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Tami (Shailene Woodley) is a 19-year-old girl who drifted to Tahiti to get away from her childhood and youth of neglect and abuse in a broken family in San Diego. Richard (Sam Claflin) is an English young sailor who worked in a shipyard and built himself a sailboat. As he enters the port in Tahiti he sees Tami working on the docks and is smitten. The two fall in love. Friends of Richard show up in Tahiti and tell him they have to fly back to Europe for an emergency. Would he do them a favor and sail their boat back to San Diego?

Tami and Richard set sail across the Pacific and eventually head straight into a catastrophic hurricane. Changing course too late, they soon face an impossible sea. Richard gets swept off the boat by a giant wave braking over the bow, and Tami gets knocked out down in the cabin. The boat loses its masts and is severely damaged, but continues to float.

Tami awakens and quickly realizes that there is no hope for rescue.

This movie is based on a true story. It’s a bit disjointed to watch. How do you make a movie that is interesting and suspenseful about sitting in a boat adrift in an endless ocean alone for a month and a half?

When I was in my teen years, sailing the world was also my number one dream. Of course, I never even set foot in a sailboat in the ocean until decades later when I realized that there were risks and dangers associated with sailing on the high seas, and tremendous sacrifices. Adrift reminded me of that. But it did rekindle some of those old dreams.

Scotty, a nine-year-old boy, and his dog, can’t wait to run down to the beach upon arriving at their parents’ summer house on Nantucket. They are never seen again, until they mysteriously reappear 16 years later.

As we learn later, Scotty was abducted by a UFO. The aliens have a noble mission to save humanity from complete destruction due to a massive cosmic calamity, and abducting human children is part of that mission.

I was looking forward to a nice alien story, but I was disappointed. The aliens are called the Vallic and they are 97 percent energy. Viewed by a human they are simply faint blue outlines – of humanoid structure. I was disappointed because, like in so many science fiction books, here are aliens that are humans in costumes.  Not only are they humanoid, they have males and females, and the voices of the females are softer and they have – breasts. To top it off, they speak English. McGinnis is a creative author, with great ideas. Why couldn’t he have been a little more creative with the aliens?

The story employs some interesting concepts, but it was just too crude and simple for me. The author is actually a pretty good story teller, he moves the plot along, but there are too many of these “oh seriously?” moments sprinkled throughout, I never got fully immersed in the story. He kept reminding me that this was not real, with unbelievable fabrications (like aliens in human form who speak English), cardboard characters, caricatures of government officials, crazy magic-like science, and flat and boring protagonists. I was never immersed in the world he created.

I was going to blast the author for using the cutesy word “ginormous” a number of times. I really thought that was a made-up word. Before I complained, though, I looked it up, and sure enough, it’s in the dictionary, with its synonym humongous.

I stayed with it to the end, only to be disappointed that there was no resolution, no end. The book ended from one paragraph to the next, where the author tells us to wait for the next book in the series. I hate books with no ends, especially when I read one where I don’t know there won’t be an end because the author is planning a series all along. My bad.

Sorry, I won’t be reading the next one. After reading this whole book I am just not interested enough in finding out what happens next.

But I did learn that ginormous is an English word, not just slang.

Browsing Facebook this morning I found that there was a Fahenweihe this weekend in Illkofen, my childhood village in Bavaria. The word Fahenweihe means the “ordination of the flag” or “blessing of the flag.” This usually takes place at significant anniversaries of clubs, mostly of the volunteer fire department.

Here is their brochure and program for the weekend. Illkofen, when I grew up, was a little village in the heart of Bavaria with perhaps 250 souls. Today it may be 400 or 500. For a Fahnenweihe they have a serious program of religious services, dances, a parade, and lots of beer and Bratwurst. The celebrations go on all weekend, and as I am writing this post, the beer tent is probably teeming with serious music and drinking.

The beer tent is a tent put up for the weekend, similar to those we’ll find at county fairs in the U.S. They have a band stand at the end, a dance floor in the middle, and rows of picnic tables on both sides.

