Saturday, November 30, 2013

Vincenzo's Vincenza Birthday

As I have done since the beginning of my blogging endeavors, I am taking some time today to wish my brother Vincenzo a very happy birthday. I am pleased as Puncinello to say that I am actually able to celebrate Vin's birthday with him today. Of course, the Ramones' version of Happy Birthday would be entirely appropriate to post today:

Since my brother Sweetums and I are here in Italy with Vincenzo, there's an even more appropriate Ramones song to post, an old family favorite: We're a Happy Family:

We're a happy family,
We're a happy family,
We're a happy family,
Me, 'tums, and Vinnie!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving, Everybody!

Hey, folks, here's wishing my stateside readers a happy Thanksgiving. I am spending Thanksgiving as it should be spent- hanging out with family and friends, enjoying each others' company and showing a little gratitude for good fortune.

In the back of my mind, though, there is a tiny, angry spark... I, like many others, am angry that some big box retailers are making their employees work on Thanksgiving. I have worked on Thanksgiving, but I am essential personnel at a worksite that needs a 24/7 presence. No retail shop needs to be open on the one single holiday that virtually every American celebrates.

Hopefully, there will be a backlash, and several smaller retail chains are criticizing their competitors for their uncaring policies. Seriously, everybody should just opt out of shopping on Thanksgiving. Americans need to recapture a modicum of community spirit- we need to be a nation of citizens, not consumers.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Little Country Music

I'm not a huge country music fan, but there are some numbers which I can't help but adore. One of my favorite country songs is Reginella Campagnola, the title of which can best be translated as "little country queen". The music to the song was composed by Eldo Di Lazzaro in 1939, and the original lyrics were written by Bruno Cherubini. The song is a celebration of the simple life of a country girl who travels with her donkey down through the golden, flowering valleys of Abruzzo to the city on a feast day, and then regales her friends with tales of what she's seen:

The chorus of the song, written while Italy was in the grip of a fascist regime, is a poignant one:

Oh campagnola bella tu sei la reginella
Negli occhi tuoi c’è il sole c’è il colore
Delle viole delle valli tutte in fior
Se canti, la tua voce
È un’armonia di pace
Che si diffonde e dice:
“Se vuoi vivere felice devi vivere quassù!”

Oh, beautiful country girl, you are the little queen.
In your eyes, there is the sun, the color
Of all the blooming violets of the valley.
If you sing, your voice is a harmony of peace
That rings out and says,
"If you want to live happily, you have to live up here!"

If only the country had been ruled by una reginella campagnola rather il Duce, the world would have been a happier place.

Di Lazzaro's music formed the basis of the harmless, goofy Woodpecker Song, which is inferior to the Italian original. Contrary to the proclamations of the Andrews Sisters, woodpeckers are not happy, though they can sometimes be placated with suet.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Arrivederci, Yonkers!

I am pleased to say that I will be celebrating Thanksgiving with two of my brothers in Europe. By the time this post pops up, I'll be departing from JFK airport on a flight to Venice's Aeroporto Marco Polo. My brother Vincenzo, who is stationed in Vicenza will be picking me up when I touch down tomorrow afternoon. My brother Sweetums will be taking the train down from Zurich on Thanksgiving day. Meanwhile, back in the states, my brother Gomez and my mom will be spending Thanksgiving in upstate New York with his in-laws, and my sister will be **GASP** taking her eldest on college tours in California. Yeah, we're a far-flung clan, though close-knit. Sadly, the last time everyone's been together was at our dad's funeral back in 2009.

On Sunday, I'll be traveling to Zurich with Sweetums, and I'll be flying back to JFK from Zurich the following Friday. Busy! Busy! Busy! Arrivederci, Yonkers!

Ci vediamo prossima settimana!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Gotta Break Out of This City

For the next week and a half, I'll be out of town, so I will schedule posts ahead of time. The posting will be lighter than usual, and the topics won't be so current. The next few days will be best described by the following Eddie and the Hot Rods lyric:

I'm gonna break out of the city
Leave the people here behind
Searching for adventure
It's the kind of life to find.

