Category Archives: Rants

We are doomed… Playing The Race Card

Race relations are a big topic this year.  From the office of the Presidency to the next Supreme Court Justice to the selection of Surgeon General, race would seem to be a central factor in selection.  Not that these folk are not good, smart people; they seem to be good enough to do what their positions require.  But were they selected because of their overwhelming qualifications, or because they held some promise and they also advanced the color-blind American agenda?   Don’t get me wrong: it’s a good agenda.
Just witness the statue of Justice; it is blindfolded, ready to go into combat with that really big sword.  Another blind entity dispensing martial arts justice1.

Disclaimer: I am not a Caucasian, if that is even important.  Most dwellers of the Russian Caucasus region look nothing like your typical redneck person (sic)  from the Deep South. I could not pass for White, whatever that means.

But I have to take issue with the case of the alleged discriminatory Swim Club in Pennsylvania. Much has been made as to how a daycare class of minority students was run out of the club by just-awful white racists.  I think that the swim club is being harassed unfairly, by a day-care practicioner that has a chip on her shoulder.  Look at the facts, in a color-blind way: Was the group large? Yes. Did the group create a crowd that is unusual for the club? Yes. Did the crowding enhance the ability to swim laps in the pool or to enjoy a quiet swim? No.  Just for those reasons, I would have ended my contract with the daycare program: our facility is just too small to accommodate you.  There were 2 other groups that received the same reasoning for termination of contract; they are not making any waves (sorry, I could not resist)  about it.

Cute kids, ugly situation, flawed decisions.
Cute kids, ugly situation, flawed decisions.

But this one person decided that the swim club was too exclusive to be allowed to exist.  Exclusivity being defined as having the need to swim in a calm environment without 65 kids jumping into the pool. Trust me, I have small kids, it gets very loud.  So she took the comments of some of her students and decided to bring a lawsuit against the club.  Allegedly, some daycare kids heard others at the swim club make derogatory remarks, eg:watch the dark skinned kids or they’ll steal your towel and don’t they ruin a perfectly good pool outing.  Although I never automatically take a kid’s word above a trusted adult, this is what this unknown person did.  And now the swim club may have to close, since it cannot afford to mount a legal defense.

Did the swim club err? Yes.  They should have kept their contracts and notified members that certain swim periods would be crowded, since the club was assisting daycare groups that no longer had access to a regular swimming pool.  Did club members have the right to complain? Yes.  They had paid their dues and expected access to a swimming pool that was normally uncrowded.  Did they have the right to make racists remarks?  No. The club leadership should have used this opportunity to educate their members about life in the  20th, er, 21st Century.  Should they have used the words “[the kids] changed the atmosphere and complexion of the club?”  No. These are perfectly good English words,  but they do sound like the color of the kids’ skin had something to do with the decision.  Stupid word choice.

Solution?  Have the swim club institute racial sensitivity classes for members (including its President);  apparently they need them.  Have the daycare come back to use the pool and drop its legal case.    Contact between the swim club members and the general population is a good thing and would foster understanding between people.   But now  that the news shows have shown the swim club as a “bad” place and placard-wearing losers are using this as an opportunity to appear on those news shows (don’t they have jobs?),  this mess will move to its sad conclusion: the swim club will close and those very stereotypes that should be destroyed will be reinforced.  Oh yes,  everyone out of the pool !!!

PS> The daycare is seeking punitive damages against the swim club. I’d hate to think that the daycare program  is trying to shake down the swim club for money over this incident.  A lot of good daycare programs are receiving  reduced funds nowaways, and this may be a tragic way to raise money.  I will continue to think that it’s only the sad interaction between flawed people that has gotten us to this point.  That, and the eagerness of a lawyer to get some cash from (maybe) affluent people.

  1. remember the TV show Kung Fu? []

Zoe Saldana VS. Sonia Sotomayor

One is a prominent Latina female.   The other is trying to get into the Supreme Court. You be the judge as to who will have a longer lasting effect on the American people.