In the picture above you can see the ceremonial tapping of the first keg. The people in uniform in the back are not soldiers. These are firemen in their dress uniforms. It’s all about the 150th anniversary of the Freiwillige Feuerwehr Illkofen (volunteer fire department of Illkofen).

One of the highlights of the event is the parade, which takes place on Sunday afternoon. The local village invites the fire departments from many surrounding villages for the parade. A small village may send a handful of people. Large villages can send dozens of them. They come with all their pomp and glory, in full uniform. The parade, of course has a marching band, and then, one by one, the clubs march by. Each club brings their flags which are carried in front of the group by one of the members. Then, in front of each club, a boy is assigned to carry the “sign” identifying the club, usually the village name.

And now comes the part about reminiscing about my childhood.

I came about this Facebook post of the 150th anniversary by accident, but in the summer of 1968, when I was just going on 12 years old, the Freiwillige Feuerwehr Illkofen had its 100th anniversary, and I was there.

The interesting and exciting part for the local boys at a Fahnenweihe is this: the boys get assigned villages for which to carry the signs. They are called Taferlbuam, which is a Bavarian slang term for sign boys. You won’t find that in any dictionary. It is tradition that the visiting club tips the Taferlbuam for their services of carrying the sign, and invite them to eat and drink with them after the parade in the festival tent. The larger the club you are assigned to, the larger the likey tip, since they just pass one of their hats around the membership and collect. So if each person of a large club just puts a few bills into the collection, it can make for a massive tip for a 12 year old boy. There was quite some competition amongst us boys for the assignment. Everyone wanted to be assigned to a large club. I don’t know who does the assignment, probably the fire captain, and I don’t remember the name of the club I was assigned to. It was medium sized and I remember having a pocket full of money and being happy.

The sign boy gets to sit with the club in the festival tent and celebrate. Bratwurst, Sauerkraut and a roll are consumed, all paid for by the club. And the beer flows freely.

And now, my American reader, you have to set aside your customary puritan views about alcohol and youth drinking, as it is tradition in Bavaria that the poor sign boy not only walks away with a pocket full of cash, but that he is also completely and thoroughly drunk. In fact, I may venture to say that a Fahnenweihe could well be the first introduction to serious alcoholic consumption to young Bavarian boys.

It was certainly so for me. I don’t remember much about the festival tent. It does not take too much beer to make a 12 year old drunk. I remember somehow making it home, which was only a few hundred yards away. I remember throwing up violently. I remember wallowing and writhing in pain in the grass in the yard of my house in the sunny afternoon, with my sisters and mother looking over me. I remember being so sick, so wasted, that I was sure I was going to die. I remember begging my sisters not to leave me alone, because dying alone would be too frightening.

Eventually, somehow, I got over it and I am sure I slept a long time. I could not even smell beer without gagging for years afterwards. I may have made it to age 15 or so before I took another sip.

Interestingly, an American reader might be shocked and worried about the abuse of alcohol by youth, but I can assure you after inductions like these, there is no mystery about alcohol.  Alcoholic binging that occurs with American young people when they finally reach legal drinking age does no happen there. It’s all too common and by then many have lost interest. As a result, by young people getting acclimated to alcohol as they grow up, the lure is less intense. I am not saying one system is better than the other, but I can say that my experience contributed to very modest alcohol use over the course my own life.

And this was my childhood reminiscence that was prompted by an innoccuous Facebook post about the Fahenweihe in Illkofen 2018 that took me back into my childhood to the summer of 1968.

 

Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a hapless silver miner in 1898 in the California desert. One day, completely alone, he falls down a shaft and breaks his leg. By pure chance, he happens upon oil. Relentlessly, he learns the oil business. He raises his infant son, whose mother died in childbirth, by taking him with him to the places where he works. The boy grows up learning the business from his father.

To get the rights to the land where he wants to drill, the sweet-talks the owners to give him permission to drill their land, or to sell the land to him outright. As the years go by, he builds an oil empire, and gradually, power and money consume him.

Over time he makes enemies of all the people around him, and at the height of his wealth and power, he starts battling with his own son.

