts shooting out of it and diamonds and spikes and other badass adornments.

Elizabeth the Second– by the consent of the people, Queen of United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis– has overseen the slow transformation of England. When she was crowned, England held a global Empire with a semi-strong monarchy. Today England is slowly becoming an (important!) appendage of the European Union. It does seem that her grandson is trying to revive the monarchy’s power. Let’s see if it sticks.

a slice of San Francisco

Firstly, does it seem weird anyone else that potatoes have electric current? Always seems weird to me. Secondly, I cannot begin to overstate how important it is to have computer chips which require very little energy. Humanity has been using computers to help with brute-force calculations for decades. The problem is that we’re sucking up a lot of irreplaceable fossil fuels to do so. Now, imagine a computer powerful enough to calculate the fuel pump-rate on your car to give the best gas mileage– that is powered by the vibration of tires on the road. That’s not “energy creation” in the thermodynamic sense, but it is “free energy” in the sense that it’s using energy which would otherwise be wasted doing nothing.

Superheros for Truth, Justice, and the reformation of the American Way.

The other day I learned that “the land of the rising sun” is how the Japanese themselves refer to their nation. In order for that to be the case, they need a perspective from which the sun might not rise over their heads. The Japanese self perception, then, is formed (at least in part) as a definition of what they are not. They are manifestly not alone. All human culture is relative. We humans seem to create insider groups specifically by finding an Other against which to contrast ourselves. It’s one of the reasons I think “peace on Earth” can only be achieved when we band together against an extra-terrestrial threat. And that is why I favor the colonization of Mars.

Sunday Morning Listening Material.

If you click just one link:

I have never had to defend all men- or talk about all men- because I am “the dude on Twitter”. As a straight, white, cis, dude, it never seems to occur to anyone that I might need to be a spokesperson for all straight, white, cis dudes. So why don’t we grant that same privilege to all slices of humanity?

This week’s theme? Being unsettled. So if you made it this far, why don’t you reshare it on your social network of choice?

Reality hits you hard, bro.