Sonia Sotomayor     VS.   Zoe Saldana

My vote is with Zoe.  She is from the Dominican Republic and is a living embodiment of the richness of African culture that came to the Caribbean and still influences the culture there. And she looks extremely hot in the Starfleet issue miniskirt and booties.  A worthy successor to the lovely Communications Officer, Lt. Nichelle Nichols, and I believe Zoe speaks fluent Spanish.

On the other hand, we have an outspoken, intelligent Latina female, Sonia Sotomayor.  She has been called a “racist”  by the right-wing but I do not concur.  From her isolated comments, I make her out to be more of a mysandrist1  But she is going into a Supreme Court slot that is being vacated by another liberal-leaner, Justice Souter, so her positions2 should not make much of a difference in upcoming court decisions.  She will be outspoken, though, so it will be nice to hear a strident counterpoint to the pontificating statements of conservative Justice Scalia.

My score: 

Zoe Saldana (1) for a fantastic Star Trek franchise debut.   

Sonia Sotomayor (-1) for inflamatory statements that were issued when she was not open to micro-scrutiny as she is now.   Once she gets coronated as a Justice, I’ll reset her at (0).     I’ll give her (+2) rightaway if she trounces Scalia at the weekly Supreme Court Poker game. 3

  1. Definition: a hater of males.  In this case, white males. []
  2. Normally, I would now digress into  positions held by Zoe Saldana, but I’m not familiar with her record  : )  []
  3. Always bet your hidden aces; do not try to trap or you’ll get your dream pair cracked by trip deuces or some such tripe []

Angels and Demons: are they real? (Part 2)

Well, the answer to the titular question would be yes, for if you believe in angels then you must also believe in their counterparts, the demons.  And of course if you don’t have a spiritual bent, then this whole article is moot and you can just skip it and go see the new movie.  I suppose this is similar to watching the Star Wars movies:  I don’t believe in The Force powering up the Jedi Knights, but it sure makes for an entertaining 2 hours at the cinema.

Angel or Demon?

But if you do believe, as I do, then let me get back to the discussion we started in part 1.  I am going to relate the first part of the argument that was started so long ago in the back of a church bulletin:

(Read 1 Timothy 4:1-5)1  This passage describes the great Apostasy that is to come.  Do you think the Bible teaches that Demons are active?  Why don’t we hear much about Demons here in the United States?

The scripture passage is copied here, for your convenience (verses 1-2):

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron,

Well, I think the Bible has tons of passages showing that Demons are active.  Even without a Bible degree, I recall a couple of times in the old days when people would foam at the mouth and throw themselves into fires, while under the influence of demons.  In today’s newspapers, there are plenty of stories of people doing similarly unexplainable things (like killing their entire families or trying to kill all of their co-workers).  So if the equation is demons = crazy behavior then we can safely say that demons are still active.  But why don’t we hear more about them in today’s world?? How come the angels grab all of the attention and show up in all the movies and books and holiday cards?2

 As I said earlier, if you believe in Angels, then you must also believe in Demons.   I believe that you don’t see much demon activity because we do live in a society ruled by science, which has disproven the existence of demons (if you could ever prove a negative, which a lot of experts believe is a lot harder than we think).  If our society no longer believes in demons, then you can be sure that they have a lot more flexibility to act in our daily lives.  If you have ever found  yourself in a terribly emotional state (rage, depression, etc.)  then who is pushing the chemicals and hormones around in our brain??  Could someone be pressing on your adrenal gland at just the right time??  If our bodies are masses of cells, what leads them to start behaving in some fashion that we have not initiated with our mind??

I’ll play the rational scientist and respond that our bodies have been conditioned to pump hormones into our bodies at times when our very existence is threatened.   Quick, get that adrenalin shot in your system so that you can outrun a woolly mammoth and survive to procreate another day !!  So when we are in a situation that demands action, our bodies sometimes respond inappropriately and send the chemicals flying into our bodies, possibly making us go cuckoo and go grabbing for the nearest blunt object, projectile weapon, etc.  But as I recall, we also have been programmed for “fight or flight”   so why is it that most of the time we take this 50-50 choice and go for “fight”  against our very loved ones??