There Will Be Blood plays in the California desert. After living in California for well more than half of my life, I consider myself a native, and I recognized the natural landscape. Outsiders think of California covered with palm trees. California is mostly desert, completely dry, dusty, rocky, with few shrubs or trees. This movie shows California as it looked a hundred years ago, before suburbs and urban sprawl took over. The hardness and harshness of life comes through, and the frantic search for a way to make a living is in everyone’s eyes.

I found this movie very hard to watch, depressing most of the time, and way too long at 158 minutes. But Daniel Day-Lewis is a master actor, and he carries the film.

I warn you, this is not relaxing or enjoyable, but it is educational.

Christoph Wilder is an airline captain licensed to fly the huge double-decker Airbus A380. On a trip from New York to Europe, the plane flies through a volcanic ash cloud that air traffic control didn’t know was there. All four engines die, and the huge plane becomes a glider over the icy North Atlantic. By sheer steel nerves and drawing on deep experience, he manages an emergency landing in the U.K. Everyone is saved, except for one elderlyt man who dies of cardiac arrest during the commotion.

But the airline is worried about negative publicity and grounds him. In order to continue flying, he takes on a job with a top-secret German government research project, flying an A380 built out to be a time machine. During the maiden voyage, when they are just planning on testing the equipment, things go horribly wrong and they end up in Germany in 1939, the day before the assassination attempt on Hitler in Munich.

Very quickly their time travel adventure turns into an apocalyptic nightmare with seemingly no way out, where the future of humanity is at stake.

Peterson is a German writer, and the locales and the characters are all German, which I actually found refreshing, since pretty much all science fiction I read is American. The German backdrop and story line was a nice change.

I was critical of the book, because the trip through the volcanic ash cloud and the aftermath took a full 25% of the book, before the interesting story even started. I made a note of that to mention it in my review, since I felt the whole thing could have been left out completely without affecting the plot in any way. So it was a slow start, but the story kept getting more and more interesting, and I kept reading. I forgave the author for the rookie start and let it go.

But then there was the ending, which surprised me completely and tied it all together. In fact, the ending was so good that I changed my expected rating of the book from two to two and a half stars.

A quick read, and a good addition to my time travel library.

 

Due to the wedding there has been a spotlight on the British royal family. I have absolutely no interest in things royal, and I have not paid any attention to the wedding. However, one of the blogs I follow – Know it All – published some interesting rules the royal family has to follow. That, I found, was interesting enough for me to reblog here. You can click on the link below to get to the original post.

 

1 – When the Queen stands, you stand. When the Queen stands, it’s protocol for everyone to follow. 2 – No one can eat after the Queen has finished her meal. When dining as a family, after the Queen has taken her last bite, everyone needs to stop eating. 3 – Bowing and curtsying is […]

via 50 Strict Rules The British Royal Family Has to Follow — Know-It-All

Back during the campaign days in the summer of 2016, Trump accused Clinton of being crooked because the FBI was investigating her use of email, in particular as it related to classified information being stored on a private server. Trump then said Clinton was not eligible to be president because she was under investigation.

Now Trump found out that the FBI, approximately at the same time, was investigating people in his own campaign for what appeared to be improper connections with a foreign adversary. For that he calls the FBI crooked. In tweets he blames the FBI and Obama for not coming to him and letting him know.

Really?

First, should the FBI, an agency charged with protecting the American people from criminal activity really go to every suspect and warn him that he might be under investigation? At the time, Trump was one of many candidates. He just had some bad apples in his campaign, many of which have meanwhile plead guilty. There was smoke, and now we have proof that there was fire.

Second, what’s the bigger potential crime? Being careless with classified email or purposely colluding with a foreign adversary to subvert the American election system? Regardless of the size of the crime, the FBI did its job properly, investigating both leads.

Third, the FBI, charged with protecting the American people, did exactly what its mission is: to investigate suspicious activity. Trump’s people, his children, his employees, and possibly himself, conducted what now looks like illegal activity. Rather than dealing with the cause of why the FBI was checking into his campaign at the time, he distracts us and points to the FBI as being crooked and conducting illegal activity.