I will miss you all, don't break the internet while I'm away, and remember, friends don't let friends Zardoz.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Before the Reign of Tyrants

Christmas came early this year, with the discovery of a giant carnivorous dinosaur from the Cretaceous Period. Dubbed Siats meekerorum, the beast was a large allosaurid dinosaur. The Allosauroidea dominated the large predator niche for much of the Jurassic period and the early Cretaceous period. Siats is specifically a Neovenatorid allosaur. The Neovenatorids are currently considered a sister group with the Carcharodontosaurids, a allosauroid group which achieved staggering size in the southern hemisphere.

While much of the news coverage implies that Siats bullied or terrorized the early tyrannosaurs, I have to note that the tyrannosaurs eventually supplanted the allosauroids in North America in striking fashion. The tyrannosaurs belong to the coelurosaur clade, the coelurosaurs are best defined as theropod dinosaurs more closely related to birds than they are to carnosaurs such as the allosaurs (including Siats). Before the tyrannosaurids were recognized as coelurosaurs, most small carnivorous dinosaurs were lumped in with the coelurosaurs much as most large carnivores were lumped in with the carnosaurs, they were considered to have evolved from allosaurid ancestry. The tyrannosaur lineage started out as small, gracile carnivores such as Dilong paradoxis, a primitive, feathered tyrannosaur from the early Cretaceous.

Siats represents a late survival of the allosaurs, its discovery sheds a little light on a transitional period before the tyrannosaurs basically locked up the large predator niche in the late Cretaceous northern hemisphere. For a dinosaur nut like myself, this is most exciting news.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

First Snow of the Season

Tonight is a cold, windy night on the job. Earlier in the evening, the first snow of the season fell, accompanied by lightning... I didn't see any sprites, though.

As a person who spends a lot of time outdoors, I always keep one ear on the weather report. The key to surviving the cold is to dress in layers- cover your head and keep your "core" warm, and you'll do alright. I did have to buy an inexpensive pair of flannel lined gloves at the local hardware store, though. I always seem to lose right gloves, hence the inexpensive pair- I have a collection of left hand gloves that would make a Michael Jackson envious... actually, Google indicates that he wore a right hand glove, so maybe some crazed Michael Jackson fan with a Bedazzler is going nuts with my missing gloves (which kinda skeeves me out).

Friday, November 22, 2013

Memorials, Melancholy

This being the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, the local radio stations had quite a bit of coverage of the event. The assassination being before my time, I have to say that the closest approximation I have to the "world shattering" emotions a lot of people have described has to be my emotions on the day when the space shuttle Challenger exploded after takeoff. Listening to callers describing the welter of emotions that they felt fifty years ago has been melancholy to say the least. Even the local music station I listen to featured songs relating to the tragedy.

I'm pretty much a Kennedy agnostic, being too young to have formed an intense personal reaction to the man himself. I recognize that he has been alternately canonized and demonized, and that the actual human is often lost in the hagiography. That being said, his civil rights address remains remarkable to this day:

Personally, a nerd like myself has to be a fan of Kennedy's moon speech, which combined optimism verging on bravado, and imagination backed by intellect:

To me, the one unpardonable sin that Kennedy committed was the escalation of the Vietnam conflict. For Kennedy, a man of Irish descent, to take up the mantle of failed colonialism should have been abhorrent. The fact that a Vietnamese independence movement, inspired by the Declaration of Independence, need not have been hostile to the United States just compounds the tragedy.

At any rate, I really don't have the time or inclination to give a longer opinion piece on the Kennedy legacy... the coverage in the media has been extensive enough. I merely wished to note the air of melancholy which has characterized the day. I am reminded of a quote by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, which is most appropriate for this day: "To be Irish is to know that in the end the world will break your heart." Judging from the reminiscences of people who vividly remember that day, everyone who idolized Kennedy was part Irish that day.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Secret Science Cinematics

Last night, I headed down to the beautiful Bell House in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, for a presentation by the Secret Science Club. Last night's program involved the screening of two episodes of NOVA.