Who pushed the balance to the side that drives us to want to ram our truck into our neighbor’s house because his dog will never quit yapping??  That’s the “fighting” side that’s winning.

I’ll stop here, but if you want to read verses 3-5 of the Bible verse go ahead.  It is even more apropos since it talks about men advancing the cause of Demons by spouting heresy3  or in the case of the movie “Angels and Demons”  by spouting half-baked ideas about secret societies and giving it the veneer of truth.  This is OK when a movie bills itself as escapist entertainment, but the film-makers have gone out of their way to give credence to the theories in the film;  this helps the box-office but it does not advance the cause of truth.    And you thought Chariots of the Gods  in the 1970’s was a hoot; this new film goes one better.

Angels don’t have a prayer when you have CGI on your side.

Stay tuned for Part 3:   Demons, a distressing spirit.

  1. This would be in the Bible, of course []
  2. Beelzebub wishes you Happy Holidays — now there’s a card I’d like to send a friend []
  3. In this case the issue was abolishing marriage and incorrectly having to abstain from sinful foods — more reason to skip the cheesecake tonight.  But go ahead and propose to your girlfriend; it’s OK []

HDCP Was Created By Satan

This is the story of how to waste an afternoon.

My housemate and I were trying to hook up his HTPC to our home theater system, as an internet search suggested that the PS3 couldn’t play MKV files, so it seemed streaming was out. The home theater is built into the wall (not my doing, we’re renting), and working on it is a tremendous pain in the ass. It already had an HD DVR and a PS3 connected to a 6.1 Onkyo receiver, which outputs to a TV. Both the receiver and the TV are 6+ years old and don’t have HDMI; heck, the TV is only 720P. However, the HTPC outputs via HDMI. We figured the only way to do this would be to swap in his newer HDMI-capable receiver for the old one. Then we hook up everything and output to the TV via component. What could go wrong?

I change out the receiver (again, huge PITA), and while I’m doing this, I decide to change the PS3 connection from component to HDMI. See, the PS3 will output HD through component, but won’t upconvert normal DVDs to HD unless you output via HDMI. HDMI requires HDCP, or high-bandwidth digital content protection. Apparently, they’re afraid you’re going to upconvert your legal/legit DVD of Spiderman to HD, then run it through an HD recorder/digitizer that has component inputs1, then… destroy all of Hollywood! Yes, it stops you from doing even fair use copying. And yes, you can pop that DVD into your computer and do the same thing, only way, way easier. So anyway, if you want your old SD DVDs nice and sharp on your HDTV, you gotta use the HDMI connector. No problem!

After all is hooked up, I test out the DVR – component in, component out – and it looks fine. I then try the PS3, and I’m getting no video. Audio yes, but no video. I connect it to a TV that has HDMI, verify it works, set HDMI to the default output, and hook it back up to the receiver. Still no dice. Perhaps the receiver is not HDCP compliant? The PS3 no likey da Onkyo? With a heavy heart, I read the manual for the receiver.

Turns out, the receiver is HDCP compliant. In fact, it’s so fucking compliant that it refuses to output video from an HDMI input to a component output! It’s essentially saying, “Your TV isn’t good enough to date my video signal.” Well my TV may not come from the best side of town, but your video signal is a whore! A filthy, corporate whore!

Sorry, where was I? Doesn’t matter. At this point, there appeared to be only two solutions:

  1. Replace the TV. There is some merit to this idea, but that would cost me $2,000 and it’s not even my TV.
  2. Buy an HDMI to component converter with an HDCP stripper. At first blush, this sounds great, due in no small part to the word stripper. It would make the PS3 think it was connected to an HDCP display, which is just what we need. Unfortunately, these cost $200-300, which is almost what I paid for the damn PS3. It’s also the cost of an actual stripper. Gotta think about that one.