I only see deliberate deception by Trump.

I am so guilty of invoking Godwin’s Law. I just did it in yesterday’s post. A faithful and very reliable reader (MB) commented “Godwin’s Law” and those two words said it all.

Godwin’s Law States:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1, that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Adolf Hitler or his deeds.

— Wikipedia

Reductio ad Hitlerum:

Reductio ad Hitlerum (pseudo-Latin for “reduction to Hitler”; sometimes argumentum ad Hitlerum, “argument to Hitler”, ad Nazium, “to Nazism”), or playing the Nazi card, is an attempt to invalidate someone else’s position on the basis that the same view was held by Adolf Hitler or the Nazi Party, for example: “Hitler was against tobacco smoking, X is against tobacco smoking, therefore X is a Nazi”.

— Wikipedia

Who knows stuff like this? I guess MB does!

Lesson to me: I need to stop being guilty of reductio ad Hitlerum.

In 1934, the leadership of Germany made sure that every sports team exercised the salute of the dominant political party.

Not doing the salute was considered unpatriotic, and as time progressed, it had more and more serious repercussions.

Today members of American NFS teams are using their spotlighted status in society to protest injustice perpetrated on American citizens based on the color of their skin. See the video below as an example, where a young black man is dragged out of his own car, in his own driveway, because he has a broken tail light. Good grief!

Now our American government, led by the American president, is verbally attacking the NFL and its players for “disrespecting the National Anthem.”

Seriously? We are concerned about a piece of music? A flag? A ceremony?

One group of society, in this case the leadership of the government, decides it attaches some meaning to a ceremony, and then harasses citizens when they use their right to protest an injustice, and claims they are disrespecting the country.

The logic just does not work.

This is the same logic that Christians usurped in medieval times against people who didn’t buy into their religion – heretics.

It is the same logic many contemporary religions still use today in many places of the world to cast out, or chastise and punish those that do not accept that religion. Examples are radical Islamic factions in a number of countries and fundamental Mormons in the United States, and there are many others.

The video below shows police injustice, and humiliation of private citizens, which is the very thing the NFL members are protesting, the very occurrences our leadership should be working on to eliminate.

Instead, our leadership bullies.

How do they expect us to treat them with any respect?

Going to have new equipment and well-deserved pay raises. We just got you a big pay raise. First time in 10 years. We got you a big pay increase. First time in over 10 years. I fought for you. That was the hardest one to get, but you never had a chance of losing.

— President Trump, United States Naval Academy, May 25, 2018

Actual military pay raises over the last 10 years:

 

I stumbled upon this old post and thought it would be worth refreshing.

And while we’re talking about Africa, here is a bit of trivia that may surprise you. What is the U.S. state closest to Africa?

Maine!

Norbert Haupt

The size of Africa, being in the center of the world map, often is distorted to its disadvantage. Greenland, Alaska and Siberia look huge, Africa just looks big. How big really is it?

size of africa Size of Africa [click for picture credit] As you can see on this map, Africa is bigger than most of Europe, the United States, China, Japan and India combined.

View original post

Psalms 109 / 8 – 13

 

 

A Higher Loyalty – Truth, Lies, and Leadership

James Comey is probably the last person who ever thought he’d write an autobiography. But he did.

The book starts in his early childhood, when he was an outsider and a target of bullies. He tells his story eloquently and with very simple language. We follow him through his life and career in law enforcement. The name Trump doesn’t even come up until 75% through the book.

We come to understand that Comey is a man of strong principle and little ego, somebody who does what his conscience tells him, not what his ego demands. He is a person who is obsessed with always “doing the right thing.”

I learned that Comey first started out as a prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, under U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani, who had a reputation as a brilliant and aggressive young prosecutor who was set on eradicating the mafia in New York City. He eventually did just that, and Comey learned a lot from Giuliani.

