Feeds:
Posts
Comments

I thought Montana was Trump country. Maybe not Bozeman. The

Green Coalition of Gay Loggers for Jesus

got my attention. But I didn’t realize that there was a photobomb of two young kids in need of a room in the front until after I took the photo.

Great times in Bozeman, Montana.

I have never seen a total solar eclipse. As we are preparing for our trip to Montana and Idaho to be there in the path of totality on August 21 in Idaho Falls, I came across this video that describes the experience. Now I am getting excited.

…that my sneakers are getting very ratty?

The fortune cookie is right. Better go shopping soon.

The name Al Gore is synonymous with Climate Change (capitalized on purpose). Gore started a popular uprising more than ten years ago with the movie An Inconvenient Truth and with this sequel he continues his fight.

He has been vilified by deniers and the far right lobby in the United States, and he has suffered setback after setback in his mission to get the message out.

Living in the United States in the age of Trump and the dumbing down of America, we tend to forget that we are pretty unique in the world. Americans make up less than 5% of the world’s population, and the far right is a small, albeit powerful slice of that 5%, but they seem to be the loudest criers. Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Accord. This makes no sense. 95% percent of the people of the world are scratching their heads.

I know people all over the world, Europeans, South Africans, Japanese, Brazilians, Indians, to name just a few. And I could not name a single one of them who would be what we call in the United States a climate denier. Denying climate change seems to be a uniquely American malaise.

Al Gore has the work cut out for himself in this country, and I am grateful for his leadership and tenacity.

You don’t have to “believe” in climate change to watch An Inconvenient Sequel and learn from it. The movie is full of facts and astonishing imagery about how our world has been changing and is continuing to change.

The most important experience for me, however, was as I walked out of the movie, stunned, but inspired. We have got this. There is no stopping that movement. People have turned their backs on coal and oil, no matter what the coal and oil lobby, and our own government, that is supposed to protect us, tells us. People are installing solar energy systems at an ever escalating pace. Solar will be cheaper and easier to use. Coal and oil will be inconvenient, and the planet will heal.

This didn’t happen by accident. This happened because of the tireless leadership of thousands of people, one of which is Al Gore.

Oh, no, we’re not done yet with the fight, far from it. But oh, yes, we will choose to take the baton so we can march toward a better world.

Some very interesting musings about free speech, a topic dear to me, too, and a segment about Trump and transgender people in the military. Nice post!

athicketofmusings

If you haven’t yet read about the Google employee who was fired for questioning the company’s diversity policy, then you need to do so immediately.  I couldn’t care less what your opinion is on this man’s statements (they’re actually pretty mild in my opinion), but it’s obvious to me that the company’s reaction to this was way out of proportion to the “crime” committed.  It’s already been proven that Google has far Left political leanings & isn’t afraid to exploit its power to try to sway public opinion.  This was evidenced when analyses found that Google’s suggested searches on Hillary Clinton were largely positive while its suggested searches on Donald Trump were largely negative.  But that’s a story for another day.  voltaire quote

The heart of the matter here is that free speech is under attack in this country like never before in our history.  The Left has so brainwashed…

View original post 801 more words

Thank you, Stalin. Thank you because I am joyful. Thank you because I am well. No matter how old I become, I shall never forget how we received Stalin two days ago. Centuries will pass, and the generations still to come will regard us as the happiest of mortals, as the most fortunate of men, because we lived in the century of centuries, because we were privileged to see Stalin, our inspired leader … Everything belongs to thee, chief of our great country. And when the woman I love presents me with a child the first word it shall utter will be : Stalin …

—  A. V. Avidenko’s “Hymn to Stalin”

 

On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people.

— Reince Priebus at Cabinet Meeting

The Administration and the GOP are now heading for tax reform. They want to cut taxes. I read that to mean:

  1. Lower taxes for the rich and Trump’s cronies
  2. Burden the country with more debt to account for those tax cuts
  3. Give the middle-class a one-time check of a few hundred dollars that is enough to pay for one trip to Costco – just to make them feel good.

Trump supporters want lower taxes, and they believe their hero that those couple of hundred dollars (IF THAT) is their fair share.

To support this initiative, Trump tells his supporters that the United States has one of the highest tax burdens in the world. That is simply not true whatsoever.

Trump lies.

It takes about 5 seconds to google and see the reality:

[click to enlarge]

Source: Taxfoundation.org. Check this site for a wealth of more information.

This shows that the United States is actually below average.

I am not saying that paying taxes like they do in Belgium or Germany is good. I am just saying that Trump lied to his followers, whom he obviously considers too lazy or stupid to look up the facts for themselves.

Trump wants to cut taxes for billionaires. And the middle-class, the unemployed coal miners, “the milk people,” the Carrier workers that just lost their jobs in Indiana, they are still supporting Trump.