The first episode was At the Edge of Space, which detailed the efforts of a team of scientists to observe electrical phenomena known as sprites. The episode was a wonderful look into the day-to-day work of an international team of scientists, working from the International Space Station and from facilities on the ground. The episode was lent an air of poignancy as the scientists were working on a project that had been pursued by Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who was killed in the destruction of the space shuttle Columbia. This episode features breathtakingly beautiful footage of upper atmospheric phenomena.

The second episode was Asteroid: Doomsday or Payday? This episode dealt with the search of asteroids which have orbits which bring them in proximity to the Earth. An extended sequence depicted the detective work of Physicist Mark Boslough, who investigated the breakup of the Chelyabinsk meteorite pver Russia. Another asteroid "detective" who received star billing is Ed Lu of the B612 Foundation, which is developing a satellite which will be able to detect previously undetectable asteroids approaching the Earth from the direction of the sun. The episode also touched on potential efforts to defend the Earth from impact, including a hilarious scene of a very enthusiastic fellow with a very, very big gun. Finally, the economic potential of asteroid mining is discussed, with a particular focus on the water content of asteroids, and it's potential use in producing rocket fuel for further space exploration.

On another note, I think I have found my new favorite beer... Founders Breakfast Stout. This is a sweet stout with the merest hint of bitterness and a whopping 8.3% alcohol content. It comes highly recommended. Crack open a beer, load the videos, and get a taste of the Secret Science Club lifestyle!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Testing Pee for Thee, Not Me!

From the intersection of the combined war on drugs and the poor, a Florida Republican who advocated drug testing for SNAP recipients was charged with cocaine possession. Representative Trey Radel did, however, vote on a bill which would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences and has spoken out against the war on drugs... yet he still wanted to subject indigent people to indignant treatment. Basically, he's not for the war on drugs unless it's waged against the poor.

Personally, I am for drug legalization, but I think that, until legalization occurs, every member of congress should have to undergo drug testing.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Jersey Joy

I am happy to report that, with the arrival of marriage equality to New Jersey, a friend and co-worker of mine, the manager of the gift shops at our sites, will be marrying his life partner today. Thirty years in a committed relationship, and finally they are able to wed. Here's a hearty high five, and a sincere wish for a long life of health and happiness to the married couple.

As an added bonus, my friend's assistant will be acting as his witness. When she told me that she would be acting in this capacity, she was positively beaming. The two of them have worked together for many years, and the wedding will be a lovely sequel to last month's punishing schedule.

Opponents to same sex marriage always talk in hyperbole and hypotheticals. They have no good reason for their opposition, only the bigoted dogmas of a minority of religious believers and distorted images of the concept of family. Marriage equality affects living human beings, and its arrival is long past due. The struggle for nationwide acceptance of same-sex marriages continues... New Jersey didn't achieve it without a battle.

The world can be a painful, sorrowful place- anything which helps people grab a chance at some joy and love is a good thing. This afternoon, my friend will be a married man, but he had to wait thirty years too long.

Félicitations, mon ami!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Daylight in Downtown

Today, an errand took me to downtown Yonkers, a place I hadn't been in quite some time. I am happy to say that the daylighting of the Saw Mill River, so named because Adriaen van der Donck (the "jonkheer" for whom Yonkers is named) built a sawmill near the mouth of the river, looks to be a major success. The river was directed through a flume and covered by a parking lot in the 1920s, in an effort to manage sanitation and control flooding (though a lot of anti-flooding engineering projects actually compound flooding problems). The resulting parking lot was an eyesore, and the downtown area became less-than-desirable real estate.

The "daylighted" river forms the centerpiece of the charming new Van Der Donck Park. For a good encapsulation of the transition from grotty parking lot to sweet downtown park, this video shows in three and a half minutes everything you need to know.

Here's the view of the river upstream from the footbridge which spans it:

Here's the view downstream, with the Yonkers Metro North station in the background. The river runs back into a "flume", visible on the right hand side, and flows under the Metro North Hudson line tracks:

It remains to be seen if the "daylighting" of the river will have a lasting economic impact on Yonkers'downtown. I sure hope that it does. Downtown has some lovely attractions, including the Riverfront Library, the pier, and Phillipse Manor Hall. Already, the project has brought new residents to the downtown area.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Haiyan Horror

Looking at the photos of the aftermath of the deadly Typhoon Haiyan has me heartsick. Relief efforts are stymied by less-than-optimal logistics and damaged infrastructure- I live in one of the wealthiest sections of the wealthiest nation on earth, and I experienced firsthand the challenges that a terrific storm can pose. I shudder to think of the conditions in Tacloban.

The arrival of the U.S. Navy, with its unequaled ability to move matériel, will be a game-changer. Simply having 21 helicopters that can transport emergency supplies to remote areas will improve the prospects for a lot of Tacloban residents. This has to be the most welcome arrival of the U.S. military since MacArthur swore to return to Leyte, the very region ravaged by Haiyan.

Hopefully, the aid that the U.S. is sending to the Philippines won't come with too many strings attached... the Filipino government refused a request for a greater U.S. military presence in the country due to fears of undermined sovereignty. This could very well change if the U.S. government decides to play hardball.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Hills are Alive, With the Sound of Healing!

A four month study demonstrated that Alzheimer's patients can benefit from group singing sessions. Singing the familiar songs from the musicals of their youth can help patients perform on cognitive tests. As a therapeutic measure, it is inexpensive and doesn't have any contraindications, except among patients who hate The Sound of Music.

How do you solve a problem like dementia?
How do you take a brain and make it young?
How do you make it hum, and sound as a new snare drum?
Letting your brain recall the songs you've sung!

Oh, how do you solve a problem like dementia?
Open your mouth and loosen up your tongue!

When I'm an old geezer, confined to a home, will the nursing staff play the lilting airs of my youth? Could Psychotherapy be used as, you know, psychotherapy?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans' Day 2013

Today being Veterans' Day, I have to note that there is some good news in New York State for veterans- a measure was passed giving additional credits on civil service exams to disabled veterans. On a downer of a note, the unemployment rate among veterans is all too high. On another horrid note, military survivors of sexual assault often find trouble when they seek disability benefits while a bill which would reform the handling of sexual assaults in the military may face a filibuster.

In the midst of all the parades, platitudes and pablum offered up on Veterans' Day, it must be remembered that veterans face many challenges, while their needs aren't met. The veterans aren't cartoon heroes or cardboard cutouts to be trundled out for photo ops- they are parents, spouses, siblings, children... humans who face genuine problems which are being ignored by those who should be serving them. It's time for this callous attitude to change.

How about a melancholy song about a disabled Irish veteran of the English war of imperialism in Ceylon? You'll recognize the tune of the song, which was "repurposed" into a triumphant Union fight song during the American Civil War:

Perhaps the best known version of the song was that performed by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem... here's a version of it introduced by an American narrator who just doesn't get the point of the song:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Reminds Me of a Devo Song...

Am I the only one to see the irony in a satellite designed to map the Earth's gravity field succumbing to the Earth's gravity? At any rate, a one ton thing is going to break up and start raining down on the planet. Tales of the firey re-entry of satellites have been captivating the public imagination since the 1970s, when Skylab's remains fell down on a small town in Australia, netting the United States' government a littering fine.

Of course, the impending fall of this satellite reminds me of one of my favorite Devo songs:

For Muzak aficianados, there's an easy listening version, which sounds like the soundtrack for a very outré Nintendo game.

Be safe, people, keep an eye on the sky!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Another Bastard Favorite Gone

Today is a sad day in Bastardland, I heard the news that Charlie Chesterman of Scruffy the Cat succumbed to cancer. Scruffy the Cat. a Bastard favorite was alt-country before alt-country was cool. Charlie himself had a distinctive voice, alternately droll and lugubrious, joking and earnest... sometimes in the course of one song.

Here's footage of Charlie fronting a reformed Scruffy the Cat in 2011, at a concert to raise funds for his cancer treatment. The sound quality isn't the greatest, but you can get a taste of Charlie's unmistakable voice:

Here's a younger Charlie Chesterman singing a slow number about unrequited love:

Here's Charlie showcasing his ability to warble on a cover of Del Shannon's Runaway:

For some really great live links, check out the blog of another big fan of Charlie... this live recording session at Boston's WERS, dating back to 1986, is a particularly good introduction to this legendary live pub/college hall band.

By all accounts, Charlie was a genuinely nice guy and loved to interact with his fans. My older brother, Sweetums, met him after a gig in a pub and had a good conversation with him. We lost one of the best when Charlie passed.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Fever Swamp Doesn't Seem so Deep

The news that Rand Paul got a gig with Breitbart's organization after the Moony Times cast him loose because of repeated instances of plagiarism made me nostalgic for some of the hilarious conspiracy-theorizing that the right-wing engaged in when Carroll O'Connor's evil doppelgänger kicked the bucket. The sheer lunacy of those paranoid comments inspired me to check out Free Republic, one of the worst fever-swamps of the American right.

I was a bit taken aback when I checked out the site, which often featured thousand-post comment threads. The most recent threads didn't break double digits, and many of them had less than ten comments. Apparently, the moderators at the site conduct purges (recounted more fully at this right-wing site). The purging of insufficiently right-wing members of the commentariat was common enough so that the community had it's own term for a banning. A look at the site's web traffic revealed a precipitous drop in late 2012 (I wonder why?) and in early 2013... it seems to be clawing its way back up to a decent traffic level, but the spirit of the community seems to be diminished.

Happily, I found the site Freeper Madness, so I don't have to actually check out Free Republic to get a dose of right-wing lunacy. Yeah, I can give my traffic to a great site, not one of the worst sites out there.

Bonus Content: Heart Attack Equals Dart Attack

In the course of putting this post together, I found a thing of genuine beauty... there is a Freeper named "Butterdezillion" who is obsessed with the idea that poison "heart attack" darts will be commonly used to assassinate Obama's enemies. This shit is pure comedy gold:

Target: Joe Arpaio:

They wouldn’t want to make it look TOO “natural” because then it wouldn’t have the intimidation effect. A heart attack dart doesn’t convert into the right amount of scare if it’s on somebody who would be expected to have a heart attack. It only works on people like Breitbart, Stephanie Tubbs, Kam Kuwata, etc.

Target: Andrew Breitbart:

There’s a potassium chloride dart that can cause a heart attack within seconds, leaving nothing detectable in an autopsy so the only evidence left behind is a small red entry hole that’s sort of like a bug bite, which is what the victim would think had happened (in those last few seconds of life).

From what was in the autopsy report for Breitbart, the coroner did not check for an entry hole like that.

It gets even better, as she theorizes about the nature of these poison darts:

The dart is made of a substance that melts when it penetrates the skin.

What do you know about potassium chloride?

As an editorial note, this was a plot feature in a Get Smart episode, sorry about the spoiler.

She goes on about Breitbart's death by dart:

Presumably you would use the same epistemology for the Breitbart death - wouldn’t rule out a Soros-related assassination just as I wouldn’t assume it had to be a Soros-related assassination. The evidence would be the deciding factor, and following all the evidence.

A critical piece of evidence would be whether there was or wasn’t a small round hole where a dart could have entered the body. Why do you think the coroner said nothing about checking for that potential piece of evidence? If he had, that could have potentially been ruled out as a means of death. That would have been very useful to both of us, no?

And on:

Lying requires a complicit coroner, even before he knew he needed to be complicit. And that’s often what ruins a “perfect crime”. It’s the same thing that ruined Obama’s documentation crimes.

You (or somebody, can’t remember who) talked about it being useless to do anything if a murder can be passed off as a heart attack or something else. But there are give-aways besides the autopsy. Without having even checked the body for the only evidence of an assassination, the coroner can say it was a natural death but the question is really still wide open - unless and until the coroner knows that there was no dart entry hole. There are other deaths that are STILL up in the air because nobody would allow the body to be examined for the telltale evidence.

On another thread:

I wonder if his tweets, calls, or other communications would show what he was doing.

Somebody asked who called 911. That could also be interesting. Somebody close enough to see that he fell down would also be close enough to shoot him with a poison dart, and they’d want a witness to what happened so the cops wouldn’t be called in as if there was foul play...

It gets even better:

I wonder how thick cloth has to be to repel those darts. Anybody know? Seems like somebody would have to know where you were at, maybe follow you with a cooler to keep the poison frozen until you were outside and in range. I wonder what the range is.

I wonder if the cancer-causing stuff has to be frozen, and if one injection does the job. I also wonder if there’s a particular form of cancer that they favor. Probably something that is typically fast-acting and has no obvious presenting symptoms that would clue the person in to get tested and treated. Something like ovarian cancer, for women. What’s similar for men?

Also makes me wonder if the same technology could be used to get a manufactured bio-warfare germ into the public - make it look like it came from a mosquito maybe...

Butterdezillion is the star of her very own political thriller:

I am a person Obama could potentially want dead. I am working with the Cold Case Posse.

Anytime I go to the doctor Obama’s regime can see what the doctor finds out about me. If they wanted to assassinate me they could match the medical assassination so that it fits my records perfectly. They know my family history, know what tests I’ve had done, etc. They know what I’m afraid of getting. They are able to make me get it. Nobody would ever know.

Don't ask for whom the dart... uhhh... darts... it darts for thee:

The Breitbart death indicated to me that they know they have to have plausible deniability. They have to attack people medically. Makes it real handy that they are setting up a national database of medical records that are to be accessible to the bureaucrats in government. They can see whether I have a history of heart disease. I don’t - in fact, I was tested multiple times and have been told my heart is healthy as a horse - so they can’t use a heart attack dart on me. They’d have to use something slower-acting for me...

Wow, this trip down the Freeper rabbit hole sure has been entertaining, Andrew Breitbart is still dead, and I am grateful to have found Butterdezillion's "poison dart" comments, which are pure comedy gold. I wonder if William Gibson can sue for plagiarism (though "Butter" didn't actually type out "They said she cooked her own cancers for people who crossed her, rococo custom variations that took years to kill you."). Of course, the plagiarism issue brings us full circle to Rand Paul, who, in spite of his thieving ways, got a gig with Big Dead Breitbart. Hopefully, that thing on his head is thick enough to repel poison darts.

Cross posted at Rumproast.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Jerkwad Jihad

Consider, if you will, the career of one Jonah Goldberg, a lumpen lout guaranteed a lifetime wingnut welfare sinecure by virtue of his relation to the woman who almost brought down the Big Dog back in the 90s. Jonah has had his status as a public idtellectual thrust upon him, and no matter how many of his bulk bought "bestsellers" moulder in warehouses at Cato Headquarters, he comes across as a guy who'd rather loaf around on the couch watching bad 80's teen comedies on Blu-Ray while mainlining Cheetos. Hell, he even referenced the movie Meatballs in a recent column in the right's most "prestigious" publication. While his "thug with a thesaurus" predecessor William F. Buckley, could at least fake erudition, Goldberg is more comfortable making allusions to bad movies than he is conducting actual research... or even relating anecdotes from his real life.

Even when Jonah references a book, it's often a work of genre fiction. In one unfortunate column from 2011, Jonah referred to Frank Herbert's epic sci-fi "Dune" series. In his column, Jonah refers to an anti-computer "jihad" that features in the back-story to Frank Herbert's novels. He then decides that an anti-TSA "jihad" is in order:

The backdrop of my favorite science-fiction novels, Frank Herbert’s Dune series, is something called the Butlerian Jihad. Some 10,000 years before the main events of the story take place, humanity rebelled against “thinking machines” — intelligent computers — controlling people’s lives. The revolution was sparked because a computer decided to kill, without the consent of any human authority, the baby of a woman named Jehanne Butler.

I bring this up because I’m wondering why we can’t have a Reppertian Jihad. Its namesake would be Lena Reppert, a 105-pound, 95-year-old Florida woman. Her daughter claims Reppert was forced by airport security to remove her adult diaper in compliance with a body search. Reppert is dying of leukemia. She did not have another clean diaper for her trip.

He then makes the outrageous assertion that TSA employees are acting in "the likeness of a machine":

And that’s what brought to mind Dune’s Butlerian Jihad. The holy war against machines was also a war against a mindset. “The target of the jihad was a machine-attitude as much as the machines,” a character explains. “Humans had set those machines to usurp our sense of beauty, our necessary selfdom out of which we make living judgments.” In the aftermath, a new commandment was promulgated: “Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind.”

It seems the first commandment of the TSA is that every mind must be trained in the likeness of a machine. “Garbage in, garbage out,” is how computer programmers explain the way bad inputs determine bad outputs. Likewise, if TSA workers are programmed not to use common sense or discretion — surprise! — TSA workers won’t use common sense or discretion.

Dehumanization of one's political foes is a prerequisite for political violence. While Mr Goldberg would assert that he was not calling for the murder of TSA agents, his callous characterization of them as "programmed" like machines belies any protestations. Goldberg's article has to be viewed in the context of a long campaign to demonize the TSA by right-wingers. A quick Google search reveals that much of the right-wing rage against the TSA is couched in racial terms, with many conservatives believing that the largely minority TSA staff are using their authority to "punish" white people.

Now, with the murder of TSA agent Gerardo Hernandez, Jonah Goldberg has finally gotten his "jihad". Agent Hernandez, though, was no machine- he was a civil servant, a husband, a father of two. I imagine that the "National Review Online" will get around to shoving this column down the memory hole, and that Jonah Goldberg will pretend that it never existed. Being a right-winger means never having to say you're sorry, not even to the widow or the orphans.

Cross posted at Rumproast.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Just Returned from Voting

Luckily for me, I live right across the street from my polling place, which is well-staffed and has sufficient voting machines, so that voting is an absolute pleasure (in addition, a friend of mine works at the polling site). The local elections have been totally upstaged by the election happening three blocks south of my place. The one election I of interest I voted in was for the County Executive. Current County Exec Rob Astorino is a conservative who got in in the bad year of 2010.

More importantly, there were a bunch of ballot initiatives this year, including a bad one which would expand mining in the Adirondack State Park, a good one which would give disabled veterans a credit on civil service exams, one which would expand casino gambling (I live within walking distance of a big casino, I don't want competition to render the place a dilapidated husk), one which would raise the retirement age for judges to 80, one which would ease an Adirondack land swap, one which would keep sewage upgrade costs off of municipal debt limits, and a proposal for city redistricting.

I'll leave it up to the readers' imaginations to figure out how I voted (it's not too hard). Since I'm working the graveyard shift now, I'll be turning in shortly rather than following the more interesting elections elsewhere... this will save me a lot on my popcorn budget.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

It's Quiet... A Reflection on the Past Month

Tonight is the first night on the job in a while during which I haven't had to deal with an influx of visitors. We had our normal post-fundraiser levels of visitation, but everybody was gone by 6PM. This being the first night of Eastern Standard Time, it got dark early. We had a handful of technicians striking the sites and equipment from our fundraiser. I bid them goodnight, and told them that I would have the service gate unlocked for them before leaving at 8AM. Yeah, we're still understaffed, and we have one more fundraiser going on at this time. I'll be working two double shifts this week...

Before wrapping up this post, I have to make a note about our new Director of Events, who was hired at the end of July. Although she's only been with the organization for two months, I can't shake the feeling that I've been working with her for years. She was thrown into the deep end of the pool at the start of her employment here, and she made it through without losing her sense of humor... October is not an easy month for us, but I can't say that we didn't have fun, even while we were all getting our butts kicked.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Day of the Dead Tired

One of our fall fundraisers (the one I have been working) ends tonight, so my workload will become much lighter after I get through it. The one rub is that I will be working a double shift, so I won't get out until 8AM tomorrow, with an hour added to the mix because of the end of Daylight Savings Time.

I know most people refer to November 2nd as The Day of the Dead, but for me, it's the Day of the Dead Tired.