Here is an excerpt:

There was something of an unwritten code about working in the office of Rudy Giuliani, as I suppose there is in most organizations. In his case, the message was that Rudy was the star at the top and the successes of the office flowed in his direction. You violated this code at your peril. Giuliani had extraordinary confidence, and as a young prosecutor I found his brash style exciting, which was part of what drew me to his office. I loved it that my boss was on magazine covers standing on the courthouse steps with his hands on his hips, as if he ruled the world. It fired me up.

Prosecutors almost never saw the great man in person, so I was especially pumped when he stopped by my office early in my career, shortly after I had been assigned to an investigation that touched a prominent New York figure who dressed in shiny tracksuits and sported a Nobel-sized medallion around his neck. The state of New York was investigating Al Sharpton for alleged embezzlement from his charity, and I was assigned to see if there was a federal angle to the case. I had never even seen Rudy on my floor, and now he was at my very door. He wanted me to know he was personally following the investigation and knew I would do a good job. My heart thumped with anxiety and excitement as he gave me this pep talk standing in the doorway. He was counting on me. He turned to leave, then stopped. “Oh, and I want the fucking medal,” he said, then walked away.

— Comey, James. A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership (pp. 19-20). Flatiron Books. Kindle Edition.

I found it strange to hear from Comey how impressive Giuliani’s skills were early in his career. What happened to the man? Now, when I see him speak, I can’t think of anything but a senile, goofy, confused fool. Impressive once, but not anymore.

Comey tells his story of how he served under Bush and then Obama, and how, to his dismay, he was drawn into the controversial events just before the election of 2016, when Anthony Weiner’s laptop  turned up in the hands of the FBI, and they inexplicably stumbled upon more than a hundred thousand Clinton emails they could not possibly read in the ten days remaining before the election.

And then came Trump, and one strange encounter after the other more and more convinced Comey that Trump was unethical.

One day Trump was schmoozing up to Comey, and the next day, without even facing him in person, fired him remotely via television.

In A Higher Loyalty, Comey tells his story in sober language without fanfare. When Trump tweets about the book as a collection of lies, he proves to me that he hasn’t even read it.

I know when I trust somebody, when somebody is sincere with me. Trump is not sincere. His words don’t ring true. He body language is that of a liar. And his words are so easily disproven, I don’t even need to observe body language to know that he lies. Five seconds of googling usually brings the lies into the light of day.

With Comey, it’s the opposite. Go read his book and then tell me to my face that he “made it all up.” That will seem like nonsense to you. Comey is sincere, dedicated, and committed to this country and to the institutions of law enforcement he has dedicated his life to.

No wonder Trump attacks Comey.

The bully is terrified!

 

I have always been interested in illusions, mostly optical ones. In recent days, the auditory illusion of Laurel and Yanni has swept the Internet.

The control below does not work in some older browsers, like IE11, but it does work in Chrome. If you can’t use the control, just click on the link below it, and it will launch your audio player.

Audio Player Version of Yanni and Laurel

What do you hear?

Some people hear “Yanni” and others hear “Laurel.” I mostly hear Yanni.

You can play it over and over again, and it’s always the same.

Well, almost.

And this is what freaked me out completely: Yesterday, when I first found this link and played it on my iPhone, I heard Yanni EVERY TIME. Trisha heard Laurel EVERY TIME.

Then, for kicks, while I was reading in bed some hours later, I heard Laurel. Every time. I could not unhear Laurel and go back to Yanni. I have discovered, two days in a row now, that during the day I year Yanni, and late at night I hear Laurel. Consistently. I cannot “switch” to the other when I am in one mode.

I am a Yanni and Laurel bipolar.

I found this tool, published by the New York Times, where you can slide a bar and hear the change. Using it, I could find the transition and then slowly force my brain to hear the other side.

This makes me think about testifying in court. One person will say they swear the suspect said his name was Yanni, and the other Laurel, and both are right.

Scientists explain that this is due to the frequencies being right between the two, and the brain is trying to make sense of it. So it picks one or the other. It’s equivalent to the visual illusion where you see two vases or two faces silhouetted. Or even the old 3D illusions that were popular some 20 years ago, where you see 3D objects floating in front of a field of grainy colors. The brain constructs something that makes sense and it works.

Fascinating indeed.

 

 

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