Trump is raiding this country for himself, his clan, and his cronies in the fossil fuel business, and the Russian mob, and the American people are blind to it and somehow think this is good for them.

One day, after 2018, or after 2020, we will all wake up with massively more national debt, less jobs for the lower and middle class, less education for all, and we’ll realize we have been duped. That is if we’re not in some new massive war with a new adversary like Iran or North Korea that he starts just to crank up the military industrial complex.

Trump is Making America Stupid Again.

Stephen King is a master of what-if books.

For instance, his novel Under the Dome is based on this premise: What if a bubble-like, transparent, but completely impenetrable dome a few miles across suddenly was placed over a New England town? Nobody gets in, nobody gets out. What would happen? Then King builds an entire novel around this unlikely, impossible and ridiculous assumption.

In King’s novel The Stand, he speculates that a human-made deadly virus accidentally gets out and kills 99.9999 percent of the population. Only a handful individuals survive. That’s the what-if scenario. Then a novel of well over a thousand pages follows, building an entire world based on that premise.

Stephenson also likes to write what-if novels. Seveneves starts: THE MOON BLEW UP WITHOUT WARNING AND FOR NO APPARENT reason. What would happen if that actually occurred?

DODO is such a what-if book. What if magic existed? Yes, magic like witches that can cast spells, like turning a man into a frog, or changing the order of playing cards in a deck, Harry Potter kind of magic. It’s a preposterous assumption, and it was enough to turn me off before I even picked up the book. But then, a friend and frequent commenter on this blog (MB) told me to get over the magic part and read DODO anyway. So I did. I did not regret it.

Besides being a book that speculates about magic, DODO is also a time travel book. Time travel is one of my favorite science fiction genres, and it even has its own category in the selector on this blog. If you are ever interested in finding books about time travel, I have a wealth of them reviewed right here.

To expand: What if magic existed and what if witches could send people back and forward in time by casting spells? What would happen in a world of 2017, with iPhones, Google, the Internet, and black-budget arms of the United States government, like D.O.D.O, the Department of Diachronic Operations? Imagine the United States military, with its ridiculous bureaucracy, its totally confusing acronyms and endless procedures manuals getting mixed up in magic!

Tristan Lyons is a major in the United States military. Melisande Stokes is a post-doctoral linguistics expert and renowned polyglot, primarily of ancient languages, like Greek, Latin, Hebrew and many others. Lyons recruits Stokes to help him translate ancient texts that reference magic. Magic seems to have been prevalent in early human history, but has abruptly stopped in the mid 19th century. As the two research, they eventually find that a single event in July of 1851 finally stopped magic worldwide. With the help of a renowned physicist and research of the concept of Schrödinger’s cat, they build a machine inside which magic is possible in the 21st century. Now they just have to find a witch, and they can travel in time.

And travel they do, and problems they create.

DODO is a delightful book in so many aspects. For instance, one of the main protagonist organizations is the Fugger family, one of the wealthiest medieval European banking families. This was fun for me, because I had just read The Richest Man Who Ever Lived a couple of years ago, which chronicles the life of Jakob Fugger, a Bavarian banker from Augsburg who was, in his day, the richest and one of the most powerful men in the world. He told kings what to do, because he had the money to fund the kings. The Fugger family is central in the plot of DODO.

The most remarkable thing about DODO is the completely unconventional and, shall I call it experimental, structure of the book. If a lesser author had tried to pull this off, it would have been a dismal failure. But Stephenson made it work: The format and framework of the book is nothing like I have ever read before. It’s not narrated in the first person or the third person. It is a largely chronological assortment of diaries, emails, internal blog posts, government memos – sometimes heavily redacted, handwritten notes, narratives, translations, Wikipedia entries, and historic references. No one person tells the story. The author does not tell the story, and there is no major protagonist who tells the story. The various documents and excerpts, just posted one after the other, eventually tell the story.

It’s a brilliant, new format that I have never seen done before, and it won’t be applied again.

I would normally have given this book three stars, but the completely refreshing and innovative format, and the fact that Stephenson pulled it off successfully, made me bump this book to four stars. It’s a must-read, not because you like time travel (or magic), but because it’s something that has never been done before and therefore is unique.

Is there an award for unique?

Well, you know, we’re going for 15 [percent]. We’re going to see, and we’ll see. But, you know, I don’t want to say anything about negotiation. I mean, we are asking for 15 percent, and we think we’re going to grow tremendously. So I deal with foreign countries, and despite what you may read, I have unbelievable relationships with all of the foreign leaders. They like me. I like them. You know, it’s amazing.