Sadly, I went with Option C: go back to the all component setup and forgo dreams of sharper DVDs and HTPC goodness.2

Then, just for shits and giggles, my roommate downloads and configures TVersity on his desktop and shares a few MKV movies. We point the PS3 at his server and voila! the movies play! Now, they seem to be maxing out the wifi connection, so we may need to lower the quality to optimize for speed. And I’ve been hearing more good things about PS3 Media Server than TVersity, so perhaps we’ll give that a try. But the bottom line is, we never needed to swap anything out for this to work. And if I had just read the fucking Onkyo manual, I never would have bothered. But really, if Satan hadn’t invented HDCP, everything would have worked perfectly.

  1. Which are rare, but the Hauppauge HD-PVR looks interesting. []
  2. Note: since I had just set the PS3 to output via HDMI, I had to keep my finger on the power button for 5 seconds on startup to reset the display settings. Then reset them to match the TV, etc. []

Doug Prasher – Nobel Prize Hero

Notice that I did not use the familiar phrase: Nobel Prize Winner.   That is because Doug Prasher is a victim of circumstance, Nobel prize rules and a slowing research environment.   You can read his full story here as provided by NPR, but the gist is that he was a scientist that provided a vital link in the research that culminated in this 2008’s Nobel prize win.  However, because his funding ran out at a succession of research jobs, he is now under-employed as a courtesy shuttle driver in Hunstville, Alabama. 

Courtesy Shuttle Driver and Nobel prize researcher Doug Prasher

But he is a hero, because he did the unselfish and ethical thing: he shared the fruits of his research with other scientists and helped them to get to the Nobel prize.  Heck, if the prize committee did not have the 3-person rule for awards, Doug might have found himself with winfall cash and an invitation to Sweden (do they pay for the airfare??) .

My advice to Doug: sell and write your story to Hollywood.  If they could make a crummy movie about the guy who invented the windshield wiper, they can certainly make a movie about your story.  I am hooked already, and have found your persistence and courage inspiring.  You are not only putting your kids through college but also providing a vital service in our community.  I can only hope that the added attention to your tale brings about a job offer in the scientific field where your contributions can make our economy grow (are you listening, President Obama??)

Now, the auto industry is slowing down; nobody is buying cars.   I hope this does not result in further unemployement for our hero; the auto dealership should trump up the fact that a Nobel prize researcher works there.  This could result in upscale clientele — people that don’t care if the new Toyota SUV only gives you 10 miles per gallon.  Better yet, someone hire Doug to invent a car that runs on hot air;  there’s plenty of that blowing around our state and federal government centers as they try to get their hands on our (and our children’s) money using the recession as an excuse…….

UPDATE: Our hero will be going to Stockholm after all !!  The Nobel prize winners invited Doug and his wife to travel with them to Stockholm and be at the ceremony, where he will be thanked for his contribution.   That’s how a real scientist behaves; kudos to all involved.   Now don’t get me started talking about Rosalind Franklin  and how Watson and Crick scammed her out of their Nobel Prize for their so-called discovery of the DNA double helix !!

Worst Transformer Ever

Masterchief points us to a post at about a new Transformer named Jetfire. Here is a photo of him:

Jetfire the Autobot

As you can see, he is holding a cane. Because he’s old. And old robots can’t walk good. They need canes. Robot canes. Because, you know… I’m sorry, why can’t you just fix the fucking robot? New servos, some scrap metal, an acetylene torch and wire nuts? I mean, Wreck-gar and the Junkions (which is an excellent band name) are literally built from the crap other Transformers threw in the garbage, yet to the best of my knowledge, none of them require canes. Thank you, Michael Bay!

The icing on the cake is that Jetfire combines with Optimus Prime! I can only imagine he turns into, like, a seat cover. Or maybe a dashboard compass. But probably a seat cover.

Obama Inaugural — A Pointless Farce

Well, now that I have your attention let me soften up a little here.  Any Presidential Inaugural in the United States should be an occassion of joy.  In what other part of the world would you see the reins of government for such a powerful nation change hands so smoothly??  Bush is out and Obama is in, and not a single person has been incarcerated or worse.

Well, maybe I’m premature.  Given the low temperatures at the Inaugural and the fact that you have limited bathroom access and seating, you may yet see a few casualties of the new government.  A word of advice to our older readers: don’t go.  This standing around for 6 hours in freezing cold is for the young.

And it is the young that should be celebrating; they are the ones that put Obama over the top and elected him President.  In their excited fugue state, they are going to go and throw a fantastic party next Tuesday to celebrate the first African-American President of the United States.    But I’m here to throw a little cold water on your party,  a little dose of reality on the Change Band-Wagon that rolled so smoothly over the remains of the GOP ticket last November.   You voted for change but what you’ve been getting is pragmatism: your new President has limited options in the face of a melting economy.  You voted to punish the rich, but it seems that we still need the rich to kick-start the economic engine from its current stupor.  You voted yourselves a ticket to the opening of a cornucopia of endless green energy and bio-fuels, but instead you are standing in the soup line with the rest of us.  Better get out of the line and get behind the serving table: we are going to need all the help we can get.

The euphoria I expect to see next Tuesday reminds me of a fantastic wedding day put together for a couple that never gave much thought to what is needed to form a long-lasting marriage.  The couple was so focused on having a great time at the wedding that they did not plan out the rudiments of a real marriage: a firm financial and emotional foundation for the life-long effort that lay ahead. 

I have heard so much about the menus for the different Inaugural celebrations being held but not much about how folks are going to pay for the meal and the entertainment.  Is this money disposable income or is it coming from your unemployment benefits?  Is it worth spending a piece of your future to get a short-lived high?

This is akin to the feeling you get when your team wins a game.  For a few moments life seems wonderful, but it is a feeling that is built on a meaningless event.   Roger Ebert has a great article on the feeling of elevation  and how you get it at the movies: it is a great sensation but it is built on something less than reality.  When the movie is over, so is the feeling of elation.  It take a little extra effort to turn the memory of that moment into action that lasts a lifetime.   I can only hope that that is what will happen on Inauguration Tuesday.  Go get  your jollies that day, but don’t lay the weight of the future on Mr. Obama; only you and the hard work of a few million others can make it as bright as you are expecting it to be.

I love a parade–Stephanie Edwards is back!!

Sometimes, the Universe surprises me.  Karma balances out and all is well with the world.

I was pleasantly surprised on New Year’s Morning to find out that Stephanie Edwards is back as co-host of the big Pasadena Rose Brou-ha-ha.  As you may recall, she was unceremoniously dumped several years ago to the surprise of many traditionalists and to the detriment of the local KTLA parade coverage.   I covered the outrage here  and others also picked up this story.    Here she is, soldiering on under one of the few rainstorms to hit the Rose Parade (2006):

Stephanie Edwards in the rain.

But now she is back and her replacement was moved to the sidelines in an ironic turnaround that makes for gossipy good fun.  And for good measure, she returns to a higher-paying salary;  payback is a bitch.

Decoding The Personals

Wherein we suffer through the personal ads so you don’t have to. The phrases are all from personal ads; the translations are mine. Feel free to add or amend.

Sensitive: Will cry at the drop of a hat.

Upbeat: Takes antidepressants.

Healthy: Herpes in remission.

Lonely: Needy.

Smart: Doesn’t use hairspray in pits, brush with KY Jelly.

Intelligent: Can and will misquote Shakespeare for all occasions.

Sleepless In…: Has seen too many Nora Ephron movies to be trusted.

Romantic: Spend lots, spend often, or else.

Enjoys Finer Things In Life: And you thought “Romantic” was expensive.

Spiritual: Will latch onto every New Age trend du jour; owns extensive self-help library. Has crystals collecting dust atop Celestine Prophecy in closet.

Sincere: Self-absorbed as hell, but coated in a veneer of “caring.” Makes eye contact, nods appreciatively. Big whoop.

Serious Replies Only: Marry me, or else. These are the people who, after a one-night stand, will tearfully exclaim, “But I thought we were going to get married!” Continue reading Decoding The Personals