So I’ll call, like, major — major countries, and I’ll be dealing with the prime minister or the president. And I’ll say, how are you doing? Oh, don’t know, don’t know, not well, Mr. President, not well. I said, well, what’s the problem? Oh, GDP 9 percent, not well. And I’m saying to myself, here we are at like 1 percent, dying, and they’re at 9 percent and they’re unhappy. So, you know, and these are like countries, you know, fairly large, like 300 million people. You know, a lot of people say — they say, well, but the United States is large. And then you call places like Malaysia, Indonesia, and you say, you know, how many people do you have? And it’s pretty amazing how many people they have. So China’s going to be at 7 [percent] or 8 percent, and they have a billion-five, right? So we should do really well.

But in order to do that — you know, it’s tax reform, but it’s a big tax cut. But it’s simplification, it’s reform, and it’s a big tax cut, 15 –

— Donald Trump, Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2017 in the Oval Office – Read the full transcript here.

This shows how well Trump understands how economies work. How that man got rich is beyond me. Was it all money laundering, stiffing contractors, and walking away from failing projects?

Howard Wakefield (Bryan Cranston) is a successful lawyer in New York City who commutes to the suburbs by subway. One night in spring, when there is a power outage on the train, he is delayed and by the time he gets home it’s dark. As he approaches his house, he sees a raccoon in the yard and as he scares it away, it runs into the door to the attic above his separate garage. He follows it upstairs and chases it out of the attic.

As he looks out of the attic window he sees his wife (Jennifer Garner) and twin teenage daughters in the lit up kitchen in the house. Covered by darkness, he sits down in an old dusty chair and looks out the window. He does not want to go inside. Eventually, he falls asleep.

When he awakes the next morning, he decides not to go to work, or go home. He just watches his family go about their day as they report him as missing. Now that he has been gone for a full 24 hours, he can’t bring himself to return. He stays in the attic another day, and another.

Wakefield is almost a one man show, with Bryan Cranston doing an excellent job as the actor. He narrates the story in a subdued voice, almost just thinking to himself. Some flashbacks illustrate his lackluster marriage and his burned out life.

The movie is very slow and at times I found it hard to remain engaged. As the story progressed, I found myself interested in how it would eventually end. Adapted from a short story by E.L. Doctorow, this is not really a movie, but a long monologue. It would work great as a one man play.

This would be a dud, were it not for Bryan Cranston’s excellent acting. As it is, it’s a study on life, marriage and identity.

Ludicrous, Mr. President. The world is not watching. The world is scratching its head.

If you want a health plan, please stop tweeting, stop playing golf, stop wasting time and taxpayer travel money on silly campaign rallies. You are the president.

Get to work and come up with a plan, a good plan, such a good plan and so cheap, one where everybody will win, and all the Republicans and most of the Democrats will vote for it. It’s actually quite simple.

If you want to have a plan that allows people to buy across state lines, work on such a plan, and present it, and we’ll all support it. You don’t need to kick 26 million people off their health insurance to create a market that allows people to buy across state lines.

To use your own words: It’ll be great, and it’ll be so easy.

Do something, Mr. President!

John McCain recently made a lot of headlines. His decision to kill the repeal of the Affordable Care Act may have been the most influential, and the most controversial, vote of his career. His illness may require him to retire soon, but I have always believed that he was an American hero.

I haven’t always agreed with him. If you search this blog for the name “McCain” you will find many posts, some negative, and some praises. I don’t always have to agree with a man on everything to respect him. Let me say it right here: I have always respected John McCain.

If you are at all interested in McCain’s career, here is a review of his book Faith of My Fathers.

We have a small upstairs balcony, just large enough for two chairs looking down on the street. The balcony is completely covered by the eaves of the house. Inside, there is a supporting beam, and that’s where a pair of doves have decided to build their condo.

[click to enlarge]

Most of the time, only one of them is here, just sitting there, resting. They are now used to us, so we can get within a couple of feet and take a picture without scaring them. We come up and talk to them through the screen door.

Today, we saw both of them there at the same time, one of them in the nest and the other in the adjoining condo – or perhaps separate bedroom.

We don’t know if there are any eggs in the nest yet. We’ll check the next time they are both out shopping.

If I were a dove, I’d find this spot too. It does not get any better. It’s completely protected from terrestrial predators, since it’s under a balcony that cannot be reached from the ground. It’s invisible from the outside. While other birds could get there, they’d have to know it’s there first. And it’s protected from all weather and wind.

When choosing real estate, it’s all about location, location and location.

In contrast, I searched for nests of doves, and found that not all doves are as smart as our pets. Check out this one:

[picture credit: imgur.com]

It’s right out in the open, on top of an ultrasonic bird repellant machine. It does not seem like the gizmo is working on the doves. Hopefully it won’t drive the chicks crazy when they hatch.

Here is the moment when Senator John McCain voted “No” on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Mitch McConnell, standing by with crossed arms, watching every senator vote, walked away defeated moments later. He knew he didn’t have the votes.

It has been incomprehensible to me how a government, by the people, for the people, would want to take action that takes insurance coverage away from a significant percentage of its people.

There are 243 million people in the U.S. over age 16, so let’s call them the adult population. Taking health care coverage away from 26 million people would affect 10% of the population.

Picture yourself being one of those 26 million. You may have had a pre-existing condition like diabetes, and now, by the stroke of a pen by your president, that coverage is gone and gone forever. You have diabetes, and you can’t get insurance that you can afford anymore.

Why? Because evil Obama made it so that wealthier Americans pay more taxes to fund shortfalls. Because insurance and pharma executives make millions of dollars a year and their companies are wildly profitable because their non-competitive practices are sanctioned by our laws and regulations. And because a significant percentage of our government is bought off by those individuals and organizations and they have a president who can’t think beyond soundbites on Fox News and will sign anything as long as it serves his aggrandizement.

This entire initiative to kill the Affordable Care Act is motivated not by making things right for the American people, but by political ambitions. The president has said that the Affordable Care Act is a disaster for the American people, and – by golly – many of the dumbed-down American people believe him.

Congress Republicans wanted to score a point, with the president, and with their paymasters. Now we have a White House that not only appears to have been put in place by the aid of an adversarial power, but it also actively sabotages one of the laws of the land – the Affordable Care Act. Rather than upholding the laws, the government is sabotaging the laws.

Trump says he wants to make America great again. By throwing 10% of the adult population off their healthcare? What kind of problem-solving is that? It’s oligarchy. It’s making himself and those in his orbit in debt rich. I do not understand how he can have 37% of the population is his support. A significant percentage of his own supporters would lose their healthcare coverage. Really? That’s a lot of people supporting Trump with no healthcare. Somebody help me understand that.

McCain understood that, and he listened to his constituents. Unlike dozens of his colleagues in the Senate, who also must know deep down how wrong all this is, he showed backbone and he did what is right for the American people. Too bad there isn’t going to be another opportunity to vote for McCain for president.

For more reading on McCain:

See my open letter, also sent to him in hardcopy: Here.

My book review on Faith of my Fathers. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to understand the man John McCain and the experiences of a prisoner of war. If you only read one chapter, read the one about “John McCain’s Towel.”

Here is an article about McCain and torture.

 

Our sun has a diameter of about 1.3 million kilometers and it’s about 150 million kilometers away. Let’s say we shrink the size of the sun down to the size of a human red blood cell. That’s about 7 micrometers. It would be a really, really tiny speck, not visible with the human eye. If the sun were that small, the entire solar system would have a diameter of about 5 centimeters, about the size of a tangerine. However, the solar system isn’t really a ball, like a tangerine. All the planets orbit around the sun on one plane. So it would be better to describe the solar system as a thin disk the size of a tangerine. Even that’s not a good description. In the center is the sun, with 99.9 percent of all the mass in the solar system. Remember, the sun is the size of a red blood cell. You can’t even see it. The eight major planets are fantastically smaller still. And those eight planets make up the tangerine-sized disk.

Enough about the solar system and tangerines. Now that we have a sense for the solar system made that small, how far away do you think the nearest star system is? That would be Alpha and Proxima Centauri, which is about 4.3 light years away from here.

The answer is 219 meters. That’s a little bit more than the length of two football fields. Ok, let’s picture that. The sun is an invisible speck the size of a red blood cell with the solar system the size of a tangerine. Then the nearest star and its planets is another tangerine more than two football fields away. Just imagine the massive amount of empty space in all directions, left, right, forward, back, up down of empty space, and then another tangerine-sized star system.

Now let’s visualize the nearest stars to our sun. It turns out that there are only about 77 stars within a sphere of 33 light years diameter around the sun. There are a few prominent stars among those 77, like Alpha Centauri, Sirius and Procyon, the brightest of the bunch. Many of the 77 are not even visible with the naked eye. Regardless, those are the 77 nearest stars. How big do you think a 33 light year bubble around us would be, if our solar system were the size of a tangerine? It would be about 1,680 meters. That just a bit more than a mile. So picture a bubble a mile across in all directions, with the solar system in the center, the size of a tangerine. Inside of that one-mile bubble in space, there are only 77 other star systems, 77 tangerines, floating around. And that’s our close neighborhood of only 16.5 light years on all directions.

Our Milky Way Galaxy is a disk of about 100 billion stars. The disk has a rough diameter of 100,000 light years. If our solar system is the size of a tangerine, then the Milky Way is about 5,000 kilometers across (or about 3,000 miles), or roughly the size of the continental United States. So picture yourself walking around the country and encountering these little solar system disks of 5 centimeters across spaced out every two football fields in all directions, and you get a sense of how wide open and empty our galaxy is.

And that’s just ours. Recent estimates are that there may be a trillion, that’s a million million, galaxies in our universe.

The world is a very large and very empty place.

 

%d bloggers like this: